Ohioans rejoice: LaPorta, Stubbs get callups

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One move was overdue.  The other was more about the thrill of finally getting Willy Taveras out of the Cincinnati lineup.  On Wednesday, the Indians added 2007 first-round pick Matt LaPorta to their roster, while the Reds called up 2006 first-rounder Drew Stubbs.


Bypassed when Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Victor Martinez all were shipped off, Matt LaPorta finally received his promotion when fellow youngster Trevor Crowe landed on the disabled list.  The 24-year-old was up briefly earlier this year, batting .190/.286/.286 in 42 at-bats.  He was hitting .299/.388/.530 in his first season in Triple-A, but the Indians held off on promoting him because of some indecisiveness over where to play him.  A first baseman in college, LaPorta was moved to the outfield when drafted by Milwaukee.  The Indians didn’t have Prince Fielder blocking him when they picked him up for CC Sabathia, but they left him in the outfield originally, only starting to give him more time at first base as this year went along.  He projects best at first base, but he could continue to shift between positions in the majors.


While it’s LaPorta’s bat that will carry him, Stubbs was chosen to replace the injured Taveras because of his defense in center.  It was still a surprise to see him picked over Chris Heisey, who played center in Double-A before joining Stubbs at Louisville.  Heisey has shown the better bat all year long, even though he’s faded recently.  Stubbs has struggled mightily of late, posting a .194 average in 62 at-bats this month.  He’s hitting .268/.353/.360 with 46 steals in 54 attempts for the season.


Stubbs stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, so the strength should be there.  He also strikes out like a power hitter, with 104 Ks in 107 games this season.  Unfortunately, he’s totaled just three homers in 411 at-bats.  Last year, he had seven in 470 at-bats.  That his defense in center is truly exceptional should make him a long-term regular, but there wouldn’t seem to be any star potential here, unless we’re talking fantasy baseball.  He’s not quite the burner that Taveras is, but he is an excellent basestealer, something that could land him a spot at the top of the order for the Reds next year.  The audition comes now, and if he’s impressive enough, then the team could eat the second year of Taveras’ deal.


As an aside, this isn’t the first time LaPorta and Stubbs have been connected.  LaPorta starred for the Gators and Stubbs for the Longhorns when Florida and Texas met in the finals of the 2005 College World Series, won by Texas.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will be the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played for four hours and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason


Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.