Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. In this edition, we take a look at the best pitcher in the game, a player who is embodying his team’s struggles, what one dollar can buy you in MLB these days, and more. Off we go:
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
He didn’t get credit for a perfect game (thanks for nothing, Hanley!), but he certainly should have. In addition to striking out 15 overmatched Rockies, he was stunningly efficient (107 pitches). A grand total of three balls were hit out of the infield (Brandon Barnes, Troy Tulowitzki, Charlie Culberson). I’ve seen several writers note that the Rockies are the “best-hitting” team in baseball and how that adds so much value to Kershaw’s performance. Let’s get real. The Rockies are a completely different team away from Coors Field and are missing Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. They aren’t a dominant hitting team, but that’s irrelevant. As good as Kershaw was Wednesday, the 1927 Yankees wouldn’t have scored a run. You may have seen how his outing ranked on Game Score, a metric that sums up the pitcher’s entire performance on a given day. If you didn’t, it ranked as the best pitched no-hitter in baseball history (102). Better than any of Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters, better than any of Sandy Koufax’s best days, better than anyone, save one (Kerry Wood’s epic 20-strikeout game in 1998, which scored 105). Now, you can determine for yourself whether Kershaw’s performance was better than those other games (personally, I don’t). Game Score does not take into account the circumstances around the game; if it did, surely Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series would rank as the best, and Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS second. The bottom line is that Kershaw utterly dominated the Rockies and has clearly re-established himself as the best pitcher in baseball, provided he can stay healthy.
Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers
Choo has been a bit of a disappointment this year, for the Rangers and fantasy owners, but still a decent player. Since June 1, though, he has been a mess, hitting a ghastly .145/.293/.210. He has symbolized the Rangers’ struggles this season in a couple of ways: big expectations, followed by disappointing results, not all of which are his fault. The Rangers have lost Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, and Jurickson Profar to season-ending injuries, not to mention about a dozen pitchers (a slight exaggeration). Choo was supposed to be the table-setter, but all the injuries have forced Texas to use him in the three-hole in the order. As he has scuffled, so have the Rangers. Choo is on pace to hit 15 home runs, knock in 60, but he was expected to score close to 100 runs at the top of the Rangers’ lineup. He won’t approach that number at this rate. And frankly, as a #3 hitter, Choo’s production isn’t good enough. One player can only do so much, though, and the Rangers have just been decimated. With the Athletics and Angels playing well, speculation has started as to whether Texas should throw in the towel this season and trade away veterans like Choo and Alex Rios. In any case, the 2010-12 heyday of the Rangers seems like a long time ago.
Playing the Name Game
Player A: .261/.312/.444, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 34 runs, 72 games
Player B: .259/.342/.418, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 41 runs, 63 games
Player C: .261/.320/.261, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 runs, 7 games
The team in question here is producing a seemingly endless supply of gifted outfielders. In addition to a corner outfielder that every team in baseball would love to have, they have the players listed above. These three might not be hitting for high averages, but they are productive, especially considering their ages – they are all under 24. Player A really started to flash his potential last year. Player B was really hitting his stride before getting injured after the June 13 game. In the 10 days prior to that, he was scalding the ball, as evidenced by his .313/.389/.500 slash line. Player C is the player called up to take Player B’s place, so he hasn’t had much chance to establish himself, but scouting reports indicate that he a very similar player to the man he replaced. Figured out who these players are? One last clue: they employ their talents in South Beach. Player A is Marcell Ozuna. Player B is Christian Yelich. Player C is Jake Marisnick. In addition to the monster we know as Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins have produced all three of these fine young talents.
— One final note about Kershaw’s no-hitter: it was the 19th such game called by Vin Scully. He had this to say during the 9th inning: “If you don’t mind, I’ll sit back and watch with you.” Listening to him talk baseball is magical, even after all these years.
— In need of a starter, Oakland acquired pitcher Brad Mills from Milwaukee for the ever-popular “cash considerations or a player to be named later.” Well, in this case, the “cash considerations” amounted to $1. The A’s immediately plugged Mills into their rotation, starting him Friday against Boston. Mills struggled, lasting just four innings and allowing three runs on four hits and four walks. However, he will stay in the rotation for at least one more start.
— So, now you know – $1 can buy you at least two fill-in starts at the major league level.
— The real question is why the A’s didn’t recall Dan Straily and use him. But I digress.
— Good news: Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh 11-4 Wednesday to reach the .500 mark for the first time since mid-April, due in no small part to Joey Votto reaching base three times. Bad news: In Votto’s last at-bat, he whiffed on a pitch from Travis Snider. The outfielder. Ouch.
— Dear Brad Ausmus. Jokes about beating your wife are never funny. It’s much better to make jokes about kicking puppies. Just ask former Cardinals pitcher Brad Thompson.
— Speaking of idiots, we can add A’s pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the list after he punched a chair, broke his hand and ended up on the disabled list – during his breakout season that was predicted for him a few years ago. Brilliant!
— Apparently we are going to have to add a “Would David Ortiz Please Shut Up?” section to our column, as often as he continues to say or do asinine things. This time, the designated whiner, er, hitter complained about BOSTON’S official scorer charging Minnesota’s Joe Mauer with an error on a hard-hit grounder to first. Two points: 1) As slow as Ortiz runs, Mauer certainly would have been able to retire him had he cleanly fielded it; 2) the Red Sox won the game, partially thanks to an Ortiz homer. But instead of focusing on that, he wants to whine about a scorer’s decision and bully him into changing his decision. What a punk.
— MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre’s reaction was nothing short of brilliant: “Official scorers should never give any benefit of the doubt to the home team. We want their best judgment, based on the rules. We have a process to review the decisions that our scorers make. Even when there are inevitable disagreements, we expect everybody to act professionally and respect the game and the integrity of our scorers.“
— He very politely said what I’m going to right now: “Hey, Papi, just shut up.”
— The Royals had just started making believers out of so people, winning 10 in a row and wresting first place away from Detroit. Then they go and lay a big, fat egg at home against Seattle. The Tigers are back on top in the AL Central. Kansas City may have peaked.
— News: A’s catcher Derek Norris has been smacked in the head by an opponent’s swing follow-through. Views: Perhaps it’s time for him to take a step further back from home plate. Or maybe try to get an endorsement with a headache medicine company.
— Every now and then, you watch a game that makes you think “this might just be their year.” That 14-9 win by Toronto last Friday in Cincinnati over the Reds could be just such a game. The Reds led that game 8-0 after two innings.
— A week ago, we were praising the Rockies for their three-game sweep of the Giants in San Francisco in which they rallied to win each game in the last innings. Since then, the Rockies haven’t won a game and their June record is 6-14. The June Swoon has resumed in full.
— As proof, I give you outfielder Corey Dickerson. With his team down 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth Sunday, he belted a leadoff triple. Should have been a great start for a rally, but then Dickerson got greedy and tried to score when the throw to third got away. He hesitated before breaking for home and tripped and fell. Caught in no-man’s land, he was thrown out by 20 feet. The Rockies ended up losing by one. Ouch.
— Meanwhile, the Giants have rebounded to win two in a row after their six-game slide. Just in time, too….because here come the Dodgers again.
— A tip of the cap to Padres pitcher Alex Torres, who became the first player to wear the protective cap on the field. Let’s hope he won’t be the last. Sure, it may look unusual (or even a bit goofy), but players used to say the same thing about batting helmets.
— Speaking of the Padres, here’s a big thumbs-down to them for firing general manager Josh Byrnes. He built a division champion in Arizona, but was given only 14 months to turn around the struggling Padres. That’s just bad ownership.
— Finally, it was 12 years ago Sunday that Darryl Kile died. He is still missed today.
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