Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the PED/Hall of Fame Debate

On January 24, Major League Baseball will announce the newest members of the Hall of Fame. I wrote a little while back when the initial finalists were announced who I would vote for, which you can read here. I briefly mentioned in that blog that I wouldn’t vote for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens mainly because I wouldn’t feel good about it even though Ivan Rodriguez was elected on the first ballot last year despite having been named in the Mitchell Report, a report created by George Mitchell consisting of evidence of numerous current and former Major League Baseball players that had been linked in some form or fashion to PED’s. I understand the argument in favor of putting them in, which I’ll highlight a little later, but it just doesn’t sit well with me.

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The case for each player is very simple. Ignoring all the steroids allegations (which is all they are: allegations, since neither failed a PED test), here’s how Bonds’ and Clemens’ resumes stack up. Bonds was the son of former big league All Star Bobby Bonds and made his debut in 1986 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team he played for until 1992. He won 2 NL MVPs as a member of the Pirates, slugging 176 home runs and hit .275. In 1993, he signed with the Giants, which was when he went from a superstar to arguably the most feared hitter to ever play the game. Bonds played in San Francisco from 1993 until his retirement in 2007 and hit 586 home runs by the bay and won 5 MVPs, including 4 in a row from 2001-2004. In all, Bonds holds the record for most home runs ever hit in a career with 762, most in a season with 73 in 2001, most walks in a career with 2558, most intentional walks in a career with 688, was a 14-time All Star and was also consistently one of the toughest guys to strike out, as he only struck out 100 times in a season once in his career, which was his rookie year. Bonds is also one of only 5 players in the 40-40 club, a feat he accomplished in 1996 when he hit 42 home runs and stole 40 bags. His 7 MVP’s are by far the most ever, next closest being 3 by several players. Bonds won more than that in consecutive seasons. Bonds even holds the rare distinction of having been intentionally walked with the bases loaded. Nobody was more feared in recent memory than Barry Bonds. The only way you could pitch to him was by not pitching to him.

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Roger Clemens was one of the most dominant pitchers of the last half century in a time when balls were flying out of the yard at a rate never seen before. Clemens began his career in 1984 with the Boston Red Sox and retired in 2007 as a member of the New York Yankees with stints in Toronto and Houston in between. He holds the record for 7 Cy Young Awards, next closest being 4 by Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, both of whom are first ballot Hall of Famers. Clemens also won the 1986 AL MVP, which is a rarity for a pitcher, when he went 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA and 238 K’s. Clemens is a 2-time World Series champion as a member of the Yankees in 1999 and 2000. In 2005 as a member of the Houston Astros and at the age of 42, he set a career low ERA of 1.87. He also set the record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game with 20, a feat he accomplished twice. For his career, Clemens went 354-184 with an ERA of 3.12 and 4672 K’s, numbers that rank him amongst the greatest to ever play the game and he did it at a time when a lot of the top hitters were using performance enhancers.

Which brings me to my next point, why guys with resumes as great as these are being left out of the Hall of Fame at the moment. It has nothing to do with their numbers, those are as good as anybody has ever put up. It’s the matter that these guys have been too heavily linked to PED’s over the years. Despite the fact that neither ever tested positive for PED’s, the evidence is pretty apparent. It was reported that Barry Bonds’ hat and shoe sizes grew long after that stops for normal people. George Mitchell’s investigation from 2006-7 named both of them amongst other star players as guys with ties to PED’s. Plus, just look at the differences.

Here’s Bonds in his rookie year with the Pirates.

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Here he is in his 73 home run 2001 season with the Giants.

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Now yes, there’s about a 15-year gap between these two photos. But nobody gets that huge in that amount of time without a little added boost.

Now let’s look at Clemens. Here’s a picture of him from the 1986 season where he struck out 20 batters in a game for the first time and won AL MVP.

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Now here’s a picture of him in 2000.

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I don’t think anybody’s denying there was pharmaceutical assistance for these guys just looking at them. But there is a pretty legitimate argument for both of them to get in to the Hall of Fame despite the fact that both men allegedly used PED’s. I’ll list them out here.

1. PED’s were not banned at the suspected time they were used.

2. A large portion of Major League Baseball was using PED’s as well.

3. Excluding these guys would be like trying to pretend an entire era of baseball never happened.

4. They never actually tested positive so trying to punish them for something they were never technically found guilty of is cheating both men.

5. Ivan Rodriguez, who was named in the Mitchell Report, got in on the first ballot in 2017.

It’s hard to argue with any of these and quite frankly, I do believe Bonds and Clemens will get in at some point, whether it’s this year or sometime in the future. Look all over the internet or any publication or sports network and you’ll see that everybody seems to be softening their stance against PED’s. The most telling sign of this is of course Ivan Rodriguez getting in on his first try last year. Rodriguez was named in the Mitchell Report as having used PED’s and he never denied it, yet that didn’t seem to matter to the voters. If you vote Rodriguez in, there is no reason you shouldn’t vote in Bonds and Clemens as well. Sure they might have had some rough personalities and exchanges with the media, but the Hall of Fame isn’t a nice guy award. I made the same case in my Hall of Fame ballot, but Ty Cobb was a notorious racist who would slide into a base cleats up to try and injure black players during exhibition games. He was the first man ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. I also hate the argument that some people have about putting them in the Hall of Fame but having an asterisk next to their name. I’m just not on board with that. For me, the Hall of Fame is pretty black and white. You’re either a Hall of Fame-caliber player, or you’re not. Plain and simple. Putting an asterisk next to their name will diminish the credibility of the Hall itself.

My main issue with putting them in is this: PED’s are fucking deadly. The problem with PED’s for me isn’t that it gives some players an unfair advantage. Ted Williams having ridiculous eye sight is an unfair advantage and nobody bitched about that. It was the stuff of legend. It’s that in order for clean players to keep up with the PED users, they would have to cut years off their lives by taking these dangerous drugs. Otherwise they might be out of a job. When I see guys like Ken Caminiti die from steroid usage, it really makes me uncomfortable rewarding people who haven’t yet paid the price with enshrinement. I don’t know, that’s just me.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and any other known PED user’s Hall of Fame candidacy in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Andrew McCutchen Traded to the Giants

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It’s been a while since I posted a blog that wasn’t about football (18 blogs in a row not counting that one where I ramble about everything). But that’s because of the inactivity around Major League Baseball this offseason. And while yes, the free agent market has been slower than it’s ever been in recent memory, there have been some solid trades. In fact, Gerrit Cole was traded to the Astros, something that I briefly touched upon after the initial trade fell through. Well now the Astros have an absolute MONSTER of a pitching rotation as they look even stronger than the team that just won the World Series. But that’s not what my blog is about. It’s about how the Giants are quickly trying to erase the memory of their disastrous 2017 campaign. Remember when I blogged about their acquisition of Evan Longoria and I mentioned how they had a pretty stellar infield but one of the worst outfields I’ve ever seen? Well they seem to have shored that up a bit as they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for prospects Bryan Reynolds (OF) and Kyle Crick (P). Reynolds was the #4 prospect in the Giants’ organization and Crick was 16th, according to MLB.com. McCutchen is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season and will make about $14.5 million ($2.5M of which will be paid by Pittsburgh), so not much of a commitment there for the Giants.

San Francisco looks like they have no intention to rebuild after losing 98 games in 2017 and quite frankly I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of talent on this team, especially after their two most recent acquisitions and arguably the best manager in all of baseball in Bruce Bochy. Let’s take a look at what this lineup looks like now that McCutchen is in that outfield.

1. Andrew McCutchen-CF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Evan Longoria-3B

5. Brandon Belt-1B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-RF

8. Jarrett Parker-LF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s suddenly a pretty potent lineup. Now yes, McCutchen has been on a downward trend the last few years, however he quietly had a pretty good 2017 season after a downright awful 2016. McCutchen hit .279 with 28 home runs, 88 RBI, a .363 OBP with a .486 SLG and was able to steal 11 bases and was worth a 3.7 WAR. Despite being 31, McCutchen can still play. Except centerfield, he is not a good centerfielder defensively. He has only had a DRS above 0 (league average) once in his entire career (he was worth 5 DRS in 2013). He got as bad as -28 DRS in 2016. In layman’s terms, that means opponents scored 28 more runs because McCutchen was in centerfield vs your average centerfielder. That was the worst in the Majors at any position. In 2017, he was -17. Maybe they’ll move him to left field and put someone like Gorkys Hernandez in center but as it stands right now, the Giants have a stellar defensive infield but an atrocious defensive outfield. So basically if you’re the Dodgers or Diamondbacks or any other team that’s going to contend with the Giants for a playoff spot, just hit the ball into the outfield and you’re good.

As for the Pirates, if they weren’t in full rebuild mode after they traded Gerrit Cole, they are now. It seemed like for a while they were flirting with the idea of rebuilding because McCutchen has been on the trading block for what seems like forever. Well the Pirates have finally gotten him out of town after he’s been the face of the franchise since he arrived in the league in 2009. Here’s what the Pirates look like without Cutch.

1. Adam Frazier-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Adam Frazier is essentially the guy that will replace McCutchen in the Pirates lineup. He was their DH on Opening Day when they took on the Red Sox in an American League park so it’s not like this is some kind of culture shock for the Pirates. He hit .276 in 121 games played last year, however it was a LOT of singles, as his SLG was only .399 and he only walked about 7.9% of the time. But the guy is a competent option for the Pirates at the top of their lineup. He could serve as a segue for Austin Meadows, their top prospect who happens to play the outfield. Pittsburgh likes him a lot and there have been times where they’ve made it known that Meadows is off limits in any proposed trade. He’s only 22 and currently at AAA, where he struggled some in 2017 so it might be another year before he’s ready for the Majors. However if he flips a switch and starts torching minor league pitching, we may see him in the Pirates lineup by the end of 2018. It could also be a segue for the newly-acquired Bryan Reynolds in the long run, who played extremely well in High-A ball.

One might also have to wonder if this could be Clint Hurdle’s final year at the helm of the Pirates. Since losing the Wild Card game to the Cubs in 2015 after a 98-win season, the Pirates have gone 153-171 and continue to trend in the wrong direction. What’s also common with rebuilds is the organization typically cleans house and Hurdle may be next on the chopping block, though I doubt he’ll have trouble finding another managerial job because he’s amongst the best in the game. He led the Colorado Rockies of all teams to a World Series appearance in 2007 in one of the most exciting runs in recent memory and was a catalyst in bringing the Pirates out of the depths of Hell. People tend to forget due to their recent success that the Pirates had 20 losing seasons in a row from 1992-2012. Hurdle was the guy who got them out of that mess with the help of guys like McCutchen. However no playoff success has come their way as they never won their division, playing in the Wild Card game 3 straight years, going 1-2 and never having gotten out of the NLDS. Some team that is struggling will likely look to get him should the Pirates let him go because he’s brought two organizations out of mediocrity already. Perhaps the Padres or Rays, should either team struggle in 2018 (which I expect to happen). But this smells like the end of the line for Hurdle in Pittsburgh.

So we’ve finally got some moves in baseball worth blogging about. Still waiting on that free agent class to get their shit together, though. Let me know what you think of the McCutchen trade and the Giants’ chances this year in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

What the Hell Do I Write About?

Hey everyone, sorry about there not being a blog post yesterday, but there is literally NOTHING happening right now in the world of sports. Hell, I’ve been so bored, I even started working out! Me! A blogger! Whoever heard of such a thing? I’m particularly fuming at Major League Baseball. Not at the league itself, but rather the inactivity from its clubs this offseason. How is it that we’ve already completed the first week of January and 7 members of my Top 10 Free Agents are still available? *Update* 6 out of 10 left. Jay Bruce just re-signed with the Mets. *End of Update* We almost had something interesting happen, as there were multiple tweets from very reputable sources that said that the Astros had struck a deal with the Pirates involving Gerrit Cole. However that proved to be fake news, leaving me in a pit of despair. Though it’s probably a good thing because could you imagine Cole being a part of the Astros? He’s an ace-level pitcher and he’d probably be the third man in that rotation after Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.

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But yeah, I’m scraping for topics to talk about right now. I COULD talk about the whole Ball family stuff, but I’d rather not contribute to that mess. The only reason LaVar Ball is making all of these claims is because the media is lending him its ear. Like I seriously think he’s going to get Lonzo hurt, especially now that he’s verbally come after Lakers head coach Luke Walton. If the media just ignored him, then maybe he’ll stop being a jackass. But we all know that’s not going to happen. We’re in too deep at this point. But I like to keep up my morals and not give him the time of day if I can help it.

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I will admit I haven’t kept up on the world of basketball like I’ve hoped to, both college and professional. I admittedly don’t know as much about basketball as I do baseball and football and the lockout played a major role in that. I was on top of the world in following the NBA but once that happened I was really turned off and it stopped receiving my attention. Plus with college basketball, I’m finding it harder and harder each year to be invested due to the whole one-and-done thing. Basically every year I have to completely erase my brain on what I know and start fresh with each basketball season because there is so much turnover with the rosters. Plus my team, Indiana, is kind of garbage this season so that’s really hurt my interest level. They have shown some promise under new head coach Archie Miller, though. But it’s going to take some time before we’re ready to seriously compete for Big Ten championships again.

I thought about doing another personal blog for this one, but I really couldn’t think of any stories from my athletic career that would be particularly interesting. I’ve told all my favorites already and there really isn’t much left in my concussion-filled brain. If one pops up, I’ll definitely be sure to talk about it.

I’ve been getting into professional wrestling as of late. I used to watch WWE as a kid and play the video games, then took some time off because I was getting bored of it but now my interest has been reinvigorated. I’m debating whether or not I should do wrestling-themed blogs but I’m not 100% sure that would be best since it is staged and all. Which is fine by me, I look at it as watching an action/drama/comedy TV show, which is really what it is. It’s basically reality TV where people kick the crap out of each other. Let me put it this way: if you watch shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians or The Bachelor/ette, then you have no right to rip on WWE for being “fake.” Plus, try watching WWE with a buzz on. It’s freaking awesome. I actually took my brother and godson to the Clash of Champions Pay-Per-View in Boston last month and that was a Hell of a good time. Plus I was able to get an RKO from Randy Orton on film. So I guess I’ll leave it up to my readers as to whether or not I do WWE blogs. Definitely let me know if you’d like to read that. If I get no responses, I won’t do it, though.

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What else, what else. I mean I’ve also considered delving into the pop culture scene from time to time. For example, I’ve always wanted to talk Game of Thrones and Star Wars on this thing but I’ve held back because it’s a sports blog. When I’m not watching sports, I’m usually keeping up on those. I considered doing a Game of Thrones blog where I talk about the differences between the book and show and how well I think each change is done (or poorly), which would take FOREVER. I did get started on it where I would go storyline by storyline and talk about what’s different and what’s the same. I got through Ned Stark’s, Tyrion Lannister’s, and Jon Snow’s storylines before I kind of gave up on it. I was well over 10,000 words and I doubt anybody outside of my parents would want to take the time to read all of what I had to say.

I also really wanted to talk about what I thought of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi just because of how polarizing it’s been amongst the fanbase. But again, I held back because this is a sports blog. I guess I’ll say this in short: I thought it was very good, but I understand why people have problems with it. I think most of the risks they took were good ones, though there were a couple elements I didn’t care for. For example, SPOILER ALERT, I would’ve liked to have known a little more about Snoke before he was killed off. Now granted, I read the defense that when the Emperor was killed in Episode 6, we didn’t know shit about him except that he ruled the galaxy and he was extremely powerful with the force and had manipulated our lightsaber-wielding villain. That’s basically all we knew about Snoke as well. However the difference between Snoke and Palpatine is that we know about the time period leading between episodes 6 and 7 and Snoke was a character that just kind of popped up within that time frame. Where was he before Episode 7? Why hadn’t we seen him? Was he Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s master whom he had supposedly killed? We really don’t know. But I think you could do some cool stuff with him now that he’s dead. I think a dark side force ghost could be in the cards here. Perhaps Snoke comes back to torment Kylo Ren and then maybe we can learn a little more about him. Or maybe he projected himself like Luke did when Kylo Ren split him in half. I’m not going to get totally pissed about it until I see Episode 9. My only other major beef was Rose saving Finn. That whole storyline felt like it belonged on the Clone Wars TV series, not in the main films, but I did see how it tied into the main story. I do liked that they tried to do something different with this storyline. It didn’t work for me this time around but I hope they keep trying to show us different sides of the galaxy. I really hope the negative responses to this part of the movie don’t deter them from doing different things. But I hated that Rose saved Finn from going kamikaze on that cannon. I think it would’ve been the perfect way to tie up his character arc: an ex-stormtrooper who has a history of running away from his problems saves the Resistance by not running from a giant cannon that’s going to blast open some doors. But then Rose saved him and gave a dumb little speech about “not killing the ones we hate, but saving the ones we love.” Yeah, okay, that’s great, but the minute you said that, that cannon blasted open the doors shielding the Resistance and the Resistance would’ve been totally screwed had Luke Skywalker not projected himself to fight Kylo Ren (which I thought was freaking awesome). I guess my one other beef was Leia flying through space. That was dumb but it wasn’t dumb enough that it hindered my viewing experience. For me, it was kinda like “oh she’s flying through space like Mary Poppins? That’s dumb. Next scene.” I think Star Wars fans can be real brats about their movies and it’s a real shame because I thought Rian Johnson made a very good film but because it’s got the Star Wars name attached to it, it gets criticism that’s often unfair. But I guess if I had to rank the Star Wars Movies, I would rank them: 5-4-7-8-Rogue One-6-3-1-2. And I’m only ranking Phantom Menace above Attack of the Clones because Phantom Menace had one redeeming quality: the Darth Maul fight. That was awesome. Attack of the Clones had no redeeming qualities.

So that’s going to do it for my rambling blog. Let me know if you want me to occasionally write about things outside the world of sports, especially if we’re in a dead period because I’d like to be able to post every day if I can help it. Give me your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

World Series Game 7 Recap

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The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to win the first World Series in franchise history. Charlie Morton was the winning pitcher and got the final 12 outs. Yu Darvish got the loss. Some takeaways:

-This had a similar feel to the Boston Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series months after the Boston Marathon bombings. Or the 2001 Yankees who were an inning away from winning it all a month and a half after the 9/11 attacks. The city of Houston was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in late August, leaving much of the city submerged under water. Since Harvey decimated Houston, the Astros lost a grand total of 3 home games the rest of the way. The city of Houston needed something to boost their spirits as they recover from all the damage and this Astros team delivered. Here’s some evidence:

-This is REALLY creepy. A Sports Illustrated cover from 2014:

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They even got the World Series MVP on the cover in George Springer, who was absolutely incredible since Game 1. Springer was a disaster in the opening game, striking out all 4 times he came up to bat. He is the first ever World Series MVP to have such a game. But after that he was impossible for the Dodgers to get out. Including Game 1, Springer slashed .379/.412/.1000 and tied a World Series record with 5 home runs (Reggie Jackson in 1977, Chase Utley in 2009) and set World Series records with 29 total bases and 8 extra base hits. He also had a pretty great MVP acceptance speech. “I love each and every one of you. From the coaching staff to the players. Even Marwin Gonzalez!”

-We also got this from Carlos Correa:

-Every single player on the Astros is winning their first World Series ring, and that includes some hardened veterans: Carlos Beltran, Justin Verlander, and Brian McCann have all put together stellar careers and finally have a World Series ring to show for their efforts.

-And here we have the final out:

I was amazed in the confidence AJ Hinch had in Charlie Morton in this game, but Morton delivered. He went the final 4 innings, allowing the lone run in the 6th, which I thought would spell a short outing for him because it had that feeling that the Dodgers were ready to break out. But he quickly silenced that by striking out the next batter in Chris Taylor and all of a sudden the Astros felt like they were back in control. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander both got up in the bullpen, but Hinch stuck with Morton, who had been touching 98 miles per hour on his fastball. With all the struggles the Astros bullpen had in this World Series, they really came through in Game 7, especially considering starting pitcher Lance McCullers was pulled in the third.

-The main killer for the Dodgers was they were unable to do anything with runners on base. They had no problem getting on for the first few innings, but only an Andre Ethier single could drive in a run. The Dodgers stranded a boatload of runners in this game and it just felt like a rally was brewing but never materialized.

-I have to say, considering how insane some of the other games in this Series were, this game felt like kind of a letdown. This was basically the Godfather of World Series’: the final installment was a disappointment but the rest was so good that this Series will be remembered fondly. As well it should. It set a record with 25 home runs between the two teams and don’t even get me started on Games 2 and 5. It was also the first best-of-7 World Series where only two starting pitchers earned winning decisions (Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and Lance McCullers in Game 3).

-The entirety of the Astros offense came in the first two innings, capped off by this BOMB by MVP Springer:

It traveled an estimated 438 feet and knocked Yu Darvish out of the game.

-Darvish was not himself in this Series. He failed to get out of the second inning in both of his starts (first time that’s happened since 1960) and all 5 runs the Astros scored were on his watch. I think one reason for Darvish’s struggles in this Series is the familiarity the Astros have with them. Darvish had been a member of the Texas Rangers for a few years prior to being added by the Dodgers at the 2017 Trade Deadline. The Rangers and Astros have been division rivals since the Astros joined the American League starting in 2013. They’ve seen Darvish far more than any other Dodgers pitcher and I’m sure that had something to do with his struggles. That, and his pitches were super flat all game. The one bright spot was that Darvish essentially got an on-field apology from Yuli Gurriel for the racist gesture before his first at bat, as Gurriel tipped his helmet to Darvish.

-Brandon Morrow pitched to one batter in this game in relief of Darvish and became the second pitcher to ever appear in all seven World Series games. Morrow’s World Series ERA was a tick under 9 but a vast majority of that damage came in Game 5, when he really shouldn’t have been in there. Otherwise, he looked very sharp this Series.

-Lance McCullers got the start for the Astros and was pulled in the third inning despite not allowing a single run. The main reasoning for this was a lack of control that McCullers was displaying. But how can that be? McCullers didn’t issue a single walk! So no walks, no runs, what gives? McCullers plunked a World Series record FOUR batters in his 2.1 innings of work, including Justin Turner twice.

-Cody Bellinger reverted back to his early-series struggles, adding three more strikeouts and breaking Aaron Judge’s postseason record with his 29th of the postseason (17th in the World Series, also a record). I think Bellinger will bounce back but his confidence has to be at an all time low. Again, it was the curveball low-and-in that was the bane of Bellinger’s existence. It also bit Corey Seager a few times, but not nearly to the extent of Bellinger. He also committed the error that allowed the first run of the game to score for the Astros.

-The Astros had to persevere through three 100-loss seasons to get to where they are today. A lot of credit goes to owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow for building a stacked roster that will compete for a title for the next few years. Even more credit has to go to the Astros fans for their patience through this process. Their faith was rewarded with a title, as they packed Minute Maid Park to watch both Games 6 and 7.

-Kudos also go out to the Dodgers, who played their hearts out all season but just ran out of gas for the last game of the season. It’s a young team with a TON of payroll and great coaching, no matter how critical I may be of it. They’ll be back.

Looking Ahead:

No more baseball in 2017, I’m afraid. As far as baseball-related blogs go, I will try and keep you up to date on any offseason acquisitions and potential trade speculations. If there is a slow day in sports, I may even do a blog or two where I try and find good fits for trade candidates.

Prediction:

It’s going to be another depressing few months of no baseball. At least there’s football and basketball.

World Series Game 6 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series to even the Series at 3 games apiece to force a winner-take-all Game 7 set for Wednesday night. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Justin Verlander got the loss, and Kenley Jansen was credited with the save. Some takeaways:

-Kenley Jansen looked like Kenley Jansen for the first time in this World Series. Dave Roberts brought him in to get the 6-out save, which did not go well in Game 2, however he was dominant this time out. Astros hitters looked completely lost up there as he retired all 6 batters he faced, including strikeouts of Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran to end it

-With Francisco Liriano’s appearance in the 8th inning, only Houston third-string catcher Juan Centeno has yet to appear in a game in this World Series. I don’t have any stat on if there has ever been a World Series where everybody played because Baseball Reference won’t return my Tweets. Sad.

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When everyone gets to play in the World Series except you (photo credit: Houston Chronicle)

-Cody Bellinger became a part of baseball immortality in this game for all the wrong reasons. He went 0-4 with 4 K’s for the second time in this World Series, which has never happened before, and has struck out 14 times in this series, which is a record.

-Again, I had a problem with Dave Roberts’ handling of Rich Hill. This video right here was the entire offense for the Astros:

Hill got pulled with 2 outs in the 5th inning. To start that inning, he let up a single to Brian McCann, which was a great play by Yasiel Puig in right to hold him to a single because that ball easily could have gone for extra bases. Then Marwin Gonzalez hit a double under the dive of Justin Turner at 3rd base to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out (McCann would have scored had Puig not held him to just a single). Hill then strikes out Josh Reddick after falling behind 3-0 then strikes out Justin Verlander. Dave Roberts leaves him in long enough to intentionally walk George Springer then pulls him for Brandon Morrow. The crowd met this decision with a chorus of boos, then a standing ovation for Hill, who was seen slapping at some cups in the dugout. Last time Roberts pulled him early in Game 2, he slammed his glove. I really feel for Rich Hill because he has pitched his heart out this World Series without the confidence of his manager.

-Speaking of Brandon Morrow, he has pitched in all 6 games of this World Series. The only man to pitch all 7 games was Darold Knowles in the 1973 World Series for the Oakland A’s. One thing to note, his team won. Morrow was significantly better in Game 6 than Game 5, where I broke down his outing pitch-by-pitch. In Game 5, Morrow’s fastball was about 95 mph. It’s supposed to be about 98, which it was in Game 6. Rest helps.

-Play of the game has to be this double from Chris Taylor:

He fights off the pitch for a double off Verlander, who had been DOMINANT up until that point. This was the moment where the Dodgers revived their hopes for this series, as next at bat was this Corey Seager sac fly that probably would’ve left the yard if this was Games 1-5

I can only imagine how loud the crowd would’ve been had it gone a couple more feet. It was wet and damp for the middle innings of this game and that likely was the main reason this was only a 1-run play and not 3. But it was plenty considering how well the Dodgers pitched.

-Joc Pederson is probably the most fun dude to watch round bases

He’s got 3 home runs this postseason and continues to make me look like an idiot for thinking Curtis Granderson should’ve gotten the roster spot over him. For as much shit as I have given Dave Roberts in these blogs, he has shown time and again that he knows more about baseball than me.

-Justin Verlander just couldn’t catch a break this series. In Game 2, he pitched 4.2 no-hit innings before serving up a home run to Pederson, then a 2-run homer to Seager in the 6th. In this one, he serves up an excuse-me double and a sac fly for the only runs he allowed and he gets hit with the loss. He had allowed only 1 hit through the first 5 innings and that was on a blooper by Yasiel Puig that Springer MIGHT have been able to catch had he dove, though he may have been having second thoughts after what happened in Game 5, the last time he dove (he missed and Bellinger ended up with a triple).

-The home plate umpire was Dan Iassogna tonight. Bill Miller was relegated to right field duties. I’m not sure if Iassogna’s strike zone was good or not, but if I’m not thinking about your calls more than the actual game, that’s a good sign.

Looking Ahead:

The two best words in sports: Game Seven. The pitching matchup is going to be Lance McCullers vs Yu Darvish, a rematch of Game 3. McCullers was seen playing catch after Game 6 was done. Interesting call by him, that might be something worth talking about during his start in Game 7. But he pitched decently last time out in Game 3, better than his stat line might have suggested, while Darvish is coming off a disastrous performance. He’ll get a chance to redeem himself and face Yuli Gurriel for the first time since the little incident with Gurriel making squinty eyes after homering off Darvish. Though based on the way Darvish responded to the incident (about as professionally as humanly possible), I doubt that’s going to be too heavy on his mind. All hands will be on deck for this one because it will be do or die for this winner-take-all Game 7. Both starting pitchers will be pulled at the first sign of trouble and everyone except Hill and Verlander will be available for this game (Hell, Clayton Kershaw tried to convince Roberts to let him go in this game. He was the starting pitcher in Game 5).

Prediction:

Yeah, I’m not going to try and predict how this one’s going to go. The way these two teams have played, anything is possible. This has been an all-timer of a World Series and it’s only fitting that it goes 7 games. But I guess if you really want a prediction, I’ll flip a coin again. Heads Dodgers win first title since 1988, Tails Astros win first title in franchise history. *Flips coin*. Congrats Dodgers.

World Series Game 5 Recap

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The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings. Joe Musgrove was the winning pitcher. Kenley Jansen was saddled with the loss. The Astros take a 3-2 series lead as the series moves to LA for Game 6 with a chance to win the first championship in franchise history. Some takeaways from this game.

-I’m not going to go in as much detail as I wanted to about home plate umpire Bill Miller’s strike zone throughout this game. It was inconsistently huge and while players from both teams were affected, I felt like Dodgers hitters, particularly Yasiel Puig, got the bulk of the bad calls. So instead of going on an epic rant, here is a list of players who were victimized by Bill Miller’s strike zone: Puig, Kike Hernandez (worst strike 3 call I’ve seen in a looooooong time), Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Devenski, Austin Barnes, Alex Bregman. Those are just the players I bothered writing, I’m sure there were others I missed. Miller sucked in this game.

-This was one of the most batshit insane games I’ve ever seen and that’s the second time I’ve said that in this World Series. In a game started by Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw, we got a final score of 13-12 with 7 home runs hit between both teams.

-Kershaw had one really bad inning (4th inning) but otherwise I honestly thought he looked good in his limited outing. But again, that bad inning inflated the Hell out of his numbers and his performance is going to look a LOT worse than it actually was (4.2 innings, 6 runs, 2 of which were inherited runners Kenta Maeda allowed to score).

He had faced the minimum through 3 innings, then the Astros tag him for four runs, starting with a bad call by Bill Miller to walk George Springer (the pitch was definitely a ball, however Miller had called that pitch a strike on Yasiel Puig in the top half of that same inning).

-Keuchel, on the other hand, did not have the good stuff, but AJ Hinch pulled him before he could do too much damage to himself and leave enough gas in the tank to potentially appear in a relief role in a potential Game 7. Surprisingly, Keuchel didn’t get tagged for any home runs in this game.

-Here is the walkoff single from Alex Bregman.

Jansen had gotten the first two outs pretty easily, then he plunked Brian McCann on the wrist (the third fastball that inning that ran up and in like that on a hitter). Then he walked George Springer. That was when Hinch decided to pinch run McCann for Derek Fisher, who was making his first appearance in the World Series. First pitch to Bregman and he drops it into left. With how softly it was hit and the great jump gotten by Fisher, Andre Ethier stood no chance of throwing anybody out at the plate, even with how good the throw he did make actually was.

-Had the Dodgers won this game, I would have gone into a frenzy of love over Austin Barnes’ baserunning in the top of the 9th. After Yasiel Puig’s home run in the top of the 9th made the score 12-11 with 1 out, Barnes came up and hit a line drive into centerfield that got down. Springer didn’t do anything wrong on the play, but Barnes turned on the burners and was able to stretch it into a double, really impressive considering he’d been in a crouch all day behind the plate. Then, on Joc Pederson’s groundout, Barnes read it extremely well off the bat and was able to make it to third even though the ball was hit to the shortstop. Had he not legged out that double, Pederson’s groundout would’ve ended the game right then and there. Then with 2 strikes, Chris Taylor lines a single into centerfield to tie the game at 12. Beautiful baserunning by Barnes extended this game.

-Brandon Morrow had the worst inning I’ve ever seen. I’m going to break it down for you pitch-by-pitch (don’t worry, there were only 6).

Pitch 1: Home Run by George Springer

Pitch 2: Line Drive single by Alex Bregman

Pitch 3: Hanging breaking ball that Jose Altuve laid off of

Pitch 4: Altuve doubles into left-center

Pitch 5: Wild pitch that allows Altuve to get to third

Pitch 6: 2-run Home Run by Carlos Correa.

Dave Roberts did not plan on using Morrow in this game, as he had appeared in every World Series game thus far. However when Kershaw didn’t go as deep into the game as he had hoped, he decided to change his plans. I still don’t get the decision to send in Morrow. Aside from the fact that he had gotten so much use, the Astros definitely know what to expect out of him at this point, having seen him in 5 straight games. No matter how good a pitcher you are, when professional hitters get that familiar with you, you’re not getting anything by them. He was mercifully relieved by Tony Cingrani after that, who retired the side. One has to wonder if Roberts will consider using Morrow in Game 6.

-On Puig’s home run, we have a candidate for dickhead of the year:

Special place in Hell reserved for this guy. I get it, you’re mad your team just served up a home run to Yasiel Puig in the 9th inning. Don’t ruin other people’s experience because of it. Plus, it’s someone you’re going to have to sit next to for the next few innings or so, so that’s the last person you want to piss off.

-Want another reason this baseball game was freaking awesome? Exploding baseballs:

-Speaking of the baseballs, pitchers were complaining about the feel of the baseballs in this World Series and it got people to thinking that perhaps the baseballs are juiced. This wouldn’t be the first time MLB juiced the baseballs, it was very prominent around the 30’s and 40’s. Plus, the way the ball was flying around the yard in this game, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if the baseballs had been a little doctored.

-Cody Bellinger hit this home run:

and hit a triple that knocked in the go-ahead run. I think it’s safe to say he’s worked out the kinks in this Series.

-I feel like whenever Jose Altuve hits a home run, he gets absolutely ALL of it. Just look at the one he hit off Kenta Maeda that tied the game at 7:

Not only was that in the deepest part of the ballpark, but also a part of the park where you need to get some real lift under the ball if you want a home run. Yuli Gurriel hit a double in that part of the stadium in the bottom of the 9th that probably would’ve been a walk-off home run in a normal stadium but he didn’t get under it enough.

-This was the second longest game in World Series history (5 hours 17 minutes). The longest? Game 3 of the 2005 World Series (5 hours 41 minutes). That game also featured the Houston Astros.

-It’s crazy how a team can be up 12-9 in the top of the 9th inning and you can pretty much guarantee that this game is going to the bottom half, but that’s the way things were in this game. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we were getting more baseball even with a 3-run lead because that’s just the way the ball was flying. First Puig did this:

Then Barnes’ baserunning heroics that I mentioned before. The Astros have absolutely nobody they can trust to close out these games.

-We’re only 5 games deep and this Series has already set the World Series record for home runs in the entire Series (22. The previous record was 21 set by the Angels and Giants in 2002). Juiced baseball conspirators have even more ammunition.

Looking Ahead:

Thank God we get a day to recover from this amazing game. I had an exam the morning after but I stayed up for the whole thing and to write this blog, so I’m running on fumes. Game 6 is on Tuesday in LA and will be a Game 2 rematch between Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Justin Verlander of the Astros. I’m sure Dave Roberts will be much more inclined to give Hill a longer leash than Game 2, but Hill has to return the favor by giving Roberts the best innings of his life. This is do or die now for the Dodgers and Roberts has to go to the bullpen at the slightest sign of trouble.

Prediction:

No way this World Series doesn’t go 7 games. Not with what we’ve gotten already. That’s really all the reason I need to go with the Dodgers in Game 6. One thing’s for certain: I will not miss that goddamn train in Houston.

World Series Game 4 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 4. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Ken Giles got the loss. The series is tied 2-2 heading into game 5. Some thoughts:

-Words cannot express how important Alex Wood’s performance was for the Dodgers. The bullpen was depleted and they needed him to go deep in this ballgame. While I wouldn’t call 5.2 innings deep, per se, the quality of those innings cannot be overstated. He was no-hitting this potent Astros lineup for 5.2 innings before serving up a laser home run to George Springer.

But he gave the Dodgers what they needed and while he didn’t get the winning decision, he was arguably the most important Dodger in this game.

-It seemed at first that Cody Bellinger hadn’t learned a thing from the last few games of this World Series, as he continued to look lost against that low curveball running in. But he finally snapped out of it in the 7th inning when Charlie Morton hung him a curveball and he was able to put it in the gap in left center. The FOX mics were able to pick him up saying “it’s a miracle” as he looked to the heavens. He had been 0-13 with 8 strikeouts in the World Series leading up to that at bat. His next time up?

Hopefully for the Dodgers this is what their rookie first baseman needed to break out of that slump.

-One fact about Bellinger’s 9th inning go-ahead double: it was the first time all postseason that the Astros trailed at home, a Major League record (over 70 innings, I don’t have the exact number at the moment).

-Dave Roberts did a lot less managing in this game and trusted the guys he had in there to get the job done and his faith was rewarded with a big victory. I thought he did much better managing his bullpen, as now he’s got plenty of options available tonight for Game 5.

-Something has to be done about Ken Giles. Coming into this appearance he had an ERA over 8 in the postseason and he let up 3 runs in this game without recording an out. This late in the season, I’m not so sure there’s a legitimate solution to his problem other than just sitting him down and bringing in other guys to shut the door, such as Chris Devenski or Will Harris.

-I wrote for Game 2’s blog that I didn’t like Roberts’ decision to put Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Once again, Roberts shows he knows more about baseball than I do.

Pederson has hit 2 clutch home runs this postseason, the first one came in Game 2 to knot it up off of Justin Verlander, this time to give the bullpen some breathing room, which was much needed considering Jansen let up a solo home run to Alex Bregman in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs.

-Speaking of Bregman, don’t run on him.

He did something similar to this in Game 7 of the ALCS, only the play was much tougher in that one than this one. The Dodgers are going to have to rethink their strategy when it comes to runners on third with less than two outs. Maybe freeze on a chopper to third.

-Charlie Morton gave a repeat performance of Game 7 of the ALCS, going 6.1 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 7 K’s. The one run was Bellinger on this Logan Forsythe game-tying single.

It was his reliever Will Harris allowing the inherited runner to score that was the only blip on Morton’s line. He gave a fantastic performance and one has to think we haven’t seen the last of him in this World Series as well as Alex Wood (neither pitcher is scheduled to start the remainder of the Series, we may see both in relief in Games 6 or 7).

-Alex Bregman’s home run has to have Dodger fans worried about Kenley Jansen (my apologies, I can’t find the footage of the blast). Jansen has been getting tagged by Astros hitters all Series and you’ve got to be nervous about his ability to shut the door in a clincher. But Jansen is also the best closer in the NL and I think he finds a way to figure it out. But this is the second time in his career that he’s allowed home runs in back-to-back appearances (he allowed a home run to Marwin Gonzalez in Game 2 that tied the game and sparked the insanity).

-One more note on Bregman. He has hit four home runs this postseason. Two were hit off Chris Sale in the ALDS. One was off Clayton Kershaw in Game 1. The most recent was off Jansen. 3 superstar pitchers couldn’t keep Bregman in the park this postseason. Note to self, if you’re going to pitch to Bregman, send in someone bad.

-Both Astros hits in this game left the yard. The long ball has been king in this series, as 15 home runs have been hit already between the two teams in these 4 games.

-Yuli Gurriel will serve a 5-game suspension in 2018 for his racist gesture at Yu Darvish’s expense in Game 3. Rob Manfred explained that the reasoning behind this was that it would be unfair to his Astros teammates to infringe on their World Series hopes because of the actions of one player. The Astros have stated that the forfeited salary by Gurriel for those 5 games will be donated to charity. I’m not sure how I feel about this suspension. On the one hand, I like that MLB didn’t want to disrupt the competitive balance of this nail biting World Series by suspending a hitter that bats in the middle of the team’s lineup. On the other, it’s unfair of Gurriel to put his team in that situation by making the idiotic gesture and he should pay for what he did. Though I did read an article on Barstool Sports by Jared Carrabis that stated that no matter what, the destruction of Gurriel’s image is punishment enough because now he’s the guy who was racist towards Yu Darvish, one of the nicer guys in the league.

-Joe Buck and John Smoltz also mentioned during the game that AJ Hinch called Dave Roberts to apologize for Gurriel’s actions. It turns out, Roberts’ mother is Japanese. Roberts said he wasn’t surprised that Hinch made that phone call because that’s the type of guy he is.

-It’s also worth noting that Gurriel was a non-factor in this game. He hit into a double play in his first at bat and never seemed to make any good contact all night. I wonder what the media response to the suspension would be if Gurriel had himself a Hell of a game, say 2 home runs, including 1 in a clutch moment. Luckily for Major League Baseball’s PR team, Gurriel’s bat was nowhere to be found in this game.

-We may need to keep an eye on Justin Turner. There was a ball that skipped on him and hit him in the knee and it was clearly bothering him. He had to get pinch run for in the 9th inning, which oddly enough was the only substitution Roberts made to his lineup all game.

Looking Ahead:

Game 5 is a rematch of Game 1. The Dodgers will send Clayton Kershaw to the mound to face Dallas Keuchel of the Astros. Both guys were excellent in Game 1, Kershaw going 7 strong innings allowing 1 run (Bregman homer) and striking out 11. Keuchel let up 3 runs in his 6.1 innings of work, all on home runs to Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. Kershaw has a career ERA of 3.19 at Minute Maid Park in 5 career starts and will pitch with an even series, much like he did in Game 1. Keuchel had an ERA of 2.26 in 11 home starts this season with 6 wins so I expect a low-scoring affair.

Prediction:

It’s going to be tightly contested, but I think the Dodgers ride the momentum from their 5-run 9th inning and take Game 5 from the Astros to go back to LA up 3 games to 2. I think Kershaw is going to give the Dodgers another stellar performance and I think he will give the bullpen a well-deserved rest (except for maybe Jansen and Brandon Morrow, the latter of which has appeared in every game this World Series). I also think Keuchel will be really good in opposition of Kershaw, but I think a timely home run will be the difference. I’m going to predict a 3-2 Dodger victory.

World Series Game 3 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 to take Game 3 of the World Series and have a 2-1 series lead. Lance McCullers was the winning pitcher, Yu Darvish got the loss, and Brad Peacock earned the save. Some takeaways:

-Yu Darvish did not have the good stuff at all. He looked solid in the first inning but in the second all movement on his breaking pitches just vanished. The pitch he served up the homerun to Yuli Gurriel on was about as flat a pitch can be.

He was yanked after 1.2 innings of work, allowing 4 runs. I wrote in the Game 2 blog that Darvish needed to go deep in this game to help Dave Roberts and the bullpen. He did no such thing, of course.

-Dave Roberts still used a ton of relievers in this game, but to significantly more success than in Game 2. They didn’t allow a single earned run (1 unearned run was charged to Tony Watson on an error he himself committed) in their 6.1 innings of work. The Astros were constantly getting on and threatening to do damage but they couldn’t push the runner home after that 4-run second inning.

-Kenta Maeda was a godsend for Roberts. After using every single reliever in Game 2, Roberts had to be sweating bullets when he had to pull Darvish in the second inning. But Maeda was able to go 2.2 strong innings, only letting up 1 hit and striking out 2, throwing fewer pitches than Darvish while pitching one more total inning.

-This game really wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. The Dodgers couldn’t get anything going offensively all night. Their first run was scored on a double play after Lance McCullers walked the bases loaded with nobody out in the third. That was their only run until the 6th when they got runners on second and third with nobody out. Cody Bellinger then struck out, Yasiel Puig got an RBI groundout, then Justin Turner scored from third on a ball that skipped through Brian McCann’s legs. So the Dodgers score 3 runs but only 1 RBI on 4 hits.

-Corey Seager’s aggressiveness at the plate came back to bite him in this game. I’m talking in particular about his at bat in the third inning after McCullers had walked three straight hitters to load the bases after waiting 30 minutes between pitches because of the Astros’ offensive outburst. In that situation, if a guy isn’t throwing strikes, don’t swing unless he can prove he can get it in there, ESPECIALLY, if he just walked the bases loaded with nobody out. But instead, Seager went up there hacking on a couple of pitches that were definitely out of the zone. The first one he fouled off, the second he bounced into a very aesthetically pleasing 3-6-1 double play. I know he’s only 23, but he’s smarter than that.

-Brad Peacock has to be your player of the game. Lance McCullers was really shaky and was lucky to come out of this game with a decent line (5.1 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 3 K’s) and Peacock got off to a shaky start, as he let Puig hit the RBI groundout and threw the wild pitch that allowed Turner to score. But after that the Dodgers couldn’t touch him. Peacock went 3.2 innings, didn’t allow a single hit, walked one batter and struck out 4. He was in such a groove that manager AJ Hinch left him in there in the 9th inning with a 2-run lead despite having Ken Giles in the bullpen. In fact, he didn’t have anybody warming up in the bullpen in the 9th. Chris Devenski did warm up in the 8th, but that’s about it. The fact that Hinch only had to use one reliever sets the Astros up nicely for the remainder of the series. If it were Roberts in this situation, he would’ve sent out Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, and Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn to get the final six outs.

-Another note about Peacock’s performance. Basically the same formula that won Game 7 of the ALCS for the Astros against the Yankees worked here in Game 3 of the World Series: let your starter go just enough innings, then have another guy who started games this year finish the last few innings. I also bitched about Peacock in Game 1 and how he kept going to the same pitch in the same spot and wasn’t fooling a single Dodgers hitter. He did the exact opposite in Game 3. He was mixing his spots really well and I don’t know if I really saw any Dodger get a good piece on any of Peacock’s pitches

-Are Cody Bellinger and hitting coach Turner Wade having some sort of feud or something where they refuse to talk to each other? Because Astros pitchers keep throwing Bellinger the same pitch, curveball low and inside, and he keeps whiffing at them. It came to a head in Game 3 as he struck out 4 times in 4 at bats, the second youngest player to do that in World Series history (youngest was Mickey Mantle, so Bellinger has that going for him). But I can’t believe Wade hasn’t had some sort of conversation with Bellinger saying “hey, they’re probably going to throw you a curveball low and in. Don’t swing at it.” Or at least something along those lines because it’s getting really frustrating to watch a young hitter with as much talent as Bellinger make the same mistake over and over and over and over and over again. It wasn’t just this game, either, he’s been doing this all series. Normally, when a guy is slumping like this (Bellinger is 0-11 in the World Series), you sit him down and let him reset and work on things. But you can’t do that now in the World Series with one of your most potent hitters. Wade and Bellinger NEED to come up with something right now if the Dodgers want to even things up in Game 4 because whatever they’re doing isn’t working.

-This could get problematic for Gurriel:

I’m not just talking about his hair either, which looks like a cross between Pidgeot and Yu-Gi-Oh. It was a very brief shot where Gurriel seems to grab his eyes in a squinting motion, seemingly making fun of the fact that Yu Darvish is Japanese after Gurriel hit a bomb off the Dodgers pitcher. It was done so quickly that I’m not so sure if that was intentional or if he was just grabbing his face for some reason, but nonetheless there will be questions for the Astros first baseman and possibly a punishment on the way

-Should Gurriel get suspended for this gesture, there is a relatively easy fix despite Gurriel being the only player listed as a first baseman on the roster. Marwin Gonzalez, who has been the left fielder for most of the season, has a lot of experience at first base and the Astros can slide in Cameron Maybin into left field in his stead. I don’t think a suspension will come of this unless Major League Baseball can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gurriel’s gesture was racially charged.

-When Alex Wood makes the start for the Dodgers tomorrow, every single Dodger on the World Series roster will have appeared in the World Series, which is pretty crazy, but that’s what happens when your manager makes every move imaginable. If all goes well for the Dodgers, Roberts will only have to use Josh Fields, Brandon McCarthy, and Jansen in Game 4 because those were the only guys he didn’t go to in Game 3. Unfortunately for him, the fact that it’s Wood on the mound doesn’t bode too well for that outcome. He averages fewer than 6 innings per start this season and the way the Astros have been hitting of late, we may get more of the same.

Looking Ahead:

Game 4 pits Alex Wood of the Dodgers against Charlie Morton of the Astros. The Dodgers will have a very tired bullpen while the Astros have everyone except Peacock at their disposal. It’s going to be up to the Dodgers offense to wake up and get some runs on the board because they haven’t been able to consistently manufacture runs (8 of their 12 runs this series have come via the home run). We don’t know what we’re going to get with Morton in this game. He was absolutely terrific against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, but prior to that he had been a punching bag for opposing offenses. If the Dodgers are going to pounce on a guy and try to regain some momentum, this would be the guy because after him it’s Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 and Justin Verlander in Game 6 if they even get that far.

Prediction:

The coin toss called it right last time out and right now I’m not super confident in the Dodgers so I think I’m going to stick with the Astros in Game 4. They’re riding a huge wave of momentum right now and they have the city of Houston rallying behind them after they were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I’m going to predict Astros win 6-3.

World Series Game 2 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

Before I get into this game, I have to mention Vin Scully’s ceremonial first pitch. That was probably the best ceremonial first pitch I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Mark Wahlberg airmail one to the backstop in person. Scully’s still got the flair for showmanship, too. Any more words just wouldn’t do it justice, so here it is below.

Now that that’s gotten its due:

-The Astros won their first World Series game in franchise history 7-6 in 11 innings, Chris Devenski got the win and Brandon McCarthy was saddled with the loss. Devenski technically also recorded the save but baseball doesn’t award saves to the winning pitcher for some reason.

-I don’t even know where to begin with this game. I really can’t. It should’ve been over on at least four different occasions. Here are a couple of facts surrounding what happened:

-8 home runs were hit by 8 different players (a World Series record), 6 of which occurred in the 9th inning or later

-5 extra innings home runs were hit, which is a record for an entire SERIES, let alone one World Series game

-The Dodgers used every single member of their bullpen

-The Dodgers bullpen had a postseason ERA of 0.83 entering this game. They allowed 6 runs in their 7 innings of work in Game 2, all of which came in their final 4

-Before I go much further, I have to get something off my chest. Big rant coming: Dave Roberts completely overmanaged this game. I’ve been singing his praises all year, rightfully so, but a large part of the way this game ended was on him. The first mistake was pulling Rich Hill after only 4 innings and 60 pitches. I get that you want to use your all-world bullpen. But Hill was looking pretty sharp in his 4 innings of work. Yeah he allowed a run on this play right here:

But otherwise he had been really sharp. In his 4 innings, he only gave up 3 hits with 3 walks (1 was intentional) and 7 strikeouts. The fact that he only had 60 pitches after 2 real walks and 7 strikeouts means that the Astros hitters were aggressive with him and weren’t having a ton of success, which was true. Hill was visibly pissed, and rightfully so, slamming his glove on the bench after he was told his night was done. Then came his usage of Tony Watson in the sixth inning. In the sixth, Kenta Maeda allowed a hit to Carlos Correa, then retired Yuli Gurriel. Roberts brings in the left-handed Watson to face the left-handed Brian McCann. Now for one, McCann hadn’t been swinging the bat really well all postseason, regardless of what handedness the pitcher was. You totally could’ve left in Maeda against McCann and probably gotten a similar result to what Watson got. That’s one beef I’ve had with managers is that they tend to play the lefty/righty matchups a little too fiercely, especially when it probably wouldn’t matter given the way a certain hitter has been hitting. But Roberts brings in Watson to face McCann and Watson gets a one-pitch double play. Awesome, Watson will be totally rested for the 7th inning. But instead, out trotting from the bullpen for the top of the 7th is Ross Stripling, who surrenders a four-pitch walk to Marwin Gonzalez and then HE gets pulled. That’s already four relievers that Roberts has gone through and you haven’t even gotten an out in the 7th inning yet. You’d think the Astros had put up 10 runs by that point, but they only had the 1 on the board. Morrow dominated the 7th inning, then let up a double to Alex Bregman that was nearly caught on what would have been an amazing play by Yasiel Puig. Roberts then baffles me by bringing in Kenley Jansen for a six-out save in a 2-run game. Look, Dave, I get it, Jansen is the best closer in the game. But he didn’t look that great in Game 1 the night prior and now you want him to get six outs with an inherited runner? The run does score and makes the game 3-2 but Jansen is able to get out of the 8th inning with the lead intact. Heading to the ninth and this happens:

And there goes Jansen’s record streak of consecutive converted saves to begin a postseason career (12). Jansen was able to recover and got the next three outs. But then the 10th inning happened. No issues here with Roberts’ decision to go with Fields, it’s not his fault that Fields decided to hang a couple of pitches to the Astros’ two best hitters:

Gurriel then hit a double to follow up the back-to-back home runs and Roberts had seen enough and pulled Fields for Tony Cingrani. Right call. Cingrani got the next three outs. It’s now the bottom of the 10th and the Astros hold a 5-3 lead. Closer Ken Giles, who had come in the 9th and sent the game into the 10th, was back out there to face Yasiel Puig. Puig proceeds to do this:

Love how Puig gently placed his bat on the ground after that. Giles gets the next two outs, then walks Logan Forsythe. He bounces a pitch and Forsythe takes second base with Kike Hernandez at the dish. Then Hernandez gets the first Dodgers hit that didn’t leave the yard.

Puig’s reaction was pretty great too.

That sent the game to the top of the 11th. Roberts brings in Brandon McCarthy to replace Tony Cingrani. I understand Roberts’ thinking here, McCarthy is normally a starter and you may need him to eat up innings. But McCarthy is your last remaining reliever! Cingrani only threw 5 pitches and has starter experience! McCarthy promptly gives up a single to Cameron Maybin, Maybin steals second to earn everyone a free Taco, then George Springer came up:

7-5 Astros. McCarthy gets the next 3 batters. Astros leave in Chris Devenski, who finished off the bottom of the 10th. He gets the first two batters, then Charlie Culberson gets in on the fun.

Based on the way Culberson was rounding the bases, it’s possible that he thought he had tied the game. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was trying to hype up his team similar to the way Joc Pederson rounded the bases on his home run way back in the 5th.

Devenski responded by striking out Yasiel Puig on a long and suspenseful at bat to finally end this instant classic. I have to say, Dave Roberts needs to do better with managing his bullpen if the Dodgers are to advance. Or perhaps he handled it as well as anybody and he just had the worst luck. That’s equally likely. But a lot of the blame has to fall on his shoulders. Rant over.

Some other notes from this game.

-Some de ja vu in Game 2. Game 1 saw Keuchel serve up a 2-run homer to the number 2 hitter in the order after a 2-out walk from Chris Taylor to make the score 3-1 Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. The exact same thing happened in Game 2 to Justin Verlander.

Baseball is weird.

-Verlander had been no-hitting the Dodgers up until Pederson’s home run that narrowly missed Josh Reddick’s glove. He was really good all night, going 6 innings allowing only 2 hits and striking out 5. Unfortunately for him, both hits he let up left the yard.

-I didn’t like the move to have Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Granderson’s experience and Pederson’s reckless swing made Grandy the obvious choice in my brain, but it worked in Roberts’ favor in Game 2, as Pederson’s home run gave the Dodgers the spark they needed against Verlander.

-What would’ve happened had Yasiel Puig been able to make that diving catch to rob Alex Bregman of a double, which started the scoring for the Astros? We can only wonder. Can’t blame Puig for not catching it, though. It was amazing he even had a chance to make a play at it.

Looking Ahead:

We have a full day off to digest this game before Game 3 on Friday in Houston. The Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the hill to face Lance McCullers. The Dodgers will need to rethink their strategy, as Houston has yet to lose a game at home this postseason (which had been the case for LA prior to this game). Lucky for them, they have a full day off to rest their bullpen, but Darvish NEEDS to go deep into this game to preserve the ‘pen.

Prediction for Game 3:

After what we just witnessed, I haven’t the slightest idea as to what’s going to happen in Game 3. Literally anything could happen. I’m just going to toss a coin. Heads the Dodgers bounce back, Tails the Astros keep up momentum. *Flips coin* It’s Tails.

 

World Series Game 1 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series game in 29 years by a score of 3-1 over the Houston Astros. Clayton Kershaw was the winning pitcher, Dallas Keuchel was saddled with the loss, and Kenley Jansen converted the save, the 12th straight save to start a postseason career, longest streak in MLB history. Some takeaways from the game:

-This game only took 2 hours and 28 minutes. As Joe Buck pointed out, it was the shortest World Series game since Game 4 of the 1992 World Series. Somewhere, Rob Manfred is trying to blame all the “ectoplasm” on a “spooky ghost.”

-Only 3 players on either World Series roster combined had ever played in a World Series prior to Tuesday night (Justin Verlander and Carlos Beltran for the Astros, Chase Utley for the Dodgers) and none of them started in this game (Beltran had a pinch hitting appearance in the 8th). Only Utley has a World Series ring.

-Can’t start much better than the Dodgers did. First pitch thrown by Keuchel to Chris Taylor nearly left Dodger Stadium.

Taylor is only 6’1 195 pounds, he should not be hitting a baseball that freaking far. That’s Stanton territory. Granted, the fact that it was 103 degrees probably helped (hottest World Series game ever).

-Can’t say enough about Clayton Kershaw. He was a machine all night. Not only did he strike out 11 batters, but he was also able to do it with minimal energy spent. He only threw 83 pitches over 7 innings of work. He easily could have gone all 9 had Dave Roberts not decided to play it safe and use his all-world bullpen. He’d had his struggles in the postseason in past years but they were non-existent tonight. The Astros, particularly George Springer, had no answer for him.

-Except maybe Alex Bregman.

This was the one mistake Kershaw made all night. A 1-1 93 mph fastball right down the middle isn’t going to miss too many bats, no matter how good you are and Bregman was able to tie the game up in the fourth. Bregman was the only hitter all night who seemed to have any semblance of success against Dodgers pitchers, as he also had a long at bat against Kenley Jansen before hitting a line drive to center that stayed in the air just a little too long. Also one thing to note about this home run. After it was hit, Kershaw had to face the heart of the Astros order in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel. He struck them all out. The great ones respond when adversity strikes.

-The Dodgers got a lot of contributions out of the leadoff spot. Taylor was hitting the ball hard all night, even on his outs, and he drew a 2-out walk to set up this Justin Turner go-ahead home run in the sixth.

-The Astros did not have the same luck. George Springer was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts in his World Series debut. 3 of which were against Kershaw.

-Kershaw’s final line was 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts. As I said before, he totally could have gone the complete game, but you can’t really fault Roberts for playing it safe.

-The Dodgers relievers were almost as impressive. Brandon Morrow was untouchable in the 8th inning, consistently hitting 98-100 mph on his fastball. Kenley Jansen looked a little wild at times in the 9th, but he didn’t allow any baserunners so you can’t really complain if you’re a Dodgers fan.

-You can complain if you’re an Astros fan, though. Brad Peacock had to have been frustrating you, as he kept trying the same pitch over and over and over and over again (slider low and away). Dodgers hitters never swung at it once yet he still kept going to it. He only faced two hitters, walking Logan Forsythe and getting Austin Barnes to fly out, but his pitch locations left a lot to be desired.

-Chris Devenski, on the other hand, was dynamite. He pretty handily struck out pinch hitter Charlie Culberson and Justin Turner. It took a nice running catch by Springer to retire Taylor, but otherwise Devenski’s performance had to be encouraging for AJ Hinch

-Lost in all this was the performance of Dallas Keuchel. A lot of guys making their World Series debut would cave when they serve up a home run on the very first pitch. But Keuchel kept his cool. After that home run, the Dodgers couldn’t seem to get a good swing off the Astros ace. He only finished with 3 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work, but from Justin Turner’s at bat in the first inning until his home run in the 6th, Keuchel was forcing weak contact and ground balls left and right. In fact, the Astros turned 3 double plays in the first 6 innings. But that won’t be remembered because of the two home runs, which didn’t even come on bad pitches, they were just better swings by the hitters.

-Corey Seager looked like it hurt him more emotionally to not play in the NLCS than the physical pain he felt in his back because he was swinging early and often, and it seemed to work for him. He went 2-3 with 2 hard-hit singles. I was a little surprised to see him in the starting lineup given the injury, but there he was batting 6th. I wonder if this performance has Roberts considering moving him up in the lineup for Game 2 against Justin Verlander.

-Home Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was consistently giving the low strike all night, even if it was a little bit too low, such as on Altuve’s strikeout or on one call against Cody Bellinger. That plays into both pitchers’ strengths, which John Smoltz pointed out several times throughout the broadcast. Cuzzi’s zone might have been a little low, but he was consistent with it and called it fairly both ways. If an umpire is going to have a strikezone that’s too big or too small, I want him to be consistent with it so I know what to expect. Cuzzi did just that, so I don’t mind the calls. I thought the umpiring crew had a solid game, though there weren’t really any hard calls to make.

Looking Ahead:

-Dont expect the Astros offense to get shut down in Game 2 like they did in Game 1. Dodgers Game 2 starter Rich Hill is a good pitcher, but he isn’t Kershaw. He throws a LOT of curveballs so the Astros will have to be a lot more patient with Hill than they were with Kershaw. The Astros were the number 1 offense in baseball in both runs scored and batting average this season so I don’t expect they’ll be down for too long.

-Don’t sleep on Hill, either. He went 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season and has an ERA of 3.00 in the playoffs this year. He’s got one of the best curveballs in the Majors and he uses it a lot.

-Astros will send out Justin Verlander, who is coming off an absolutely dominant ALCS, where he went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. This will be his third Fall Classic, so I don’t think he will have the jitters that some of these other guys will. I expect him to continue his postseason dominance.

Game 2 Prediction:

I think we’re going to get another low-scoring affair with a fast pace. However I think this time it will go in the Astros’ favor. Sure both teams are unbeaten at home this season, but the World Series is a whole different kind of animal and nobody will be more ready for this than Justin Verlander. There wasn’t a whole lot of action on the bases in Game 1 (not counting the three home runs hit between the two teams, I don’t think either team ever once had a runner standing on third base) as all scoring was done via the long ball. We may see that again in Game 2. I’m going to pick the Astros to knot up the series with a final score of, oh I don’t know…..2-1.