A Wild Day in Baseball

Normally I would call this segment “General Sports” but it’s all baseball today so I felt the title change was appropriate. Plus it was an absolute DOOZY of a day for baseball so I felt it was justified. Let’s get to it.

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-Mariners ace (yes, I’m calling him their “ace” now) James Paxton threw the third no hitter in baseball this season and second in the last 4 days. On the day, he of course gave up no hits, no runs, struck out 7, and walked 3 and was still hitting 100 mph on his pitches with one out left to go in the no-no. He did it against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, becoming the first ever Canadian-born pitcher to actually throw a no hitter in Canada. Though he did get some help.

Every time there’s a no hitter thrown, there always seems to be an unbelievable play to save it at some point in the game. But this type of dominance isn’t something new, Paxton has been doing this all season. In fact, I watched his performance against Oakland last week and he went 7 innings, gave up no runs, and struck out 16 batters. However the Mariners’ bullpen blew it and he ended up with the no decision and the Mariners ended up losing the game 3-2. He became what I think is the third pitcher in the modern era to strike out 16 batters in 7 or fewer innings while giving up no runs in a game his team lost. I’ll have to double check on the specifics of that because I can’t seem to find the tweet I read that on. But whatever, James Paxton is really freaking good and I think this is the perfect time for uninformed baseball fans to realize this.

-I wrote a little while ago about Matt Harvey getting DFA’d by the Mets. Well, they finally reached a conclusion to this saga, as they traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco is a former All Star but has struggled with injuries these last couple years. He’s a talented catcher and seems like a solid return for a guy the Mets were desperate to get rid of. As for the Reds, they get a pitcher they sorely needed as well as dumping some of Mesoraco’s salary (about $13M as opposed to Harvey’s $5.6, though they will send the Mets some cash to offset this somewhat). He’ll probably slot into the rotation as even with his recent run of poor play he’s probably better than half the guys on the Reds’ staff. Harvey and Mesoraco won’t have to travel very far, though, as the Mets are currently playing in Cincinnati at the moment. Hell, Mesoraco appeared in a game for the Mets literally hours after the deal was struck. Hopefully a fresh start in a much smaller market is just what Harvey needs to revive his career.

-Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna has been placed on Administrative Leave after being charged with domestic assault of his girlfriend. Basically “Administrative Leave” is a 7-day suspension with pay while the league investigates the matter, though Osuna can appeal this if he so chooses. As of right now we have very little in terms of details on the situation so it’s unknown what transpired. But if the 23 year-old is found guilty, this could be disastrous for a Blue Jays team that is playing above their talent level at the moment. Osuna has been very good in the closer’s role this season, carrying a 2.93 ERA (2.06 FIP) with a minuscule 0.59 walks per 9 rate and he has yet to give up a home run this season. Typically the punishment for domestic assault in MLB is about half the season, which would be a crushing blow for the Jays. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

-Major League Baseball officially announced that the Red Sox and Yankees would play a 2-game series in London on June 29-30 in an effort for global expansion. The press conference happened a little over a week after the news broke and I’ve got to say, despite the fact that one of my teams is playing this game, I don’t know if I could care any less about having games in London. Now yes, this is definitely better than what the NFL is doing, which is putting a couple mediocre teams out there a few times a year (the Red Sox and Yankees currently have the best record in baseball and a suddenly reinvigorated rivalry). But I don’t see any expansion happening anytime soon. I’d much sooner see a team in Mexico than in London. Hell, we have far more Mexican-born players in the Major Leagues and it’s right south of the border in a similar situation to Toronto. Now granted, there may be some issues, as Mexico typically has a higher altitude than most of the United States (putting a team in Monterrey would give that team the second-highest altitude in the Majors behind Colorado) so pitching would likely suffer there. But it wouldn’t be a whole lot different than having a team in Toronto. Plus, putting a team in London would be disastrous for travel, as you would have to give teams a few off days in between traveling to London to account for the time zone changes (not to mention how much mileage the London-based team would accumulate). Chill with the London stuff guys, get teams in our neighboring countries first.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, David Price has been scratched from his next start after feeling numbness in his finger tips again. Since this issue first rose a month ago, Price has gone from dominant to poor for this Red Sox rotation. He looked awesome in his first two starts, as he didn’t surrender a single run in either outing. However the numbness started happening and he’s been getting shelled and his ERA has ballooned to 5.11. Quite frankly, I would just put him on the DL if I were the Red Sox brass. This doesn’t sound like something to mess around with, plus Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez have shown that they’re more than capable of putting in quality spot start duties which should tide things over nicely while the Sox let Price recover. I know there’s this concern over the fact that you’ve got so much money invested in him and it’s another DL stint for him, but if a guy’s injured, he’s injured. You can’t keep sending him out there and setting him up for failure and potentially damaging him beyond repair. It’s not worth it.

-So the Orioles currently have the worst record in baseball and then they faced the Kansas City Royals. The Royals dropped a freaking 10 spot in the top of the FIRST INNING, hitting 4 home runs off Dylan Bundy before Bundy could record an out, the first time that’s happened in the modern era. He ended up allowing 7 runs to score and it was the nail in the coffin for Baltimore as they got trounced by Kansas City, who ended up with a 15-7 victory while also collecting 20 hits. And it’s not like the Royals are some juggernaut, either. They entered the game with an 11-23 record and were scoring the 4th fewest runs in the Majors entering that game. Though, to the O’s’ credit, they didn’t completely lie down after that first inning shelling. They did manage to score 7 runs (6 of them after the 7th inning) and collect 14 hits. But the Manny Machado trade speculation is going to be running absolutely RAMPANT after this game.

That’s going to do it for this baseball update. Let me know what you thought of everything in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: April 6

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-My worst fears have been realized: Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is out for the season. He underwent knee surgery to fix a problem that had been nagging him all year and caused him to sporadically miss time throughout the season. This was something I’ve been worried about since Irving initially started missing time a few months ago. Now the Celtics’ top 2 offseason additions, Irving and Gordon Hayward, are out for the season. I was pretty distraught but a buddy of mine did alleviate my concerns by pointing out to me that this may suck for the 2017-18 Celtics but it’s great for the 2018-19 team. Think about it. The youngsters get a chance to show off their stuff in a more prominent role while Irving and Hayward rest up and get healthy for next season. They probably weren’t ready to unseat the Cavs or defeat the upstart Raptors without Hayward or with a limited Irving, so giving the young guys like Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown the reigns for the rest of the year will be a good way to advance their careers.

-The Patriots signed wide receiver Jordan Matthews to a 1 year deal, the financials of which are currently unknown. This is a great move. It’s low risk, high reward. Matthews is a wicked talented wideout who has struggled with injuries and drops in his young career. He looked on the brink of a breakout after his second season with the Eagles in 2015 but then the drops started catching up to him and he was dealt to the Bills prior to the 2017 season. Fully healthy, he could have a real impact as a bigger receiver that the Patriots have lacked since Randy Moss.

-Other free agency signings, Marquette King signed with the Broncos after being cut by the Raiders because new head coach Jon Gruden didn’t like his personality (which is that he has a personality. Punters don’t usually have that). He chose division rival Denver for “revenge.” I don’t know exactly how much revenge a punter can exact, but King is a fun punter to watch so I’ll be curious to see how he does with the favorable conditions that Denver poses to kickers and punters. Kony Ealy also signed with the Cowboys to help shore up their pass rush a little bit. He doesn’t solve their problem of a guy opposite Demarcus Lawrence, but he’s a solid rotational option who can provide some value. Just watch Super Bowl L where he came out of nowhere to record 3 sacks, force a fumble, and intercept Peyton Manning.

-The Red Sox stole one from the Rays in their home opener, much like the Rays stole one from the Red Sox in the season opener. David Price was dominant for 7 innings once again, allowing no runs and striking out 5. This his second straight start going 7 innings and allowing no runs to start the season. He hasn’t been dominating but he’s been doing what he needs to win, which is get outs. The concern is the bullpen, as Carson Smith let up a 2-run homer to Matt Duffy in the top of the 8th to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. The bats had also been silenced all game, which has been an issue as aside from Xander Bogaerts, nobody has really been hitting all that consistently. However they seemed to emerge in the bottom of the 9th as they scored 2 runs to tie it up and won in the bottom of the 12th when Hanley Ramirez hit one to the warning track with the bases loaded. The Red Sox starting pitching has been ridiculous to start the season but the bats have been underwhelming. They’re going to need to make some changes because the kind of success the rotation is having right now isn’t sustainable for 162 games and the bats will need to come through more consistently. However, as it is, the Red Sox have won 6 in a row and are sitting at 6-1 with the best record in the American League.

-If James Paxton weren’t Canadian, I’d have to agree with PFT’s sentiment here.

The Eagle got loose and decided to chill on Paxton’s shoulder for a little bit as he was warming up. He did have a pretty strong outing, going 5+ allowing just 2 runs (both came on a 2-run homer by Miguel Sano in the top of the 6th) and struck out 7. It wasn’t enough for the Mariners to beat the Twins, but maybe an eagle landing on Paxton’s shoulder propelled him to the strong outing. You never know with sabermetrics.

That’s really all I got for today, kind of a slow news day in the sports world. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: The Seattle Mariners

The biggest news I have to report right now is Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence due to medical reasons. The immediate takes are that LeBron has some thing to do with this, however I’m going to genuinely believe Lue really does have a medical condition he needs to deal with at this point. We don’t need to deal with another Gary Kubiak situation where he suffers a mini stroke on the sideline so it’s better that he rest up. But add this on to the soap opera that is any team that Lebron is on. So with that, let’s get into the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Seattle Mariners.

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2017 Results:

Record: 78-84, 23 games behind Houston Astros, 7 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: CF Dee Gordon, 1B Ryon Healy, RF Ichiro Suzuki, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Mike Morin, UTIL Andrew Romine

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Jarrod Dyson, 3B Danny Valencia, RP Shae Simmons, RP Ernesto Frieri, SP Yovani Gallardo, SP Drew Smyly, RP Evan Marshall, C Carlos Ruiz, 2B Gordon Beckham

Best Offensive Player: 2B Robinson Cano

Best Pitcher: James Paxton

Depth Chart:

C-Mike Zunino, Mike Majarma

1B-Dan Vogelbach, Ryon Healy

2B-Robinson Cano

3B-Kyle Seager, Andrew Romine

SS-Jean Segura, Taylor Motter

LF-Ben Gamel, Ichiro Suzuki

CF-Dee Gordon

RF-Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz (DH), Guillermo Heredia

SP-James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Marco Gonzales

Bullpen-Edwin Diaz (CP), Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent, David Phelps, Mark Rzepczyinski, Dan Altavilla, James Pazos, Mike Morin

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Scott Servais (3rd season with Mariners)

Hitting Coach-Edgar Martinez

Pitching Coach-Mel Stottlemyre

1st Base Coach-Chris Prieto

3rd Base Coach-Scott Brosius

Bench Coach-Manny Acta

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The Mariners always seem to be on the brink of being really good but never quite reach those heights. I couldn’t tell you why that is, perhaps the 2001 team that won 116 games then got bounced in the ALCS cursed them, considering they haven’t made the postseason since that season. But this year I feel that they have the chance to be really good provided they can stay relatively healthy (no team can ever stay perfectly healthy). Here’s a look out how I’m projecting them to line up in 2018.

1. Dee Gordon-CF

2. Jean Segura-SS

3. Robinson Cano-2B

4. Nelson Cruz-DH

5. Kyle Seager-3B

6. Mitch Haniger-RF

7. Ben Gamel-LF

8. Mike Zunino-C

9. Dan Vogelbach/Ryon Healy-1B

That’s a strong lineup right there, especially the top half. Dee Gordon is arguably the fastest player in baseball and he’ll be moving from his usual second base to the outfield. I’m not sure how well that’s going to work out, considering he’s been a middle infielder his whole career, but from the small sample size I’ve seen he looks decent. Robinson Cano continues to make me look dumb for suggesting to a baseball panel that included ESPN’s Buster Olney, some Red Sox scouts, and Brewers reliever Oliver Drake that Cano’s tenure in Seattle would be a disaster. For context, my high school hosts a Hot Stove forum every year where noted alumni such as Olney and Drake come to talk baseball. I attended all four years I was at the school and after Cano signed his huge deal with the Mariners, I asked them if they thought that the signing would have a similar effect on Cano that it had on Adrian Beltre several years prior, where a great player’s career was nearly crushed by the Safeco Field confines. They felt that he would be fine, though a power decline could be in order since he’d be leaving Yankee Stadium, whose dimensions are “a joke,” as one scout put it. Last season Cano hit .280 with 23 home runs and 97 RBI and was All Star Game MVP after hitting a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 10th inning to win the game for the AL. The switch to Safeco seems to not be affecting Cano the way I expected. Surrounding Cano in that lineup is Nelson Cruz and Corey’s Brother, Kyle Seager. Cruz continues to mash, as he hit .288 last season with 39 home runs and 119 RBI. Seager had a down year in terms of average, as he only hit .249, however he did hit 27 home runs and drove in 88 RBI while playing a decent third base and being worth 3.5 WAR. But the big breakout hitter for the Mariners was catcher Mike Zunino last season. Zunino was a former top 5 pick in the MLB Draft who was absolutely abysmal as a hitter to start his career, as he consistently struggled to get over the Mendoza Line. He was always a quality defender, but his bat was holding him back. That changed last season, as he hit .251 with 25 home runs and 64 RBI while being the second most valuable hitter on the team after Cruz with a 3.6 WAR. If Zunino can continue that trajectory, the Mariners will have an absolutely DEADLY lineup.

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Pitching is kind of weird for the Mariners right now. For so long, Felix Hernandez was the be-all-end-all for that staff, however he’s been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now. Battling injuries in 2017, Hernandez went just 6-5 in 16 starts with a 4.36 ERA and let up 1.77 HR/9. In fact, since finishing as runner-up for AL Cy Young in 2014 with a 2.14 ERA, his ERA has gone up in every season. It’s hard to believe he’s only 31 years old because it feels like he’s been in the Majors forever (he debuted as a 20 year-old) and now it appears that he’s in the twilight of his career. Luckily for the Mariners, though, King Felix’s decline isn’t a sign of doomsday for the rotation. James Paxton appears ready to take over the mantle as team ace, as he had a very strong 2017 (when healthy). In 24 starts, Paxton went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings while keeping a microscopic HR/9 rate of 0.60, which would’ve been the best number in baseball had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Hernandez’s streak of 9 straight Opening Day starts could be in danger with the rise of Paxton. After those two guys, Mike Leake is an accomplished sinkerballer who had a decent 2017 between the Cardinals and Mariners, posting a 3.92 ERA overall but a 2.53 ERA in 5 starts with the Mariners. Safeco Field plays well to his strengths so I wonder if the 30 year-old could be in for a big season.

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The Mariners bullpen features one of the most electrifying relievers in the game in Edwin Diaz. Diaz’s fastball can touch 98 MPH and his breaking ball practically falls off the table. I think he’s the most talented reliever I’ve seen since Carlos Marmol (who I believe is the most talented pitcher of this past generation). However, like Marmol, Diaz has had control issues. Marmol threw gas with the Cubs and had a wicked breaking ball that was pretty much impossible to hit. As a result, he got a ton of strikeouts but also walked a ton of batters because it appeared he had no idea where any of his pitches were headed. Diaz is kind of in the same boat. He had a 3.27 ERA last season and struck out over 12 batters per 9 but also walked over 4 per 9. If he can somehow find a way to master his pitches, we could be looking at another Craig Kimbrel rather than Carlos Marmol, who flamed out with the Cubs. After Diaz, there really isn’t much of note in the Mariners’ ‘pen. Nick Vincent has a nice slider while Juan Nicasio was pretty reliable for the Pirates for a while. The success of this ‘pen is going to come down to Diaz, though. If he can realize his potential, the 9th inning will be on lockdown for this club.

Overall, I think the Mariners have a talented squad. I really do believe they can challenge for a Wild Card spot. There’s no shot at the division crown for them because, let’s face it, nobody in that division is unseating the Astros. It’ll be a really tight race between them and the Anaheim Angels, however if you’ve been keeping track of my projected records and finishes for each team, you’ll notice that I have the Angels winning that race. I’ve got the Mariners narrowly missing a postseason berth once again.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I preview the St. Louis Cardinals, who made a rare big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. Let me know what you think of the Mariners’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.