And That Happened: Monday's scores and highlights

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Rockies 6, Giants 4: Walkoff grand slam in the 14th for Ryan
Spilborghs after the Rockies started their half of the inning down 4-1.
Colorado is starting to smell like a team of destiny. At any rate,
they’ve won seven of eight and are now four games ahead of the Giants for the NL wild card.

Phillies 6, Mets 2: If I can’t give John Smoltz full credit for
pitching against the Padres on Sunday, I sure as heck can’t give Cliff
Lee full credit for pitching against, well, whatever it was the team in
the orange, blue and white was forced to throw out there yesterday. I
never thought I’d say this, but not having Jeff Francoeur in the lineup
really hurt. Of course, Cliff Lee continues to be basically ridiculous
(7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 5K), so the Mets probably could have thrown out the
1986 lineup and they wouldn’t have done much. Ryan Howard drove in
five, which led to this game story note: “The home run also pushed
Howard past 100 RBIs, giving him four straight seasons with at least 30
homers and 100 RBIs. The only other Phillies player to accomplish that
was Hall of Famer Chuck Klein from 1929-32.” I would have bet my
children that Schmidt had done it, but between his relatively
pedestrian 1978 season, the strike in 1981, and some low OBP guys
hitting in front of him, and the opportunities just never presented
themselves.

Red Sox 12, White Sox 8: We may have a winner for the most
misleading line score of the year in the form of Jose Contreras’ one
earned run in 2.2 innings pitched. Here’s Contreras’ third inning:
Single, out, out (ok so far), walk, HBP, error by Contreras himself,
walk, wild pitch, home run. None of the six runs that scored that
inning were “earned” because of the error. Except it was Jose
Contreras’ error, and it was surrounded with about the worst possible
pitching imaginable. He more than earned those runs. He went out,
tracked them down with dogs, hunted them to the ends of the Earth,
killed them, and drove home with them strapped to the fender of his car
with little tags on their ears. As for the Red Sox, a win is a win, but
Clay Buchholz is as inefficient as a Caloric dishwasher. He averages
something like 97 pitches but only a shade more than five innings a
start. This one was a Buchholz special (4.2 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3K, 92
pitches). All in all it was a 3:42 game, and thanks to Contreras and
Buchholz, it may very well have been the ugliest game of the season.

Brewers 7, Nationals 1: A weird 4:30 start time. What’s the
story, here? It’s a getaway day so I see why you don’t go with the
night game, but why not then make it an old-timey businessman’s special
and start the thing a 1PM? I guess they figure they can get people
leaving work a bit early, but I’ve always found it easier to just never
come back after lunch than it is to slip out the door at 4PM. Then
again, I’ve worked at many, many places in my life so perhaps my
example isn’t the best one to emulate.

Rays 12, Blue Jays 7: Roy Halladay’s worst start of the year (6
IP, 12 H, 8 R) shoots his ERA over 3.00 for the first time since early
May. As for the Rays, they keep a close watch on this heart of mine.
They keep their eyes wide open all the time. They keep the ends out for
the tie that bind. Because they’re mine, they’ve won seven of nine.

OK, I’m really sorry about that one. That was bad even for me.

Twins 2, Orioles 1: Scott Baker allows one run on four hits in
seven and beats Chris Tillman. The two Minnesota runs came off of a
wild pitch (following a triple) and a sacrifice fly. Kind of a passive
aggressive game.

Indians 10, Royals 6: Luis Valbuena hit a three-run shot off of
Joakim Soria — who was apparently called in to get the nearly unheard
of two-inning save — in the eighth. Big game for Travis Hafner (3-4,
2B, HR, 4 RBI).

Tigers 10, Angels 7: Miguel Cabrera homered and drove in five.
Justin Verlander had a 10-run lead in the sixth inning when he started
to get hit. Leyland: “He lost his tunnel vision. You got a 10-run lead,
you got to go out there and pitch like it’s a 1-0 lead . . . You can’t
worry about what the score was.” So much for “pitching to the score.”
Umpire Tim Welke left the game in the bottom of the fourth after
getting hit in the chest by a foul tip from Vladimir Guerrero. I didn’t
see it, but given that it’s Vlad we’re talking about, the ball was
probably on Welke’s chest protector already when he swung.

Mariners 3, Athletics 1: Griffey hit a homer with his mom in the
stands. “She doesn’t get to see too many games live. She’s going to
take credit for that one.” Actually, she could technically take credit
for all 625 of your home runs, young man. Not that she’ll ever get any
thanks. And to think she carried you around in her body for nine months
. . . but don’t mind me, I’m just your mother . . . a call would be
nice sometime too, and let me tell you what I think about those boys
you’ve been gallivanting around town with . . .

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 18:  Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles celbrates hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 18, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Orioles won 2-1.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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With each division now spoken for, our attention now turns to the Wild Card races. The Blue Jays hold a one-game lead over the Orioles for the first Wild Card slot in the American League while the Orioles have a one-game lead over the Tigers for the second slot. The Jays and O’s will do battle on Thursday night and each of the four other teams alive in the AL Wild Card race are rooting for the Jays to win. The Yankees and Astros can both be eliminated from Wild Card contention if the Orioles win one more game or if they each lose one more game. The Mariners are also active in the Wild Card hunt, currently two games behind the Orioles.

Over in the National League, the Giants have a one-game lead over the Cardinals for the second Wild Card slot. The Giants get to play the Rockies while the Cardinals face the lowly Reds. The Mets, who currently own the first Wild Card slot, have the night off.

Asterisks denote that the game is relevant to the Wild Card.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

*Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ New York Yankees (CC Sabathia), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Rob Zastryzny) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT

*Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Atlanta Braves (Josh Collmenter), 7:10 PM EDT

*Cincinnati Reds (Dan Straily) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Alex Reyes), 7:15 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 7:15 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias) @ San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich), 9:10 PM EDT

*Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman) @ Seattle Mariners (Ariel Miranda), 10:10 PM EDT

*Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ San Francisco Giants (Johnny Cueto), 10:15 PM EDT

Who should win the MVP Awards? Who will?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs bats during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on September 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 4-3. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. First up: The MVP Awards. 

Who should win the AL MVP Award? 

We at HBT have tended to lean toward the idea that the best player should win the MVP Award, regardless of whether his team wins or not. It’s not an iron-clad thing, of course. In the past I’ve supported some more narrative-driven MVP candidates and, more importantly, deciding who is “the best player” in an objective sense is not always a cut-and-dried endeavor. Defense is an inexact science. Players often have competing apples and oranges arguments for their candidacies.

If you look at “best overall player” this year, however, it’s hard to say that Mike Trout and his line of .318/.441/.556 with 29 homers and his usual solid-to-outstanding center field defense is not that guy. Yes, his team stinks, and no, his 2016 season isn’t head and shoulders above any number of his other excellent seasons, making him a less-than-sexy choice in a lot of ways. But it’s hard to stand head and shoulders above uniform excellence and no matter what you think of stuff like WAR and all that goes into it, Trout has a 1.5 WAR lead over Mookie Betts according to FanGraphs and 1.3 according to Baseball Reference. It’s a pretty significant separation, especially when you realize that, dang, Betts is having a whale of a season himself (.320/.365/.538).

Still, Trout isn’t a unanimous pick even with the HBT team, which has it this way:

Craig: Trout
Bill: Trout
Ashley: Betts

Who will win the AL MVP Award?

There has been a lot of talk about Betts and his teammate, David Ortiz, splitting the vote, as it were. Maybe that was a thing that happened more often back in the day when narrative-driven awards were more common, but I think today’s BBWAA voters are way more savvy than that. I think that Ortiz will get some votes thrown his way by virtue of his outstanding offensive season (.316/.401/.622, 37 HR, 124 RBI) and the storybook ending to his career, but I think Betts will ultimately carry the day with the better overall and all-around performance. MVP PREDICTION: MOOKIE BETTS.

Who should win the NL MVP Award?

There are a lot of guys putting up years that, under different circumstances, would be MVP worthy. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto and Corey Seager are all having outstanding campaigns. Most of them are bunched up as far as WAR goes, more so with Baseball-Reference.com’s version, a little less so with FanGraphs. Bryant leads both versions and is putting up outstanding offensive numbers. Murphy, Freeman and Votto are hitting a tad better than him depending on how you measure it, but have less defensive value. Seager’s mix of defense and offense may be closer to what Bryant is doing, although Arenado might have something to say about that. There are a lot of good choices.

Bryant is the best choice, however. His hitting — .293/.387/.560, 39 HR, 101 RBI — is better than the other all-around candidates and his defensive versatility — he’s played all three outfield positions as well as his usual third base — sets him apart. He’s been the best player in the NL this year.

Craig: Bryant
Bill: Bryant
Ashley:Bryant

Who will win the NL MVP Award?

This is one of those years where I suspect our views will match that of the voters. MVP PREDICTION: Bryant, possibly unanimously.