Welcome back, baseball fans. The Triple Play is here again for your reading entertainment. The season is only a week old (not counting the odd Australia games) and there already is no shortage of interesting items, controversy and lots of fun with extremely small sample sizes. Off we go:
Mark Trumbo, Arizona Diamondbacks
Trumbo, acquired in a three-team trade over the winter between the D-backs, White Sox and Angels, is off to a thundering start with his new team, blasting five homers and knocking in 13 runs in Arizona’s first nine games. We’ve seen this kind of hot streak from Trumbo before while he was with the Angels. Typically, his hot streaks are followed by extended slumps that drag his numbers down to platoon-player status. His hot start is reminiscent of Mark Reynolds’ huge April while with Cleveland last year. He ended up slumping so badly that the Indians released him and he finished the season with the Yankees. I guess what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t look at Trumbo’s slash line of .314/.368/.771 and expect that to continue all season. Just enjoy it while it lasts.
Phil Cuzzi, alleged major league umpire
Well, it’s taken less than a week for umpires to show all teams how to exploit the replay system to their advantage. Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi lost track of the count in the ninth inning of Thursday’s Yankees-Astros game. Now, setting aside the idiocy of losing track of the count when that’s a home-plate ump’s PRIMARY JOB, let’s look at how this could be (and likely will be) used by a team in the late innings of a close game. After the sixth inning, umpires can initiate a review themselves. In Thursday’s game, it took nearly three minutes of replay time to determine that the count was 3-1 instead of 2-1. That’s plenty of time for a reliever to warm up in the bullpen. So all a team has to do is dispute a count vigorously enough to create a little doubt (and with some of the cement-headed umpires out there…..looking at YOU, Bob Davidson), and presto! – there’s all the extra time a manager needs to get a struggling pitcher out of the game. So, let’s all congratulate Phill Cuzzi – the first umpire to unintentionally help major-league teams take better advantage of the poorly-conceived replay system.
Playing the Name Game
Presenting a tale of two pitchers on Opening Day:
Pitcher A was tasked with facing a lineup that battered him like no other in 2013. He seemed to struggle with his control at times, but never allowed the game to get away from him. There was no loss of composure, no lapse that allowed the other team to jump on him and seize control of the game. In fact, the opposition was never able to square up one of his pitches and push a run across the plate. The end result: seven innings of shutout ball, propelling his team to a 1-0 over a bitter division rival. In his second start, he again pitched seven quality innings, allowing five hits, two walks, two runs and fanning seven hitters. Unfortunately, his team’s offense let him down yesterday, falling 2-1 to another division rival.
Conversely, Pitcher B was on the road facing a team featuring a cleanup hitter who spent 2013 playing in Japan. This pitcher has a long history of struggling to control his emotions on the mound, but had drastically improved in this area the past couple years. Unfortunately for his team, he regressed to his old form Monday. Pitcher B repeatedly shook off his catcher, stepped off the rubber and disgustedly snapped his glove at the ball when it was thrown back to him. The unusually-large home crowd showered him with boos, which appeared to further rattle him. After being deservedly yanked from the game, Pitcher B proceeded to throw a chair-kicking tantrum, which earned him a closed-door meeting with his manager – after one start. Yikes! After the game, this pitcher said all the right things, blaming himself for his terrible outing, but his attitude and body language screamed frustration with his catcher. After the opener, Pitcher B’s manager was clear that pitcher and catcher would continue to work together. However, in his second start Saturday night, Pitcher B was throwing to the team’s backup catcher. The results weren’t much better – 4 1/3 innings, four hits, three walks, 101 pitches. Yikes again.
Player A is St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright, who stifled the Cincinnati Reds, then dropped a hard-luck decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates, despite pitching well. Player B is the Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa. The catcher with whom he clashed is Wilin Rosario. An amusing (and perhaps fitting) nickname for De La Rosa appeared in the Twitter-verse Saturday night: Jorge Diva Rosa. Rockies fans had better hope that this is a temporary setback; they need him to pitch like an ace if they are to have ANY hope of competing in the NL West this season.
- Good first impression made by Masahiro Tanaka, tossing seven effective innings against the Blue Jays on Friday night. He allowed a home run to Melky Cabrera in the first inning, but only five five hits, one run and no walks thereafter. Perfect shot in the arm for the Yankees, who watched CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda struggle through their first starts of the season.
- White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu hasn’t made a big splash with his new team quiet yet, hitting .261/.379/.435 with no home runs. However, there are plenty of encouraging signs: 1) he has six RBI for a White Sox team that has scored just XX runs in six games so far; 2) he has struck out just three times (by comparison, Atlanta’s B.J. Upton has whiffed 11 times already and Abreu’s teammate Adam Dunn has eight). Best of all, Abreu certainly does not appear overmatched by major-league pitching thus far.
- Your early leader for Name of the Year: Pirates reliever Stolmy Pimentel, whose name sounds like a new brand of Russian vodka.
- If you read the Triple Play last season, you may recall the Wainwright Walk Watch, which was initiated because he didn’t walk his first batter of 2013 until April 23. We probably won’t be doing that again this season, as Wainwright has six walks in his first two starts this year. He didn’t walk his sixth batter in 2013 until May 21.
- Yu Darvish didn’t take long to make news in his first start of the season on Sunday, reaching the 500-strikeout mark faster than any pitcher in MLB history (401 2/3 innings). Thus far in his career, he is averaging an eye-popping 11.20 strikeouts per nine innings.
- Incidentally, Darvish broke the record established by Kerry Wood, who notched 500 punchouts in 404 2/3 innings. Seems like decades ago, but Wood was on his way to being something special before Dusty Baker ruined him.
- Thank your lucky stars that he’s gone, Reds fans.
- Wilson Ramos and Jose Reyes – each injured before completing ONE GAME. Stop the presses. Reyes didn’t even complete stinking one at-bat before re-injuring his troublesome hamstring. Ramos came closer to completing a game, reaching the 7th inning before departing with a broken bone in his hand. He’ll miss 4-5 weeks after surgery. Reyes says he plans to return after the minimum 15 days, but I’d advise against holding your breath on that.
- News: Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a save in epic fashion Wednesday night against the Rangers – four hits, two walks, three earned runs, one batter retired. Views: couldn’t happen to a more deserving loudmouth.
- Rangers fans were so enamored with the new “Bacon on a Stick” menu option at their ballpark on Opening Day, the concession stands sold out of the $7 item. As a Denver resident, I’m hoping that the Rockies add this item to the menu instead of the Rocky Mountain Oysters.
- Texas starter Matt Harrison had a rehab start cut short Wednesday in Double-A Frisco. Ordinarily, this isn’t big news. Typically it’s arm discomfort and results in a longer-than-expected stay on the DL. However, in this case, it was because of a tornado touching down within sight of the ballpark in McKinney, TX. The photo is surreal.
- If Oakland fans are used to seeing or hearing about distasteful things at the A’s ballpark (you know, bullpen chairs thrown into the seats, overflowing raw sewage….pleasant things like that), last Tuesday brought something no one there had seen in 16 years: a rainout.
- The resulting A’s-Tribe doubleheader marked a season’s earliest double dip in baseball history. Before Wednesday, the soonest in a season that a doubleheader had been played was April 7.
- In the opener of that doubleheader, Oakland’s Sonny Gray-led shutout completed back-to-back shutouts of the Indians. The A’s hadn’t achieved that feat in 100 years.
- Memo to the New York talk-radio idiots (pardon the redundancy) who took issue with the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missing two games due to the birth of his child: shut up and mind your own business.
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