8 min read
Yes, I still exist. Yes, I have given t̶o̶o̶ ̶m̶a̶n̶y̶ countless hours of attention towards what has been happening in baseball this year. Yes, I apologize for failing to keep you all up to date with what is going on in the baseball world since March. And last but certainly not least, yes… Kris Bryant is an elite third baseman (or whatever the hell Rossy and the rest of us want him to be) and I couldn’t be happier. Now, let’s jump on board the recap train because this season has been full of storylines that I have been anticipating catching everyone up on for awhile now. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my attempt at cramming in two months of baseball into one post. As always, if there was anything I missed feel free to leave a question/comment/concern below and I can always create a part two to further explain anything extra you all might be interested in.
The Unexpected Rise of the Yerminator
With the tragic loss of star outfielder Eloy Jimenez to start the season, the division favorite White Sox lost a power bat and were in deep need for someone to step up. While there are plenty of names that come to mind, I bet few and far between thought that a man by the name of Yermin Mercedes would be the Sox’s savior. Beginning the season in Anaheim against a Los Angeles Angels team with Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani, it was none other than Mercedes that stole the spotlight that series. With a historical 8-8 start to his season followed by a 485 bomb against the Royals in his next series (and his first at home), he became an instant fan favorite amongst the Southsiders. Flashing forward to the present, Mercedes is slashing .289/.348/.441 and while he hasn’t been as remarkable as he was in April, he is still a large contributor to a Sox team that is currently 4.5 games ahead in the Central. Even as a Cubs fan, his story is incredible and to stick with baseball and believe in himself for as long as he did I give the guy my utmost respect. Click here for a deeper read into Yermin and his improbable but electric rise to stardom.
Side Note: The 3-0 Drama and my take
From Jeff Passan: “In the last 20 years there has been 557 times a team has been up by 10 or more runs with a 3-0 count… not once has someone swung.”
Then Mercedes happened. (enjoy the Jomboy breakdown)
While the home run itself was disrespectful enough, homers are exciting and if you want to try and save your pitchers’ arms by throwing a non-pitcher then expect to get embarrassed like the Twins did that night. I had no problem with the swing, but had a huge problem with TLR’s lack of support behind his player. You can have your own conversation with him about it but let’s keep that out of the media before you make yourself look even worse than you know what.
Where do I even start? The guy is filthy and is further proof why hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. In nine starts this season, he hasn’t allowed more than one earned run and boasts a K/9 of 14.48. While advanced metrics wants to eliminate ERA, his is at 0.56 which is absolutely mind-boggling and certainly deserves the recognition it is receiving. The 32 year-old and 2x Cy Young winner is pitching the best he or anyone else ever has, and with an average fastball velocity at 99.1 MPH matched with a slider sitting around 91-93 MPH it’s no wonder hitters are lost at the dish. DeGrom is also carrying a league-leading WAR of 3.7 despite missing two start opportunities and we aren’t even out of the second week of June. Oh and the notion that pitchers can’t win MVP? I know it’s a long season but at this pace hand him every award there is because he is putting up numbers people would have trouble accomplishing in a video game. Seriously though, if you are hesitant on whether or not you find baseball exciting, watch a Mets game where this guy is on the mound, it is must-see action every time.
Side Note: DeGrom is also 10/25 this season at the plate (.400 for those not so good at math) and has driven in more runs than he has allowed earned… yeah MVP worthy stuff right there.
Kris MF Bryant
Ah, to be a Cubs fan and watch this guy take at-bats every day is truly a cure for any type of pain I experienced in the last four years of watching Chicago Cubs baseball. And to you fans that wanted to trade him or felt he was washed, wake up dammit! This guy is playing phenomenal baseball, and while it is still early there is no doubt in my mind that if the boys play well going forward and steal the division he can be a legit candidate for MVP. He is fifth in the majors in WAR, SLG, OPS and WOBA and fourth in WRC+. The third baseman turned position player has been everything we have asked for and more, and has helped lead us to a half game lead in the NL Central when just a month ago we sat in last place behind that AAA team from Pittsburgh. Watching this guy every day, I definitely won’t be the first to say it is clear he worked his tail off to get where is he right now. He regained his confidence at the plate jumping on fastballs that previously ate him up last year and is swinging early in the count to prevent falling into the opposing pitcher’s hands. His approach is remarkable, his plate vision even better than that, and while he said in the past baseball was becoming demanding, I cannot imagine Bryant is not enjoying himself with how well he is performing this 2021 season. That being said, let’s hope this Cubs’ front office/ownership/or whoever is deciding to be cheap wakes the f*** up (yeah I’m talking to you Ricketts) and chooses to buy at the deadline to make that extra push for October this team is capable of doing.
A player that can hit 470 ft bombs and throw 100mph?!?! Introducing the Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is pretty much carrying the Angels at the moment with co-star Mike Trout on the IL. While he may not be an obvious option for AL MVP, Ohtani is easily having one of the most impressive seasons of baseball in Major League history. We as fans have obviously watched some power hitting and pitching the last couple years, but a player that can do both? Never happened (sorry Babe), and certainly not at this rate. In 47.1 IP, Shohei has struck out 68 batters and has a WHIP of 1.18 and an ERA of 2.85. His K/9 is a whopping 12.93 and despite his walk rate being on the high end, Ohtani is able to safely get out of innings and help keep his team in games – as bad as they are. At the plate, he’s one of the best hitters in the league as he has 17 homers, 42 runs, and 45 RBIs. No disrespect to the preseason projections, but he’s pretty damn close to reaching his and we aren’t even halfway through the season. He is slugging .610 which is fourth in all of baseball and carries a WOBA of .401 and a WRC+ of 160 (avg is 100). Did I also forget to mention this dude can absolutely fly around the bases? He turns singles into doubles and has already amassed nine stolen bases this season which is just shy of the top ten in the league. The dude is as all-around as you can get, and is certainly entertaining to watch on a daily basis. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs the rest of the season as we have yet to see Ohtani play a full ~162 since his arrival back in 2018.
Side Note: Personally a tie for favorite swing in baseball with Vladdy Jr.
Like Father, Like Son
Speaking of Vladdy Jr, talk about breakout. My actual AL MVP pick so far this season has to go to the guy who is pissing on baseballs left and right and leads the league in pretty much every hitting stat category that comes to mind. He is doing what everyone including his father said he was capable of and more. I knew Vladdy had crazy power as he showcased in the 2019 HR Derby, but he is also third in all of baseball in batting average and has shown that he is not a one dimensional hitter at the plate. He leads the league in home runs (19), RBIs (50), OBP (.442), SLG (.664), WOBA (.460), WRC+ (197), and last but certainly not least WAR (3.7). Usually guys that start a season this hot begin to cool off at some point around late June to the All Star break strictly because pitchers throw around them, but with the plate discipline he has and the ability to hit pitches everywhere around the zone I have a hunch my man Vladdy will be just fine.
Reds’ Bash Bros
The Reds might not have much to like about this season despite being only five games out, but they do have something to enjoy with two of their star hitters. Both Jesse Winker and Nicholas Castellanos are absolutely lethal in the batter’s box this season, combining for a WAR of 5.6, 90 runs, 30 homers, and 75 RBIs. The two have the highest batting averages in all of baseball and have been nothing short of magical through the first third of the season. They also are each top 5 in OBP, SLG, OPS, WRC+, and WOBA. If the Reds were to fall behind in the standings coming close to the deadline, it could be in play for one of the two to be moved to get some legit prospects in return. The two are both under Reds control through 2024, however, so if they are happy in Cincy maybe they wait it out and see if the Reds can make some noise in the near future. As of now, the Reds aren’t giving me any signs that 2021 will be that year, but the fans can certainly appreciate watching these two take the field in the meantime.
MLB Umpires and Replay
No one said being an umpire was an easy job, but this season it seems like it has reached a new level of unacceptable. It all started with that awful call during the Sunday Night Baseball game between the Braves and Phillies back in April and has carried over into this past weekend between the Red Sox and Yankees. Strike zones are all over the place and replays take an absurdly long time for a game that is supposedly trying to speed up play (thanks Manfraud for the extra innings change). Yet, with no consequences in place umpires can and will continue to get away with bad calls/games. Suggestions? Maybe we need a rule change for the replay process or robotic umps to call balls and strikes… or even implement consequences for umpires who consistently make the wrong call or on the flip side incentivize umpires who call good games? I don’t know. What I do know is, it’s extremely frustrating and something needs to change.
Side Note: In the meantime, I will continue to watch players get called out by pitches two ball lengths outside. Then again, I would call strike three on a guy like Odor whose entire career is known for hitting another player instead of a baseball.
Whether it’s people arguing the sudden increase in spin rate, the disastrous interview with Gerrit Cole, or a Josh Donaldson tweet saying he has proof of cheating, if you have watched any baseball as of late you are probably familiar with the foreign substance dilemma and spider tack. A number of pitchers (probably more than even I would guess) are finding ways to throw pitches with a higher spin rate using an illegal substance that long story short makes it more difficult as a hitter to succeed. This also easily answers the question as to why strikeouts are becoming so commonplace in today’s game. While it is nowhere near as abysmal as what the Trashtros did, it is still frustrating that we have hit yet another drama filled issue within the MLB. As much as I would like to go in depth, there is just too much information to unpack and this most definitely deserves its own blog in itself. If you would like to get a basic understanding of what is going on and why this whole thing blew up in the first place, Jomboy Media does a really good job at hitting the major points and origin of the foreign substance issue here.
Side Note: Trevor Bauer pisses me off.
Who’s This Wisdom Guy?
Every time the Cubs seem to lose a guy to the IL this season, they call someone up from Iowa who basically comes with a superpower of their choice and a cape along with it. This time around with Patrick Wisdom, he chose power with a side of violence because he is absolutely raking since his arrival to the big leagues. The 29 year old has had major league experience in the past with the Texas Rangers and rival St. Louis Cardinals, but nothing as exciting as he has showcased so far in this 2021 campaign. In his 48 at bats, Wisdom has 16 hits (eight of which are homers), 12 runs, and 11 RBIs. The righty carries some inflated stats that will return to normal as his season progresses, but at the moment Wisdom has an OPS of 1.250, SLG of .875, WRC+ of 233, and a WAR of 1.1 in just 17 games. While everyone is caught up in the power he has showcased, I found something worth noting in an article from Cubs Insider. Patrick Wisdom is doing damage on all types of pitches, as he has hit homers on four fastballs, two changeups, a sinker, and a slider. As I stated earlier in Vladdy’s Jr.’s case, when a player starts to get hot, pitchers start to throw around them and adjust to what pitches a hitter is succeeding on. If Wisdom is hitting all types of pitches, that makes the adjustment period a little more difficult for opposing arms. Nevertheless, I hopped on the Wisdom train very quickly, especially after knocking him in his first at bat complaining the Cubs have too many AAA players. Thanks for proving me wrong Patrick! Go Cubs!