Time heals all wounds, but in Washington's case, it will also inflict them.
You’d think Bryce Harper’s comeback from his latest long-term injury would be cause for unbridled celebration, and in some contexts, it has been (see the standing ovation Harper received from the fans at Nationals Park before his first plate appearance on Monday). However, the 21-year-old outfielder’s return also been cause for consternation. Harper’s presence, coupled with Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing problems from third, have given the Nats more qualified position players than they have open positions, which has made everyone around the team wonder: Where will they put their surplus player(s)?
Most teams suffer from the opposite issue—too few productive players—so the Nationals’ quandary is an example of the proverbial “good problem to have.” Still, it seems as though there’s no easy answer, and so the discussion has staying power. Twice last month, two weeks apart, I appeared on MLB Network’s MLB Now; both times, Washington’s positional logjam was a featured topic, and both times, the panel was split over what manager Matt Williams should do. The discourse in print hasn’t been much more decisive.
Given his sterling 2.86 ERA after shutting down Chicago on Monday night, explaining the greatness of Dodgers starter Zack Greinke comes pretty easy. Even with declining velocity—his average fastball has dropped from 94 mph to 91.7 mph since 2007—few pitchers consistently contribute at the same level.
But in 2013, there’s an aspect of Greinke’s performance that cannot be ignored. After going 1-for-2 with a walk against the Cubs on Monday, the Dodgers starter is now hitting .340/.426/.383 this season. He’s not merely baseball’s only starting pitcher posting better-than-average hitting numbers, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of his peers.
The tater trots for July 23 (and the weekend): Mike Napoli hits a bomb, Carlos Gonzalez takes a stroll, and Chase Utley edges out Josh Rutledge.
It's been a few days since the last Tater Trot Tracker post. And though I was able to time each trot over the weekend, I missed highlighting a few special home runs. The biggest homers of note came on Saturday, when Cole Hamels served up a home run to Matt Cain in the top of the third inning and then, in the bottom of the inning, Cain returned the favor to Hamels. It was the first time two starters had hit home runs in the same inning since 1990. Hamels, who had never hit a home run before, won the race between the two pitchers, besting Cain's 21.51 second trot with a 21.13 second trot of his own.
With 81 games in the books, Ben looks at which players are most likely to outperform, or underperform, their first-half results.
According to most sources, the start of the season’s second half is still more than a week away, but technically, it’s already upon us. All but two teams have played at least half of the games on their schedules. That means that most players have already accrued about half of the counting stats they’ll have at the end of the year, enough to give us some sense of whether their seasons are shaping up to be disappointments or successes.
Of course, some players have already left the bulk of their hitting behind them, while others are about to break out. Last season, Dan Uggla went into the All-Star break batting .185. After action resumed, he upped his average considerably, hitting .296 in the second half. Dexter Fowler played so poorly in the first half of 2011 that he was forced to spend a remedial month at Colorado Springs. After returning in mid-July, he hit .288/.381/.498, swatting all five of his homers and swiping 10 of his 12 stolen bases. On the other end of the spectrum, Jose Bautista hit 31 of his AL-leading 43 home runs before the break, and his teammate Adam Lind completely collapsed after June, following up a .300/.349/.515 first half with a .197/.233/.356 second-half showing.
Being weak on one side of the field hasn't doomed teams like the Nationals and Braves.
The 2012 Texas Rangers are the archetype of a winning team. They’ve scored the most runs in the American League, even away from their hitter-friendly home park. They’ve allowed the fewest runs in the American League, even in their hitter-friendly home park. No one can score against them, and no one can keep them from scoring. Whether they’re in the field or at the plate, they look like a first-place team.
Even among the league’s leading clubs, though, the well-rounded Rangers—and the Cardinals, who boast an even better run differential—are the exception. Most first-place teams are flawed.
A look at ever-increasing player salaries and the player best-positioned to eclipse the $300 million mark
"Professional baseball is on the wane. Salaries must come down or the interest of the public must be increased in some way. If one or the other does not happen, bankruptcy stares every team in the face." – Albert Spalding, 1881
How long have we been hearing that baseball players are paid too much? By my count, it’s been since it was decided that they should be paid. Babe Ruth was the first to hit the $50,000 mark in 1922, and Hank Greenburg hit the $100,000 mark 25 years later.