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August 31, 2017

What You Need to Know

Madcap Stutter-Step

by Nicolas Stellini


The Wednesday Takeaway

Time is a relative concept in baseball. There’s so much of it, which means that oversaturation can be achieved with relative ease. Players who are young grow old in our minds because we see so much of them. Old players blend with the very fabric of space/time itself. Baseball without Ichiro Suzuki? Impossible, I say.

This makes the existence of Stephen Strasburg all the more fascinating. Strasburg is, somehow, just 29 years old. At the same time, holy crap, Stephen Strasburg is already 29. Wasn’t it just yesterday when he made his debut? Wasn’t it 20 years ago when the Nats controversially shut him down for the playoffs? Strasburg has the power of a young pitcher, but the mileage and injury history of one who’s been in the league for a long time. When we think of Strasburg, we think of brilliant stuff and innings limits, of strikeouts and praying that every pitch isn’t the one where his elbow gives out.

There wasn’t very much to worry about with him on Wednesday.

Strasburg was utterly brilliant. He pitched a shutout, and hit a home run along the way. He was everything the Nats have ever wanted him to be, and who they hope he will be once the playoffs start and the Cubs roll into town.

Strasburg is just 29, and already 29. He is endless potential embodied, a maddening enigma of otherworldly stuff and all too mortal health. He is the quintessential modern pitcher. You can enjoy the ride; in fact you should enjoy it as much as possible while you can. There’s no telling when it will all go away.

Maybe it won’t. The Nationals saw fit to throw quite a lot of money his way, after all. And indeed, not every conversation about Strasburg needs to be about health. Sometimes it can, and absolutely should, be about how utterly brilliant he can be. There are few pitchers as terrifying as Strasburg when he’s on his game. He doesn’t have the axe murder-esque ferocity of his teammate Max Scherzer, but he can be cruelly effective. The Marlins know that better than most.

If Strasburg can pitch even sort of like this in the playoffs, the Nationals will be dangerous indeed.

Quick Hits from Wednesday

Don’t tell the Angels they don’t have the pitching to make the playoffs. They don’t care. They’ve got Mike Trout, and they’ve got Andrew Heaney and Parker Bridwell pitching like they're the real deal, and that’ll do just fine. Even when they let the A’s put up an eight-spot, they still came back and won the damn game.

Trout had four hits, because he’s Trout. But let’s talk about Cliff Pennington. Pennington entered the night with a career .341 slugging percentage and 35 home runs in 3,071 plate appearances. Cliff Pennington won the damn game with a grand slam.

The Angels don’t give a damn what you think.

***

From a raw statistical perspective, Javier Baez is a somewhat average player. He has some outstanding aspects to his game, but the whole package adds up to a mundane sum. Thankfully, the game isn’t viewed from WARP leaderboards. Baez is anything but average. He is quite possibly the most visually pleasing player in the game.

He is both grace and chaos personified, the absolute paramount of the new-school wild and fun version of professional baseball. Baez’s madcap stutter-step between third base and home plate is pure freneticism. There is nothing average about this.

***

Ah, Yankee Stadium. A perfect monument to all that is bourgeoisie and tacky. A shopping mall full of excess and self-important, self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed attitude and bile.

Ah, Yankee Stadium. The cookies weren’t the only things that crumbled in the Bronx yesterday. Forced into a doubleheader with Cleveland because of Tuesday’s rainout, the Yankees quickly set themselves about being swept in both the doubleheader and the series. They now face a do-or-die four-game set with the Red Sox themselves.

Ah, Yankee Stadium.

Defensive Play of the Day

Carlos Gomez still plays in Milwaukee. He just goes by a different name now.

Also, from the KBO:

What to Watch on Thursday

Zack Greinke is pitching today, and he’s doing it against the Dodgers. That’s enough of a reason to tune in. However, it’s also a chance for the Diamondbacks to pull off an extremely rare sweep of L.A. The Dodgers have somehow lost four in a row.

Here’s your requisite Yankees-Red Sox recommendation. If you’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime, we can’t blame you. Go for Nats-Brewers instead. It’ll be Gio Gonzalez and Zack Davies.

Phillies-Marlins may also be worth your time. Starters Odrisamer Despaigne and Ben Lively will have their hands full trying to keep Rhys Hoskins and Giancarlo Stanton in the ballpark. Every

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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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (08/31)
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What You Need to Know:... (08/30)
Next Column >>
What You Need to Know:... (09/01)
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Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (08/31)

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