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August 16, 2017

What You Need to Know

The Slugger Who Was Promised

by Nicolas Stellini


The Tuesday Takeaway

The Yankees and Mets make for a fascinating dichotomy. Though both are New York teams, they are so very fundamentally different. The Yankees are spenders, the ultimate New York bigwigs who dabble with abandon in excess and luxury. They are the Evil Empire, enshrined and embossed in gold. They’re charging toward the playoffs. The Mets are all about saving money, and frequent headlines too often for the wrong reason. They’re charging toward a losing season.

And yet, they are similar. Both franchises are marching into a new era. Both are viewing the emergence of a new generation of talented youngsters. And when the two teams meet up, things always tend to be interesting. Tuesday’s tilt promised to be just that, given the starting pitcher matchup of Sonny Gray and Jacob deGrom. The game was largely as advertised, minus some hiccups from deGrom (a Jacoby Ellsbury home run!). Gray in particular shoved, until Dominic Smith made his presence felt.

It was the rookie’s first big-league homer, and a truly impressive one at that for a player many worry won’t have the power needed to be exceptional as a first baseman. An opposite-field shot off of Gray is nothing to sneeze at. This Amed Rosario homer off of Aroldis Chapman can’t really be sneezed at, either. But you can certainly wrinkle your nose.

Chapman has not been that good this year. After signing a five-year contract in the offseason, he’s yet to clear the 1-WARP threshold. His 1.31 WHIP entering the day wasn’t exactly closer-like, and it only got worse. There have been games where his 100 mph velocity has gone missing, and plenty more where his control was nowhere to be found. There are worse closers in the game, but given the Yankees’ embarrassment of riches in the bullpen, they could certainly do better.


Rosario made him pay for a badly hung slider. In a vacuum, the two home runs from the Mets’ two best offensive prospects mean little. It’s just one game, and a game that the Yankees held on to win.

If you want to be a little romantic, though, it’s a sign of life. The Mets will have Rosario and Smith for years to come, and if all goes well, they’ll look very nice alongside Michael Conforto and whatever’s left of that pitching staff. The Mets aren’t out of the woods yet. They’ve only just entered them. But there’s something resembling a light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps.

Quick Hits from Tuesday

The Tigers aren’t very good.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Rougned Odor has never walked much. He had an on-base percentage under .300 last year. Entering yesterday, he carried a ghastly .256 OBP. Him drawing a walk is a pretty big event, so it’s quite fitting that he managed to score. Maybe it’s a little fitting that he scored in such a fashion.

John Hicks’ botched throw to second isn’t the best part of that sequence. It happens, whatever. It’s little slow roll over onto his back, and then Mikie Mahtook’s offline throw to third. It’s all so very silly. Then, of course, there’s the introduction of a player named Stumpf, and an awesome and so-very-Odorian straight steal of home that’s rendered useless by a balk. None of it makes sense. It’s absurdity of the highest order.

The Tigers aren’t very good.

***

Tim Anderson hasn’t been very good. That isn’t to say he can’t be very good. He’s a former top prospect with quite a bit of pedigree, who happens to be mired in a down season that’s been exacerbated by personal tragedy. The White Sox haven’t needed him to be exceedingly good this year. This is a down year, a rebuilding year, a tanking year to amass and evaluate assets.

Of course, Anderson would much rather be raking than not. It’s hard to not perform, especially when so many of your actions are available live at the click of a button to nearly the entire world. So, one could forgive Anderson if he felt uneasy about rolling into Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles isn’t exactly the kind of team you can use as a catalyst for a hot streak, especially when there’s a pitcher like Alex Wood on the mound.

Naturally, Anderson did this.

It was his only hit of the night, and his average is still at .242, but it’s the sort of moment that can be liberating. It feels good to ambush one of the best pitchers in the game. It feels good to declare your ability to still be dangerous. There’s no telling whether this will be the beginning of a turnaround for Anderson. These things take time, and there’s still more games to play this week, and the week after. Hitting, like healing, is a process. It requires fine-tuning and long hours of work. Only time will tell. But Anderson has always been able to hit. And hit he did.

***

Myths came into being as a way for humans to make sense of the world, and to inspire us. They explained why lightning crackled through the night sky, and why the evil of the world wasn’t safe from titanic heroes. They provided an understanding of the natural order of things.

Perhaps one day the myths will speak of a man who toiled in a southern port city. They’ll speak of his incredible size and strength, how for years he was hurt and unable to fulfill his destiny, until one day, he did. How with a crash and a bang he took to the battlefield with his mighty club and slew all that came before him. Perhaps they’ll speak of how Giancarlo Stanton, the once and future emperor of downtown, the slugger who was promised, Azor Ahai himself, hit his 44th home run on August 15.

They’ll say how it was his 23rd in his last 35 games, how he’d homered for six straight. They’ll speak in hushed awed tones of the length of his shots, the towering kinetic testaments to his power. They’ll speak of the man who couldn’t stop hitting home runs. For why would they speak of anyone else?

Defensive Play of the Day

It’s worth noting that the Red Sox turned a triple play. That’s pretty hard and rare! It’s the sort of thing that has to be mentioned here.

It’s also worth noting that it was Yadier Molina who was running to first base, and Molina has all the speed of a drowsy penguin. So for that reason, here’s Miguel Sano looking like a man half his size.

What to watch on Wednesday

Wednesdays are generally good because they often involve day baseball. Day baseball is generally good because it’s something to do at work that isn’t quarterly earning reports or whatever. It’s even better if you work from home or have the day off. Day baseball!

For your day baseball viewing purposes, I recommend checking out the clash of Gerrit Cole and Jimmy Nelson at 2:10 EST. The Brewers are desperately trying to cling to whatever vestiges of contention that they have left, while the Pirates are trying to prove that they belong. Neither team is likely to make the playoffs, but these are two good pitchers with good lineups behind them. Andrew McCutchen is hitting again. Watch the game.

I guess I could recommend a Jacob Faria/Marcus Stroman duel at 7:00, but really, it’s hard to go against the Diamondbacks and Astros throwing down at 8:00. Taijuan Walker is having a breakout season! Charlie Morton is throwing gas! Paul Goldschmidt exists! It should be good.


If you’re on the West Coast and enjoy the Saw franchise, Yu Darvish being pointed in the general direction of the White Sox lineup is probably something you’ll be into.

Nicolas Stellini is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Nicolas's other articles. You can contact Nicolas by clicking here

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