I hate to admit it, but it does make me happy. The Evil Empire fell 7 1/2 games back in the AL East yesterday after Rick Porcello made like Greg Maddux and spun the Bombers’s free swingers right into the Fenway turf.
Exactly two-thirds of the way through this baseball season, and the Yankees are on track for a 102-60 campaign. Yet somehow there is hand wringing going on in the Bronx, which makes me happy, indeed.
It is never fun, or a good thing, when your favorite team is hopelessly out of contention by the first week of August. It is made worse when a last place campaign is accompanied by shenanigans showcasing historic ineptitude both on the field and throughout the entire organization.
But we are Mets fans, so given the pain we are dealing with daily as these circumstances gang up on us, we have two things remaining of interest to root for this season. One is to see how this sad sack bunch can cost Jacob deGrom the ERA title in the National League over the season’s final 50 games or so, and item two is to root for bad luck to befall our crosstown rivals.
So as I sit here typing and awaiting the upcoming Yankees debut of Chance Adams on the hill today up in Boston, it’s time to go through some prognostication exercises.
Postseason Predictions: I can’t seem to shake the feeling that the Red Sox are NOT going to end this year with a parade.
I’ll quickly acknowledge my “half-empty” Red Sox fan and lifelong buddy Geno, who tells me that predicting something that only currently is given a 25% chance of happening isn’t really a bold statement at all. Perhaps that’s true, but I’ll counter by pointing out that this call against Boston is going in the face of the odds makers, who currently make the Red Sox strong favorites to win it all in this 2018 MLB season. This kind of powerful, against the grain, out of the box prediction actually borders on the heroic, if you ask me.
But whichever way you choose to evaluate this first glance into the MLB postseason crystal ball, the reality is that things are just going way too easy for the Red Sox and their first-year manager Alex Cora. I only need to go back to the prior two seasons to offer cases in point as to why the hottest dot in August may not be the final club standing in late-October.
Two years ago, right about now, the Indians were setting an all-time record for consecutive victories. They had it all — strong starting pitching, a killer pen and guys that were contributing at the plate from one to nine while putting up good defense to boot. They almost took home the big prize back in 2016, but destiny intervened on behalf of the entire Second City, and they finished one game short — with a spent pen, holes in that seemingly impenetrable lineup, and only one reliable starter still standing (Kluber, who was totally gassed by Game 7) when the music stopped.
Last year it appeared the Dodgers would be the unstoppable juggernaut heading into the season’s final months, having gone on a two month run of near-perfect baseball that seemed to deliver an exciting win every night. Then in the postseason, first-year manager Dave Roberts got exposed for his lack of game management skills, as he over-managed the Dodgers out of a World Series win, and next thing you know we were seeing the feel-good Houston Astros on the podium in shallow center, with Jose Altuve bro-hugging Justin Verlander into the early-morning hours.
I can’t help but feel the Red Sox are peaking early (Geno says that since they haven’t hit any rough spots yet this season it is impossible to say they are peaking — wrong again, Geno), and they aren’t built to survive a three-series postseason. Which is all the more reason why, just in case they rebound, I need to relish this moment of Yankee misery, where we have Aaron Boone looking overmatched, Aaron Judge on the DL, Luis Severino looking tired, and that deep pen getting rocked due to a combination of selective Red Sox hitters and short outings from the Bombers’s starting pitchers.
But they are still on track for that 102-60 slate. And Judge will come back (although beware — wrist injuries are super tricky, Yankee fans!). And I’m guessing the pen will come around (too much damn talent out there for it not to — remember “RelieverBall”!), as will the uber-talented Severino. I’ll simply have to enjoy these sweet little moments in time — ya know, like no longer being a fan of the only franchise to lose a starting pitcher to the DL over Hand, Foot and Mouth disease (and the fact that it befell the Yanks big deadline pitching acquisition makes it all the sweeter, too — yeah, yeah, bitter Mets fan stuff, but still…).
So if not the Sawx, then who? The Yanks remain a tough playoff out for all the myriad reasons they are likely to make my life miserable for the next five to seven years, but despite that I’m actually going back to the 2016 well for my 2018 prediction. I’m picking the Indians as my sleeper choice to emerge out of the AL, riding their solid pitching, defense and dangerous lineup that’s been there before (just missing in agonizing fashion), and is still hungry.
And who will be waiting for them? Well, the NL is wide open, but I’m going with a return to the Fall Classic from the up and down Dodgers. In my scenario, one of the last two seasons’s World Series losers will claim the crown this year, and I’m going with the Indians just because. And here’s hoping it happens with Kluber outdueling Kershaw in a tight Game 7. Put it in the books.
Annualized Numbers: One more time, all together now, “poor Jacob deGrom.”
With roughly two-thirds of the season in the books, Jake is on track for the following: 220 innings pitched (would be a career high); 261 K’s (also would be a career best); 49 walks (or 10 fewer than he issued last year in 20 fewer innings)…and a record of 8-11. Whah??
How deGrom isn’t caught on camera kicking teammates in the shins every fifth day is a miracle to me. He is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and won’t win 10 games at this pace. As a comparison, Max Scherzer (the second-best pitcher in baseball right now) is on track for a 22-8 record over 231 innings with 315 K’s. Not too shabby, for sure, and good for second-best in my humble (blue and orange tinted) opinion.
It will be absolutely fascinating to see how the Cy Young voting falls should both starters continue on their current tracks. I don’t see how Scherzer doesn’t win it again (his team is only playing .500 themselves, so that underscores even more boldly his greatness), but deGrom has got to earn some first place votes, if for no other reason than his poise under unduly trying circumstances amidst this epic lack of run support.
Speaking of on track for greatness, take a look one more time at what J.D. Martinez is doing up in Boston. He’s tracking as of today to finish with 48 dingers and 135 RBI’s, all while hitting at a .326 clip. And he’s only the second-best bat on this team!
Unfortunately, we can’t even have fun entertaining Martinez as a serious threat for the Triple Crown, because his other-worldly teammate, Mookie Betts, is tracking for 37 and 87 from the leadoff slot, while running away with the batting title at a cool .345! Okay, that explains a bit why the Bosox are on pace to win 112 games or so. Two monsters like that coupled with Chris Sale at the top of the rotation and Craig Kimbrel closing will make for a glorious regular season. But it won’t be enough to get them through October (2001 Seattle Mariners, anyone?). Sorry, Geno. Which brings us to…
Troubles in the Bronx
Starting off, just for fun, let’s harken back to the April, 2018 edition of Didi Gregorious. When April turned to May this spring, Didi appeared to be a combination of Babe Ruth and Tony Gwynn, producing video-game-like stats. Currently Gregorious is on track for 30 and 96 while hitting a solid .268. Normally seeing this kind of production from your shortstop would have Bombers fans guffawing mercilessly at a corner pub near you. But somehow his hot start and subsequent stone-cold May have left Yankee fans unsure how they really feel about him. With Judge out, there isn’t a clear-cut hero for them to deify right now. A Bronx conundrum, for sure.
Which is why it’s worth a quick look at that Bombers lineup. Yes, we are selecting a moment in time when they just had Porcello stick one up their collective arses with his assortment of junk on the corners, but still, take a look:
*Of the nine position players to start yesterday’s tilt in Boston, not one was hitting .300 or better (best average — rookie Miguel Andujar at .292, who started at DH).
*Leadoff man, and longest-tenured Yankee, Brett Gardner is at .247, and offseason free agent signing Neil Walker is at .223 (after a recent hot streak, I might add).
*Everybody’s current darling, Aaron Hicks (what’s up with all the Aaron’s by the way?), is not exactly tearing the cover off the ball at .252, and bloom-off-the-rose, current boo-bird target Greg Bird is at .230.
*2018 All Star and everyone’s forgone conclusion for Rookie of the Year, Gleyber Torres, is quietly down to .282 following his return from the DL, and no longer hitting game-winning HR’s on a nightly basis (second time through the league, anyone?).
*And we haven’t even gotten to the starting rotation yet. The recently-acquired Happ is trading texts with Noah Syndergaard on treatments for Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, and now the team is looking to Lance Lynn, who failed miserably up in Minnesota this year, to be the answer at the back end of the rotation. C.C. Sabathia is looking every one of his 62 years of age, and every time Tanaka breaks off a slider the dugout holds it’s collective breath wondering if that’s the one that finally completes the tear of that paper thin elbow ligment. Eegads!
Will the Yanks right the ship? My guess is they still manage to reach the century mark for wins, as a healthy Judge returns and gets back in the groove in time for the playoffs. And Severino is too talented not to return to form sooner or later (unless there’s an actual arm problem there?). Plus, as previously discussed ad nauseam, that pen is tough, tough, tough. Remember RelieverBall, folks. It’s coming this October and I, for one, can’t wait to see if a title can be won that way in this modern world of Major League Baseball.
One last thought for Yankees fans, as if they already don’t have enough weighing on their pennant-waving minds — how do you feel about Aaron Boone pushing the strategy buttons in a short series? Dave Roberts showed us last year that a media-friendly style and rah-rah clubhouse presence can make for a pristine regular season, but if a manager costs you a game in a short, October series, that can spell the difference between champions and also-rans. How are we feeling about Booney (or Cora for that matter, Geno?)? Sorry guys, but just sayin’…