First-third awards – NL Rookie of the Year

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I’m tempted to just skip this one, as no one is worth of the honor. Not
one NL rookie pitcher ranks in the league’s top 40 in innings pitched.
Here are the ERAs of everyone to have made at least seven starts:

Kenshin Kawakami – 4.63 ERA in 58 1/3 IP
Josh Geer – 5.44 ERA in 48 IP
Shairon Martis – 5.62 ERA in 57 2/3 IP
Jordan Zimmermann – 5.71 ERA in 52 IP
Felipe Paulino – 6.21 ERA in 42 IP

That’s it. But it’s no less impressive than the list of position players. Here’s the top 10, according to VORP.

1. Joe Thurston – 7.3
2. Ryan Roberts – 7.3
3. Ryan Hanigan – 5.1
4. Edwin Maysonet – 4.9
5. Jason Jaramillo – 4.7
6. Micah Hoffpauir – 3.7
7. Dexter Fowler – 3.6
8. Drew Macias – 3.4
9. Colby Rasmus – 3.3
10. Tyler Greene – 2.9

That 7.3 figure puts Thurston 57th overall among NL position
players. Seth Smith comes out a little higher at 7.8, but he doesn’t
technically qualify as a rookie after spending too much of last season
on Colorado’s bench.

Fowler does deserve additional credit for his defense, but he’s been
a well below average regular since his five-steal game made headlines
in late April.

So, basically, the NL Rookie of the Year candidates through one-third of the season are mostly relievers.

The top pitchers, according to VORP.

1. J.A. Happ – 14.1
2. Randy Wells – 13.3
3. Mark DiFelice – 11.6
4. Ronald Belisario – 10.6
5. Juan Gutierrez – 9.0
6. Luke Gregerson – 8.2
7. Jason Motte – 7.2
8. Dan Meyer – 6.9
9. Bobby Parnell – 6.4
10. Jesse Chavez – 6.3

Ramon Troncoso is ineligible because of the time he spent in the majors last year.

I prefer Happ for the rest of the season, but I think Wells deserves
the nod here, even if he’s gone 0-2 while posting a 1.69 ERA in his
five starts. He allowed three runs over seven innings in his worst
outing to date, and it’s hardly his fault that Kevin Gregg and Aaron
Heilman keep letting him down.

First-third NL Rookie of the Year

1. Wells
2. Happ
3. Fowler

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.48.18 PM

Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.