Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. In our latest edition, we look at a former Cardinal who is dealing for his new team, a rocky week for one of the best shortstops in the game, and more. Off we go:
Shelby Miller, Atlanta Braves
Not only did Miller come within a single out of a no-hitter, but he also caused the firing of Mike Redmond. Okay, that’s a stretch, but Redmond did lose his job following Miller’s brilliant outing Sunday. If he keeps pitching this way, Miller might be putting other people out of work too. In his past three starts, Miller has two complete-game shutouts, 25 innings in which he allowed one run, punched out 20 hitters while walking just four. The former Cardinal has yet to allow more two earned runs in any of his eight starts this season, and his 1.33 ERA and five wins are leading fantasy staffs everywhere. Miller leads the National League in the following categories: complete games, shutouts (2), WHIP (0.833), hits per nine innings (4.8), and ERA+ (297). So, are we witnessing the blossoming of a Cy Young contender? It might be too early to go that far; his FIP of 3.28 is still very good, but indicates that some regression is likely. Miller isn’t going to continue to allow only one run every three starts. However, his improvement in several areas demonstrate that Miller is growing as a pitcher. He is allowing home runs and walks at career-low paces thus far; attributes that make it difficult for other teams to put together big innings against him. Miller struggled at times in 2014, which has caused some analysts to proclaim his blazing start to the season a surprise. However, Miller is only 24 and two seasons removed from a season where he won 15 games and came in third in the NL Rookie of the Year race. Trading him to Atlanta for Jason Heyward was a high-risk move largely driven by the unexpected death of Oscar Taveras. It’s difficult to believe that Miller would have been dealt away otherwise, and his absence is more pronounced in St. Louis following Adam Wainwright’s season-ending injury. How good would the Cardinals’ rotation still look if he were still there? And how bad would Atlanta’s rotation look without him?
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
It’s not that the Rockies shortstop had a bad week statistically. It’s been all the off-the-field drama – most of which was created by Tulowitzki himself. First, his agent, Paul Cohen, announces to the media that he will be meeting with Tulo to determine whether it’s time to request a trade from the perpetually awful Rockies. Then, in his first game since announcing he will not make such a request, Tulo aggravates a quad muscle and promptly misses the remainder of the series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. It hasn’t been a great start for the 30-year-old All-Star shortstop: only two homers, 11 RBI, and a .284/.448/.750 slash line. Even more concerning, Tulo has drawn TWO walks in 120 plate appearances (entering Monday), but has whiffed 29 times – nearly 25% of his trips to the dish. In 2014, he struck out only 57 times in 375 plate appearances; he’s halfway there this season in 32 games. Yikes. Between his slow start at bat and now a reoccurrence of his leg troubles, he certainly isn’t making himself look desirable in trade, particularly when you consider that he has $118 million remaining on his contract.
While we’re on the subject of trading Tulo, let’s discuss some of the national media’s insistence that the Rockies are obligated to trade him. One writer (hint: his name rhymes with Bon Rayman) claims that the Rockies “absolutely have to trade their best player.” Yet, he doesn’t provide much of a case. Perhaps he wants to see Tulo play for the Mets or Yankees? And sure, it would be interesting. It would also be interesting if Mike Trout was traded to the Cardinals. Or if Clayton Kershaw got dealt to Kansas City. But the desires of an East Coast sportswriter are, shall we say, less than compelling. And the obstacles to a trade are significant. As noted before, Tulowitzki is owed $118 million over the final six years of his contract. That’s a pretty fair chunk of change. Of course, there are some teams that can absorb that, but it certainly limits the trade partners. Factor in teams that have elite talent to trade for Tulo and the options lessen even further. But most critical of all: the Rockies have shown little serious desire to trade their superstar. Whether that is a smart baseball decision is another matter, but team owner Dick Monfort has been historically loathe to deal away franchise superstars. Plus, trying to get equal value in return for Tulowitzki is going to be near impossible. While he is the best all-around shortstop in baseball, he is also 30, possesses a lengthy injury history and plays for a team that will probably be unwilling to eat any of that contract to facilitate a deal. Combine all these things together and you have a mess, one that probably isn’t going away anytime soon. If there is one reassuring thing for fantasy owners and Rockies fans, it’s this: Tulowitzki isn’t Manny Ramirez or Derek Bell. Even if he is unhappy with the constant losing in Colorado, he won’t tank it or pull an “Operation Shutdown” to force a trade. He will continue to play hard, so the numbers are bound to improve. If he can stay healthy, that is. Unfortunately, that’s a mighty big “if.” His history indicates that this leg problem won’t be the last injury issue he faces this season.
Playing the Name Game
Thanks to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, we’re going to take the “Name Game” category literally today. He referred to outfielder Peter Bourjos last week as “Bourjie”, which might be the worst nickname I’ve ever heard. It made me lament the lack of good nicknames in baseball these days. It seems like all anyone does is shorten up someone’s last name, a la Bourjie. Most of the time these are just awful. Paul Goldschmidt should have a better nickname that “Goldy”; a ballplayer’s nickname should not make people think of a comedic actress from the 1980s. Nelson Cruz, the most prolific power hitter in baseball in 2014 and so far this year, is nicknamed “Nellie”. Ugh. Occasionally, shortening a last name creates a cool nickname. Mike Moustakas is Moose, which is a fine nickname. Tulo is a catchy nickname, particularly when the Rockies are at home and the fans do their customary clap/chant. Sometimes the first syllable of a player’s first and last names can produce an acceptable nickname – Carlos Gonzalez = CarGo, Hanley Ramirez = HanRam. On the other hand, Peter Bourjos could be known as PeBo…..definitely not an improvement over Bourjie. Given his speed, “Wheels” would be a better nickname. Hey, I didn’t say it was a GOOD nickname, but it’s better than Bourjie.
There are a few players with good nicknames, such as:
- Matt Harvey (Dark Knight)
- Jeff Francoeur (Frenchy)
- Jose Bautista (Joey Bats)
- Ben Zobrist (Zorilla)
- Shane Victorino (the Flyin’ Hawaiian)
- Pedro Sandoval (Kung Fu Panda)
- David Ortiz (Big Papi)
- Curtis Granderson (Grandy Man)
I’m probably missing some, but it took me a little while to come up with those. Maybe it’s just me. But it feels like each team used to have multiple players with clever nicknames; now most teams have less than a handful. Most of the creative, original nicknames are going by the wayside? I’m not sure why. Is it a political correctness thing or are we just applying our creativity elsewhere? I don’t know. But Matheny’s nickname for Bourjos was just so bad I had to vent a little. Now get off my lawn.
Clearing the Bases
- The mind-boggling move by the Marlins to move general manager Dan Jennings to the dugout and serve as manager has been the talk of baseball for the past couple days. It’s not the fact that he has never coached or managed at a professional level. There have been plenty of exceptions to that in recent years (Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura). But, as GM, he has been more on the business end of his dealings with many of the team’s players. How will he have credibility in the day-to-day dugout dealings with his players when he has never dealt with that type of responsibility before?
- Of course, given the level of interest in baseball in Miami, it’s a fair question to wonder if the fans down there will even notice.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria might fancy himself a modern-day Steinbrenner, but he lacks the guts and determination to make his team as great as the Yankees of the 1970s. He didn’t even have the stones to face the media today to explain this latest bit of lunacy. That part is just ridiculous. Steinbrenner was never bashful about explaining himself. Loria would rather actu like a petulant child and then hide behind everyone else. Okay, enough about that carpetbagger.
- Cleveland’s Corey Kluber struck out 12 White Sox Monday night, giving him 30 strikeouts in his past two starts.
- Royals starter Yordano Ventura, he of the 100 mph fastball, also has 30 strikeouts – in seven starts. Angels starter Jered Weaver, who has frequented the AL strikeout leaderboard often in his career, has 24 strikeouts in eight starts. Yikes.
- News: veteran pitcher Bruce Chen announced his retirement Monday via Twitter. Views: I actually thought he retired two or three years ago. Lefthanders really do have longer careers.
- Speaking of veteran lefties, Randy Choate pitched 1 2/3 innings last week against the Indians. In a single game. Usually that’s five games’ worth of work for him. Hope he’s recovered by now.
- The Padres started this camouflage jersey thing as a tribute to the large Navy presence in San Diego. It’s a fine idea, and with their brown-and-yellow uniform history, they could get away with it much better than other teams. In the past week, the Mets and Reds have worn camo uniforms. You could barely read the player names or numbers on the Mets’ uniforms Monday night. Even in HD. This madness has to stop. Leave the camo uniforms to the people who wear them best – the military. Thanks.
- Finally, the great Ichiro Suzuki reached another milestone in his Hall of Fame career Monday night with his 2,873 major-league hit. That ties him with Babe Ruth for 38th on the all-time list. If it seems like he should be higher, just remember that he didn’t join the Mariners until he was 27 and had already established himself as a spectacular hitter in Japan. If you add in the 1,278 hits he accumulated there, that brings his total to 4,151. That puts him 40 hits away from Ty Cobb and 105 away from Pete Rose’s record of 4,256. Even though it wouldn’t count in the official major-league record books, it’s still an amazing achievement.
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