This season is old enough to know better, but some early hitting performances really stand out.
I know it’s still too early in the season to draw meaningful conclusions about much of anything because my beloved Twins have a winning record, but we are far enough along that only seven hitters with 100 or more plate appearances are beating their 90th percentile PECOTA projections by at least 200 points of OPS. Two of those seven, Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman, are great hitters off to especially strong starts, leaving five genuine, out-of-nowhere surprises among full-time position players. By the end of the season they may all have turned back into pumpkins, but in the meantime my curiosity is piqued.
How did Eric Thames change in Korea? And what do you learn from being Barry Bonds?
The tale of Eric Thames is growing taller by the day. Complete with inane steroid accusations, ballin’ body armor, and mesmerizing one-handed warm-up cuts, the reappearance and ascendance of this exceedingly fit man owes much of its mystique to the time he spent offscreen.
We are told that in this great unknown time, Thames—who, when we last we saw him, was a Quad-A player—did to the Korean Baseball Organization over three years what he’s done to the Cincinnati Reds' pitching staff for the past three weeks. We are told that he so demolished the conventional notions of baseball dominance, especially in his 47-homer, 40-steal 2015 season, that his nickname among KBO fans was simply, “God.”
Is the second-year Phillie or the new, KBO-destroying Brewer a better fantasy bet in 2017?
The Tale of the Tape series doesn’t get less orthodox than this. In one corner, you have Philly’s Tommy Joseph, a conventional young masher with loads of potential ready for his first full season. In the other, you have a guy who hasn’t played in the majors since 2012 and couldn’t do squat when he did... but Eric Thames went to South Korea in 2014 and played for three years like he was bitten by Babe Ruth reincarnated as a (fat) radioactive spider. Thames returns to America a changed man, but can it win him this totally arbitrary matchup? Let’s find out!
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The tater trots for September 17: the Pirates and Cubs play a late game, Dan Uggla blasts a bomb in Miami.
The Pirates played the Cubs last night in Chicago. And this morning. The 7pm game was delayed by rain until nearly 10:45pm and didn't end until 1:30am. Sadly, there were no home runs for the roughly 1,000 fans who watched the game to chase. Foul balls were easy prey, however. Sometime after they won the game, the Pirates flew back to Pittsburgh to face the Brewers tonight. Ah, the life of a potential playoff team can be difficult in September!
The tater trots for April 24: Chipper's birthday blast, Wieters' accidental home run, and Gomez's confused (and speedy) trot.
From ten home runs on Monday to 32 homers on Tuesday, baseball's random nature shows itself again. Thankfully, we had plenty of interesting trots last night, with notoriously slow trotters and famously quick trotters all getting their turn. And, even though it's already the last week of April, we're still seeing the first home runs of such stars as Carlos Gonzalez (who hit two out Tuesday night to make up for things).
Jeff Mathis, career .196/.256/.309 hitter, career .211/.276/.338 hitter against lefties, was called on to pinch-hit for Eric Thames Friday night. It was the 14th time Mathis has pinch-hit in his career. The previous 13 batters who were deemed less qualified to hit baseballs than Jeff Mathis:
Which teams that were on the verge of contention last year could use a "level up" option around the diamond?
Complacency in the face of adversity is the potential undoing of every manager and general manager. For reasons rooted in issues beyond a player's recent performance—contract size, longer-term track record, clubhouse chemistry—skippers and GMs all too often fail to make the moves that could help their teams, allowing subpar production to fester until it kills a club's post-season hopes. In 2007, I compiled a historical all-star squad of ignominy for our pennant race book, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, identifying players at each position whose performances had dragged their teams down in tight races: the Replacement-Level Killers. The concept has become a semiannual tradition for me to revisit, first in the weeks leading up to the tradedeadline, and again as the opening of spring training approaches, with an eye toward what teams can do, or have done, to solve such potentially fatal problems.
A look back at the best and worst outfield VP picks of 2011.
Value Picks is such a mixed bag, especially before NL-only and AL-only players were separated out. Sometimes, a “Value Pick” is a player the authors think should be owned in every league, even shallow mixed leagues, because they're just that good. Other players are more appropriate for deeper mixed leagues or shallow single-league leagues. And, of course, some players are total bottom-of-the-barrel shots in the dark (here's looking at you, Trent Oeltjen!)
The tater trots for September 22: the race between Kemp & Pujols, Encarnacion's walkoff.
Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp both hit home runs on Thursday, keeping Pujols only one home run ahead of Kemp for the National League lead. With his league-leading RBI total (five more than the runner-up) and third-best batting average (only .004 points behind league-leader Ryan Braun), Matt Kemp is closer to the Triple Crown with only six games left to play than I have ever seen. These last few days of the season promise to be quite exciting in the world of home runs and much more. I can't wait.
The tater trots for September 21: David Freese helps St. Louis stay hot, Bourjos & Thames battle it out in Toronto.
It was my brother's birthday yesterday. As someone who grew up in the Los Angeles-area during the 1980s, he is a fan of both the Dodgers and the Raiders. Imagine what that must be like for a second - Frank McCourt's Dodgers and Al Davis' Raiders. Ouch.