The Monday Takeaway
The Warriors are actually bad at basketball, as they take too many jump shots and don’t have a strong enough game in the post. Their once-in-a-lifetime shooter is overrated, and their records mean nothing in the face of grit and Russell Westbrook.
Want another silly hot take?
Clayton Kershaw is bad for baseball. There, I said it. He’s unfair. The game is already decided when he takes the mound. His curveball was downloaded from a GameShark. He is gravity.
Now, here’s why that’s a ridiculous overreaction. For all of his aplomb, Kershaw displayed a key weakness in his complete game shutout against the Reds on Monday night.
He walked a batter.
Yes, you heard that right. Clayton Kershaw actually walked a batter. He’d only done it four other times before Monday’s game, and only once this month. How in the name of all that’s holy did Kershaw succumb to the dark magic of ball four?
If Kershaw was going to walk anyone, Joey Votto is a good candidate to pull it off. Kershaw began with a called strike, and then the umpire gave Votto a borderline pitch at the bottom of the zone. Pitch three was in the dirt (it’s actually below the white part of the graph, see if you can find it), pitch four was way outside. Votto fouled off the fifth, and then the umpire may have once again given Votto a gift on pitch six.
Not only did Kershaw walk a batter, but he failed to record double-digit strikeouts and overshot throwing a Maddux by a couple of pitches. Honestly, how do the Dodgers put up with this?
Well, the 1.48 ERA might help.
And that curveball. Fine, he can stay!
Quick Hits from Monday
It is easy to lambast some coverage of sports as overly serious. Sports, after all, are entertainment at their most basic level. Our inclination is not to read about sports to ponder societal issues, but to marvel at Mike Trout vaporizing baseballs with that sweet, sweet uppercut of his. This is not to say that sports are not serious business. Sports are a medium through which we view society, and often act as a delivery mechanism for change.
Sometimes, though, you just want to sit down and watch a ballgame. It was a nice matinee affair in Pittsburgh on Monday, the result of a rainout the previous day. The Pirates and Rockies were playing in front of a miniscule crowd. It wasn’t a serious game with a playoff atmosphere, or with serious implications. But for a few moments, baseball got serious, and the world stood still.
Jordan Lyles didn’t have his control on Monday. He recorded only seven outs and surrendered six runs. With the bases loaded in the second inning, opposing starter Ryan Vogelsong stepped up to the plate.
Vogelsong would have to be carted off, clutching a towel over the left side of his face. Barring the implementation of full football-style facemasks on batting helmets, there’s nothing that baseball can do about this kind of accident. Lyles bungled his delivery, and Vogelsong had nearly no time whatsoever to react. It’s a stark reminder that yes, while this may just be a sport, a relatively harmless and contact-free game, there are still incredible dangers. Ryan’s wife Nicole says that everything will be okay for her husband. For a few moments, all baseball could do was wonder.
Things are rough right now for the Angels. The ballclub has more than a few players on the disabled list and deploys Brendan Ryan as starting shortstop. Sure, that Mike Trout guy is pretty great. But what’s to draw a fan in if they don’t feel like fishing?
Albert Pujols was supposed to be one of those things. His tenure in Anaheim has been rocky at best. Age has caught up with the slugger’s massive body, and his .228/.307/.409 line is hardly what one wants to see from a man making as much money as he is.
Every now and then, though, Pujols still does something really fun.
That’s 437 feet of punishment that the former superstar put on Derek Holland. It’s career homer number 569 for Pujols, which ties him for 12th on the all-time leader list with Rafael Palmeiro. The homer was the only scoring that happened in Anaheim’s 2-0 over Texas.
Pujols may not be doing a whole lot of anything these days. But for one game, and for a piece of history, that’s pretty nice.
The Cubs have the best record in baseball. We’ve established how hysterically good they are, and how absurd their run differential is. We’ve gushed about the young talent, we’ve gushed about the prospects that are still on the way, and we’ve sung from the mountaintops about how good a pitcher Jake Arrieta’s beard is.
The Cubs are 4-6 over their last 10 games and have lost three in a row. This is how they were put to rest on Monday.
It’s not what you want. Are we watching the Cubs crumble before our very eyes? Was another goat wronged? Is Anthony Rizzo the culprit, and is that why his bat has gone cold?
Wrong. What we’re seeing is the brutal handiwork of our old nemesis regression. The Cubs were probably never going to blow the 2001 Mariners out of the water and trample their way to the all-time win record. Every team goes through cold spots and rough patches, and the Cubs have hit their first of the year. They will emerge on the other side and begin to throttle their opponents once again. They still have, pound for pound, the best roster in baseball, and they still have Arrieta’s beard feeding them energy from the mound and from the dugout.
Just wait ‘til next month. You’ll see. This is the month. I can feel it.
Defensive Play of the Day
There are certain outfielders that should not be tested on the basepaths. Yoenis Cespedes. Yasiel Puig. Aaron Hicks. Josh Reddick. Apparently, Michael Martinez belongs on the list.
For more fun from Cleveland defensive wizards, let’s check in on Francisco Lindor.
What to Watch on Tuesday
The Matt Harvey Redemption Tour kicks off in Washington at 7 EST. My last WYNTK entry detailed The Dark Knight’s struggles, and he’ll be facing the Nationals once again. Once again, he’ll be opposed by Stephen Strasburg. If Harvey gets banged around again, there will be some very tough questions to be answered for the Mets. As for Strasburg, he’s really good now and it’s a good idea to watch him pitch.
Moving westward, the Indians will seek to somehow prevent Chris Sale from laying down the wrath of a left-handed god and somehow improving to 10-0. Josh Tomlin is the scheduled starter for the Tribe, so, well, good luck. Emma will surely be discussing the results of this one in her column tomorrow.
And finally, for the west coast slate, the Giants will try to win their fourth straight by feeding the Padres to the Shark. Jeff Samardzija (2.66 ERA) has been pretty great! Andrew Cashner (4.93) has been pretty forgettable. So, good luck, San Diego.