By: Kyle May
Here we sit in late August as teams prepare to solidify their spots in the playoffs next month. Although this time is considered the “dog days,” there is lots of excitement going on in the baseball world. Can the Giants catch the Dodgers? Will the Angels surge past the Astros? Can the Mets keep hold of the NL East? Lots of baseball remains and all of those questions will be answered.
1. As of now, the hottest two teams in baseball are the Cubs and the Blue Jays. Top to bottom, which team is better?
Kyle May (Angels’ Writer): Both the Cubs and the Blue Jays have the potential to reach the World Series this year. When breaking down the teams, the first thing I notice is that both teams lack lots of playoff experience. Therefore I look to the managers. Joe Maddon is just flat out a better manager than John Gibbons. The Blue Jays clearly have a better offense, but don’t sleep on the Cubbies’ bats. After David Price, the Blue Jays do not have dominant pitching. The Cubs, however, can rely on multiple pitchers and have 2 true aces: Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Top to bottom the Cubs are the better team.
Daniel Satter (Rays’ Writer): The Blue Jays are the better team. The Cubs offense is really good, but really good isn’t enough to compete with the Blue Jays offense. The pitching is equal, but if it was only for one game the Blue Jays would win because David Price would be on the mound and would throw 8 innings and give up like 2 runs. Lester on the other hand is dominant too, but he isn’t on Price’s level, plus the Blue Jays offense would blow up Lester, but if this was a series the rest of the Cubs rotation would do better than the Blue Jays other 4 starters. The Blue Jays have a better defense set over the Cubs. The Cubs are better on the base paths.
Jim Tsapelas (Cardinals’ Writer): On paper, Chicago is the better team. Both teams are fairly equal in defensive play, offensive aggressiveness, and pitching. The real, and only, difference is in managerial experience. Joe Maddon is one of the better, if not the current best manager in baseball. Toronto’s John Gibbons has enjoyed only minimal success as a manager. In 2006 Gibbons with a well-balanced Toronto team which included the likes of AJ Burnett, Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay, BJ Ryan, and Bengie Molina, finished the season ten games out of first. As of August 13, 2015 Gibbons’ won-lost record is 526-524. Maddon’s lifetime won-lost record as of August 13th, is 848-779; and includes winning the American League Pennant in 2008 while serving as the skipper of the Tampa Bay Rays. Advantage: Chicago based on managerial experience.
Marty Caridi (Pirates’ Writer): Toronto is the better club. Although I like the Cubs’ pitching a little bit better, Toronto’s starters pitch really well at home, and just good enough most nights on the road. Toronto’s offense is just ridiculous since the non-waiver trade deadline. Chicago’s bats aren’t anywhere near where they were earlier this season.
Paul DiSclafani (Mets’ Writer): Toronto is constructed to score runs and they own it every night, leading the majors in runs scored by a wide margin. Improved the pitching with Price and they have been on fire since Tulo arrived. The Cubs are getting it done both on the road and at home, but they are just not on the same level as the Jays. They are middle of the road on offense and prior to this recent hot streak (15 out of 16), they were floundering at just 5 games over .500. Toronto had a chance this weekend to put the Yankees away and undid all their hard work in two games. All that said, Toronto’s path to the playoffs is a very winnable AL East, where the Cubbies only shot is a one-game winner take all Wild-Card with Pittsburgh. I like our neighbors to the North, eh?
Daniel Garay (Orioles’ Writer): I’d give the slight edge to Toronto, primarily because of the power their lineup possesses from top to bottom. Josh Donaldson is a bona-fide MVP candidate, and they are riding some serious momentum right now, as are the Cubs. Pitting one against the others, I’d take Toronto just because I think more often than not in this day and age, great offense spread throughout a lineup will beat good pitching. A David Price-Jon Lester matchup would be so juicy for a World Series game 7, though.
2. Does Randal Grichuk’s injury strip him of all chances to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?
Kyle May (Angels’ Writer): Randal Grichuk is among the many worthy candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year honor. Grichuk has been grinding it out with Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, Matt Duffy, Jung Ho Kang, and Noah Syndergaard for quite some time and it would be a shame to see this injury eliminate him from the race. Does the injury negatively impact him? Of course it does because this is the final stretch of the season. However, if Grichuk can return in 2-3 weeks as planned and continue his previous level of play, he deserves the award the most.
Daniel Satter (Rays’ Writer): Yes, Grichuk’s injury hurts his chance on winning the National League Rookie of the Year award. Grichuk has been up Bryant’s back all season and Grichuk gets no love. He may not win the award, but in the eyes of others, he was more dominant than Bryant. I would personally give Grichuk the award if he was not hurt.
Jim Tsapelas (Cardinals’ Writer): Being on the DL certainly doesn’t help Grichuk, however, it would be a shame if it would impact him negatively. Arguably, the top two ROY candidates are Kris Byrant and Grichuk. If the award was based on home runs alone, Joc Pederson could be considered in the mix. Pederson’s twenty-three home runs cannot compensate enough for his .212 batting average. Grichuck has played in twenty-three fewer games than Bryant, Grichuk’s fifteen home runs, forty-four RBI’s, .284 batting average, .333 on base percentage, and .561 slugging percentage stack-up well against Byant’s sixteen home runs, sixty-six RBI’s, .252 batting average, .360 on base percentage, and .443 slugging percentage. If the season ended today, I believe Grichuk would be the ROY. Time shall tell.
Marty Caridi (Pirates’ Writer): Grichuk’s injury will cost him the ROY. Bryant and Pederson have really cooled off, so the hype train has really lost steam. Grichuk would have been the leader at the ¾ pole had he remained healthy, and, barring a big slump, he would have taken the award. I’d say right now that Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang are 1 and 2, respectively, in the race right now. Kang has picked up some steam over the past few years, and Duffy is just consistently solid.
Paul DiSclafani (Mets’ Writer): Since he was fighting an uphill battle to begin with, this is going to keep him on the canvas. If Grichuk was on the Mets, he’d be gone for the season and facing elbow surgery. He would need a monster September at this point. 15 HR and 44 RBI is impressive, but 97K in 85 games is a red flag. Too many ahead of him right now like Jung Ho Kang (Pittsburgh), who looked solid last weekend against the Mets and Kris Bryant (Cubs), who came into the league like he was shot out of a cannon, but hit just .168 in June. Look at Matt Duffy (SF) and his .305/.342/.486 with 10 HR and 59 RBI. Want a dark horse? Don’t forget Noah Syndergaard and his 111K in 105 innings. He has six starts left in the season.
Daniel Garay (Orioles’ Writer): Grichuk’s injury certainly won’t do him any favors; the NL rookie class of 2015 is stacked, ranging from heralded stars like Kris Bryant and Joc Pedersen to under-the-radar guys like the Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang and the Giants’ Matt Duffy. Honestly, I’m not sure Grichuk was the frontrunner for the award even before this injury; I’d be taking a hard look at Matt Duffy, who has the highest WAR of any NL rookie this season and has been an enormous difference maker for the Giants. However, it will ultimately come down to who has a better stretch-run of Kris Bryant and Matt Duffy, and I think Bryant will emerge the winner.
3. Is Josh Donaldson a dark horse for the AL MVP award? Can he beat out Mike Trout for the honor?
Kyle May (Angels’ Writer): Josh Donaldson is definitely there with Mike Trout in the AL MVP discussion for sure, but looking at the numbers, Trout is just flat out better. These numbers include Trout’s dreadful August so far. Had Trout kept pace in August, he would have run away with the award by now. However, Donaldson is lurking and poses a real threat to Trout. Ultimately, I think Trout will win the honor.
Daniel Satter (Rays’ Writer): Of course, Donaldson has accomplished a lot of success this season. He is behind Trout and very close to Trout, but Trout is on another level and deserves to win the award. Trout shows up every season and this one and has looked as the favorite to win it since spring training. Overall, it will be a close race, but the fish pulls this one out.
Jim Tsapelas (Cardinals’ Writer): I believe Josh Donaldson can be seen as a dark horse and could reasonably win the AL MVP. The eleven years Albert Pujols was with the St. Louis Cardinals, he won a total of three NL MVP awards. Arguably, Pujols eleven years in St. Louis were the best eleven consecutive years of any player in the history of Major League Baseball. Take away the years Barry Bonds won consecutive NL MVP’s (2001-2004), I believe Pujols was robbed in 2006 and 2007. In ‘06 Ryan Howard won (.313/.425/.659)-Pujols (.331/.431/.771) and ‘07 Jimmy Rollins won (.296/.344/.531-Pujols (.327/.492/568). Often times the voting of the Baseball Writers of America is subjective rather than objective. Yes, Donaldson definitely has a chance at AL MVP.
Marty Caridi (Pirates’ Writer): I don’t think that Donaldson is a dark horse for the AL MVP… I think he is the favorite. Trout, while a stud, is hurt by playing on the West Coast. Donaldson is seen every night on the highlights, and he has had the better season. Add in the fact that the Blue Jays are the sexy story right now, and that helps as well.
Paul DiSclafani (Mets’ Writer): From Spring Training until two weeks ago Trout, was a lock. Since Troy Tulowitzki moved North of the border and positioned himself right in front of Donaldson in the batting order, we got ourselves a race. Donaldson has 7-HR, 5-2B and 15 RBI in the 13 games with Tulo in Toronto. He now has more RBI than Trout and is just 2 HR behind him. I’m not sure I would call him a dark horse anymore, I think he’s legit.
Daniel Garay (Orioles’ Writer): As I stated above, Donaldson is a bona-fide MVP candidate that is challenging Trout this season. Trout’s long stretch of mere-mortal hitting after hurting his wrist opened the door for Donaldson to make up some ground, and this MVP race is no sure thing. Even guys like Manny Machado are trying to push their way into the conversation. Donaldson is not just a dark horse, he is a definite contender because of his excellent season and his role center-stage in the resurgence of the Jays. I think the nod still goes to Trout based on reputation, though.
4. What are your thoughts on Yankees rookie RHP Bryan Mitchell getting hit in the head with a line drive by Twins’ OF Eduardo Nunez?
Kyle May (Angels’ Writer): It is always horrible to see a pitcher get nailed like this, however, it is part of the game. I am not in favor of pitchers wearing a protective helmet because it would change the game too much. Think of the risk a batter has. Every pitch could potentially hit them. Imagine stepping into the box versus Aroldis Chapman with fear of being hit by pitch. That is a much greater risk than pitching to the hardest hitting hitter in the game. That is why pitchers do not wear helmets and hitters do. As far as Mitchell, I am very sorry for him and I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers.
Daniel Satter (Rays’ Writer): I cannot stand the Yankees, but I do pray for and wish Mitchell a speedy recovery. Those plays are scary and heart stopping and as a player playing this game it is scary to have one come back at you. I thank God that mine was in my glove and not my face. But Mitchell should be fine and look to rejoin the team soon, if not he might be back. Never want to see this again, but I still do not favor those protective caps.
Jim Tsapelas (Cardinals’ Writer): I am empathic toward any athlete who becomes injured in any sport in which they are participating. There is a history of baseball players, in particular, being injured while playing. Dizzy Dean being hit by a line drive, breaking his toe and shortening his career, causing him to alter his delivery to the plate. In 1967 Tony Conigliaro being beaned by the Angels Jack Hamilton, ending Conigliaro’s career. This occurred when Conigliaro was just twenty-two. Conigliaro was the second fastest player to hit one hundred home runs in a career. These examples, and there are numerous more, identify the realities of injury in life, in general. Baseball players are aware of the risks involved with their sport. I see no need for MLB to intervene and attempt to make the game safer. There are numerous safety measures in place as of now. I am also opposed to anything which may provide safety at the cost of making the pitcher or any other player uncomfortable or limited, physically, as they play.
Marty Caridi (Pirates’ Writer): As for Mitchell, I really feel for the guy. Unfortunately, these things happen in this game. I’m not sure where I stand on the protective caps. The purist in me says “no”, but the game is so much faster and harder than when I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, that I totally understand the need for them. If I was forced to give an answer (and I guess I am, aren’t I?), I’d say that the pitchers should have the option to wear the protective cap. I wouldn’t make it mandatory, though. Injuries are a part of the game, and that’s why these guys make the big bucks.
Paul DiSclafani (Mets’ Writer): Here in NY, they made fun of pitcher Alex Torres and the protective band he was wearing over his baseball hat to protect him from a possible head injury. Other players that wear oversized protective equipment like David Wright’s short-lived batting helmet and Eli Manning’s larger football helmet, have been ridiculed for not being “macho”, comparing their look to The Flintstone’s “Great Gazoo”. But there is no rule in baseball that pitchers – if they choose – couldn’t wear approved protective gear if they want to – think hockey-like helmet. John Olerud would wear a batting helmet in the field at first base to protect his head. But I don’t want to see MLB mandate the wearing of this equipment. These incidents are few and far between. They overreacted to home plate collisions and made knee-jerk reaction rules that players, managers and umpires still have a hard time interpreting. Provide the players with the equipment, maybe begin mandating it in the minor leagues (it worked with hockey helmets and face guards), but let professionals make their own choice.
Daniel Garay (Orioles’ Writer): It’s always unfortunate seeing pitchers or any player get injured. No one wants to see anyone injured in that way, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Baseball is a dangerous game, and the players are up for the challenge. I don’t think this necessitates Major League Baseball to try to change the game in order to protect these pitchers. Making them wear helmets or the like will detrimentally affect their ability to make solid pitches, and so I think pitchers will always stay cognizant in the back of their mind that they have a dangerous job.
What player has had the best bounce back year in 2015?
Kyle May (Angels’ Writer): I have two ideal candidates for Comeback Player of the Year. For my NL selection, I think that it is an easy choice in Jaime Garcia. He has posted a sub-2 ERA and has helped the Cardinals greatly since the loss of Adam Wainwright. For the AL, I think that Alex Rodriguez is the clear choice. He has been dealing with scandals and issues the past years but has proven that he can still hit bombs. Granted, playing in Yankee Stadium helps, but he is still producing. Assuming he is not on PEDs, A-Rod is the clear AL Comeback Player of the Year.
Daniel Satter (Rays’ Writer): The bounce back player of the year has to be injury prone lefty Jaime Garcia of the famous St.Louis Cardinals. Garcia the past 2 seasons has dealt with arm problems and has averaged like 8 starts and 50 is of work the past 2 seasons. Garcia is a solid number 3 or 4 in the rotation. This is looking like Garcia’s second best season in the MLB. Garcia this year has made 11 starts and earned himself a 5-4 record with an incredible ERA under 1.80. He has pitched in 80.2 innings while striking out 57 batters, which Garcia has been known to not strike out many hitters, but what has always impressed people able Garcia’s pitching style is that he does not walk many. He has only walked less than 20 batters. After Wednesday’s game, Garcia’s strikeout to walk career stats shows 533 K’s and only 193 walks. Thats impressive. Jaime Garcia gets my vote for the comeback player of the year award in the MLB.
Jim Tsapelas (Cardinals’ Writer): Without a doubt, Jaime Garcia. The often injured pitcher has spent parts of three season on the DL during his MLB career, including two stints this year. This season Garcia is 5-4. The four games he lost, the Cardinals failed to provide him any run support. Garcia’s ERA is a remarkable 1.79. There is something special about Garcia. He must stay healthy to have further success in MLB. He has amazing late movement on his pitches. I refer you back to Daniel Satter’s comments on this question.
Marty Caridi (Pirates’ Writer): There are a couple good candidates for Bounceback Player of the Year. As has been mentioned, Jaime Garcia may lead the discussion. My own vote would be for Alex Rodriguez. Yes, black cloud and all. Don’t forget about AJ Burnett. After a disastrous 2014, Burnett returned to Pittsburgh, and at 38, was having a solid year before going on the DL with an inflamed elbow. Burnett is set to come off the DL in a few weeks, and it will be interesting to see if he’s able to contribute down the stretch.
Paul DiSclafani (Mets’ Writer): A-Rod has been getting a lot of press and has had an unbelievable season (hit HR #25 this week). But he’s not coming back from an injury. He is coming back from a 162 game, self-inflicted suspension. What about pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery, like Ryan Madson (KC) or Matt Harvey (Mets)? Or guys like Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, the Marlins Jose Fernandez, or Prince Fielder? What about AJ Burnett in Pittsburgh? He was 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA just before the All-Star break. These guys had to work and struggle and rehab to get back to where they are. If he continues with a strong September, it has to be Matt Harvey. Harvey has pitched 6 or more innings in 9 of his last 10 starts and given up a run or fewer runs 6 times. He has walked only 32 batters in 154 innings. He has been strong right out of the gate after an 18 month layoff. A-Rod only sat a beach in South Miami sipping drinks with young blonde women.
Daniel Garay (Orioles’ Writer): The Comeback Player of the Year should be Alex Rodriguez, but I think Major League Baseball will do everything in its power to make sure that does not happen. Look for Prince Fielder of the Rangers to take the mantle, or a sleeper in Chris Davis of the Orioles.