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Old 06-22-2017, 09:03 PM   #41
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Halfway!

With 81 games under our belt, it's time to take stock in the season so far. We went 19-9 in June (1-1 so far in July to get us to 81 games), and sit at 50-31, 3.5 games up on Oakland, 5.5 on Seattle. Our team stats are looking pretty good across the board: hitting, pitching, fielding. We're top five in nearly every batting category except runs scored (6th), walks (16th), and steals (10th). Pitching is at the same level, but we're 10th in home runs allowed. First in team defensive efficiency.



BATTING...Our hitting continues to impress, with five regulars topping the .300 mark, and two more at .280 or better. Adam Groff has been dynamite, 2nd in AVG, OPS, and WAR, and 3rd in HR. Dunklee is hitting for contact more than power, but did find his stroke in June with 5 HR. The only sore spots are DH Nate Hullinger, who's poor hitting has put him on the bench, and Ryan Hebert, who's slash numbers are 20 to 50 points below his career averages and is playing subpar second base.

The bench isn't putting up spectacular numbers, but has provided spark and timely hitting nonetheless. Martinez started slow, so his low numbers belie the fact that he's been hitting better lately. Moreno has hit 7 HR off the bench, and Miranda has been rock solid on defense around the infield. Josh Robertson is getting some playing time with Hebert on the DL for another week; the scouts tell me he's ready, but he's been abysmal at the plate so far.



PITCHING...It has all been money well spent so far. Well, except for that little injury to the 15M dollar man...Anyway. After a slow start, DiFranco has been money. Little has been the ace, despite getting lit up his last several starts. Wunderlich has pitched well of late. Brock has been a serviceable fifth starter. Clark, our nominal ace, has been giving up dingers by the bushelful, but otherwise his stats actually look pretty good. And our rebuilt bullpen has actually been money well spent. Of course it's not all peaches and cream, and who knows what the next 81 games will bring, but for now...I'm quite pleased. One final note: we've been spared the injury bug to our pitching staff, besides Dunne and Shewmake going down in the spring. Shewmake is now on his rehab assignment, and if things go well, he'll be back just after the all-star break, in two weeks. Dunne still has ten months to go, sigh.

......

AROUND THE LEAGUE...It's international FA time! And what a dud class this is. Thirty-five players, and only a few worth looking at. We're going after two: 3B Dave Rivera and RP Efrain Solis. Rivera is a power hitter with a big arm. His contact needs to improve to have a shot to make the big leagues. Our first offer to him is 2.6M. Solis is the only pitcher with decent potential in all three ratings. Groundballer, fastball/curve, hits 92 MPH already. We start him at 950K.

Looking around at the standings...Yes, it's early, but every race is still close. No one is running away with their division. In the AL East, Boston and Toronto had great Junes and have pulled away from the competition. All the NL races look fun, especially the expected three-horse race in the NL Central. St Louis (duh), Tampa, and Austin are running in the opposite direction.

Toronto's Preston Sorensen has had a beast of a first half. In 2035 he won the AL MVP with a 10.3 WAR, 56 HR, and 134 RBI. He's on pace to pass all those numbers. In the NL, it's been the Ethan Baker and Matt Anderson show. Both are fighting for the Triple Crown.

Also...Miami has cranked out 151 home runs, rookie Sergio Torres leads the team with 24...Richmond's Ty Cobb went over 100 WAR for his career, and passed 2700 hits.


Next up: July
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Old 06-28-2017, 07:36 PM   #42
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July

Ed.: This is a long post. But you're just sitting on the back porch of your beach cottage, having a beer, and reading dynasty reports, right? So you've got time.

July 3-5 vs. BOSTON
The Red Sox come into town for the holiday weekend sporting the best record in the league at 50-29, and are 1.5 games up on the Jays. Pitching has been the key to their first-half success, as they're in the bottom half of most batting stats, except fourth place with 109 home runs. But they've given up the fewest runs, with both rotation and pen performing at a high level. CF Jason McColl is second in HR with 26, and first in RBI, but he has a pending injury notice, so may not play this series. SP Tommy Dahlen has 11 wins to pace the league, and Eddy Llamas is second in strikeouts. Manager Kris Harvey is in his ninth season, and has yet to make the playoffs. Is this the year?

#82: LOSS 6-12...ugh, 18 hits and 3 HR allowed...no one pitches well, DiFranco gets hammered...50,000 fans turned out to see us play like ass
#83: WIN 11-6...Groff hits his 26th and Drayton parks two...Brock gets beat up, but the pen stands up this time
#84: WIN 9-3...Drayton goes 4-for-4 with a HR and 3 RBI...Little goes 6 strong innings, but suffers an injury; diagnosis pending

Two out of three against a strong, hot team. That works. Little's pending injury diagnosis takes some of the joy out of that, however. In other news, int'l FA Dave Rivera now wants 3.8M, which is too much. We say goodbye to him. Efrain Solis signs for his 950K, and now I'll take a look at the unsigned batch and maybe take a flyer on someone cheap. Old man Cisco Videira wants to re-sign with us, but he's a hundred years old, so I'll probably pass. We'll see. And manager Pat Webster (me) wants an extension, but at a huge raise for five years. Not so sure...


July 7-9 vs. TAMPA BAY
The Rays were a good team at the beginning of the decade, with two division titles and two 100-win seasons. They lost to the Braves in the 2030 World Series (but did win one earlier, in 2024). Now, however, they're rebuilding, and currently reside in the AL East basement at 31-50. They are a speedy team, ranking fourth in steals, but rank well below average everywhere else: hitting, pitching, fielding. Three fifths of the rotation sport ERAs above 6; no batters have hit double figures in home runs; defensively they rank last or near last across the board. Italian Giovanni Bottaro is the manager, in his first season (after being let go by Cleveland despite winning 88 games)...well, actually he has just 40 games under his belt in the Sunshine State, after his predecessor Guillermo Reyes was let go after a 16-23 start. (Botts is 14-26, so maybe it wasn't the manager.)

#85: WIN 10-9...a 7-run 2nd inning and we still need a 2-run ninth to take the win...Wunderlich yields 9 hits and 6 runs in 4 IP
#86: WIN 9-0...there's our ace! Clark gives up just a hit and two walks in 7.1, plus 13 Ks...Groff 2 more HR, up to 28 now
#87: WIN 7-6...after giving up two in the top of the ninth, we scratch one out in the tenth to seal the sweep...Groff 29 HR

Sweep! Gotta make hay against the bottom dwellers, especially since Oakland keeps winning (just 4.5 back). Seattle, though, just lost their ace and a top MR for the season, so that helps us. We've been so hot at the plate lately that our OBP has jumped from 5th to 1st in just under two weeks.

Elsewhere...Bobby Little has torn his triceps, and is out for three months. He was having a hell of a season too. We call up Angelo Partida from KC to take his place. I have three weeks to decide if we want to go for a pennant-drive trade for another SP....2B Ryan Hebert comes off the DL, so I send down Josh Robertson. JR had hit better this past week, getting his average up to .175, but clearly needs more seasoning in AAA....I may have to rethink my current 'no' on extending grandpa Cisco Videira, as he's up to .365/.421/.558. Just 52 AB though, so we'll hold off for now. He wants just 1.5M for next year, so maaaaaybe....Intl FA Dave Rivera signed with Cincy, for 3.92M. I only signed one player, and cheap, so if there's a potential star next year, I'm good to go....My 9th, 17th, and 26th round draftees didn't sign with me. Screw 'em.

Road trip time. Including the all-star break, we don't retun home until the 27th.



July 10-12 @ NY YANKEES
We make our annual pilgrimage to the (New) House that Ruth Built. The Yanks are in a down cycle (37-48, 15 GB), and have been for some time, with only one winning season in the last eleven. Whatever chance they had to make noise this season has been killed by injuries: they currently have eight players on the DL. Somehow they're middle of the pack in runs scored, but--like the Rays--are at or near the bottom everywhere else (but 3rd in HR). They're led by one of my favorite players, CF Jake Heberer, who I had in Richmond and in Brooklyn. He's hitting .306 with 23 HR...but is on the DL. They also have one of, if not the, best pitchers in the game, Tony Villarruel. Great stuff (25), a fantastic change (26), three other quality pitches, a hard worker, and a fan favorite. He's 25, making just 4.8M (with an arb estimate of 7M next year), and if I thought I could get him without gutting my system, I'd do it in an instant. Hmm....Miguel Rodriguez is the manager, and is well-liked, with a content team, despite their losing record.

#88: WIN 3-1...Wiggins gets 2 hits, including the GW dinger in the third...Brock pitches well, but only goes 5.1 IP...bullpen getting tired
#89: LOSS 1-2...it's our turn to lose one in the 9th...Partida goes 7 quality innings, 3 hits and 1 run...SS Mullen is now dtd for three weeks
#90: LOSS 2-5...Wunderlich gives up 12 hits and 5 runs in 6.2 innings, with just 1 K...Groff parks his 30th of the season

Not the way to go into the all-star break, but at least they weren't blowout losses. We're sitting at 56-34, 5.5 games up on Oakland, 6.5 on Seattle. And yet...With the Trade Deadline looming in 19 days, I have a decision to make. Despite having the best ERA for a rotation in the AL, I find myself lacking confidence in our starting staff. Bobby Little was having the best year, but he's out for the season. DiFranco has good numbers, so he's fine. Clark is still our nominal ace, and despite his struggle with the long ball this year, he has to be penciled in as the go-to guy. Our 3 and 4 guys, Brock and Wunderlich, have been incredibly inconsistent and may have new homes next season. Angelo Partida pitched well in his first start replacing Little, but he's still a question mark. There are some quality prospects in KC, but right now they're September call-ups, not post-season possibilities. So...we're looking kind of thin, should another injury strike. I may just use the A-S Break to do some heavy duty scouting...

Also...the All-Star rosters have been announced. Adam Groff is the starting 3B; also making the team are CF Josh Drayton and CL Steve Miller. It's Drayton's second appearance, and the first for Groff and Miller. Toronto places three starters and five players overall. The Pirates place the most guys on the NL roster, with four.



All-Star Game @ Oriole Park at Camden Yards
NL 6 - AL 0 ... Junior Circuit batters are held to just six hits, and rarely threatened...Islanders Drayton and Groff went a combined 1-for-5 with 2 K and a walk...RP Miller faced two batters and struck out one. Onward.


July 17-19 @ MINNESOTA
The road trip continues with a little jaunt to the Twin Cities. We took two out of three versus the Twins way back in April. Right now they're 42-45, in third place and six games behind the Indians in the Central. Batting has been subpar, but pitching and defense (the latter is the best in league) are keeping them afloat, if just barely. Injuries have ended the season of their 1B, #2 SP, and CL. Former #3 prospect LF Jose Dominguez makes his season debut after getting injured in the spring, and current #9 guy Melvin Alvarado is holding down the fort in center.

#91: WIN 10-1...Clark is on the money, but only goes 5 innings...RP Aaron Glass tweaks his calf while throwing 3.2 frames...17 hits
#92: LOSS 4-8...pen gets roughed up and DiFranco leaves early with a dead arm...Mullen aggravates his injury too, dammit
#93: WIN 6-2...Moreno another HR off the bench, this one a grand slam...Brock goes 7 innings, just 2 K

Still winning 2/3 of our games. I'll take that all day long....Some roster moves: Mullen goes on the 11-day DL with his second dtd injury, a month-long biceps injury....I call up IF Danny Holguin, a 12th rounder in 2034, getting his first taste of the bigs. He's a decent-enough hitter, but his real mark is his glovework, a cannon arm, and ability to play the 'skilled' IF positions. Let's see what ya got, Danny....1B/DH Nate Hullinger gets sent down to work on his swing, and RP Jack Shewmake comes up after his rehab stint in KC, where he allowed just four baserunners in 12 innings....Finally, on the 17th my next-in-line callup in case of an injury to another SP, Bryan Hardin, hurts his elbow in AAA and is done for the year. So I pull off a quick trade with the Royals, getting AA pitcher Bobby Piccirillo for RP Travis Kelley (AAA but a disappointing 5th rounder from 2034) and RP Angel Obando (intriguing prospect but struggling in R ball). Piccs is also from Hawaii, so I have some hope for a 'local boy makes good' story....I may make one more move to shore up the rotation depth in the next two weeks, so stay tuned.


July 21-23 @ CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Off to the Windy City to face the Sox, from whom we took 2 of 3 back in April, a la our last opponents. The Sox are pretty bad, and at 36-54 are sporting the fourth worst record in baseball. Pitching is bad, hitting is worse, but at least they play solid defense. DH Chris Jenkins is hitting .313 with 21 HR. And I'm hoping we get to face pitcher Lance Hansen, having a dreadful year: 19 starts, 2-13 with an 8.45 ERA, 23 HR allowed in just 82 IP, and a FIP- of 131.

#94: WIN 7-2...four home runs, two by Groff...Partida goes six innings, gets the win
#95: WIN 10-9...crazy game with a combined 26 hits and 5 home runs, and the score was 10-8 after five innings...Wunderlich gets beat up again
#96: WIN 13-8...down 8-3 we score ten in the last four innings to win...Clark gets hammered, but we paste our former closer with 6 runs in 1.2 innings

Bad pitching against a horrible offense, but ten runs a game is tough to beat. DiFranco comes back tomorrow after missing his last start. Two good starts now for Partida, but I'm still considering a trade for another arm as insurance.


July 24-26 @ DETROIT
Detroit swept us to open the season, but haven't lived up to that promise since. They're 39-55, in fifth place, and just 2.5 games ahead of the White Sox. They've hit well this year, fifth in runs scored, second in OBP, and first in steals. But pitching and defense are 18th (last) and 17th, respectively. Their closer has an ERA over six, and their starting SS is hitting below the Mendoza line. In fact, Tony Munoz is in his fifth season, has over 1500 at bats, and has never hit higher than .195. He is, however, probably the best infielder I've ever seen.

#97: WIN 7-3...Groff hits two more, and DiFranco shows no rust from his missed start, going seven strong innings
#98: LOSS 2-5...Brock is meh, giving up ten hits in six innings...Dunklee hits his 15th, way behind his pace from last season
#99: LOSS 3-4...Partida pitches well, but the bullpen blows it by giving up three in the sixth...Ugh

Now we're 1-5 against these scrubs....At least Groff is still hitting, and is now leading the AL in hitting and home runs. Hope he can keep it up....Oakland has slipped these last two weeks, and is now in third, 7.5 games back. Seattle is 56-42, 5.5 games behind us. Fun note: Philadelphia kept starter Tom Sloan in for 12 innings on the 25th against the Reds (the game went 15, and the Phils won, if you're keeping score).


July 27-29 vs. LA ANGELS
We split a four-game stint in LA back in May. Currently, they're sitting at 45-54, 17 games behind us. They're not hitting, not scoring runs, and their bullpen is a dumpster fire. SP Erik Presley has been their best player, holding the fort at 7-7, 3.99 ERA, 153 K, in 119 innings. RF Tom Richardson paces the lineup, at .277/20/66, and SS Danny Gipson (still ranked as the #8 prospect in MLB) is having a solid rookie year at .286/.356/.408.

#100: LOSS 2-8...Wunderlich gets pounded, as does Shewmake in middle relief...only outhit 10-8, but we did nothing to move people around the bases
#101: WIN 13-3...BOOM. 20 hits, 4 HR (2 for Groff), everybody gets a hit...Clark is squishy, going just 5 innings
#102: WIN 3-1...seven strong innings from DiFranco, and key RBI doubles from Dunklee and Martinez...only 5 hits, but this time we make them count

Gotta keep pounding on the weak sisters in the league. And stop playing the Tigers, apparently. The other uptake is my increasing sourness towards Jimmy Wunderlich, who's pairing a high ERA with a less than 2-1 K/BB ratio. I can spend his 6.5M salary better somewhere else, I believe. In other news, Dunklee has back tightness, but should be good to go in a few days. Just to be safe, I'll sit him for the next series...against the A's, of course. Around the league: still zero no hitters this year, but a couple of one hitters recently: Nick Sperry (STL) and Curtis Thames (TOR).


July 31 @ OAKLAND
July wraps up with the first of a three-spot against the A's. Oakland has won five in a row, moving back into 2nd and 6.5 games behind us. Big series for them to keep pace. 1B Pat Slind is having a bang-up rookie season, .337/.386/.630 with 22 HR. Last year's batting champ Vinny Vargas is hitting .333 with a 5.1 WAR. The A's have a strong lineup, and are scoring runs in bunches, but their pitching is below average and, frankly, holding them back right now.

#103: LOSS 1-4...why yes, we do outhit our opponent in a loss. Again...Groff suffers dtd ankle sprain, which may affect him for a month. Sigh.

Can I get a do over on this game? Plus, I'll bury the lede here, but we made a trade yesterday: we sent AAA 1B Carlos Quintero and a draft pick to Washington for pitcher Justin Ragland. Quintero is a good hitter, decent fielder, but not much of a human being, apparently. Ragland has quality stuff, a 98 MPH fastball, and keeps it on the ground. He rates strongly as a starter, but for some reason he's been in the bullpen for the past three seasons. He'll turn 30 in a week, and this will probably be his last chance to become a regular rotation guy in the bigs (STL and CIN gave up on him previously). He makes 1.66M this year, and has an arbitration estimate of 4M for next year. Go out and earn it, Justin.


Next up: August! Now it gets real.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:15 PM   #43
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August, part 1

28 games this month, with two of the off days sandwiching the Cleveland series, on the 13th and the 17th. Best opponents this month are Oakland, Cleveland, and Toronto, all at or near the top of their divisions.

August 1-2 @ OAKLAND
Continuation from July. Let's try not to have any more injuries, ok?

#104: LOSS 1-8...welcome to the AL, Justin Ragland. Now bring your arm with you next game...more bad news, re Adam Groff
#105: WIN 14-5...I like abusing opposing pitching staffs...Wunderlich stinks up the joint again, tho...Videira goes 5-for-5, 3 RBI

Back spasms for Groff, in addition to his ankle sprain, so he goes on the DL. Dang. He was on a pace to hit 50 HR until now. Josh Robertson comes up again, will play 2B, with Hebert moving back over to third...At least we didn't get swept.


August 3-6 vs. TEXAS
Quick 4-game homestand against the Rangers. We're 5-2 vs. them so far. Rangers are 47-59, tied for fifth with the Angels. Their pitching and hitting are struggling right now, and they're down to 16th in the AL in runs scored.

#106: WIN 3-1...Holguin hits his 1st career HR, a 2-run walk-off in the ninth...Clark yields 1 hit in 7.2, with 13 K
#107: LOSS 2-7...eh, forget this game...Dull, dull, dull...DiFranco leaves his game at home, we get only 7 hits
#108: LOSS 1-7...wow, we are stumbling now...just 3 hits...LF McArthur is the latest to suffer a dtd injury, for a month...damn
#109: LOSS 6-12...holy crap but Ragland has been a disgrace in his two starts...plus our excellent bullpen is taking it on the chin right now

Terrible start to the month. Who will get injured next? Which pitcher will decide to not throw batting practice during a live game? New guy Ragland has been terrible in two starts; I'm not sure how much leash to give him...Oakland is now 4.5 back, and is 7-3 in their last ten (we're 4-6).


August 7-9 @ MILWAUKEE
We took 2 of 3 from the Brewers back in May. They're playing well of late, sitting at 56-53, second place just 5 games back of Cleveland. 2B Justin Long has powered 34 home runs, but is hitting just .233 and strikes out over a third of the time. MLB #2 prospect Nick Shockley has been strong in his 10 starts this season, and #3 prospect Jim Horvath has 28 saves, and a nearly 5-to-1 K/BB ratio.

#110: LOSS 6-7...three runs in the ninth get us to extras, but we go quietly in the tenth...I'm no longer talking to SP Wunderlich
#111: WIN 6-4...Clark gives us six good innings, and the bullpen tries but doesn't actually blow it
#112: WIN 7-3...DiFranco whiffs 8 in 6.1 innings, and Dunklee hits his 18th to give us the win...Videira now hitting .331

Phew, we manage to stop the bleeding a bit. No more injuries, so that's something...Dunklee is finally completely healthy and is starting to hit 'em out of the yard again...And I decided to offer Videira an extension for next year, which he signs, for 1.8M. The fans go nuts, and our Fan Interest has hit 94. 94! Fun fact: in game 112, Milwaukee reliever Bill Adan threw six no-hit innings. Also, Oakland SP Ricky Hose has pitched three consecutive complete games, giving up just 12 total hits. The A's are still hanging out at 4.5 games back.


August 10-12 @ KANSAS CITY
Currently 53-58, fourth in the Central, 9 behind Cleveland. Offense is below average, but they do get hits (7th in BA). Pitching is better, led by their #2 bullpen. Last month they traded their leadoff hitter, CF Corey Jarrell, to Arizona, and installed prospect Marcos Zuniga. He's hitting .310, but has a pending injury diagnosis. 32-year-old rookie 1B Hakaru Watanabe is back from injury, and has hit 13 HR in 108 AB. 3B Zack Pusz leads the offense, at .283/20/60. Fun fact: each of their minor league teams currently has a winning record.

#113: WIN 7-2...Hebert 3 hits and 2 steals, now hitting .296....Shewmake suffers and injury, diagnosis pending
#114: LOSS 0-11...Justin Ragland hammered again, has now given up 21 runs and 35 hits in 15 innings...nice trade by me
#115: LOSS 3-4...Wunderlich goes 8 innings and we outhit our opponents in a loss (again)

We're now 4-6 in August (and 3-3 vs KC). Luckily, Oakland and Seattle are matching that and have gained no ground....Shewmake's injury was just for 3 days, so that's fine....Worse, our new boy Ragland has blown chunks all over our rotation in his three starts, and the guy I sent down to make room for him just went on the DL for two weeks...and trainer Jordan Villalobos tells me that SS Jim Mullen--scheduled to come off the DL in four days--now has an "unknown recovery time" from his injury. Sigh.


August 14-16 vs. CLEVELAND
The Indians are 64-48, 7.5 games ahead of the Twins and Brewers. Their defense and bullpen have been outstanding, and their hitting and starting pitching has been good enough to sustain them. Three starters are hitting .300, with RF Eddie Lopez leading the way at .315/19/50. Original Islanders Chance Muller leads the pitchers with 12 wins and a 3.82 ERA. They have seven players on the DL.

#116: WIN 5-2...Clark gives up 2 more HR, but only four other hits, and Ks 10...we've gone five games without a homer now
#117: WIN 8-3...DiFranco 3 K in 6 innings, reliever Glass gets 6 K in 3 innings...we hit three HR, nice after the drought
#118: WIN 3-2...Muller shuts us out for 8 innings, but three hits, two HR, and three runs later we complete the sweep...

Well, that was unexpected. We're now 6.5 up in Oakland, 10 on Seattle....The left side of the infield remains on the DL, with Mullen's injury now extended indefinitely, and Groff gone for two more weeks; Hebert's back at third, and hitting .350 the last six weeks, while callup Danny Holguin is holding his own at .267/.352/.719 in 18 starts.


Next up: August, part 2
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Old 07-03-2017, 08:22 PM   #44
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August, part 2

August 18-20 vs. BALTIMORE
Orioles are 57-60, 14.5 games behind Boston. Stats are subpar across the board, excepting 7th in HR and starter's ERA. SP Raul Trevino paces the staff at 3.58, 12-7, 164 K in 151 IP, but he's pitching with a herniated disc. No hitters have stood out (with only two hitting over .276), but seven of nine starters are in double figures for HR. Fun fact: prospect system is ranked dead last, 36th.

#119: LOSS 0-4...held to a six-hit shutout by a guy with an ERA over 7...Ragland at least looked like a big leaguer for once
#120: WIN 4-2...Josh Robertson gets his 1st MLB homer, and Wunderlich goes six strong innings...we carefully work through five relievers afterwards tho
#121: LOSS 3-4...three of the first four batters in the first go yard against Clark (natch)...that's 34 in 153 innings, if you're keeping track

Those good feelings from the Cleveland sweep are quickly dissipating. Our overall pitching was okay, but our hitting is trending downward. Groff can't get back soon enough....Of note: St Louis has now lost 10 in a row, making for a nice and chunky record of 39-83.


August 21-23 vs. MIAMI
Home stand continues against the 61-61 Marlins. Good hitting club, lead by LF Ricky Beard (.324/36/72), 1B Carlos Valencia (.248/30/79), and injured 3B Sergio Torres (.303/34/80). Plus they're just a day away (boo) from getting back super prospect RF Jerry Buchanan (.360/.435/.617, 14 HR) from his broken wrist. Worst pitching staff ERA, however, and that won't be helped by the 'moderate' dtd shoulder injury their best starter Brian Huddleston (3.99, 9-6, 102 K) just suffered.

#122: LOSS 0-1...each team with just seven hits...waste a 3-for-3 night from Wiggins
#123: WIN 12-3...ah, that felt good...Brock yields ten hits but no runs in 8 innings, and we pound 8 runs in 2 innings out of Marlin RP Chris Flores
#124: LOSS 5-10...guess who pitched again? Ol' Rag-arm...gave up four homers, hit zero

No mojo right now at the plate. Tweaking the lineup worked for one game. And my trade to improve the rotation? Well, let's not talk about that. And we're headed to Toronto next, oy....On the plus side, SS Mullen is back from the DL, and we're just over a week away from getting Groff back....SP DiFranco wants to stay in Hawaii next year. Good! But he's 31 and wants $150M over 8 years. Bad!...Oakland treading water behind us, hanging around at 4.5 games back; Seattle has fallen back to 10....So Montreal 3B Matt Anderson is hitting .343 with 43 HR and 125 RBI, yet is not near the top of the WAR list in the NL...St Louis has now lost 13 straight. They have 27 games remaining this season, so I'm hoping they can make it an even 50.


August 25-27 @ TORONTO
The Blue Jays are of course battling for the division, sitting at 73-51, just 2 back of Boston. Top three hitting, best staff ERA in the AL. 1B Preston Sorensen is raking, at .335/.437/.639 with 37 HR and 96 RBI. SP Curtis Thames has won only 12 games, but otherwise has been dominant: 3.06, 231 K in 176 IP, with 12 K/9, and a 5.2 WAR already. And three-time defending Cy Young award winner Dave Henderson has been solid, if not at the top of his game.

#125: LOSS 1-2...Henderson outduels Wunderlich, who gave up just four hits...once again, we can't hit and can't score
#126: LOSS 2-4...Clark only lasts five innings (again)...Videira goes 2-for-2 then gets plunked by Jay Erkel, they fight, get ejected
#127: WIN 11-6...19 hits, as all that pent-up talent finally bursts forth...everyone gets a hit!

Our bats are showing up every third game now, which...isn't going to work, frankly....2B Hebert and RP Shewmake get brief dtd injuries, dings really, and DH Videira will sit for two more games after sparking that game two brawl....Groff comes back next series; no rehab stint for him, just get back out there and do yer job, son....League note: STL losing streak now at 16 games, and they've been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.


August 28-30 @ LA ANGELS
The road trip grinds on to California. We have 27 games left, only 9 against out-of-division opponents. It's a lost season for the Angels, who reside in last place at 58-70, 17.5 games back. Team stats are pretty dismal for the former perennial playoff contenders. And yet, the team chemistry is "Happy." Ok.

#128: WIN 8-3...McArthur's 3-run blast in the 7th put it out of reach...Brock with another quietly effective start, now 11-8 on the year
#129: WIN 4-1...no more Ragland: Partida is back and tosses six innings of two-hit ball (and walks 5 tho) to get the win
#130: LOSS 1-5...held to just three hits...Wunderlich manages to give up just 6 hits, but 5 runs

The bats came back (for the most part), and we get Groff back tomorrow. Videira's suspension ends, so we'll be back at full strength at the plate....I fired Justin Ragland into the sun, and recalled Angelo Partida from AAA. Fair's fair: I should never have replaced Angelo in the first place, and I'll go ahead and blame Ragland entirely for our struggles in August, especially since he's not here to defend himself anymore. (Ok, he's just in KC.)....League note: STL finally won, ending the streak at 17 games.


August 31 @ HOUSTON
(Start of three-game set.) The Astros have been okay, at 64-65, flirting with .500 for the first time since winning 80 games in 2025. Pitching has been okay, led by Jay Russo (2.78, 209 K, 159 IP, 5.5 WAR) and Adam Spinrad (3.28, 178 K in 148 IP, 4.0 WAR). Hitting has been abysmal, and currently only two starters are over .250.

#131: WIN 4-0...here's hoping this game is a sign for Clark in the post-season: five hits, 11 K, complete game shutout

Home stretch time! We're sitting at 78-53, and are 5.5 games up on Oakland....Everyone's getting healthy, and hopefully will stay that way, dangit....Rosters are expanding, but I'm not sure who I'll call up, especially as KC is a playoff team too....We managed to pull it together enough to finish August 14-14, and our hitting, OBP, and bullpen ERA are still leading the AL. We're third in runs scored, runs against, starter's ERA, and defensive efficiency. Stats are below.

Next up: Pennant Chase and League Overview
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Old 07-04-2017, 09:45 PM   #45
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Pennant Fever: Catch It!

Six divisions, six close races. I can't remember the last time there wasn't at least one runaway division on September 1. In fact, our 5.5 game lead over the A's is the largest margin in the league. (And yet I complain endlessly.) Nineteen of the thirty-six big league teams are division leaders or are within 7 games of the division lead. The brief rundown...

AL EAST: Boston has lead most of the season, but Toronto has dominated this division for several years now and has narrowed the lead to a single game. Both should make the playoffs easily.

AL CENTRAL: Cleveland's lost six in a row, and their lead is now down to 2 over a surging Royals team. Milwaukee and Minnesota are also close, but have been treading water for some time and may not be threats. The division winner is likely to be the only playoff representative here.

AL WEST: Hawaii has been consistently ahead of the A's for the past couple of months, and that should (!) hold. The other wildcard team will come from this division.

NL EAST: New York has been the leader for most of the season, but the Phillies have made this a fun race to watch for the last month. Atlanta and Richmond are hanging around, but look more set to battle for a wild card right now.

NL CENTRAL: Pittsburgh is going for its sixth straight division title, but the Cubs are not fading away. Montreal, sadly, has faded to 11 games back, and 9 back in the wildcard.

NL WEST: Five teams have been going back and forth all season long, but the Dodgers have been on top for a month now. The Padres, Giants, Diamondbacks, and Pioneers have a chance, but need to get hot right now. None look to have a wildcard hope.

......

MVP Races: AL is probably coming down to Toronto's Preston Sorensen (.334/.436/.639, 38/101, 8.5 WAR) and Hawaii's Adam Groff (.353/.434/.744, 39/88, 7.7 WAR). Groff missing over a month hurt his chances, especially since WAR is often the deciding factor. In the NL, it's hard to argue against Montreal's Matt Anderson (.345/.397/.663, 43/129, 6.6 WAR), but last year's MVP Pittsburgh's Brendan Glenn (.362/.433/.714, 37/87, 8.1 WAR) is having another big year. Honorable mention: Mets 1B Nate Johnson (.312/.343/.619, 45/112, 5.1 WAR).

Cy Young Races: Toronto's Dave Henderson--winner of the last three trophies--is leading the AL in WAR (5.7), but his stats (11-5, 3.25, 185 K and IP) don't overwhelm. Others of note include his teammate Curtis Thames (13-8, 3.12, 210 K, 184 IP, 5.4 WAR), Houston's Jay Russo (8-7, 2.78, 209 K, 159 IP, 5.5 WAR), and Oakland's Ricky Hose (17-5, 3.27, 198 K, 193 IP, 4.4 WAR). In the NL, there look like four pitchers to choose from: Richmond's Gabe Pamperin (16-4, 2.38, 166 K, 178 IP, 6.1 WAR); New York's Gabe Delfin (17-4, 2.51, 201 K, 176 IP, 4.7 WAR); San Diego's Tommy Gordon (15-5, 2.82, 150 K, 172 IP, 5.5 WAR), and Portland's Drew Falconbury (14-9, 2.51, 190 K, 186 IP, 5.4 WAR).

Rookie of the Year Races: AL is a three horse race: Oakland 1B Pat Slind (.315/.372/.556, 23/71, 3.8 WAR); Cleveland C Robert van Wijk (.299/.368/.519, 20/68, 4.8 WAR); and Miami 3B Sergio Torres (.303/.335/.610, 34/80, 4.4 WAR). NL rookies are less impressive, with the only batter of any merit being Dodgers CF David Holpp (.331/.371/.568, 13/53, 2.8 WAR). Pitchers Jose Urzua (SF, 10-9, 3.74, 137 K, 159 IP, 2.8 WAR) and Mike Olson (ATL, 9-6, 3.32, 123 K, 157 IP, 2.6 WAR) could also figure.

......

Hawaii End of Season Preview: 31 games remaining, 20 at home, 11 on the road. We close with 12 games at home. The Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox are our only non-divisional opponents....Statistics: Groff is one HR away from 40, and Drayton and McArthur could hit 30 each; Drayton is closing in on 100 RBI; DiFranco is 4 wins away from becoming our first 20-game winner; Miller is close to 40 saves....September call-ups are RP Justin Ragland (stats too embarrassing to print), SS Danny Holguin (.229 in 70 AB in his earlier callup, .257 in AAA in addition), and OF Jason Raymer (13 AB in April, .251 with 10 HR in AAA)....Finally, our next to last series is a four-game set against the A's, so the division race could come down to those games. Stay tuned!
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Old 07-08-2017, 11:16 AM   #46
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September and End of Season

September 1-2 @ HOUSTON
Finishing up the three-game set against the Astros.

#132: LOSS 5-6...four solo home runs are not enough to win...Key gives up 2-run pinch hit homer in the 8th to lose it
#133: WIN 2-1...our turn for the 2-run winning bomb, as McArthur goes deep in the 9th...Brock goes a strong 7 innings, 5 hits, 5 K

Few hits, but we still get two wins. Still 5.5 up on the A's....Elsewhere, Boston and Toronto are now tied, as are Philly and the Mets.


September 4-6 vs. SEATTLE
The Mariners hung tough all season, but injuries have hurt them down the stretch. They're 69-64, 10.5 games behind us, and 5 behind the A's in the wildcard chase. So there's still a chance...Hitting has been their bugaboo, with a league-worst .246 BA, and 15th place OBP at .320. They're also 16th in home runs. Pitching has kept them in the race, in the top third of most AL stats, but the bottom of their rotation is a disaster, thanks to having three starters on the DL.

#134: LOSS 1-9...four hits for, sixteen against...what else is there to say?
#135: WIN 5-4...Groff finally gets his 40th...Wunderlich is meh, but the bullpen gives up just one hit over the last four innings
#136: WIN 7-5...a four-run 8th wins it for us...Clark yields four runs in six innings, no walks though

Two out of three here keeps us 5.5 up on Oakland. Fingers crossed that everyone stays healthy for the rest of the season....Elsewhere, Boston is back to 2 up on Toronto, the Mets a game over Philly, and the Padres are surging, having won 7 in a row now to go 1.5 up on the Dodgers (who have lost 5 in a row).


September 7-9 vs. NY YANKEES
Another lost season in the Bronx, as the Yanks will miss the playoffs for 8th straight season, and 12th of the last 13th. They're 60-76, solidly in fifth place, 23.5 games back. Other than hitting a barrelful of home runs (188, 4th place), nothing stands out, and no individual has had a season worth remembering.

#137: WIN 6-5...DiFranco pitches well but misses a chance to get closer to 20 wins...3 runs in the last two innings seal the comeback win
#138: LOSS 5-8...everyone gets a hit, but non-existent pitching causes us all kinds of grief...Brock backslides dramatically
#139: WIN 8-1...Partida's line: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 8 K...Groff back to hitting again, now at .351 and tops in the AL

We gain a game on Oakland, now up 6.5 games. Magic Number is 17....Elsewhere, Cleveland is the only other team with a lead larger than 1.5 games: they're up on Milwaukee by 4, KC by 5. Boston is over Toronto by 1, likewise the Mets over Philly. Pittsburgh is 1.5 up on the Cubs, and the Padres are hanging on to a half game lead over the Dodgers....Pittsburgh's Mike Flynn pitches the league's first no-hitter of the season, a 2-0 win over Philadelphia.


September 11-13 @ TAMPA BAY
The Rays are working on the third worst record in baseball (52-86). They're speedy, third in steals, but 16th in runs scored and 17th in runs against. Throw in 15th in team defense and you've got a very bad team on your hands. Eighteenth in home runs too, and no one has hit 20 on the season. The good news is their system is ranked 8th overall, with seven prospects in the top 100.

#140: LOSS 4-6...yes, by all means lose to the team I just thoroughly insulted...Wunderlich still can't strike anyone out, 3 here in 6 innings
#141: WIN 4-0...NO HITTER! Ken Clark strikes out 13 and walks just two, one in the 7th and one in the 9th...ok, I feel better now
#142: LOSS 5-7...DiFranco is dominant, but the bullpen sucks hard, giving up 5 runs in 2 innings...he's not getting 20 wins, is he

Clark's no hitter is the only thing that livens up this sh*t show. Oakland gained a game on us. We have to do better....Elsewhere, San Diego has lost 5 and is now 2.5 games behind the Dodgers. Boston and Toronto are tied again. And Atlanta has won 9 straight and is just a game behind the Mets.


September 14-16 @ BOSTON
It won't be easy to get hot again versus the Red Sox. Tied for first with the Jays at 87-54, with good hitting and top-flight pitching. CF Jason McColl has been dynamite, at .288/41/123.

#143: WIN 2-1...Dunklee's 2-run single in the sixth is all we need...Brock goes six and the pen yields just three runners in three innings
#144: WIN 5-1...Partida throws a seven-hit complete game, and we score five in the first four innings to put it away
#145: WIN 8-5...Wunderlich has an ugly start, but McArthur's four hits and six RBI carry the day

Well, that was unexpected. Now the Sox are 2.5 in back of the Jays. Sorry about that! The bad news is that Chris Wiggins gets hurt; his diagnosis is pending. Elsewhere, the Mets have gotten hot again and opened up a 2.5 game lead over the Braves, San Diego has lost 7 now and is 4.5 behind the Dodgers, and the Pirates are holding on to their 2 game lead over the Cubs. Finally, the Mets Nate Johnson hit his 50th HR.


September 18-20 vs. TEXAS
Currently 67-79, tied for last in the division with the Angels. They are 8th in home runs, and 1B Raul Molina has done his best this season, at .302/42/93. RF Sean Holliday has had a good year as well, at .291/32/83. Very little else has gone right for the Rangers.

#146: LOSS 3-5...Clark comes back from his no hitter by giving up three more home runs, now up to 38 for the season (tied for fifth most in MLB)
#147: WIN 2-1...McArthur singles home Drayton in the 12th for the win...bullpen goes 5 strong innings...we suffer two injuries, both pending
#148: WIN 6-5...three runs in the bottom of the ninth and then a 2-run HR in the 10th for another squeaker...Groff now has 43 HR

Not exactly convincing wins, but maybe we're just practicing our clutch batting for the playoffs. Yeah, that's it....Shewmake suffers a 6-day dtd injury, so I put him on "low usage" for a few days; Edgar Martinez is still pending....PLAYOFF FEVER update: Toronto has now won 12 in a row and the Sox have lost 6 straight, giving the Jays a 6 game lead in the East. Toronto also becomes the first team to clinch a playoff spot; Cleveland's 2.5 up on Milwaukee now; We're 7 up on Oakland, and our magic number is down to 7; It's still a four-team race in the NL East, with the Braves and Mets tied in first, and Philly and Richmond 3 and 4 games back; Pittsburgh's a game-and-a-half up on the Cubs in the Central; the Dodgers are 3.5 up on the Padres, with Portland hanging out just behind SD.


September 21-23 @ SEATTLE
Really nothing new to add about the Mariners, to the above. Currently at 74-75, third place.

#149: WIN 4-1...another strong start for Partida: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R...Dunklee gets his 23rd HR, now at 95 RBI (Groff and Drayton have 97 each)
#150: WIN 14-8...20 hits...Drayton and Groff now at 100 RBI, Groff also hits 2 HR
#151: WIN 5-1...Clark complete game three-hitter, 13 strikeouts...Groff hits another HR, now up to 46

With the sweep our magic number for the division is down to 2, but we clinched a playoff spot!...Groff is leading the league in average at .344, 12 points over Toronto's Preston Sorensen (probably the leading MVP candidate); he's also on top with 46 HR and 1.145 OPS....PENNANT FEVER: Chicago has won 9 straight and has surged past the Pirates to take a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central.


September 24-27 vs. LA ANGELS
At 68-84, last place. Fun fact: 14th in batting average, 5th in OBP (lead the AL with 598 walks).

#152: LOSS 2-4...poor DiFranco has lost or no-decisioned every start in September, losing his chance at 20 wins...he's terrible here today
#153: WIN 7-1...Dunklee finishing strong with another HR (25th) and now up to .322...Brock throws 7 good innings, yields 5 hits
#154: LOSS 2-8...blecch. Moving on.
#155: LOSS 4-11...wow, everone sucks today. Pitching especially. Gotta nip this in the bud now.

Not a good series, here, and not how you want the season to wind down...Magic number is one, and Oakland is now 7 games back. PENNANT FEVER UPDATE: Braves are two up on both the Phillies and the Mets, and the Cubs are two up on the Pirates.


September 28-30, October 1 vs. OAKLAND
Oakland is seven games behind us, so we're pretty likely to take the division, and five games up on Milwaukee for the second wild card spot.

#156: LOSS 2-9...seriously, wtf? Not the time for this. Pitching terrible, only six hits. Extra practice, please.
#157: LOSS 3-10...Well, that didn't work. At least we injured two of their players.
#158: LOSS 2-10...Now it's time to worry. Pitching especially has been tragic.
#159: WIN 9-3...Ah, finally, jeez. But Oakland gets their revenge by injuring Wiggins for six weeks. Sigh.

Finally, we clinch the division. Still not playing with any confidence and the playoffs just around the corner. Plus, RF Chris Wiggins is lost for the season. This is a serious loss, as he's our leadoff hitter and was hitting .322....PENNANT FEVER: Toronto and Cleveland also clinch; Boston and Oakland are the wildcard teams; Atlanta two up on both Philly and the Mets; Chicago and Pittsburgh are tied; LA has clinched over San Diego, eliminating the Padres.


October 2-4 vs. HOUSTON
Houston's better play and the Mariners slump have put the Astros into third place (80-79). I still want to pound them into dust, however. Nothing personal.

#160: WIN 9-2...Dust! Wunderlich complete game, five hits...replacement OF Jason Raymer has a great game: 3B, HR, SB, 3 runs
#161: LOSS 2-6...Clark gives up three more #!@$#@ home runs, for 42 on the season
#162: LOSS 1-3...Rob Hart makes his big league debut with a complete game six-hitter, but we're three-hit ourselves...Bad end to the season

Well, we still suck. Pitching dropped off the table, and even Groff slumped his way out of winning the batting title (awww). In better news, I like the debut from Rob Hart, who I'm hoping has a great Spring Training and makes the rotation next year. And we went ahead and signed Ken Clark to an extension, ten years for $130M, but with a buyout after year three....PENNANT FEVER: AL was already set; NL, Atlanta won the East, but Philly and New York are tied with 95 wins; Chicago and Pittsburgh also ended up tied (97 wins). We'll have two one-game playoffs tomorrow to break those ties.

Playoff race update: Pittsburgh beats the Cubs, wins the Central for the sixth consecutive year. And the Mets pound the Phillies to take the second wildcard spot and make the playoffs for the first time since 2027.

Next up: Playoffs and More
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Old 07-09-2017, 10:54 AM   #47
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Playoffs? Playoffs!

Wildcard Round
Boston 6, Oakland 5 The Sox hit three home runs and the game-winning double in the 8th off the A's 21-game-winner Ricky Hose, to take the wildcard game. Boston is off to face their Eastern division rivals, the Blue Jays.

NY Mets 6, Chicago 1 And just like that, the Cubs 97-win season is a memory, and their World Series winless streak reaches 129 years. NY breaks open a tie game with 5 runs in the last three innings to send the Wrigley Field crowd home disappointed. Next, the Mets will face the defending champs from Pittsburgh.


Division Round -- Hawaii vs. Cleveland
Game One. Down 2-0 in the seventh, Josh Drayton's two-run double caps a three-run inning to give us the lead. Closer Steve Miller promptly gives it away with a solo HR in the 8th, and loses it in the 9th by giving up two runs. Home field advantage gone. Cleveland 5-3. Cleveland leads 1-0

Game Two. Jeremy Dunklee stakes Tom DiFranco to an early lead with a two-run double in the first, and DiFranco does the rest, holding the Indians to just four hits over nine inning, while striking out ten. Collins, Videira, and Hebert get two hits each. Hawaii 4-0. Series tied 1-1.

Game Three. Adam Groff wakes up, getting his first three hits of the series, driving in one and scoring three times. Down 3-1, we plate four runs in the top of the fourth to take the lead, which we don't give up. Cleveland scores one late, but the bullpen holds on enough to seal the win. Brock does okay enough, giving up eight hits and three runs over six innings. Hawaii 5-4. Hawaii leads 2-1.

Game Four. Clark goes on short rest, and doesn't do poorly, but only lasts five innings (2 hits, 8 K, 3 runs). He does leave with a 4-3 lead, but...the bullpen blows it again, with closer Miller giving up a two-run blast in the ninth to give the Indians a walk-off win. Cleveland 6-4. Series tied 2-2.

Game Five. "Mr. Playoff Shutout" DiFranco gets the nod in the make-or-break game five. In the first, Mullen singles, Groff doubles, and Dunklee's fly out scores Mullen. Cleveland comes back with a Jesse Bolton triple driving in a run, then Bolton himself scoring on a sac fly. Another sac fly in the sixth scores one more for the Indians, and it's officially time to get nervous. Danny Rivera makes it 4-1 with a solo shot in the 7th, uh oh. Cisco Videira answers for us with a solo blast of his own in the bottom half of the frame. Unfortunately, Oscar Huerta continues the parade of solo homers for Cleveland, and their lead is back to three, 5-2, after eight. In the bottom of the eighth, we waste Dunklee's double and can't score anyone. In the ninth, Rivera does it again, hitting another dinger, and during our turn we can't put anyone on, and just like that...our season is over. Cleveland 6-2. Cleveland wins 3-2

......

Other Divisional Rounds, not that it matters. Boston overcomes its disappointing end to the regular season by dropping over five runs a game on the Jays, and tossing them in four games. The AL Championship series will feature two historic franchises, Boston vs. Cleveland.

In the NL, Pittsburgh continues to press for dynasty status by taking out the Mets in four games, averaging nearly seven runs a contest. The other series goes the full distance, with the Braves and Dodgers alternating wins until the final contest when Atlanta builds an early 4-0 lead and goes on to take the series with a 7-1 victory. So it'll be the Pirates and Braves in the NL final.

......

AL League Championship. Boston takes game one with a 4-0 complete game shutout tossed by Eddy Llamas. Game 2, the Sox hit three home runs and cruise to a 7-3 win, to go up 2-0 before the return to Fenway Park. Home cooking pays off in game three, as Edwin Alcala beats a throw home to give the Sox a 5-4 win and a 3-0 lead in the series. Game four results in the same game score, 5-4, and the same result thanks to a solo shot by Josh Jessee, sending the Sox to their fourteenth World Series, and their first since 2022.

NL League Championship. Atlanta rides a three-run blast in the top of the sixth to take the first game 5-2. Game two, the Pirates score a run in the ninth, but leave runners on base and fall 5-4, to give the Braves a 2-0 series lead. Game three, back in Atlanta, and the Braves show no nervousness with the lead as they pound the Pirates 12-4. Facing a 3-0 deficit, the Pirates are up against it. Game four...and pitching is nowhere to be seen, the teams combining for 22 hits and 16 runs. Behind 7-6, the Braves score 2 in the 7th and 1 in the 8th to send the Pirates home and themselves into their 12th World Series (first since 2030).

......

The 2037 World Series is a seven-game classic, featuring three extra inning games and five games decided by one run. Atlanta takes the first two games in Boston, by 2-1 and 12-5 scores, and the Sox turn around and take the next two games in Atlanta (3-2 and 7-6). The Braves win game 5 at home, 5-4, the first home team to win in the Series. Boston cruises to a 5-2 win back in Fenway in game six, setting up the big final in Boston. Atlanta opens the game seven scoring on a wild pitch in the third, and adds two more in the fourth to go up 3-0. Boston claws back with a solo shot in the fifth and another in the sixth. Down 3-2, the Sox put a runner on in the seventh, and then get a runner to second with one out in the ninth, but can't bring either home, giving the Braves their fifth World Series title in their history, and their third in the last 11 years.

Atlanta 1B Micah Streeter (.414/.452/.621) is the World Series MVP. Manager Jason Pearson wins his first title, in his first season at the helm. (Previously he'd managed the Cubs, from 2030-34.)

Next up: Season recap and blah blah blah
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2037/38 Off-Season, part 1

And away we go!

Wait. Before we get to that, let's take a minute for a quick look at the farm team results for 2037. Pretty good, if I say so myself.
AAA - Kansas City, 87-57, 1st place IL West Division; lost in first round of playoffs Columbus
AA - Lewiston, 70-72, 5th place in Eastern League North Division (best record ever for the Millers BY FAR)
A - Eureka, 76-64, 2nd place in California League North Division; lost playoff to Stockton
SA - Poughkeepsie, 41-29, 2nd place in New York-Penn League Stedler Division
R - Athens, 50-18, 1st place in Appalachian League East Division; won playoffs over Johnson City!
R - Boone Mountain, 27-41, 7th place in Appalachian League East Division (another best ever finish)

Four teams with a winning record, one league title, and the two losing-record teams had their best years ever. At the end of the season, our system was ranked 4th in MLB, but with Groff graduating, that will change significantly. Ok, onward...

THEM
...Cincinnati has been sold to Bobby Joslin, who describes himself as "financially charitable." Insiders, however, call him a "demanding meddler," aka a jerk.
...Washington and St Louis fired their manager, and manager and GM, respectively. No word on replacements yet.
...Philadelphia fired manager Andy Raaff, after numerous run-ins with the front office. Raaff led the Phils for seven years, making the playoffs three times. They missed the playoffs this year despite winning 95 games, after dropping a one-game play-in game against the Mets.

US
Time for the annual WTF message from our mysterious owner, Alexis Pagan: "Congrats on the season, Jim! I give you a score of 687. You should be proud! Also, I'm extending you for three more year, so you're mine! Ha ha! Just kidding. Oh, I'm also raising your budget to $116M for next year. And, uh, it's best if you don't ask where the money is coming from. Let's just say I've made some good investments! Hey, I gotta go, but before I do, my assistant tells me that I need to tell you to make the playoffs again next year, get a better second baseman, and bring me a championship by 2041! We're long overdue! Ok, later!" So, a personal raise, and a bigger budget...and yet, I can't shake the feeling that the FBI or INTERPOL might be calling me one day soon.

With my new budget in hand, accounting suggests we can afford to pay players $100M next year. Including arbitration estimates, we've got about 78M on the books already. We have 13 players going to arbitration; more about them down below. Five players have no contracts, and will become free agents: starting pitchers Tom DiFranco and Brady Dunne, relievers Bryan Dever and Vinny Cruz, and minor league outfielder Adam Dann. DiFranco is the toughest to lose, as he was my best starter for most of the season. But he's 32 and wants a six-year deal, with a bump in salary from 12M to 18M per season. No thanks. Dunne blew out his elbow in camp and missed the entire season; he had an option for 2038, but decided not to exercise it, so he's gone. I believe I can replace them both via in house options...and possibly through free agency (just wait). Dever and Cruz were solid for me all year, but want significant raises. Dever has near closer-level ratings, and wants to get paid like it, up from 1.8M to 5.5M. Cruz, who could probably be a decent starter for some teams, wants a bump from 980K to 2.6M per for three years. I've got six relievers on the books already, and am convinced I can find one or two more via trade, waiver pickup, or as cheaper free agents. Dann was signed to be a utility backup in case of injury, and never saw any big league time. Of note is that the four big leaguers are all good leaders, so anyone I look to bring in from the outside will get bonus points for strong leadership.

On top of those four, the usual raft of minor leaguers and wannabes have expiring contracts. After riffling through the pile, I offer several of them one year deals for 750K, the standard stuff. If they sign, good. If not, no sweat. Either way, they'll all have to go through waivers by spring, as I've no intent to keep any of them on the 40-man roster.

For the arb-eligible guys, no one wants to listen to any contract offers for more than one year, so it's off to arbitration we go...

But first, a trade interlude. Long-time readers know that I've been fairly, what, sour? Yeah, that's it, sour...on starting pitcher Jimmy Wunderlich for a couple of years now. His good ratings, high leadership, and extreme groundball tendency should fit perfectly for me, right? Well, he gives up 30 homers a year, only just got his ERA under 5 for the first time this season, and was scheduled to see his salary jump from 6.5M to 8.5M next year. Wanting to clear out the books and, once again, reconfigure my rotation, I decided he was expendable. Given that we're already losing two starters to free agency, as well as two relievers, I go looking league-wise for pitchers. After minutes of agonizing worry, I finally pull the trigger with Detroit, sending Wunderlich and prospect 3B Jason Woodcock (middling potential, but high INT/WE won't hurt his chances) to Detroit for pitcher Cory Taylor. He's 24, smart, a good leader, and a groundballer with a 97-mph fastball, a good curve, and a sinker that could get better. His stamina is enough that he's already my emergency starter. He's under team control for two more seasons, currently making minimum.

Ok, the arbitration results are in. First though, we offered Tom DiFranco a 13M qualifying offer, which he declined. At least we'll get a compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere. Others:
... OF Kelvin Moreno gets 850K (our offer, up from 750K) ... I'm fine with this; useful backup corner OF with HR power
... SP Steve Brock gets 3.5M (we offered 2.5M, up from 500K) ... expected this; affordable deal for a #3 or #4 starter
... IF Ervin Miranda gets 850K (our offer, up from 750K) ... slick fielder will be trade bait, what with two cheaper prospects pushing him
... RF Chris Wiggins gets 4.6M (our offer, up from 4M) ... hit .322 but with less power; good fielder; I'm fine with this
... RP Aaron Glass gets 1.344M (we offered 900K, up from 500K) ... pitched very well for us, so I'm okay with what is the going rate for quality bullpen arms
... 2B Ryan Hebert gets 900K (our offer, up from 800K) ... was subpar at 2B in the field, and with OBP below .300; owner wants him gone
... RP Jack Shewmake gets 6M (we offered 5M, up from 4.6M) ... so pricey, but actually pretty cheap for a closer, if he can stay healthy
... LF Travis McArthur gets 4.25M (we offered 3M, up from 500K) ... former #1 overall pick; now we go to work on a long-term deal
... SS Jim Mullen gets 3.97M (we offered 3.8M, up from 3.36M) ... hard-nosed role player every team needs; no complaints here
... RP Steve Miller signed for 2.44M, rather than go through arbitration (up from 1.18M) ... was our closer, but better suited for setup role
... C Austin Collins gets 3.75M (we offered 2.75M, up from 500K) ... not a good catcher, but a Ted Simmons-like hitter
... RP Justin Ragland gets 1.7M (our offer, up from 1.66M) ... deadline pickup was a disaster as a starter, but affordable as a reliever

Plus, those minor league free-agents-to-be that we tendered contracts to? All three signed, all three are pitchers: Nagateru Okazaki, Jorge Escalante, and Bobby Piccirillo. All saw time in AA and AAA, and all will probably go to AAA next year, should they not stand out in spring training. Piccirillo is the only one, to me, who has a chance.

Our final move before free agency is to re-sign manager Pat Wilson (me, sort of) to a five-year extension. No other staff needed extensions, and hopefully no one will retire. Four guys on the Hawaii personnel payroll will need offers next year.

2037 MLB AWARDS
AL Gold Gloves -- three Tigers win (C Masi Wada, 2B Javy Guereca, SS Tony Munoz), two Blue Jays (1B Preston Sorensen, LF Sean Shelden)
NL Gold Gloves -- two Austin players win (3B Logan Errington, CF Mike Newman)
AL Hoyt Wilhelm -- Josh Easterling, CLE ... 2.04 ERA, 49 SV, 121 K, 84 IP, got lucky in the playoffs ... HAW Steve Miller second place
NL Hoyt Wilhelm -- Max Stover, LAD ... 1.65 ERA, 46 SV, 107 K, 76 IP
AL Silver Sluggers -- 3B Adam Groff, HAW ... .335/.420/.701, 47 HR, 108 RBI, 9.1 WAR ... otherwise, TOR and BOS with two players each
NL Silver Sluggers -- only the Pirates have multiple players, with two (CF Brendan Glenn and RF Mike Blough)
AL Rookie of the Year -- 3B Adam Groff, HAW ... you know the stats ... MIA 3B Sergio Torres second, OAK 1B Pat Slind third
NL Rookie of the Year -- SP Chris Hymans, CHI ... 2.83, 10-8, 28 GP, 187 K, 159 IP ... NY RF Jose Archuleta second, LA CF David Holpp third
AL Manager of the Year -- Chris Harvey, BOS ... nine years, career record 697-761
NL Manager of the Year -- Jason Pearson, ATL ... first year with Braves, spent five years with Cubs, won NPB title with Chunichi in 2035
AL Cy Young -- Jay Russo, HOU ... 2.51, 11-9, 263 K, 204 IP, 7.1 WAR ... TOR Curtis Thames second, OAK Ricky Hose third
NL Cy Young -- Gabe Delfin, NYM ... 2.62, 21-6, 244 K, 216 IP, 5.8 WAR ... RIC Gabe Pamperin second, POR Drew Falconbury third
AL Most Valuable Player -- 1B Preston Sorensen, TOR ... .338/.442/.663, 51/128, 11.3 WAR, his second MVP ... HAW Adam Groff second, TOR C Devlin Ransberger third
NL Most Valuable Player -- CF Brendan Glenn, PIT ... .356/.434/.717, 50/113, 10.5 WAR, his second MVP ... PHI 1B Nate Rogers second, MTL 3B Matt Anderson third


Team Positional Review and Off-Season Outlook
Catcher
Austin Collins, 27, R, waivers from MIL 11/2034 ... .293/.346/.467, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 532 PA, 3.7 WAR
Orlando Villanueva, 25, L, FA signing 12/2036 ... .192/.245/.331, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 140 PA, -0.1 WAR
Collins has had two consistent, strong years at the plate for us, and at 27, should be a fixture for some time. His only drawback is his lack of talent behind the plate. He's a smart guy, but doesn't appear to be growing into the position, so I may end up moving him back to DH one day, where he played in 2035. Villanueva did not produce like we hoped with the bat, but is a good defensive sub. He's also a strong leader, and with no one pushing him from AAA, he's set as the backup next year. Worrisome that there is no one in the pipeline who looks promising.
2038 Outlook: Set

First Base
Jeremy Dunklee, 27, L, FA signing 7/2034 ... .315/.430/.521, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 658 PA, 5.9 WAR
Cisco Videira, 39, L, FA signing 6/2037 ... .298/.353/.440, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 329 PA, 0.8 WAR
Nate Hullinger, 27, L, FA signing 2/2036 ... .204/.291/.352, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 261 PA, -0.8 WAR (.274/.345/.416, 5 HR in AAA)
Dunklee is still a franchise cornerstone, a reliable cleanup hitter with good plate discipline. Hopefully his power numbers will go back up with an injury-free 2038. Videira is a quality backup and DH, an aging star who is closing in on 3000 hits. He's also a good role model, probably a future coach, and is still rated well enough to have earned the one-year extension we offered in September. Hullinger started the season as the regular DH, but didn't hit, and found himself back in AAA, where he continued to struggle. He's got a great power stroke, but only managed 11 homers combined in 430 PA (after 34 in 480 the year before). He'll be in camp nonetheless.
2038 Outlook: Set

Second Base
Ryan Hebert, 29, R, expansion pick 2033 ... .272/.293/.343, 0 HR, 29 RBI, 554 PA, 0.6 WAR
Ervin Miranda, 25, L, trade with NYM 12/2035 ... .275/.342/.373, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 225 PA, 1.2 WAR
Josh Robertson, 22, L, 2nd round pick 2034 ... .220/.267/.358, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 117 PA, -0.1 WAR (.306/.344/.458 in AAA)
Hebert is one of the last original Islanders, but his time may finally have come to an end. Always a low-OBP guy, his .300+ average in the past offset that, but he struggled last year. He also rates well at second (having moved from third to accomodate Groff), but played below average, hurting the overall infield defense. Miranda had better numbers, and is a quality "supersub" who can play 2B/3B/SS equally well, but the future appears to be Robertson. He played much better in his second callup in late summer, and will likely be the penciled-in starter during camp. He's a good fielder, and my scouts tell me he'll hit everything but home runs. The question is what to do with Hebert and Miranda, since both want to start, and both are unhappy to not be hitting at the top of the lineup (where they definitely do not belong).
2038 Outlook: Up in the air

Third Base
Adam Groff, 23, L, 1st overall pick 2035 ... .335/.420/.701, 47 HR, 108 RBI, 551 PA, 9.1 WAR
Eddie Aguilera, 26, R, trade with CIN 1/2036 ... .206/.229/.368, 2 HR, 2 RBI, -0.1 WAR (.278/.309/.382 in AAA)
Groff is Mr. All Everything, just what you want in a first overall draft pick. He has all the tools: contact, power, speed, glove, and arm. My only concern is that he has suffered a number of minor to moderate injuries and bugs these last two years, and was clearly not the same player in the second half of 2037 (after hamstring and ankle problems) than he was in April through June. Aguilera is not a roster player at this point, but a useful guy to have in AAA as he is a dynamite fielder and quality human being.
2038 Outlook: Set

Shortstop
Jim Mullen, 29, R, waivers from CHC 2/2036 ... .310/.353/.484, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 412 PA, 3.2 WAR
Danny Holguin, 23, R, 12th round pick 2034 ... .230/.330/.311, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 88 PA -0.1 WAR (.257/.311/.369 in AAA)
Mullen has been a fantastic waiver pickup, a consistent hitter and fielder for two seasons. He did miss 50 games last season, and we struggled without him, as he makes the bottom of the lineup go. He's a former Silver Slugger winner, so he's got some pop. Holguin can play all three "skilled" infield positions, and is the first in line for the utility role should I get rid of both Miranda and Hebert. He's ready for a roster spot, although I'll use camp to see how the infield shakes out, so he could be back in AAA to start next season.
2038 Outlook: Set

Outfield
LF Travis McArthur, 25, R, 1st overall pick 2034 ... .306/.336/.536, 29 HR, 91 RBI, 524 PA, 4.0 WAR
CF Josh Drayton, 26, R, trade with SF 7/2035 ... .259/.319/.451, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 645 PA, 4.1 WAR
RF Chris Wiggins, 27, L, trade with KC 5/2035 ... .322/.357/.437, 5 HR, 58 RBI, 604 PA, 2.5 WAR
OF Kelvin Moreno, 30, L, expansion pick 2033 ... .253/.320/.457, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 209 PA, 0.3 WAR
OF Ernesto Martinez, 22, L, rule 5 pick 12/2036 ... .225/.281/.403, 7 HR, 21 RBI, -0.2 WAR
OF Jason Raymer, 28, L, trade with NYM 11/2036 ... .226/.276/.377, 1 HR, 4 RBI, -0.1 WAR (.251/.325/.432 in AAA)
Two years now with a stable outfield, and it's great. I highly recommend it. All three can hit, can run, and can throw. McArthur continues to develop, and with Groff and Dunklee is part of the team's foundation. Drayton's production dropped considerably (9.0 to 4.1 WAR), but he's still a sparkplug in the field and in the locker room (although not a sparkplug in game terms; I still don't have one of those). Wiggins struggled to stay healthy, but hit over .300 again, though with less power than in 2036. Moreno had a productive season off the bench, but Martinez didn't perform as we'd hoped. He's got power and contact to spare, so I'm hoping for better from him if we keep him around. Both are better as corner outfielders, and Raymer is the only backup who's a capable center fielder. But his hitting is subpar. There isn't much bubbling up from the minors, except for 20-year-old Mel Carillo, who was dynamite in AA, but is not likely to be ready for next year.
2038 Outlook: Starters are set, bench is flexible

Pitching
SP Ken Clark, 28, R, FA signing 10/2034 ... 4.15, 15-10, 208 IP, 254 K, 42 HR, 1.7 WAR
SP Bobby Little, 25, L, trade with RIC 6/2034 ... 2.60, 11-2, 114 IP, 100 K, 2.1 WAR
SP Steve Brock, 28, R, trade with SD 7/2035 ... 4.08, 13-10, 194 IP, 142 K, 2.3 WAR
SP Angelo Partida, 26, R, trade with MIN 7/2035 ... 3.19, 6-3, 62 IP, 34 K, 1.1 WAR (1.48, 6-3, 61 IP, 2.3 WAR in AAA)
RP Aaron Glass, 26, L, waivers from SEA 11/2036 ... 3.16, 2-4, 4 SV, 83 IP, 90 K, 0.8 WAR
RP Ryan Key, 29, R, FA signing 1/2037 ... 3.38, 2-5, 2 SV, 35 IP, 39 K, 0.1 WAR
RP Chris Mayer, 27, R, waivers from RIC 11/2036 ... 5.36, 1-2, 2 SV, 47 IP, 37 K, -0.3 WAR
RP Steve Miller, 29, R, FA signing 1/2037 ... 2.10, 6-3, 40 SV, 69 IP, 80 K, 1.3 WAR
RP Jack Shewmake, 28, R, trade with STL 12/2034 ... 3.16, 2-0, 1 SV, 37 IP, 44 K, 1.1 WAR (0.00, 6 SV, 12 IP, 14 K in AAA on rehab)
RP Justin Ragland, 30, R, trade with WAS 7/2037 ... 9.00, 1-5, 42 IP, 48 K, -0.1 WAR (5.53, 57 IP, 55 K with WAS)
RP Cory Taylor, 24, R, trade with DET 11/2037 ... 4.21, 1-1, 26 IP, 19 K, 0.3 WAR with DET

P Rob Hart, 21, R, 9th round pick 2034 ... 1 GP, 9 IP, 3.00 ERA (2.44, 7-3, 24 GP, 144 IP, 165 K, 4.0 WAR in AAA)
P Eric Jones, 21, L, 21st round pick 2034 ... 2.66, 9-8, 172 IP, 169 K, 2.1 WAR in AAA
P Mark Phillips, 25, R, FA signing 6/2034 ... 2.73, 2-1, 7 GP, 33 IP, 43 K, in AAA
P Bryan Hardin, 30, R, trade with COL 7/2035 ... 2.42, 6-4, 104 IP, 92 K in AAA
P Pat Stanley, 24, L, FA signing 7/2035 ... 3.00, 2 GP, 6 IP, 2 K (1.07, 49 SV, 76 IP, 76 K in AAA)
P Bobby Piccirillo, 24, R, trade with KC, 7/2037 ... 2.56, 13-7, 165 IP, 155 K, 4.4 WAR in AAA
P Jorge Escalante, 26, R, FA signing 7/2037 ... 0.56, 3-1, 31 IP, 39 K in AA-AAA

Starters: Clark and Little figure to be the top of the rotation next year. Brock is a competent #3. Partida has pitched well in two stints with the big club these two years, so he deserves a chance; he's not dominating, but gets guys out. With Rob Hart's continued development, we've got five starters that are MLB quality already. Jones and Phillips have been great at AAA, but I'm not convinced they've got the chops for the majors. Hardin has the ratings, but no stamina, so he's a middle/long relief guy at best. Piccirillo will get a long look in camp. I might target a FA signing to get another proven veteran in here by camp, as I'm not quite confident enough to only go with three established starters next year.

Relievers: Shewmake, when healthy, has dominant stuff. He's my closer. Miller closed this year, but I like him better as the 8th inning guy. Glass and Key are competent and proven, and Glass is one of our few left-handed options. Mayer needs to do better, as does Ragland. Both are expendable if they're outplayed in March. Taylor has promise, and has the chops be our emergency starter. Stanley can still get better, and I hope he does well in camp because I prefer having two lefties in the pen. Escalante is not much more than a hard thrower. I'll keep a close eye on the waiver wire--as usual--for any free pickups here too. It's also likely I'll put a developing starter here should I need an arm.


So...unlike previous years, I don't see any glaring weaknesses or obvious areas to target in free agency. I might go after a starting pitcher, depending on who's available. I might try another bullpen arm, again depending on who's out there. I doubt I'll go for any position players, unless there's a nice-hitting backup center fielder with a good glove. The good news is I've got just over $25M available, should someone pop out at me.


Next up: Off-season, contd.
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Old 07-23-2017, 01:59 PM   #49
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Off-season part 2

Sometimes I feel like the off-season is the best part of the year. No injuries, no losing streaks, no trade demands, no slumps, and no constant worrying over the lineup. Okay, that last one doesn't quite go, since this is definitely the time to worry over the lineup. But it's bigger picture: you're putting the pieces together and hoping they fit. Off-season is the time for a GM to stretch his imagination (and maybe his budget). It's a time of hope, when contenders know they're just a player away from that elusive championship, and fans of the also-rans and outright losers swear that this time their team is on the right path.

Here's a chronological recap of the 2037-38 off-season, picking up after arbitrations, and just as free agency is getting under way. Major news, major signings, and any other interesting tidbits that pass over the transom.

But first...an interruption: "A Hazy Interlude, or Did I Just Dream That?"

It's late November, a Friday, and I'm wrapping things up for the week. The ink is barely dry on the latest round of arbitration deals, and I'm looking forward to a couple days of relative quiet before free agency begins. I'm rising out of my chair when I hear my office door close. Funny that I didn't hear it open... Almost before I can ask who's there, standing before me is our owner, Alexis Pagan. Yes, the man I see maybe once a year, the man who's personal life makes more headlines than does his financial standing, the man who's so-called "business interests" are a complete mystery to me, is here. I suppress a smile and imagine that I can smell sulfur.

"Sit down, Jim, I've got some news for you."
I sit. "Good news, or bad news?"
"Good news, and great news, Jim." He smiles. Or at least part of his face wrinkles and his eyes have a sort-of glint.
"Um, okay," I say. "Before you start, is your son coming back for another internship? Because I think we've filled those positions already." I try to keep from wincing.
"Ha! Good lord, no, Jim!" he says. "My family is ridiculous. Half idiots and half criminals. I'm not sure which half is which." He's still smiling.
"Ah, okay. So lay it on me. Sir."
"Jim, I'm raising your budget again. I've done a little better than I imagined this year, so I wanted to put some...er, capital back into my investments. You're a good investment, Jim. Very good."
Am I sweating now? I think I'm sweating.
He goes on. "You'll have 130 million to play with this year, Jim. Will that help? I think it'll help. Go get us some players, Jim. I want a second baseman. And another pitcher, one that won't give up 40 homers a year, Jim." Somewhere, Ken Clark's ears must be burning.
My head is spinning. This is more baseball talk than I've ever heard from Pagan, and I'm sure sweat is getting in my eyes now. A thought intrudes from the back of my mind: where's he getting his info from? A mole? A bug? I need a drink.
"Jim, you need to relax." He leans forward and hands me a hankie. "Now, that was the good news. Are you ready for some great news? Of course are are. We're getting a new stadium, Jim. Isn't that fantastic! No more playing in that concrete dump, Jim! We'll have our own place, and I'm going to call it the Pagan Palace!"
I can only stare at him.
"Kidding, Jim, kidding! Call it whatever you want, since it's all my money anyway and we don't have to name it after some blood-sucking bank or consulting firm. No public money, because I'm not a leech, Jim. So you can name the place yourself. Maybe something local, the press will love that."
"How about Kamehameha Field?" I blurt, surprising myself.
"Sure, Jim, sounds great." He's standing now, and extends a hand. I stand, and we shake.
"My girl will send you a press release about the new stadium in a couple days, Jim. We'll emphasize the private funding, no public money, talk about my largesse. Like I said, my investments paid off this year. Quite well." He's actually chuckling now. "Oh, and one more thing." He leans forward, almost conspiratorially. "Bring. Me. A. Championship. I'm counting on you, Jim."
He turns to go and I begin to ask him something, but the words don't come. I'm sure I hear the door open and close, but I can't remember seeing him leave. And is the room a little...smokey now? I sit down, and some time later--I'm not sure how long--everything seems to come clear again, and I have to concentrate to remember what just happened.

More money....and a new stadium. Really? In time for opening day? Is that possible? I really do need that drink.

......

Next up: Back to the outer world. Off-season part 3.
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Old 07-23-2017, 08:45 PM   #50
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Off-season part 3

Okay, back to regular programming. All the news that's fit to print from the MLB 2037-38 off-season.

First off, owner Alexis "The" Pagan makes good on his promise, and sends me a press release regarding the very real construction that began two weeks ago (!) on our new stadium. Somehow work is still scheduled to see us moving in by opening day, April 6 against Tampa. Will the paint even be dry? Plus, I go with the name Kamehameha Field. It'll seat 49.9K and promises to be less of a home run park than our current pile. SP Ken Clark is on the dais with me, shedding tears of joy.

...11/28 -- Free Agents file! Starting pitchers dominate the top of the "most wanted" list. Among the biggies (with 2037 team in parens) are Drew Falconbury (PLD), Leon Casillas (CHC), Drew Smolak (RIC), Tommy Gordon (SD), B.J. Nault (PIT), and Mike Shilvock (SEA). Our best pitcher from last year, Tom DiFranco, is also testing the waters, and will probably make more than I wanted to give him. Ingrate.
...11/28 -- the first big splash comes from across the pond. The Pacific, that is, as the Rangers sign slugging 1B Ben Worley for 6 yrs and 67M. Worley was dropped by the Nationals in 2028, a year after they drafted him, and went straight to Japan, where he's spent the last nine years. Get a load of these numbers: 6 MVP awards, 9-time all-star, 8 silver sluggers, 6 golden gloves, ROY, one title. Plus he's hit 536 HR in 1090 games, with a career slash of .314/.443/.770. He slugged .970 last year, despite hitting just four doubles. He's 31 and has power to burn, but probably won't hit much for average in the ML.
...11/28 -- twelve other International Free Agents file and it is NOT a bumper crop. We identify only one player worth a sniff, 23-year-old Cuban reliever Miguel Granados.
...11/30 -- looking to get back to the World Series next year, the BoSox acquired SS Colin Schueller (aka The Highest Paid Player in the World, at 30M per) from the Angels, in exchange for four truly mediocre prospects and one so-so guy. Are there naked GM pics floating around out there?
...12/1 -- we try breaking the ice by making an offer to the best pitcher on the market, Drew Falconbury (a 31-year-old who's earned 57 WAR and 2 Cy Youngs in his career, has great stuff, good movement, and outstanding control). We start at 24M per for five years, and he counters with 29M over six years. This is negotiating? We decide against making a second offer.
...12/6 -- so with Falconbury dissing us, we go to option #2: 27-year-old Mexican righty Leon Casillas. He wants an average of 24M per over 9 years, which is...quite a haul. After thinking about it for a while, I agree to his terms, and he signs with us. That is a lot of cash, but I think he'll be worth it. (Plus there's a buyout option after 2042, his age-32 season.) He's been an iron man for the Cubs, not missing a start in over five years, and giving up about 20 homers a season while pitching in Wrigley. He won a Cy Young in 2036. He has excellent stuff, movement, and control (prob the best control on the market right now), and features a top-of-the-class curve and slider, with a decent-enough cutter. He's an extreme groundballer, and should be helped by our excellent infield defense. Now just stay healthy, Leon.
...12/8 -- the Yanks sign SP Mike Shilvock for the bargain-basement price of 14.3M for one year. He's a crafty bastard, featuring a curve and knuckle-curve, but my scouts say he's lost quite a bit off his fastball and, at 34, was too big a risk to invest heavily in.
...12/8 -- the Dodgers begin their annual "Outspend the Heathens!" campaign by inking CF Mike Newman for 2 years and 27M. Good power, good fielder (four gold gloves), but can't stay healthy (played 111 games last year, his highest total in five seasons).
...12/8 -- Washington signs one of my favorite guys, SS Ty Cobb. I drafted him as GM in Richmond back in 2021, and all he's done since then is rack up nine batting titles, one MVP, seven 200-hit seasons, and lead the league in OBP ten times. For a guy who has no power (he's never hit more than 25 doubles or 3 HR in a season), he surprisingly has four Silver Sluggers. He was my 2B for years, because of a noodle arm, but since he's left Richmond teams have insisted on playing him at short, where he's below average. Needs 159 hits to reach 3000.
...12/10 -- Angels sign SP Jeff Caraway away from Richmond for 104M over six years. He's been healthy and has a wicked slider, but no stamina and has been a 3.0 to 3.5 WAR guy at best. Seems like a lot for a #3 starter, guys.
...12/12 -- Arizona signs our first SP choice, Falconbury, to an average of 22.7M over six years. At least he's staying in the NL, and away from us.
...12/12 -- those crazy Dodgers do it again, this time signing CL Drew Villines to a 36M deal over 3 years. He's a pretty good closer, having saved 49 and won a title with the Braves last year. But he is nearly 33, has an injury history, and is prone to pouting and crankiness.
...12/12 -- the Reds take the only other high-quality 2B possible off the market, signing 36-year-old Jimmy Campbell to a 2-year, 22M deal. Eh, too rich for me anyway, after signing Casillas. Plus, he's not a great fielder, which is my #1 quality in a second baseman.
...12/13 -- looking at losing two starting pitchers, Richmond goes out and nabs LHP Tommy Gordon for 77M over 4 years. We looked at him as well, but at 33, he's already lost some stuff off his curve and change, his control is not the greatest to begin with, and he's missed time two of the last four years.
...12/13 -- Miguel Granados signs with us, for a 900K bonus. He's 23, a righty, with a quality fastball and a better curve. He's basically a high-stuff, average movement and control guy, but who's high work ethic could see him develop beyond that. Basically he's a low-risk signing who'll either be in our pen in a year, or traded to Austin or St Louis or some other schlub club.
...12/14 -- we lose two players from 2037: P Vinny Cruz signs for 1M with Atlanta (he wanted 4.3 from us. WTF Vinny?); and supersub IF Ervin Miranda departs via trade, to Tampa. We also send along overrated prospect CF Larry Wood and boom-potential RP Jae-Hyung Chung (wild but with high stuff and movement). In return we get prospect C Guillermo Diaz and IF Ed Moore. We took Moore because he makes 1M and Tampa wanted to lose some salary, and he'll be outrighted to AAA if he clears waivers. Diaz is the prize, however. He's only a decent hitter (but with good power and plate discipline), but is a dynamite defensive catcher. He's 21, and immediately becomes our best prospect catcher (by far) in the system. I'm hoping his bat comes around a bit more, which will make him a fixture for us for the next decade.
...12/15 -- Sterling Fox. Not a great player, but definitely a great name. Anyway, he's the Red Sox starting RF, and will be out for 2-3 months. I just wanted to get his name in the books. He joins Alpha Mann as one of my current favorites among active players.
...12/15 -- the Cubs sign closer Jordan Carney for 6.7M over 2 years. Comparing this to the Dodgers' Villines signing on the 12th, there is no contest: Carney is better, he's younger, and he's a fan favorite. At 1/4 the price, he's an absolute steal for the Cubs.
...12/15 -- BJ Nault signs for a 2-year, 19M deal with the Nationals. He's a good pitcher, and good value at less than 10M per, but I think his stats were inflated by playing for that Pittsburgh dynasty for the past seven years.
...12/16 -- the Yankees are starting to look more interesting, grabbing their second SP of the off-season. They'll be dropping nearly 18M a season for the next six years on righty Chris Smolak. His stats don't jump out at you, but he hasn't missed a start in six years and has averaged nearly 5 WAR a season over that time. Maybe a little high on the contract total, but definitely an upgrade for the Bombers.
...12/16 -- yes, I'm going to harp on the Dodgers and their poor financial sense regarding closers. Max Stover, who saved 46 for them last year, just signed with the Royals for 6.6M. Again, he's better (and younger) than the guy they signed for 12M. I guess having a lot of money really does make you crazy.
...12/25 -- Merry Christmas to former Islander Tom DiFranco, who just pulled 25M over two years from the Royals. (Why then did you ask me for 19M per, hmm?) The players and fans send me Xmas hate mail, but the heck with them. We'll see who gets the last laugh. (Me. It had better be me.)
...12/27 -- RULE 5 DRAFT! This has been a profitable well for us to dip into these last four years, but this year proves otherwise. We lose two guys, and draft one, and I'm not happy. First, we lost intriguing prospect SP Ayahito Yoshimoto to Baltimore. I say intriguing because he had the best stuff in our system, and has excellent control, but throws the ball in extremely straight lines... I'm curous to see how he does in the bigs. Next, we lost 1B Omar Hernandez to Portland. We signed Hernandez to a minor-league deal just at the close of the season, after the Yankees dropped him. Here's a guy who hit 37 bombs in the bigs in 2036, signing for peanuts two years later. How could I say no? Anyway, I must've spaced out because we left him unprotected and now he's gone. Not a huge loss, but I wanted to see if he could hit 50 HR in AAA. Sigh...But we do add RP Matt Elie from Brooklyn. Great stuff, good movement, meh control. Fastball, curve, hits 97 mph. No big whoop.
...12/28 -- the Mets sign RP Bryan Dever for 8.5M for 2 years, which I wouldn't ordinarily care about except that he was lights-out for us in the pen last year. But I wasn't going to re-sign him for 4M/season to pitch 50-60 innings when I had other fish to fry. Bonne chance, Bryan.
...12/30 -- the Angels sign SP Bryan Gruber for 70M over 10 (!) seasons, a huge deal for a 29-year-old. He's getting out of the hell that is playing for the White Sox, but a no-movement flyball pitcher for that money and term? I hope your fans invest in some good neck support, LA.
...1/3 -- hey, remember Brady Dunne? To recap: we signed him to be our #2 starter before the 2037 season, whereupon he got hurt in spring training and missed the entire season. I really, really enjoyed paying him 14M to sit and watch us play all year. Well, he declined his option for 2038, and today signed a one year deal with the Phils for 6.7M. He's still injured through April, but should be back for them after rehab in May. Whatever.
...1/5 -- good times on the south side of Chicago: the Sox just signed "all-time clubhouse cancer" Khalil Wilson for the next three seasons. They signed him during the last off-season too, then ran him out of town by the All-Star break. He is greedy, stupid, lazy, hates authority, all kinds of management, fans, little kids, and puppies to boot. But he hits home runs, when he isn't scowling from the end of the bench. He also has a career .318 OBP and demands to lead off. Ha! Have fun with that, Sox fans.
...1/15 -- this will never lead to anything, but I traded disgruntled no-hoper prospect 3B Chris Kennedy to Richmond for happy no-hoper prospect SS Jarod Pramuk, whom I acquired for his name only.
...2/1 -- the big-time closer sweepstakes, um, closed today with the signing of the last of the big names, Casee Sutherland, by the Reds for 11M over one year. He's a super dunce, but has a nasty fastball and will give Cincy a chance to win its first division since the Big Red Machine days.
...2/4 -- hey, who doesn't want to hear more Brady Dunne news? Having just signed with the Phillies, in his first workout with his new club he proceeds to blow out his elbow again, and will miss at least 14-15 months this time. Pardon me but....Hahahahahahahahaha!!! His agent termed this a "little setback." Right! Yes, it is, as in "Yorktown was a little setback to the British in 1781." At 36, Mr. Dunne would appear to be Mr. Done.
...2/5 -- while getting closer to camp, I took a look at our upcoming salaries, and my eyes settled upon one Travis McArthur, our former #1 overall pick from 2034, and now our top-notch LF. He's currently making 4.25M, which will bump to 6.3M by 2041, according to arbitration estimates. So I begin long-term contract negotiations with him, deciding to match his stated desire of an average of 6.5M for the next eight years, with a player option after year six. A week later I hear back from his agent: "Travis was offended by your offer and wants 8M per for the next six years." My response is "You're a funny guy, Mr Agent. Don't call me again." We'll come back to this later.

Very little happens the rest of the month, besides installing a new "Stick it to an Agent" dartboard in my office. Plus, now that our budget is out of the very bottom depths of the league (still 22nd overall though), I can start thinking more long-term about some of our complementary players. For example, my two best relievers, closer Jack Shewmake and set up guy Steve Miller (last year's closer) have no contracts beyond 2038. There's the aforementioned Travis McArthur situation. Three of my top coaches need extensions after this season. And more and more. There will be a longer post about all this later in the season.

With only a few quality FA still on the market, we can get a good handle on how teams have done this off-season. Only 12 (of 36) teams gained WAR, with the Tigers (+12.2) topping the list. Detroit gained three decent (but not top-line) SP, and a new 2B and CF, while only losing one player with a WAR over 1.0 (meh SP Will Quillen at 1.1). Of the already-good teams, Boston fared the best, gaining 9.5 WAR, building up their pen and middle infield, while losing no one of significance. The Yankees came in third, at +8.9, picking up two quality starting pitchers, a closer, another good relief arm, and a strong bench OF, while losing their starting C (who hit .221, so no great loss) and a middling SP.

On the other end of the stick, spare a thought for the Portland Pioneers, who lost 15.4 WAR these last few months. Now, nearly half of that was from their all-everything pitcher Drew Falconbury (7.1), but they also lost RF Brendan Yates (4.3) and 1B Hector Payan (3.1), two relievers, and their backup catcher and SS. They only managed to acquire 2.9 WAR SP Ernie Brereton from the Angels, and so will probably finish a long ways away from their 83 wins of last year. Pittsburgh also fared poorly, losing 10.1 WAR. They said goodbye to not one, not two, not three, but four starting pitchers (although to be fair one was injured for all of 2037), their primary set up man, and two backup catchers. They did replace the catchers, but did not bring in any new pitchers. Like the Pirates of the 70s, they are still a fantastic team at the plate, but the six guys vying for spots in the rotation currently include two rookies (with zero MLB games played), a former reliever who washed out with us when we really sucked, and a guy who has yet to crack the 6.75 ERA mark--as in, have an ERA below that--in two seasons. Maybe it'll all work out, who knows.

Next up: Spring Training and 2038 Preview
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Old 07-29-2017, 12:05 PM   #51
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Spring Training

Spring Training came and went without too too much trouble. We won 17 games (Oakland won 24, btw); five starting pitchers looked good, for once; CF Drayton, SS Mullen, and CL Shewmake spent time on the DL with minor injuries, but all are healthy for opening day. The one spot of annoyance involved #3 SP Bobby Little, who developed biceps tendinitis and went from "out for 3-4 weeks" to "out for an unknown length of time." He was our best pitcher for the first half of 2037 until going down for the year in July, and now he's out for more extended time. Great.

With Little out, that opened up a spot in the rotation, obviously. Who would step up to fill it? The top two spots were already gone, to Ken Clark and newbie Leon Casillas. Holdover Steve Brock will move up to #3, but I worry that he's over-slotted there, as he's a junkballer who's been only moderately dependable as a back end guy. The final two spots would come down to a competition between, in descending order of talent and my hope-for-their-success: Rob Hart, Mark Phillips, Eric Jones, Bobby Piccirillo, and Cory Taylor (although I have more wish to use Taylor as a mid-to-long reliever). Sadly, Hart and Phillips blew chunks all over their spring starts, as did Taylor in his several relief appearances. Happily, Jones and Piccirillo pitched quite well, and so earned spots on the opening day roster. Side note: My pitching staff in AAA is now, to me, MLB-quality, so there is some help if the new guys drop dead.

There were no surprises elsewhere on the roster. In March, I penciled in Josh Robertson as our starting 2B, and he did not disappoint over the month. OF prospect Mel Carillo looked good in spurts, and bad in others. His ratings got a jump in the April scouting report, so I could see him getting some time on the Island this summer. (Complete roster review below.)

Organizational Prospect Ranking
MLB surprised the hell out of me by ranking us #2 in overall prospect depth. SP Rob Hart, in fact, is currently the #1 rated prospect in all of baseball. He's 21, his ratings are MLB-ready (control could be better tho), and in fact would probably be our #3 starter if he had shown anything in camp. SP Mark Phillips is next, at #18. He's 25, and looks a lot like Hart, with less movement but better stuff. It's worrisome that he's a flyball pitcher with less-than-excellent movement; but he'll get his shot soon enough. Third is SP Eric Jones, also 21, at #28. Jones made the team as our #4 starter. He doesn't throw as hard as the guys above him, but has better movement and will develop better control. He's a groundballer and the only lefty starter in the rotation. Fourth is OF Mel Carillo, coming in at #74, and our highest ranked position player. He already has good contact and great gap power (he hits doubles like there's no tomorrow), and has a lot of room to grow into what should become a solid, all-star level player. He's just 20 and still looking like our LF of the future. Finally, there's SP Cameron Bornhoft, at #84. Bornhoft has flown under the radar since being drafted in 2034, but already is nearly MLB ready. He'll start in AA only because my AAA pitching is so strong. I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a September call-up, especially if we're cursed with injuries.

Preseason Predictions
MLB has shown us a lot of love in their last two season predictions, but they've gone sour on us this year. They have us winning just 81 games--.500 ball--and finishing in third place. Our hitting will be top-drawer (with good seasons from Groff and Dunklee), but pitching will be bottom of the league. Also troubling is that my owner has given me a goal of "just make the playoffs." (I've never won a title without my owner giving me a start-of-season "I think you can win it all!" goal/backslap.) Mark my words, however: we will be better than .500, and will make the playoffs...barring catastrophic injuries.

Oakland, Milwaukee, and Toronto will win their divisions, with Miami and Seattle getting wild card spots. In the NL, Pittsburgh and Arizona will win the Central and West, with the Mets and Richmond tying in the East, and Chicago getting the other wild card. The Pirates will be the only 100-win club, with 102. Also of note is the predicted 56 home runs from Mets 1B Nick Johnson (his second straight 50-HR season, btw).

Let's take a quick look at rest of the AL West, the guys we want to crush the most...
Oakland, predicted finish 1st place, 92-70 (2037 finish: 2nd, 91-71) Once again our toughest competition, and led by 24-year-old superstar C Vinny Vargas (ranked #1 in MLB). Their outfield of Nick Robinson, Tim Manske, and Dan Condon is one of the best in baseball, and 1B Pat Slind hit .313 with 31 HR last year. Starting pitchers Matt Bienvenu and Ricky Hose woud be top-of-rotation guys on any team in baseball. Weaknesses include the left side of the infield and a bullpen that looks like it will walk a ton of batters. Last year's closer Rick Cuneo is on the DL for two months, and has been replaced by former Yankee Pat Archer (37 saves but a 5.21 ERA last year).

Seattle, predicted finish 2nd place, 89-73 (2037 finish: 4th, 78-84) The Mariners have paired strong pitching with dreadful hitting for years now, and 2038 looks like more of the same. Aaron Myers has the chops to win Cy Youngs, and Sean Easter and Bryon Brendler are very nice complementary pieces in the rotation. Closer Tim Friddle is also top-notch, and the rest of the pen looks very capable. At the plate, CF Mike Wapner is a superstar in the making, but there's not much else. Their starters at 2B, LF, and RF look overmatched right now, and only one of the other returning starters hit over .250 last year. 89 wins looks like a stretch at the moment.

Hawaii, predicted finish 3rd place, 81-81 (2037 finish: 1st, 96-66) Us! More below...

Texas, predicted finish 4th place, 79-83 (2037 finish: 5th, 75-87) The Rangers lineup features two big-time power hitters, RF Sean Holliday (3 30-HR seasons) and 1B Ben Worley (536 HR in nine seasons in Japan)...but both are on the DL, and Holliday will miss the entire season. The rest of the lineup looks bleak. Their best pitcher is Mike Rath, who looked like a superstar-to-be in the minors, but had only one 3-WAR season in his 6.5 years in the majors. Remember Jamie Bell? A Rule 5 guy we took a chance on two years ago? He of the 10.59 ERA and 9 HR against in five starts with us? He's their #2 starter. Closer Josh Compagno looks like money, though, and the rest of the pen looks pretty solid. They're going to have to be.

Houston, predicted finish 5th place, 73-89 (2037 finish: 3rd, 82-80) The state of Texas has zero Championships, and the lowly Astros have only made the playoffs once since 2005, and that was twenty years ago. Pitching is a strength, featuring #1 starter Jay Russo and 47-save closer Manny Vargas. But there's a lot of mediocrity behind Russo, especially with #2 starter Adam Spinrad out until August. SS Jefferson McKenzie hits for power and average, and 2B Sean Boothe for average. After that...well, the corner IF has some power but nothing else, and the outfield looks like AAAA quality.

LA Angels, predicted finish 6th place, 69-93 (2037 finish: 6th, 72-90) The Angels were repeat 90-game winners just five years ago, but have plummeted since and are in the midst of a rebuild. C Jared Grose, a 3-time MVP, is the cream of the lineup, but he's 35 and starting to fade. SS Danny Gipson and RF Tom Richardson are the only other starters who should be called that. Pitching looks a little better, as they went and signed free agents Jeff Caraway and Bryan Gruber to anchor the rotation. But with two regular relievers already on the DL, the bullpen looks to be held together with tape and gum. There is hope on the horizon, with ARod clone Tony Mendoza about a year away.

......

And now, US.
We have a potent lineup, deeper starting pitching, solid defense, and a bullpen certainly no worse than anyone in our division, and we'll get 81 wins? I will tempt fate and say NO EFFING WAY. There. Now I've done it. Anyway, see for yourself.

(Key: POS, PLayer, age, 2037 stats, throws/bats, other stuff. Starters in bold)
C Austin Collins, 28, .293/.346/.467, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 3.3 WAR, R/R. Not the best defensive catcher around, but he busts his butt and is well-liked by everyone. Power was up last year, so that might regress; but he should still threaten to hit .300 every year.

C Orlando Villanueva, 25, .192/.245/.331, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 130 AB, L/R. Much better defensively than Collins, and should hit better than he did last year. Team leader, and with the best imitation Thurman Munson 'stache I've ever seen.

1B Jeremy Dunklee, 27, .315/.430/.521, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 5.4 WAR, L/L. Power numbers dropped off (from 42 and 36 HR the previous two seasons), but he did play much of the summer with a back strain. Still an all-star level hitter, and his fielding has improved to where he's no longer a Kingmanesque black hole at first. Looking for a bounce-back season this year.

1B Cisco Videira, 40, .298/.353/.440, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 302 AB, R/R. A steady, lifetime .300 hitter who can still bring it, he'll see more time at DH. Needs 72 hits for 3000 in his career, which might just get him into Cooperstown, despite more of an above-average career than a star-level one.

2B Josh Robertson, 23, .220/.267/.358, 109 AB, L/R. (Also hit .306 with 29 doubles in AAA.) The 'Moondog' was the second player taken in our first rookie draft, and he's finally getting his shot. He's a little guy (5'9", 170#) with no power, and won't walk much, but he won't strike out much either, and he's going to make a lot of contact. His good years should net him a .280-.290 average, with 35 or so doubles, and solid defense.

3B Adam Groff, 24, .335/.420/.701, 47 HR, 108 RBI, 8.7 WAR, L/R. A former #1 overall pick, who more than delivered on that hype last year. If he comes close to matching those numbers, I'll be overjoyed. He should compete for batting crowns, MVPs, and Gold Gloves nearly every year. I want to sign him until he's 40.

SS Jim Mullen, 29, .310/.353/.484, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 2.9 WAR, R/R. Mullen's the kind of guy every winning team needs: a hard worker who somehow hits above his weight and plays great defense. To wit: he made only 4 errors last year at short; he struck out just 25 times; he has hit .300 every year he's been a starter. This will be his third year in Hawaii, and one of these years I expect he'll drop off the table and hit .220. But not this year, Jim, okay?

IF Danny Holguin, 24, .230/.330/.311, 74 AB, R/R. (Also hit .257 in 377 AB in AAA.) Slightly above average at the plate (but just refuses to strike out), but will earn his bread in the field, where he's a stud at all three skill IF positions. Also a very good runner and a clubhouse leader.

LF Travis McArthur, 25, .306/.336/.536, 29 HR, 91 RBI, 3.6 WAR, R/R. Mr. "Your-Offer-Has-Insulted-Me" is our other former #1 overall pick, from 2034. He hasn't risen to superstar status, as befitting his draft position, but I'm still satisfied. He hits for contact, power, has some speed, and is a quality fielder (2037 Gold Glove LF) with a rifle arm. He may end up in right once prospect Mel Carillo comes along.

CF Josh Drayton, 26, .259/.319/.451, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 3.6 WAR, R/R. Looks very similar to McArthur, with less contact but better plate discipline. Another top fielder, with great range, and is also a whiz on the bases (67 SB in two seasons with us). Had a 9 WAR season in 2036, which he probably can't repeat, but I'm hoping for a better season at the plate this go-round.

RF Chris Wiggins, 27, .322/.357/.437, 5 HR, 58 RBI, 2.0 WAR, L/L. Hit for average last year, but missed out on double figures in triples for the first time in four seasons. In our new park, that shouldn't eat up doubles and triples, he should hit 40 and 15, easily. Yep.

OF Ernesto Martinez, 23, .225/.281/.403, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 191 AB, L/L. Jumped from A ball to the bigs last year, and struggled. Has the chops to hit 20 HR, I believe, even off the bench. A decent fielder but with limited range, he'll still be our de facto backup center fielder and premiere LH pinch hitter.

OF Kelvin Moreno, 31, .253/.320/.457, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 186 AB, L/L. A team leader, Moreno had his best year at the plate in 2037, and my fingers are crossed that he can do it again. He's really a below average hitter with some power, though, so we'll see... Also is an indifferent fielder, with a big arm. He'll be a free agent after this season, so this is probably his last trip around the park with us.


SP Ken Clark, 28, 4.15, 15-10, 208 IP, 161 H, 254 K, 42 HR, 1.7 WAR, RH. What will we get from Mr. Clark this year? The 6 WAR season from 2036, or last year's home run festival? Clark has fabulous stuff, with a truly elite curve and change. But when his movement isn't on, he gives up HR by the bushelful. We need 2036 Ken, not 2037 Ken.

SP Leon Casillas, 27, 3.17, 12-7, 238 IP, 207 K, 6.7 WAR (with the Cubs), RH. Our biggest free agency plunge ever. He brings elite stuff, movement, and control, and three great pitches along with being a groundball pitcher. He needs to dominate for us to rise to the level I think we can get to; he did have a great spring, so that's a good start.

SP Steve Brock, 28, 4.08, 13-10, 194 IP, 142 K, 2.3 WAR, RH. Now in his third year with us, he's being moved up a spot to #3, so we need him to deliver more consistently than he's done in the past. A pure junkballer, his fastball is just average, and he mostly brings a mix of a circle change and a knuckle curve. Good control, walking just two batters per 9 IP.

SP Eric Jones, 21, 2.66, 9-8, 172 IP, 132 H, 169 K in AAA, LH. Won a spot with a good spring, beating out two higher rated prospects. Was a 21st round pick in 2034, so he's already beaten the odds to get here. His control is just so-so, walking nearly 5 per 9 IP in the minors, but he has room to grow in that regard. Keeps the ball down. Stamina just fair.

SP Bobby Piccirillo, 24, 2.58, 13-7, 165 IP, 155 K in AAA, RH. Another surprise out of camp, as I had figured he might win a spot in long relief. Isn't elite in any respect, but features good control and four strong pitches. Is also a local kid, and is the first native Hawaiian to make the opening day roster for us.

CL Jack Shewmake, 29, 3.16, 37 IP, 44 K, 1 SV, RH. Posted a 2.2 WAR as a setup man in 2036, and was slated to be my closer last year, but got hurt in camp and didn't come back until August. He's good to go this year, however. He has the ratings to be the elite closer in MLB, and we'll need it all from him. He's in his contract year, and if he's as good as I think he can be, I'll spend big to bring him back.

RP Ryan Key, 29, 3.38, 35 IP, 39 K, 2 SV, RH. One of the last two original Islanders (along with Moreno), and has been a solid set up man for us for the last two years. Groundballer, with a nice sinker, but is still prone to giving up too many long balls. We'll watch him closely this year.

RP Steve Miller, 29, 2.10, 69 IP, 80 K, 40 SV, RH. Last year's closer will be our prime setup man this year. Has wicked movement and control, brining a fastball that can hit 101, and a great sinker to boot.

RP Matt Elie, 25, 5.11, 37 IP, 39 K, 1 SV with Brooklyn, RH. Our annual Rule 5 guy this year. His one issue has been his control, and he slumped to giving up 6 BB per 9 IP last year. If he can keep his walks down, he should be more than solid enough.

RP Chris Mayer, 27, 5.36, 47 IP, 37 K, 2 SV, RH. Struggled in his first full year in the majors, we need him to bounce back this time.

RP Aaron Glass, 27, 3.16, 83 IP, 90 K, 4 SV, LH. Had a solid year in middle relief for us, and needs to do it again. Must get his HR totals down (12 last year). Our only left-hander in the pen.

RP Justin Ragland, 30, 9.00, 1-5, 42 IP, 65 H, 48 K (plus 5.53, 57 IP, 55 K with Washington), RH. Was a disaster as a deadline-acquired starter for us last year, but fared better in the pen in September. Wants to be a starter, but won't get that chance with us again unless we're backed in a corner. Looked great in long relief in camp.

......

There you go, your 2038 Hawaii Islanders. The next six months will bring all sorts of emotions, high spots, low spots, injuries, inconsistencies, and unexpected performances. Despite MLB's prognostications, I think we can:
...win at least 90 games
...win our division
...get to the World Series

We're definitely in the conversation, and if your pre-season magazine or local talk radio show says otherwise, you're not getting your money's worth.

Next up: Play ball!
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Old 07-30-2017, 06:00 PM   #52
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Opening Day! Everyone's tied, no one is struggling, and all seems right with the world. How soon all of that will change...

April 6-8 vs. TAMPA BAY
MLB is sour on the Rays too, saying they'll only win 63 games this year. (They won 65 last year.) No wonder, too, as their lineup does not inspire fear...or even a short gasp. 1B Andy Catron (.308, 19 HR) and 2B Jon Ledezma (.297, 29 SB) lead the attack. There's hope that Ricky Chavez, a powerful (and powerfully slow) RF will fully develop his power stroke (just 13 HR in 419 AB) and raise his average (.219). Our former supersub infielder Ervin Miranda gets a chance to play every day, as the opening day 3B. Oh, and SS Erik Roberts hasn't hit a home run since 2033.

Pitching is a little better, but they only have one starter (Yu Rui) who had a sub 4.50 ERA last year, and he did that for Pittsburgh. Rui's also coming off major arm surgery, so he's looking to prove he's still capable. The bullpen will throw a lot of innings this year, so it's good that the arms there look young and promising.

#1: WIN 4-2 ... McArthur 3 hits, 2 RBI; Dunklee the GW 2-run HR in the eighth...Clark pulled after 5 IP; why?
#2: WIN 16-2 ... Wiggins 5 hits, Dunklee 4 and 6 RBI...team hit 5 HR...Casillas 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER
#3: LOSS 1-2 ... Brock goes 8 strong innings, but is outpitched by Marty Rodgers, who goes 9...TB wins it with solo HR in the 10th

Disappointing finish but overall a solid start to the year. Three well-pitched games, a bushel of home runs, and lots of hits. And on the 7th, my trainer Jordan Villalobos surprises me with the text "Bobby Little is now healthy and ready to go." Wha...? His 'unknown' injury has resolved itself and he's ready to pitch. Well, in KC that is, since he'll be there for April on rehab. Let's see how the rookies do (and how he fares coming back) before changing anything. ELSEWHERE...On the 6th, Detroit blitzed Texas 24-10, scoring 11 in the third and 8 more in the ninth. Texas starter Aaron Burton gave up 15 hits and 12 runs in 3 innings. Yee haw!


April 9-11 vs. MIAMI
Marlins are off to a 1-2 start, having started against Oakland. LF Ricky Beard leads the offense, and comes off a 46 HR season. 3B Sergio Torres hit 43 last year, and remaining outfielders Joel Courtney and Nic Wahl are also dangerous hitters. (All three OF, though, have dtd injuries.) Levi Brady is their best pitcher; we'll see him on the 11th.

#4: WIN 4-1 ... McArthur and Dunklee homer, and local hero Piccirillo goes six in his first big league appearance to get the win
#5: WIN 12-2 ... 17 hits, with McA and Dunks homering again...Eric Jones goes 5.1, strikes out 9
#6: WIN 4-3 ... we leave Clark in for 7 innings this time; he K's 10 and goes to 2-0...we hit two more HR as well

Off to a hot 5-1 start, led by Dunklee (.348, 4 HR) and McArthur (.458, 3 HR). Collins and Mullen also hitting over .400. Last year's megastar Adam Groff is sitting at .240 with no HR, likewise Drayton is down to .231 with no power...And finally, Travis "Insulted" McArthur finally did sign an extension with us, $48.58M over 8 years. This is almost exactly the first contract I pissed him off with. ELSEWHERE...Oakland is also 5-1, while Pittsburgh is the only undefeated team, at 6-0. San Francisco is 0-5.


April 13-15 @ NY YANKEES
The Yankees have struggled for years, not posting a winning season since 2029. This year: a 1-5 start. They're not hitting, and not scoring, but pitching has been pretty good, as they've managed to put together a pretty strong pitching staff, especially the rotation. Homegrown star Tony Villarruel, and new free agent signees Mario Oliva, Chris Smolak, and Mike Shilvock are going to keep the team in a lot of games. The bullpen has depth too, so if they start hitting, watch out. This series will be their 2038 home opener.

#7: LOSS 1-2 ... Casillas whiffs 11, scatters 6 hits over 8 innings, and takes the loss...outhit the Yanks 8-6
#8: WIN 8-2 ... T-Mac's three-run blast was the highlight of a six-fun first, and we coasted from there...Brock throws well again
#9: WIN 7-6 ... the pen wins this one, yielding just one run in four innings after Piccirillo looks young and confused early

The middle game was rained out so we got to play two on the 15th, meaning Tax Day was pretty nice to us this year...Groff continues to struggle, with zero HR and hitting just .200. Early days, tho...Jim Mullen is now hitting .520; let's see if he can keep that going til the All-Star Break. C'mon Jim!...Two Yankees starters and their 1B suffer injuries and all may miss considerable time. Sorry guys. ELSEWHERE...27-year-old Phillies pitcher Kyle Labate no-hit the Cardinals on the 14th, striking out five and walking two...Oakland up to 8-2 after sweeping the Rangers.


April 16-18 @ LA ANGELS
Predicted to finish last, the Angels are off to a nice 6-3 start, with a run diff of +12. Pitching is leading the way, although I still don't think they have the horses in the rotation to keep things going for a full season. The bottom third of their lineup is hitting about .170.

#10: WIN 5-3 ... all five runs scored in the last three innings, capped by Drayton's three-run shot in the ninth...Mullen dtd injury
#11: LOSS 3-4 ... Aaron Glass gives up a solo shot in the 7th for the loss...my vendetta against Clark continues, as he's pulled in the sixth after another strong start
#12: LOSS 0-6 ... there it is, our first truly sh*t outing...Casillas gets bombed for five in the first, and we only manage 3 hits

Our first series loss. Ah well, had to happen sometime. Groff hitting .174, with just one XBH, and has been dropped to fifth in the lineup. Jim Mullen suffers a week-long dtd injury, with minimal effect, but he'll not play back-to-back games just to try to nurse him along...We manage to injure five Angels during the series, so that's something, right? ELSEWHERE...Oakland is now 9-4, half a game up on us and the Angels. Pittsburgh is 10-3 to pace the league, while the Giants are now 1-11 and the torch-bearing villagers are at the gate.

Next up: Oakland comes to town
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Old 07-30-2017, 06:10 PM   #53
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April 19-22 vs. OAKLAND
We always seem to have these four-game sets against Oakland....Off to another strong start, the A's are hitting (3rd in runs scored) and pitching (4th), and fielding (2nd). Their stars are leading the way, with Vinny Vargas hitting .465, Pat Slind .385. Edgar Maldonado--we'll see him in game one--is sporting a dandy 1.29 ERA, and Ricky Hose has a 2.21 with a 4:1 K:BB ratio. I'll be happy with a split series, honestly.

#13: WIN 7-4 ... good start! We light up Maldonado with three in the 1st and then three more in the 7th...Brock pitches poorly for the first time this year
#14: LOSS 6-11 ... we score five in the 1st but Piccirillo bombs out again, and our pen also gives up four runs late
#15: WIN 5-1 ... Collins' 3-run shot in the 4th wins it, and Jones goes 7 strong innings (4 H, 1 R, 10 K) for the win
#16: LOSS 2-9 ... the Battle of the Aces does not end well, as Clark gets the loss (6 runners, 5 runs, meh) and Hose, um, hoses us

I didn't literally mean I wanted to go .500, now did I? Plus we got really hammered in our two losses. Two more series this month, and it'll be time to assess the lineup and make some tweaks. We go back on the road now after that four-game stand. Lots of frequent flyer miles for us, it seems. ELSEWHERE...Pittsburgh just keeps on trucking, and is now 13-4. They've hit 35 HR and scored 107 times. If they can stay healthy and keep their thin rotation from imploding, how will they not win at least 110 games?...the Giants have rallied for two straight wins over the nearly-as-hapless Padres (3-12 vs 4-10), while the Yankees have also fizzled to a 3-12 start.


April 23-25 @ BOSTON
After a 2037 that saw them win 94 games and come a few outs away from winning the World Series, the Sox have stumbled badly out of the gate, at 5-10. They're not hitting at all, and 2/3 of what should be a potent outfield is playing hurt. The rotation has two starters (who we'll see, of course) with ERA well below 3, in Eddy Llamas and Manny Gomez, and three starters whose combined ERA approaches 10. The bullpen has looked better, but closer Juan Salazar (former Islander) has been pretty bad, blowing saves and sporting a lovely ERA near 7.

#17: WIN 3-2 ... Casillas (8 IP, 9 H) isn't great, but holds the Sox to 2 runs, and Dunklee parks one in the 8th for the win
#18: LOSS 0-6 ... Manny Gomez shuts us down...Brock goes well (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R) but the pen implodes, not that it mattered really
#19: LOSS 2-7 ... ugly, really ugly...Groff hits his first HR, so maybe he's coming around...Piccirillo terrible again, pen too

If you don't hit and don't pitch you won't win. Simple game, really. Groff hit his first HR (after 47 last year), but is still mired at .183. Dunklee now has 7 HR and is carrying the offense, with help from Collins and Mullen. The bullpen has looked ragged these last couple of series, and Bobby Piccirillo may be headed off to AAA after this last start. RF Wiggins got hurt diving for a ball and his diagnosis is pending. ELSEWHERE...Cleveland's Chance Muller (an original Islander) tossed a one-hitter vs the Mariners. He's pitched well since leaving us, and if the Indians are struggling in July (and if our pitching needs it) he's a potential deadline acquisition...We're 11-8, 1.5 behind Oakland and 1 behing the surging Mariners. No one in the division has been terrible, although the Angels are now 2-8 in their last ten.


April 26-28 @ BALTIMORE
At 11-6 they lead the East by two games over the Jays and Marlins. They've been in a team hitting slump (last in AVG and HR, 17th in runs scored), but their pitching leads the league. Three of their starting pitchers have ERA under 2, and Raul Trevino (will pitch game 2) has been superb in his four starts: 33.1 IP, 16 H, 4 ER, 28 K, 4 BB. It figures he's in his free agent year contract-wise, and is definitely upping his game for an improvement over his current $4.8M contract. But he's a greedy and selfish pig, that someone will pay $20M per annum for...but it won't be me.

#20: WIN 8-3 ... another strong start for Jones and (finally!) three hits for Groff
#21: LOSS 6-11 ... Mullen and Groff paced the offense, but Ken Clark has lost the plot, giving up 7 R in 3 IP...bullpen meh again
#22: WIN 4-2 ... Casillas is money again (8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K), and somehow we scrape 4 runs out of 8 singles and a double

It wasn't pretty, but I'll always take a 2-1 series win. CF Drayton and RF Wiggins both have dtd injuries, but not enough to DL them, so I'll have to juggle the lineup a bit. Speaking of which, I moved the struggling Adam Groff to leadoff, and he's gone 6-for-12 with 3 HR. I also sent down SP Bobby Piccirillo to get himself straightened out in AAA, and recalled Bobby Little from his rehab stint (he had 3 strong starts and looks ready to go). I am still pleased with rookie Eric Jones, as well as a (mostly) decent start from new #3 guy Steve Brock. But, because there must always be drama in the rotation, ace Ken Clark has been in the toilet recently. He's giving up fewer HR (on pace for "only" 36 over the season), and has struck out 37 in 26.1 IP. But his BABIP is .355, so maybe it's just bad luck. Whatever it is, it needs to stop. ELSEWHERE...Seattle has surged past the A's for first place (14-7 vs 14-9). We're lurking around at 13-9. Likewise the Cubs have surged past the Pirates by a half game, and the Cardinals are at 10-12, the closest they've been to .500 since before the iPhone. The Giants (5-16) and Yankees (4-16) are already circling the drain.
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Old 08-01-2017, 06:03 PM   #54
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As we segue into May, things start heating up. An eighth of the season is gone, and teams are getting a handle on their years now. By the end of May, all those close division races, where even the last place team is currently only a game or two under .500, will be spreading apart. There's still that early-season promise in the air, but for some you can already smell the desperation.

April 30, May 1-2 vs. TORONTO
The Jays are 11-9, not exactly where they want to be, but are only a game behind the Orioles. Hitting has been subpar, and pitching only average, and they have a run diff of +4. Reigning MVP Preston Sorensen is off to another good start (.338, 7 HR, 12 RBI) but this is a team built for power that is currently sitting 12th in home runs. The rotation is also struggling, with only one pitcher better than league average in ERA.

#23: WIN 9-3 ... 9 runs in the first four innings, two HR from backup Kelvin Moreno, and 8 strong innings from Brock. Neat.
#24: WIN 9-3 ... it's deja vu all over again...we pound three more HR, and Bobby Little makes his season debut (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER)
#25: LOSS 3-4 ... Dunklee bashes his 10th, and we outhit the Jays 12-7 but also walked 6 and made 2 errors

Tough loss in game 3, but otherwise a positive series. CL Shewmake hurt his ankle, but should be fine in a few days and the trainer says it won't hurt his pitching. Next up are the Rangers, having a good start to the year, and then we're off to play the division-leading Mariners. ELSEWHERE...Minnesota 3B Paul Foster is AL Player of the Month, while Brooklyn SS Chris White snags the NL honor. Texas' Mike Rath (we'll see him next series) is AL's top pitcher, while the NL nod goes to Cincy's Jerey Miers....The Rays (7-18) and White Sox (8-17) are joining the Yankes (7-17) and Giants (ditto) for the League Stinkeroo title.


May 3-5 vs. TEXAS
The Rangers are hanging in there with a 13-12 start, coming off two straight wins vs the Indians. Teams stats look unhealthy (with a -13 run diff) but four regulars are hitting .300. Problem is, the other five guys are hitting below .250, and two are in sub-Mendoza territory. Mike Rath (5-0, 2.68) was AL pitcher of the month, but it looks like we'll miss him this go-round. After five starts, Aaron Burton is still sporting a fab 10.23 ERA. Too bad we'll likely miss him as well.

#26: WIN 7-3 ... Wiggins goes 3-4 with 4 RBI, and Martinez comes off the bench and knocks four hits...Clark struggles but wins
#27: WIN 11-0 ... Rath starts for the Rangers and we hang all 11 runs on him, including 5 HR...Casillas goes the distance, earning his first AL shutout
#28: WIN 5-2 ... the 10-ERA man got his number down to 9, but we still nailed another loss to him. Sorry...Brock strong again (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R)

Woo! Sweep! We destroyed their best pitcher to boot! More importantly, 2B Josh Robertson, in his 84th at bat of the season, knocked in his first run. So, uh, congrats? Now, off to Seattle for a fight for first place! ELSEWHERE...Richmond CF Aaron Riches (I know) had a 3-for-3 night against Philadelphia, raising his season average to .105 (9-for-86). He has more RBI than hits....Royals RF Hakaru Watanabe has been injury-plagued in his two seasons with the club, and has managed just 54 hits when healthy. Nineteen of those hits, though, have been home runs....Yankees 2B Danny Greenwald is working on a 24-game hitting streak.


May 6-9 @ SEATTLE
Needless to say, a big four-game set for both teams. Seattle's offense, so bad in recent years, has been quite good of late, as they're now 4th in runs scored and third in home runs. And thanks to a still-dominant pitching staff, they have a +45 run diff as well. 1B/DH Fernando Orozco (.322, 9, 22) has led the way, helped out by LF Enrique Cervantes (.306, 5, 23). Star CF Mike Wapner (.267, 6, 15) has struggled, and leadoff 2B Zach Davis is only hitting .184. Their entire staff has been solid, minus SP Sean Easter, sporting a tough 5.17 ERA, thanks mostly to yielding 9 HR (on pace for 52) in 38 IP.

#29: WIN 11-3 ... Groff and Dunklee homer and Little makes another quality start...we also injure their SP, Ferrie Janssens. We are a curse
#30: WIN 7-4 ... Jones has a poor start (5 IP, 4 R), but we knock out 13 hits and 2 more home runs againts the vaunted Mariners staff
#31: LOSS 9-10 ... the streak is over, thanks to a 13th inning walk-off hit...Clark continues to befuddle, and his ERA is now over 7
#32: WIN 12-1 ... 16 hits and 3 more homers...Casillas goes the distance again, praise be...McArthur four hits, Mullen gets two

Three wins out of four, and we're on top of the division by one, at 21-11. (Oakland is also running strong, at 18-15.) Very satisfying series, save for two items: Ken Clark is having a terrible year, with an ERA of 7.07, 44 H and 7 HR in 35.2 IP. He gets a lot of strikeouts with few walks, but seems to give up runs by the bucketload. Very frustrating; and second, closer Jack Shewmake tweaks his shoulder and is dtd for a week. He won't go on the DL, but I'm shutting him down for the next six days. We'll go with six relievers in the meantime. ELSEWHERE...Cleveland topped Detroit on the 6th 23-3, collecting 21 hits and 12 walks....The Cubs top the league with a 22-8 record, two games up on the Pirates (21-11, same as us). Minnesota and Kansas City share the AL East lead, also at 21-11.


May 10-13 vs HOUSTON
Houston's hanging around so far, at 16-16, but with terrible hitting (.238, 16th place) and a -11 run diff, even a .500 record will be hard to maintain. RF Jeff Donaldson (.266, 7 HR) and 1B Caleb Francis (.252, 6, 21) are having the best offensive seasons. Lefty starter Jay Russo has been excellent, with a 5-1 record, 1.71 ERA, and 57 K in 47 IP, while set up guy Craig Leming has been nearly unhittiable (0.63 ERA).

#33: LOSS 2-5 ... Francis' 3-run shot in the first is all the Astros need...Dunklee hits his 13th
#34: WIN 7-2 ... Groff and Drayton get four hits apiece, and D knocks in 5...Little yields 8 H, 2 R in 6 IP
#35: WIN 10-0 ... Jones goes 7 four-hit, shutout innings...Dunklee hits his 14th, and Groff continues to love the leadoff spot, with 3 hits and a HR
#36: LOSS 2-7 ... guess who pitched today? Yeah, Clark: 9 H, 6 R, 4.2 IP, 3 HR. Will he be a deadline casualty, come July?

Man, it's hard to complain when you're 23-13 and 2 games in front in your division, but here goes: WTF Ken Clark? He's striking out more guys this year and walking fewer, but giving up a ton of hits (first time ever with more hits than IP), and is on pace to give up even more HR than last year (1.8/9 vs 2.2/9). Is this just a bad month? He did have two "star of the game" outings in April, but his last five starts, ugh: 23 IP, 38 H, 27 ER, 10.57 ERA. I've cut guys with the same numbers. I may have to move him to the pen soon. And I'm at the point where I may make Justin "9.00 ERA Last Year" Ragland our new starter, because at least 9 is better than 10, right? ELSEWHERE...Remember our best starter from last year, Tom DiFranco? The guy I decided not to re-sign? He's 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA with the Royals. Sigh.

Next up: Interleague Play!
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Old 08-01-2017, 06:28 PM   #55
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Ah, interleague play. The chance to measure yourself against teams that you see every two or three years. (Although we do seem to play the Pirates every damn time.) This year, we get the Pirates and Reds at home, then venture off to the Great White North to play the Expos.

May 14-16 vs PITTSBURGH
What have I not said about the Pirates lately? They've been the latest dynasty in our league, averaging 102 wins per season the last six years, and bringing home two titles. They're on pace to win 104 this season, but currently find themselves 2 games in back of the surging Cubs. Their patchwork rotation has held up better than I thought it would (5th in the NL), but it's at the plate where they continue to destroy opponents: first in runs, 2nd in AVG, 1st in HR (66 in 36 games, btw), and a +67 run diff. RF Mike Blough (.333/13/34) and CF Brendan Glenn (.311/12/29) pace the attack, but don't forget about 3B Jordan Shields (.354/8/20).

#37: LOSS 3-8 ... Dunklee and Groff homer again, but it's Casillas' turn to get hammered...Okay, cut it out, guys
#38: LOSS 4-7 ... three HR against Brock in the first three innings. Sweet...at least the bullpen has looked good
#39: WIN 4-3 ... Little stanches the flow, although we had to come back from an early 3-0 deficit...Mullen 2 H, 2 RBI, now hitting .364

We looked awful for two games, then had to come back for a win against a former reliever we cut three years ago. Not outstanding, fellas. We're 4-5 in our recent games, but Seattle's been bad too, so they're still two back. Now we get a day off then welcome Cincy to town. ELSEWHERE...Mets pitcher Bob Knapp throws the season's second no-hitter and still isn't one of the three best players that day. Maybe it was the seven walks? Anyway, congrats Bob, and to the Mets too, for holding on to first place into May for the first time since, um, forever?


May 18-20 vs CINCINNATI
This is our first ever series against the Reds, I believe. (I could check, but why let facts get in the way of things?) Cincy is the opposite of most of the teams we've faced lately (excepting the Pirates), in that their hitting far outpaces their pitching. Not that their hitting is any good, mind you, sitting in the bottom half of the league. LF Tom Bilby is hitting .333 with 10 HR, and 1B Franklin Espinal is hitting .310. That's about it. Pitcher Jeremy Miers was the star of April and has kept it going, sitting at 6-2 with a 1.84 ERA. Adam Oeltjenbruns (who's a dead ringer for Basil Fawlty) has the only other decent numbers (3-2, 3.58). Neither is scheduled to start this series.

#40: LOSS 1-6 ... are we tired or something? We just had a day off, ugh...Jones gets knocked around, giving up 3 HR
#41: LOSS 2-3 ... are you kidding me...an error by Robertson in the fifth gives up all three runs...wow
#42: LOSS 1-4 ... swept by these bozos...nothing else to say

Two ugly series going here. Not sure what to try right now. I did straight up skip Clark's spot in the rotation, because screw him right now. Maybe I'll start him next game, just because. Maybe a 7-run loss would shock us out of our stupor. Usually we wait until July to go into this kind of swoon. Plus, our fan interest has dropped 2 points in the last week, just fyi. ELSEWHERE...Seattle has now won three straight, moving back into first. Oakland has been struggling, like us, and is now just a game over .500, at 22-21.


May 21-23 @ MONTREAL
Meh, I'm too annoyed. They're 21-17, third place, five games behind the Cubs. Bad hitting, good pitching. One of their setup guys has a 10.29 ERA. Think I can trade Clark for him?

#43: WIN 2-1 ... well, it happened: Clark rose from the dead to pitch a 3-hitter over 7 innings...still not hitting, but I'll take the win
#44: WIN 3-2 ... another squeaker, this time it's Dunklee's 7th inning solo blast that wins it...Little strong again over 8 IP
#45: LOSS 2-4 ... that's more like it: outhit our opponent but lose without struggle...Groff 2 hits, all else is meh

Okay, we'll skulk out of town with two wins here. Glad to see Clark pitched like a big leaguer again. Our bats have gone completely silent, however, as we have not had more than eight hits in the last seven games. Still, we're 26-19, a game up on Seattle, and two up on the A's. And maybe I shouldn't feel so bad about getting swept by the Reds: they've now won nine in a row, getting back up over .500. ELSEWHERE...Detroit is pretty mediocre (20-22) again this year, but two of their hitters are not: RF Roberto Rivera is now hitting .394, and LF Justin Herde is right behind him at .392...KC 3B Zach Pusz is working on a 25-game hitting streak...Dunklee is leading the AL with 16 HR, and is second with a 1.085 OPS...Mets 1B Nate Johnson is the first player to 20 HR.


May 24-26 vs CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Can this please be our bounce-back series? The Sox are once again AL Central basement dwellers, sitting at 18-27. Hitting and pitching (and fielding, for funsies) are near league-bottom in every stat except for home runs: they're first with 66. DH Chris Jenkins (.293/15/31) and CF Francisco Gervacio (.297/13/33) did not get the "tank the season" memo, nor did setup artist RJ Pietsch (2.20 ERA, 17 K 16 IP). Everyone else is in with the plan, however.

#46: WIN 10-4 ... ahhh, feels good...Dunklee parks another one, and a six-run third does the trick for us...Casillas is pulled early, but still gets the win
#47: LOSS 3-4 ...Brock, man, just can't ever be more than an average Steve...yes, we did outhit the Sox, but what of it?
#48: LOSS 3-4 ...Clark is excellent, but is pulled after 5. WHY!? Of course, of course, we once again outhit these losers

Oh come ON. How can we continue to have such nice-looking team stats, across the board, and yet play such horrible baseball? Are we now averse to winning? Can we not handle the pressure of late May baseball against basement-dwelling troglodytes? Maybe MLB was right, and we're just going to gradually regress to our predicted level of .500 ball this year. Sigh. ELSEWHERE...Ah who the **** cares. Let's move on.


May 28-30 @ MILWAUKEE
The Brewers! Fourth place, 23-24, and completely nondescript. Haven't made the playoffs in 14 years. Some decent hitters, but not much power, and a subpar pitching staff. I expect to be dominated.

#49: WIN 5-1 ... Bobby Little is money again. Can I have him cloned? And little hobbit Josh Robertson hits a home run! Amazing.
#50: WIN 9-6 ... we wake the eff up with six home runs, Collins hitting two, Groff his 9th, and Dunklee his 19th...Jones pitches just well enough
#51: WIN 4-2 ... Ha! Complain a lot and sometimes good things happen, kids...Casillas is in fine form tonight (8 IP, 4 H, 5 K)

Okay, so maybe I need to relax a bit more. Or maybe bitch a lot more? Is there a "ride your team's ass" button in OOTP? I must have hit it by accident. And while we were sweeping the Brewers, Seattle AND Oakland were getting swept, knocking them back to three and four games out, respectively. Houston has also moved into a tie with the A's. And...Seattle's best player, Judge Mike Wapner, will miss the rest of the summer as well. Could things be...swinging our way, even just a little bit? Ehh, let's not be hasty. OH, also our across-the-board IF sub Danny Holguin hurt himself without playing a game on the 26th, and is out for 5-6 weeks. We recall IF Eddie "Almost a Supersub If I Could Hit Better Than .160" Aguilera from KC. ELSEWHERE...More weirdness: St Louis is 25-25, which is definitely a sign of the End Times. Plus, the NL East is truly wide open, as the sixth place Nats are just 3.5 games behind the first place Mets. I'm hoping for a six-way tie soon....Austin SS Andrew Parente is apparently a deeply stupid man, suffering a concussion from falling off his roof....Finally, the Giants have found some life, and are way out of the basement at 23-27. The Yankees, however, are (along with New Orleans) fumbling along at 15-35. I would love to see someone pull out a 40-win season.

Next up: We leave this odd month behind
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May 31, June 1-2 @ CLEVELAND
Cleveland is another team in the middle, trying to figure out its identity to make a move as we move into June. They're 25-24, eight games in back of the Twins, six behind KC. They score a lot of runs (270, 2nd in the AL), but are only 10th in AVG, and 11th in HR. They're +36 in run diff, and are getting good starting pitching, but the bullpen is a dumpster fire, with a 5.60 ERA. Star RF Greg Tackett (.297, 12 HR) is playing well but on the DL. In fact, they have four OF currently disabled. We may get to see original Islander Chance Muller (5-1, 3.10).

#52: WIN 7-5 ... three in the 4th and four in the 5th do the trick...Brock is good this time (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R)
#53: WIN 4-3 ... we give up a run in the 9th but win it in the 12th...Clark is pulled after 4 IP for some reason; Key goes 4 in relief to get the win
#54: WIN 2-1 ... a pitching duel, with just 5 hits for each team...Little (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 9 K) outdoes Muller (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 K)

Well, that was surprising. Three close-played, hard-fought games, and we won them all. Better yet, our rivals have been losing lately, to where Seattle, Houston, and Oakland all sit at 27-27, six games back. We're at the 1/3 mark of the season, with 33 wins (fourth in the league, behind Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and the Cubs), and are first in runs against, bullpen ERA, and defensive efficiency. ELSEWHERE...My hopes for a six-way tie in the NL East are coming closer to fruition, as now only two games separate first (Mets, 26-25) from sixth (Richmond, 24-27) place. And the Cards are now a game over .500, which is just unseemly.


June 3-6 @ TEXAS
The Rangers have slipped into last place, at 23-31, ten games in back of us. Hitting and pitching are both scraping the bottom, excepting the bullpen, which is keeping it together, for whatever that's worth. C David Larrea is hitting .328, and RF Todd McNearney was AL Rookie of the Month for May. Aaron Burton, once upon a time the starter with the 10.29 ERA, is now down to 7.42 and no longer has the worst ERA in the rotation (that would be Mark Metz's 8.08).

#55: WIN 6-2 ... Groff's GRAND SLAM in the 1st kills the hated Rangers...Jones gets an early rest after just 5.1 IP
#56: LOSS 3-4 ... Casillas has a rare off night (6 IP, 10 H, 4 R), and two errors keep Texas rallies going and doom us in the end
#57: WIN 6-0 ... six runs on eight hits is a nice ratio...Brock (7.2 IP) and Steve Miller Band combine for the shutout
#58: WIN 15-2 ... a nine-run first (highlighted by Drayton's GRAND SLAM), followed by three more in the second, and every fan left the building...Clark throws well again

A nice, loud demolishing was just what we needed. We're now 9-1 in our last ten, and have moved out to a seven-game lead over Seattle and Oakland. We're off to play a two-game set against the A's just now. PS--I don't hate the Rangers. ELSEWHERE...Yankees pitcher Mario Oliva hurls the league's third no-hitter of the season, a 4-0 win over the Blue Jays....Speaking of the Jays, #2 starter Curtis Thames (who had 305 K's last year) was lost for the season on the 4th....New Orleans (18-39) is the last remaining team to not yet have 20 wins.

......

2038 Draft, aka Now You Belong To Me
We interrupt our regular programming to join Major League Baseball' first year draft, coming to you this year from Las Vegas, Nevada. The first five picks belong to: St Louis, Austin, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Brooklyn. We lost our first round pick to the Leon Casillas FA signing, but do have a Supplemental Round pick thanks to Tom DiFranco buggering off to Kansas City. Our first pick will be #43 overall.

Here are our top picks, soon to be coming to a minor league park near you:

1. CF Steve Hopkins, 20, 43rd overall (Niagara University) Doesn't knock your socks off, but that's to be expected when you don't pick until #43. Having said that, he's got good contact and gap power, and won't strike out a lot. Little power, and needs to work on his plate discipline. Is rangy enough to stay in center, and has arm enough to play in right. Can also pitch, but still rates higher at the plate.

2. 1B Steve Holt, 21, 74th overall (Quinnipiac Similar to Hopkins, above, with a little less contact but much higher power potential. Not much of a fielder, so will be limited to first or DH. Plus, there was no way I could resist drafting someone named "STEVE HOLT!"

3. CF/P Joseph Hart, 18, 115th overall (high school) Is a mostly average hitter (good gap though) with good fielding, and also has potential as a pitcher, but only just an outside chance. Smart kid, and a hard worker, so I'm hoping this pick isn't a reach.

4. SS Alan Branham, 18, 151st overall (high school) The draft class is already looking so underwhelming that I did something I never do: take an "impossible" signee. Branham is a strong hitter, lacking only in the one area no one in our system has: eye/discpline. Is also a strong fielder, but with only an above average arm, he may end up at second rather than short. I think he can overdevelop into a career .300 hitter, so I'll try hard to get him signed.

5. C/P Josh Barrowclough, 20, 187th overall (Univ. of Richmond) His best quality as a catcher is his defense, which is nearly excellent in both categories. However, I think his future is in the bullpen. Elite stuff, and two elite pitches (curve and 95-97 mph fastball), decent movement, low control. Smart kid, so he could develop better movement and control and possibly be closer material one day.

8. 1B/P Jake Kane, 19 Has no power, so might figure as a prospective starting pitcher. Not super impressive anywhere.
9. 2B Steve Thompson, 20 Average hitter, excellent fielder, great intelligence/work ethic. Will need to overdevelop.
10. C Seth Walker, 22 Can't hit, can't run. Is all defense and intangibles, and we need catchers in the system.
11. P Ryan Brattain, 21 Works hard, and will need to if he's going to get anywhere.
12. LF Joe Bloodworth, 21 Low contact, but good everywhere else, and a slow but good outfielder. Can work hard, so get to it!

The rest of the draft is the usual mix of "Who?" and "Him?" and guys you'll never, ever hear from. Although maybe one or two could sneak through the cracks...After all, Eric Jones is establishing himself as a solid member of the rotation, and was taken in the 21st round in 2034. He's the poster child for what could be.

......

Mid-season Prospect Review
MLB ranked us #2 in their pre-season review, which at the time I thought was way too high. Having looked at our prospect depth, and the way most of our top players are performing, I have to say now I agree with them.

1. RHP Rob Hart, 21, 9th round 2034 draft, AAA: 4-2, 1.07, 67 IP, 47 H, 80 K, 2.5 WAR One of the last cuts from camp, and a guy I had hoped would make the opening day roster, Hart has taken his disappointment and is simply murdering AAA hitting. Will definitely be the first call-up if injuries strike. MLB #1 ranked prospect.

2. RHP Mark Phillips, 25, FA signing (2034), AAA: 5-1, 2.31, 58 IP, 43 H, 63 K, 1.3 WAR Another late cut, he's also been dominating AAA batters. He should also see time with us, but his low movement and flyball tendency could see him as future trade bait instead. MLB #18 prospect.

3. LHP Eric Jones, 21, 21st round 2034 draft, MLB: 7-3, 3.78, 67 IP, 62 H, 52 K, 0.6 WAR Has segued a strong spring into a solid rookie campaign. A hard worker who parlayed being a 21st round pick into a fast rise through our system. Control has some way to develop yet, but he is walking fewer than any of his minor league seasons. MLB #28 prospect.

4. LF Mel Carillo, 20, Intl FA signing (2034), AAA: .234/.283/.318, 1 HR, 11 RBI, -0.5 WAR Having a disappointing season in AAA so far. He's still developing, and is quite young, so no need to worry yet. MLB #74 prospect.

5. LHP Cameron Bornhoft, 21, 8th round 2034 draft, AAA: 1-2, 3.38, 24 IP, 22 H, 24 K, 0.3 WAR (plus 2.41, 37 IP in AA) Has had a quiet rise through our system, and is now in AAA because of injury. His stuff and control are still developing, and he already has four solid pitches. Has only fair movement, which may hold him back or limit him to the bottom of our rotation. MLB #84 prospect.

6. RHP Bobby Piccirillo, 24, trade with KC (2037), AAA: 3-0, 0.97, 50 IP, 30 H, 44 K, 1.5 WAR Made the team out of camp, but got off to a poor start. Has been outstanding back in AAA, and will certainly earn another call-up, in September at least. Stuff is not dominant, but has excellent control, which always seems to be at a premium in this league. MLB #106 prospect.

7. IF Danny Holguin, 24, 12th round 2034 draft, MLB: .273/.310/.327 in 55 AB Currently on the DL for another month. Outstanding defensive player. Could start for some teams, but his hitting doesn't say 'starter' to me.

8. RF Jesse Henkel, 20, 3rd round 2037 draft, A: .251/.308/.488, 10 HR, 29 RBI Contact, gap, and power potential has risen to near-elite levels in just one year. Went from R ball last year to A league currently, and will probably be in AA before long. Fielding is truly mediocre, so I'll probably learn him some 1B and plug him in at DH one of these days. An example of a WEInt (high WE and INT) overdeveloping in OOTP.

9. RHP Roberto Castaneda, 21, FA signing (2036), AA: 2.25, 28 IP, 22 K (also 8 starts in A) Smart guy, who's making the most of his second chance after being cut by the Expos a few years back. Elite curve, two other good pitches, good stuff and control, just above-average movement. Has a chance to be a decent middle reliever in a year or two.

10. 2B Josh Robertson, 23, 2nd round 2034 draft, MLB: .282/.333/.337, 1.016 def eff at 2B Not the great clubhouse guy that long-time Islander Ryan Hebert was, but is proving himself as a solid contact hitter and is miles ahead of Hebert in the field.

Honorable Mentions:
C Guillermo Diaz, 22, trade with TB (2037), AAA: .266/.379/.508, 9 HR, 1.7 WAR Excellent defensive catcher and good with pitchers. Has been a boon to a developing staff in AAA. Contact and gap potential has dropped since acquiring him, but still has good power and potential to be a patient and crafty hitter. May unseat Austin Collins one day, especially as contracts go up up up. Is by far the only decent catching prospect in the system.

SS Mike Hunter, 23, 2nd round 2037 draft, AAA: .333/.362/.475, 23 2b, 25 RBI, 2.3 WAR Contact and gap are near-elite, and he wants to make contact every time he's at the plate. No power, tho. Converted from third really because I needed a shortstop at AAA this year, he has elite ratings at the three skilled infield positions. As much as I like my middle infield combo (SS Mullen, 2B Robertson) right now, Hunter will push very hard for a place in the bigs next year.

System Strengths: Pitching, especially starters; Infielders; Contact hitting; High motor players
System Weaknesses: Catching depth; Outfield depth; Patient hitters; No can't-miss closer

......

Next up: Back to June
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Old 08-05-2017, 06:46 PM   #57
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June 7-8 @ OAKLAND
Having gone just 3-7 lately, the A's are now 29-29, seven games in back of us. Hitting is still keeping them afloat, and Vinny Vargas is having another good year (.326/.439/.623, 13 HR). Pitching and defense are struggling right now, rating in the bottom quarter of the league. Let's keep punching them while they're down.

#59: LOSS 0-3 ... booooo...Of course we get 7-hit and shut out...It's like we were bored to death out there
#60: WIN 10-5 ... Collins blasts a GRAND SLAM in the first, and Dunklee adds his 20th in the 9th...Robertson adds three hits

A snorefest shutout and a 15-hit, 10-run lalapalooza. Sure, welcome to AL baseball. Also, Oakland SP Matt Bienvenu, game #60 loser, has an 8.02 ERA in 58.1 innings, highest among qualified pitchers. ELSEWHERE...Pittsburgh's Gustavo Maldonado gave up a single to the second Montreal batter of the day, picked him off, then retired the next 25 batters in a row....New Orleans is still stuck at 19 wins, and a .322 win pct....Minnesota just put two starting pitchers on season-ending DL, making for seven players on the DL right now.


June 10-13 vs LA ANGELS
Currently tied for fourth, at 27-32, 9.5 games out. They're 16th in runs scored, and 6th in runs against. Starting pitcher ERA is pretty frightful tho, at 4.85, and their closer, Eric Odom, has an ERA of 6.67.

#61: WIN 6-4 ... Casillas 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 9 K...Shewmake gets his 20th save...Groff 3 hits
#62: WIN 8-4 ... Moreno comes off the bench with a HR and three RBI...Wiggins goes 4-for-5
#63: LOSS 2-4 ... Clark yields just four hits but also four runs and takes the loss...Collins with two throwing errors from behind the plate
#64: WIN 8-2 ... backup C Villaneuva with a double and a HR...Robertson 3 hits, now up to .300...Little is money again, running his record to 7-1

These are games and series we need to win, so I'll take these three wins and move on. We're now 40-24, 7.5 games up on Oakland. Overall, we're hitting well right now and our pitching has been the best we've ever had. Now we head off for the second, and last, week of interleague play, with series against New Orleans, St Louis, and Chicago. Let's hope for a better result than our 3-6 record last time out. Finally, 4th round pick, and impossible-demand-guy Alan Branham refused our $3.5M offer and will go off to college. Sigh. ELSEWHERE...Baltimore's Raul Trevino is the first to 10 wins in the AL, the Cubs' Scott Kopetsky just hit the mark in the NL....Washington is 1-9 in their last ten to drop out of the race in the NL East, but SS Ty Cobb is leading the league with a .356 average, going for his tenth career batting title.


June 14-16 @ NEW ORLEANS
The Zephs are struggling along with the worst record in baseball, at 21-43. Our co-expansionsists have yet to get a 70-win season, and this year will be no different, alas. They are dead last or near-last in nearly every offensive category, and are shplurgling along with a -96 run diff. Only two starters are hitting over .218. Pitching is a little better...Well, at least the bullpen is okay, at third in the league, but the starters are in 17th, with an ERA of 5.02. The good news is that their minor league system is ranked 8th overall, so there are prospects bubbling up from the depths.

#65: WIN 10-0 ... not sure why, up 10-0, our manager (me, but not me) trots out to the mound to change pitchers with 2 outs in the ninth, but someone's likely getting beaned next game
#66: WIN 2-1 ... three solo HR account for all the scoring...Casillas goes 8 strong innings, which is good as we only manage four hits
#67: WIN 6-0 ... another shutout against these poor blighters...Dunklee and Groff homer, and Brock pitches 8 innings, gives up just 5 hits

Yeah, the Zephyrs are pretty terrible. We gave up just one run and 19 hits over the series, while pounding out 8 HR and 18 runs of our own. Nearly as many runs for us as hits for them. They're drawing less than 14K per game too. Tsk. ELSEWHERE...Washington reliever Davey Hayat retired at 25 with a torn rotator cuff. He had two good, sub-3 ERA seasons, but was struggling badly this year, with an ERA over ten, and had given up 47 hits and 20 walks in just 27 innings of work. He was one of just ten players from Aruba in professional baseball....Chicago and Pittsburgh are running away with the NL Central: tied for first and nine games up on the Reds. We'll see the Cubs after our next series against the Cards.


June 18-20 @ ST LOUIS
The Cards are defying the gods by flirting with .500 baseball, at 33-34. Of course, that still puts them in fifth place, 9.5 games behind the Cubs and Pirates, but that's still progress. Truth be told, their teams stats read a lot like the Zephyrs, only slightly higher placed (with the notable exceptions of being 8th in HR and 9th in runs against). 1B Justin Wade (.286/13/40) and C Chris West (.300/8/28) pace the attack. And while no pitchers stand out in a positive way, Jarod Morrell brings his 1.93 ERA out of the bullpen to (probably) face us in the first game. Sadly, we'll miss getting to bat against Tim "The Alchemist" Fludd and his 6.85 ERA.

#68: LOSS 10-11 ... winds were blowing out in this one...We were doing okay (Clark notwithstanding) until the pen gave up six in the last two innings
#69: WIN 5-4 ... Little gets the win despite Collins' 3-run throwing error in the third...CL Shewmake gets hurt
#70: WIN 7-6 ... a smallball run in the ninth that gave us a 7-1 lead turns out to be the winner after the Cards get 5 in their half

These games were a little too exciting, if you ask me. I guess we were a little flat-footed after playing the AAA Zephyrs. We did keep pounding out home runs--six in this series alone--and game 70 also saw us get 12 walks. I can't remember us ever approaching 10 before...The bullpen looked very ragged in this series. Tighten up, folks, we're gonna need you for these next guys. ELSEWHERE...Oakland's 8.5 behind us, having crept over .500 again....The Cubs, up next, would be 1/2 game behind us if we were all one big, happy division....Arizona continues to lead the NL West (2 games over the Dodgers), largely thanks to SP Drew Falconbury, with these stats: 9-2, 1.66, 92 IP, 72 H, 91 K, 6 BB, 3.7 WAR. Remember, when I went a-calling on him this off-season, he wanted $29M from me...and eventually signed with the Dbacks for 19M.


June 21-23 vs CHICAGO CUBS
Truly a team effort, this squad, as no player (save for SP Scott Kopetsky with 10 wins) is at or near the top of any statistical category. They don't hit much (14th in AVG, 12th in HR), but are 4th in OBP, and do a lot with what they get, scoring 302 runs. That's only good for 8th overall--right down the middle--but their run diff is +65. Their rotation has been money: all five guys well below the league average for ERA. The bullpen has been okay enough, and their defense is stellar. So good, in fact, that you get an OOTP oddity like SS Jordan Cruz. He's a Gold Glove candidate, and their leadoff batter, who's on pace to steal 39 bases and hit 15 HR. But...he is an offensive black hole: .161/.267/.275 this year, and on pace for 285 strikeouts. How does he stay at the top of the lineup?

#71: LOSS 3-5 ... Casillas throws 2 bad pitches in the first, and bang: two HR and 4-0 Cubs...we try to play catch-up but can only muster five hits
#72: WIN 4-2 ... Brock with his customary 7 good innings (4 H, 2 R)...this time we manage 10 hits, capped by Videira's 10th dinger in the 2nd
#73: WIN 6-5 ... Little fills in for Clark (more below) and gets pounded early, but the bullpen holds firm and we get two in the 9th to seal the deal

Mentioned above, Ken Clark misses his start due to heart palpitations; which is only fair, given that my heart skips beats whenever he's on the mound. He'll be back in a couple days...Collins is heating up, raising his average 30 points this month (up to .301 now). ELSEWHERE...Oakland has won five in a row. Guess who we're off to play next?...Toronto has lost five in a row, and is now tied for first with the Red Sox, who at one point this season were eight games below .500.


June 25-27 @ OAKLAND
Our third dance with the A's this year. We've split six games. Vinny Vargas continues to be Mr Everything, going .342/.451/.689 at the plate, with 18 HR. Historical note: Vargas was acquired--along with two other prospects--from the Angels for then 31-year-old (now retired) SP Brendan Mostovoy, who lasted one season and 11 wins in LA.

#74: LOSS 3-5 ... just doing what we can to keep Matt "8.32 ERA" Bienvenu employed, by letting him hold us to six hits...Clark has the drearies again
#75: WIN 12-6 ... you take sixteen hits, and what do you get...anyway, Drayton is en fuego, going 3-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI...Dunklee and Groff also homer
#76: LOSS 1-2 ... Casillas is strong again, but his run support has just dried up...We manage five hits and zero walks

Disappointing, especially that first game against a horrifically struggling starter. Oh well, at least no one got hurt. Now we welcome Seattle to town for a four-spot. We need to keep their heads below water. ELSEWHERE...Congrats Baltimore! Your ten-game losing streak has brought you within range of the AL East basement and the horrible Yankees...You already know the Cards have been hovering at or just below .500 for some time now, but let's hear it for two other perennial doormats: the White Sox and the Brooklyn Robins. Chicago is 41-37, which is miles above anything they've seen for six years now. It's too early to say "wild card" but you know they're saying it anyway. And the Robins, owners of zero playoff appearances (and only two winning seasons) in their sixteen years on the scene, are hanging in at 40-38, which is pretty good in the largely decrepit NL East.


June 28-30 vs SEATTLE
We're 3-1 against the Mariners, who are trying to recapture lost momentum and are still within shouting distance at 39-38. Six players are currently on the DL, including 3/4 of their infield, and their best player, Mike Wapner. Starter Aaron Myers is third in the league with 124 strikeouts.

#77: LOSS 2-3 ... time to fiddle with the lineup, as we snooze through another one...Myers K's just four, but we still can't score off him
#78: LOSS 5-8 ... ugh; everyone gets a hit, but we have to score three in the ninth to make it look respectable...Little gets hammered again
#79: LOSS 4-6 ... new ways to lose! This time we get two in the ninth but the pen blows it in the 11th...Clark is ragged, Steve Miller Band blows the game

Well, we've got one more on July 1st to try to avoid the sweep. What the hell guys, everything looked so good just a week ago. I may have to kneecap a couple of guys and get some new blood in here. Trade deadline is a month away, and there may be changes, especially for the guys afflicted by the blahs. ELSEWHERE...Eh, I dunno. Mets 1B Nate Johnson has 33 HR, on pace for 70. What else matters?


Next up: Some wins, maybe?
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:33 PM   #58
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July 1 vs SEATTLE
MUST. AVOID. THE. SWEEP.

#80: WIN 6-5 ... Whew. We do give up 3 in the ninth, but score one to win in the bottom...Shewmake implodes on the mound, and hurts his back (again)

The bullpen keeps trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Thing is, it's not the whole pen each game, just a different guy each night. Now that we're into July, I start thinking about next year's contracts. I'll spend money to get a solid bullpen, but that also means they've got a short leash when they don't perform. (Starting to look at you, Miller.)....Made a couple of tweaks to the roster, the most significant being inserting Ernesto Martinez into the DH slot against righthanders, replacing Videira. Cisco's only remaining value is his contact, but he's only hitting .239, and has dropped off even more significantly against righties.

......

International Amateur Free Agent Break
Venezuelan OF Harry Mejia is the class of the bunch, so it makes total sense that we're not going after him. Good hitting ceilings across the board, and some speed, but he's just lost on the basepaths. Has some range in the field, but is not a good fielder. Intangibles are so-so. So I'll spend the $2M (to start) he wants elsewhere.

We start with offers to four players: SS Omar Castillo, 1B Wilson Banuelos, C Frank Lazalde, and P Alex Salazar. Salazar is the most talented, and the most expensive, and the total of my initial offers is $4.7M, a bit over the maximum. But all four players look promising, and all four have intangibles that will (or should) help their development. Despite the cost, I'm hoping I get all four, even if it keeps me from getting someone next year.

......

July 2-4 vs DETROIT
Another team hovering in the vast, soft middle, at 38-39. They've hit well this year, 6th in runs and AVG and 4th in HR. Seven regulars are already in double figures in homers, and RF Roberto Rivera leads the AL with a .358 average. Pitching, however, has been disastrous: next-to-last in runs against, 15th in starters ERA, and dead last in bullpen ERA. Two starters are leaking oil with ERAs over 7. Plus, team defensive effeciency is last in the AL.

#81: WIN 4-1 ... Martinez makes me look good with a HR and 3 RBI...Casillas goes 7.1, gives up 1 run and no walks (with 8 K's)
#82: LOSS 2-8 ... whenever we face a pitcher with an ERA over 8, we lose. So it goes again today...Three hits apiece for Wiggins and Groff, but they amount to nothing
#83: WIN 3-2 ... McArthur's triple in the 7th brings home two and is the difference tonight...Little is strong but is pulled after four; hopefully he's okay

As always, two out of three always works...Brock is hanging out with Clark too much, and is going through his usual mid-season inconsistent phase...Dunklee has now committed 10 errors this season...Shewmake is coming off his third dtd injury this year, second to his back...Two of our int'l kids sign: C Frank Lazalde and P Alex Salazar. ELSEWHERE...Boston's Zachary Setaro gives up a one-out HR in the eighth, the only Seattle runner to reach base. Yep, one pitch away from a perfect game....Minnesota is surging, having won 8 in a row, and has the best record in baseball, at 54-29....Baltimore, sitting in second place at 28-23 on June 2, has gone 7-23 in their last 30.


July 6-8 @ KANSAS CITY
Four games in back of the resplendent Twins, at 49-32. Good hitting and excellent pitching have had them at the top of the division all year. 3B Zach Pusz (.301/19/51) has been the best all-around hitter, and Tom DiFranco--sound familiar?--the best pitcher (8-1, 2.51, 2.8 WAR).

#84: WIN 10-8 ... Groff and Dunklee (do they always do this together?) each homer, and we ride out Chris Mayer's disastrous 9th (7 runs) and hold on
#85: LOSS 3-4 ... tied 2-2 in the eighth when Mayer blows it again: 1.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R...we get one back in the ninth, but not enough
#86: WIN 4-2 ... McArthur's two-run shot in the 15th is the difference...only had eight hits...oh, and scored twice in the 9th to send it to extras

Close-fought series, glad to have come out on top. The bullpen continues to leak a little oil, so that's a bit worrisome. ELSEWHERE...Oakland trades fan favorite 1B/DH Pat Slind (.329/10/36) for a reliever, a prospect SS, and $7M. Not sure why you make this move now if you're Oakland, but their pen could be better I suppose....Washington's Ty Cobb is working on a 22-game hitting streak.


July 9-11 @ MINNESOTA
Part Two of our ride through the power players in the AL Central. Minny currently has a 4-game lead over the Royals, as well as the best record in baseball at 55-31 (.640). That's pretty amazing, given that right now they have on the DL: 2 shortstops, their starting 2B and RF, two starting pitchers, and a third SS with an "unknown" return date. Being first in runs, AVG, OBP, bullpen ERA, and second in HR probably helps. Everyone is pitching in: C Jimmy Carter (.344/20/62) and 3B Paul Foster (.299/19/73) lead the way, but the real surprise is 26-year-old rookie SS Kevin Bradley, who's hitting .379 since getting the starting job.

#87: WIN 4-1 ... Brock digs deep and goes 7.2 innings this time, Collins gets 3 hits, and Dunklee and McArthur (who?) homer
#88: LOSS 2-5 ... McArthur's 4 hits are the only thing worthwhile tonight, and Little continues to struggle (5 IP, 10 H, 4 ER)
#89: WIN 11-10 ... game progression: 6-0, 6-1, 7-1, 7-2, 7-4, 7-7, 8-7, 8-10, 11-10...Martinez doubles home two in the ninth for the win

Last series before the All-Star break, and we've righted the ship for the most part. We're sitting at 55-34, and are 7.5 games ahead of Oakland. We also have three players going to the All-Star game: SP Leon Casillas, 1B Jeremy Dunklee, and CL Jack Shewmake. Shewmake won the voting for relievers. We do, however, have a few things that are on my mind as we've passed the midway point:
...subpar DH production between Videira (.230/10/30) and Martinez (.263/6/20)
...Ken Clark continues to struggle (5.82 ERA, career high 1.48 WHIP). I might have to slide him into the bullpen
...RP Miller and Mayer have struggled the past month. Miller makes 2.4M and will be a free agent; he wants 8M next year, and saved 40 last year, so he could be a trade candidate. Mayer is under team control for two more years.
...Shewmake wants $14M next year. My mind rebels at paying a relief pitcher 14 million. Right now, I'm leaning to qualifying him come November and resigning myself to letting him walk.


Next up: More July
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:55 PM   #59
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The 2038 All-Star Game was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and saw the NL top the AL 5-4. Dunklee went 0-for-2, Casillas gave up 4 runs in .2 innings, and Shewmake didn't play. Afterwards, everybody comes home for our next series against the Yankees. After that, we'll be on the road for two weeks and return home for a four-spot against the Rangers. Later in August (and early September) we'll have alternating sets of a two-week road trip and a two-week homestand. All this oddness in the schedule works for me this year, as we'll finish up the season with our last thirteen games at home, culminating in what could be a decisive series against Oakland.

July 16-18 vs NY YANKEES
Surprisingly, the Yanks are no longer in last place in the East. Baltimore (11-30 since May 28) and Tampa Bay (7-19 in the last month) have sucked their way to the sea floor in their place. Not that the Yankees are any good, and at 39-49 they're doomed to miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. Pitching has been above average (not surprisingly, given that they spent big on their rotation this off-season), but hitting has been rock bottom. Fan interest has dropped (rated at 50) and attendance sits at 20K per game this year.

#90: WIN 6-1 ... Jones keeps his strong rookie season going (7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 6 K) and Dunklee powers another one to the moon (27 dingers now)
#91: WIN 2-1 ... Groff hits a 10th-inning solo shot for the walk-off win...Casillas leaves after one batter with a sore elbow, diagnosis pending. Gulp
#92: WIN 6-2 ... Rafael Aragon is a punk for hitting McArthur on the elbow after Yankee pitchers gave up four earlier home runs. Too bad we're done with these guys for 2017

Good news regarding both injuries: Casillas has a mild elbow sprain and will miss a week; McArthur has a bruised elbow that will only hamper his throwing, and for six days only. I'll probably DH him for the week and rotate Martinez in left with Moreno...This was a good time for a sweep, esp as we now depart on a taxing two-week road trip, starting with a swing through Florida. ELSEWHERE...Nate Johnson is the first to hit 40 HR this year. The Mets 1B has hit 47, 48, and 54 the past three seasons. Toronto 1B Preston Sorensen has the record for this 'dynasty' with 56 in 2035, and the wonderfully named Roderick Shoulders hit 55 for Baltimore in 2022.


July 19-21 @ MIAMI
Third place in the AL East, 47-45, 5.5 games behind the Jays. Pretty good hitting, fair pitching, bad defense, +30 run diff. 3B Sergio Torres is the runaway best player on the team even in a down year for him, .283/.346/.533, 22 HR, 73 RBI. Fun fact: the Marlins hit 290 home runs last year, setting the AL record. They have 115 this year.

#93: WIN 19-3 ... five home runs, including a Videira GRAND SLAM and two from Dunklee, who also hurt his elbow...MIA reliever Geoff Olsson's ERA jumped by 1.50
#94: LOSS 11-12 ... we hit three more HR, but they hit five, four off of guess who? Sigh...Dunklee now at 30 HR, but gets hurt again
#95: LOSS 3-5 ... not cool, guys, not cool...now Mullen gets hurt. And so it begins

Okay, time for a change. I send down reliever Chris Mayer, whose numbers have been getting worse over the last month, and demote former ace Ken Clark to the bullpen. Clark had made a couple of good starts, and I thought he was back, but has gotten bombed his last two outings. To take his place I call up Rob Hart, who has been nailing it in AAA (1.39 ERA, 141 K in 116 IP). I hope the future is now....It's looking like the annual midsummer injury parade is about to kick into gear: Dunklee now has two dtd injuries, and Mullen has one as well. Dunklee's are both minimal, but I'm going to put him on the DL for 11 days b/c I want to nip this crap in the bud. Too bad, tho, as he's been far and away our best hitter recently. Come back soon, Jeremy. Nate Hullinger is called up to replace him on the roster. ELSEWHERE...Oakland swept their last series and is now 7 behind us...Montreal's Matt Anderson is the latest to try his hand at a long hitting streak, and is up to 23 games now.


July 23-25 @ TAMPA BAY
This is a series we need to take, to keep making hay against the league's weak sisters. Tampa is pretty bad in all areas, save stealing bases (4th) and bullpen ERA (7th). They have six players on the DL, and one more pending.

#96: LOSS 4-7 ... fifteen hits, fourteen singles...SNAP OUT OF THIS DAMMIT
#97: WIN 9-3 ... ahhh...eighteen more hits, and a nice seven inning stint for Little (now 10-3)
#98: LOSS 1-2 ... yes, by all means, stop hitting now please...Hart's debut, goes the distance and looks okay (8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 5 K)

I don't know how real-life GMs survive, when your team looks so good one minute and so bad the next. Maybe we're just too nice; we don't like seeing struggling teams be so sad....Hart at least looked good in his debut, and Hullinger hit well this series. Clark struck out both batters in his first relief appearance. Get used to it, Ken. ELSEWHERE...Consider New Orlean's pitcher Omar Castillo. In his latest start for the 39-62 Zephs, he pitches a 2-hit complete game shutout, striking out ten. The next day, the 32-year-old, with time running out on the productive part of his career, gets called into his manager's office. "You've been traded!" Great! Where to? "St Louis." As in, 47-50, going-nowhere-anytime-ever St Louis. Pennant fever, folks.


July 26-28 @ HOUSTON
We're back in our division with our first look at Houston since we split four back in May. Houston had hope back then. Now they're 12 games under .500, with terrible hitting and substandard pitching. Can they sweep us? It seems likely.

#99: WIN 6-2 ... hey, no sweep at least...Wiggins has 2 doubles and 3 RBI, and Mullen is back over .300 with 2 hits (remember when he was hitting .350? Me neither.)
#100: LOSS 2-4 ... Casillas is rusty in his return, giving up all four runs in seven innings...we mount a late comeback that falls short
#101: WIN 18-1 ... another crazy-ass game, with five home runs, 17 hits, and six walks...Brock throws a complete game

So maybe our "donate two wins to every losing team" program has finally come to an end? The Angels are up next, so we'll see....Dunklee comes back from DL in three days, and I'm not sure who he'll replace, as all my 1B/DH cohort are hitting well right now. Sadly, original Islander OF Kelvin Moreno might get the axe. ELSEWHERE...Oakland still lingering at 6.5 games back...Chicago and Pittsburgh are still duking it out in the NL Central, with the Pirates holding on to a half game lead. Cincy and Montreal have been quietly winning as well, and are now only 4.5 and 5 games behind, respectively....KC and Minnesota are also separated by just a half game, with no one else close.


July 29-31 @ LA ANGELS
Another weak hitting team, 16th in runs scored, 14th in AVG. They've managed a -72 run diff while sitting in 8th place in runs allowed. That's...something. Starting pitching has been an achilles heel, calf, shin, hamstring, and thigh.

#102: WIN 5-3 ... Groff 10th inning HR for the win!...Little hurt after 1 IP, and guess who comes in with 4.2 IP of shutout ball? Yes, it's Mr Clark!
#103: WIN 4-2 ... Hart is the anti-Clark once again, this time getting the win...two Angels are hurt running the bases...LA SP Jon Brown is now 0-10
#104: WIN 8-6 ... we try to bone the game by giving up a grand slam in the 9th, only for Wiggins to knock a 2-run blast of his own in the 11th

We'll have one more with these guys on August 1st...Trade deadline approacheth, and Austin wants to trade me Ryan Linder, who is dumb, slow, and strikes out a lot. They want Mike Hunter, who will eventually hit a ton of doubles and win a lot of Gold Gloves. No thanks. Baltimore then offers a 24-year-old never-will-be RP for Hunter. Um, no...Dunklee returns in two days, and I'm probably sending Hullinger back to KC, despite being 9-for-36 with 2 HR. I just can't carry three 1B on the roster.

Trade deadline around the league...Nineteen deals have been made in the last week. Most were fairly minor or involved teams not going anywhere this year, but a few are worth mentioning...
...three deals really, but the Yankees acquired three power-hitting 1B (two are prospects) for four pitchers, including plum recent FA Chris Smolak, who was sent to the Royals. Smolak's been terrible this year, but maybe playing for a good team will help. So this makes the Royals rotation pretty strong now right? Welllll...
...they sent 2038 all-star starter (and former Islander) Tom DiFranco to OAKLAND (nooooo) for a backup C and a 1B prospect. Bad move, fellas, bad move. I would like to veto this one, m'kay?
...New Orleans and Houston each make four trades. Only one is interesting, with the Astros sendinng powerful (200 K last year) but fragile (six seasons, but only three with more than 20 starts) pitcher Adam Spinrad to Portland
...Those of you actually reading this might remember Texas signing Japanese league superstar Ben Worley to a mega-FA deal in the spring. Well, today they traded him to Milwaukee for a retread backup OF and a decent prospect SP. Worley has not hit well, but does have 14 HR in 285 AB.

The heck with you, Oakland, for getting better. We'll show you.


Next up: The blazing August sun
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Old 08-12-2017, 09:53 PM   #60
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Before we wrap up against the Angels, we dealt with the annual trade deadline...by not making any deals. Risky? Maybe, but I don't want to make a trade just to make one. But what about the failing New Y...I mean, Ken Clark? He had to go, right? Nah...Not yet anyway. I'll let the cat out of the bag: with Shewmake in the last year of his deal, and wanting $14M next year, I'm seriously considering Mr Clark as our closer for 2039. I'll consider the rest this season as something of his audition as a reliever.

August 1 @ LA ANGELS
One more to wrap up this series.

#105: WIN 2-1 ... Mullen's RBI single in the 7th is the winner...Casillas is hopefully back in his groove, giving up 6 H and 1 R in 7 IP

We've now won five in a row, back to an 8.5 game lead over Oakland. Speaking of the A's, they garner both Player of the Month (Vinny Vargas for going .395/10/27) and Rookie of the Month (RF David Shaw, .307/18/60 for the season). We clearly need to keep playing well to stay in front of them.


August 2-5 vs TEXAS
Our third (of four) series against the Rangers, and we're 6-1 vs them so far. They're 51-55, fourth place, 15.5 games back. SP Aaron Burton has gotten his sh*t together, and his ERA finally below seven (6.38). Team ERA for the rotation, however, is 5.04 (16th place).

#106: WIN 2-1 ... McArthur and Martinez home runs account for our only runs...Brock strong, 3 H and 1 R in 6.2 IP...Wiggins hurt, diagnosis pending
#107: WIN 6-3 ... Groff (20) and McArthur (18) homer, and Little wins his 11th game...no news on Wiggins yet
#108: LOSS 3-5 ... Hart gives up three in the first, and we can't make up the difference until the ninth, and too late...Wiggins gets a one-week dtd injury report
#109: WIN 1-0 ... Both teams muster only three hits, but we take the game on Drayton's leadoff blast in the ninth

Strong pitching, and just enough hitting. We're now 9.5 up on Oakland too. ELSEWHERE...Only two division races are currently closer than 4.5 games: AL Central with KC a half game up on the Twins; and the NL East where the Mets are a game up on Brooklyn....The Cubs are 9-1 in their last ten, and are now 4.5 up on the Pirates.


August 6-8 @ TORONTO
Like us, 8-2 in their last ten. Once again, the Jays find themselves on top of the AL East, at 66-42. They're getting solid pitching, but only mediocre hitting (besides HR, where they're fourth). Oddly, their worst hitters are at the top of the lineup: CF Gerardo Magana (.227/1/12) and RF Ian Hoppmann (.261/0/20). But Preston Sorensen (.308/39/80) and Devlin Ransberger (.264/28/68) are on top of their games, and two other starters have over 20 HR. So, not the deepest team, but one built on the backs of several top stars.

#110: WIN 3-2 ... Casillas gives up a 2-run HR in the 7th, but we get three in the 8th and Shewmake shuts the door in the ninth
#111: LOSS 2-10 ... only three hits, and Brock and Clark (no!) throw nothing but meatballs...I guess we were overdue for a stinker
#112: WIN 7-4 ... nice comeback game, with 14 hits, including 7 doubles, good...Little pulled in the third with an injury, not good

Little has just a mild abdominal strain, and is dtd for six days....We're now 71-41, the first to reach 70 wins. No prize for that, sadly. ELSEWHERE...Cubs have widened their lead over Pittsburgh to 5.5, and Brooklyn is (for now) on top of the NL East. Pittsburgh's .563 winning pct is, for them, their lowest in years.


August 10-12 vs BALTIMORE
5-5 in their last ten (bounceback!) but now 45-65 overall, last place in the East. Last in runs scored, 11th in run against. Six players are on the DL. SP Raul Trevino (15-4, 2.90, 4.7 WAR) is having a good year, but he's it.

#113: WIN 5-1 ... we lay four runs early on ace Trevino...Hart gives up 4 H, 1 R, in 8 IP...aaaand Shewmake hurts his arm, is done for the season
#114: WIN 6-1 ... we efficiently convert nine hits into six runs, which we never do...Jones 7 IP, and Miller makes his first app as our new closer
#115: WIN 3-2 ... Holguin with the GWRBI in the ninth, after Miller blows the save in the top...Casillas goes 8 IP, 3 H

So, not making a trade might bite us in the end. Shewmake has bicep tendinites and is done for three months. He'll be back in time for Thanksgiving. Miller's been so-so this year, but he did save 40 last year, so maybe he'll be okay. I call up Pat Stanley from KC, and move Aaron Glass into a setup role. Stanley's 24, was signed as a FA in 2035 after being released by the Cubs. He threw six innings for us last year in September. Now's your chance, Pat! ELSEWHERE...Cubs now seven up on Pittsburgh....Arizona C Lance Powell is running away with the NL WAR race, with 7.5, vs 4.9 for second place Philly SS Andrew Crisp.


August 13-15 vs BOSTON
Still hanging in against the perennially tough Blue Jays, the Sox are 5.5 back but were just swept by the A's. They've been healthy, but just lost SS Colin Schueller (.303/17/62) for six weeks, and CF Jason McColl (.308/28/85) has a dtd MCL injury. They remind of the Sox teams from when I was a kid: good hitting and power, fair pitching, and slow as dirt.

#116: WIN 6-5 ... Holguin gets his second straight ninth inning pinch-game-winning single, driving in two this time...Brock gives up all five, but only one is earned (3 errors)
#117: LOSS 3-4 ... Miller's off to a rough start as closer, with a 9.00 ERA in two games, and losing this one...Videira now 11 hits from 3000 in his career
#118: WIN 4-2 ... Hart goes another strong 8: five hits, one run, six K...Boston's closer (Juan Salazar, former Islander) injured for season

138 games into the season (76-42) and we're 10.5 up on Oakland....Ryan Key saved our last game, and might earn his way into the closer position, or might force a change to "no closer." We'll see. ELSEWHERE...Tony Villarruel (NYY, 203) and D.J. Breland (MTL, 202) are the first to top 200 K's for the season, while the Cubs Jordan Cruz is getting close with 190. Thing is, Cruz is a shortstop....The Cardinals have now lost 11 in a row, restoring my faith in humanity just a little.

Let's look at some fun numbers...Who are the worst batters in the league right now? (Let's call this the Mendoza Supreme update.) Maybe Portland's Matt Quadrini, at .158/.254/.361 in 427 PA? Or maybe Dodgers 3B Josh Sikes, at .172/.297/.353 in 407 PA. I still like Cubs SS (and leadoff hitter!) Jordan Cruz, at .178/.279/.314, along with his 190 strikeouts in 503 PA. But no. For now, it goes to White Sox LF Ken Grant, with a delicious .189/.307/.238 in 364 PA. Yes, he does walk, doesn't strike out much, and has speed (15 steals). But he has zero power and a mediocre fielder. BUT! The fans love him, probably because he's so GRITTY! He fails to be productive THE RIGHT WAY. (A late Honorable mention to Oakland's Ben Hild, called up after they traded popular slugger (and .300 hitter) Pat Slind at the deadline, who's gone 4-for-45 in his first 15 games as their starting 1B.)


Next up: August, part 2
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