Soto goes from Rookie of the Year to benched

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Last year Geovany Soto turned in one of the greatest rookie seasons ever from a catcher, hitting .285/.364/.504 with 23 homers, 35 doubles, and 62 walks in 141 games while gunning down 27 percent of steal attempts and helping Cubs pitchers post a 3.80 ERA when he was behind the plate.
He started the All-Star game, received 31 of 32 first-place votes in the Rookie of the Year balloting, and became just the 17th catcher in baseball history with an adjusted OPS+ of at least 120 as a 25-year-old. And now he’s been benched. “I think we’ll catch Koyie Hill a lot more,” manager Lou Piniella said yesterday after the Cubs fell 10 games back in the NL Central. “It’s been a struggle for Soto.”
Piniella is right, because Soto’s sophomore campaign that has definitely been a mess from the start. He suffered a shoulder injury just days into the season, got some bad press in June as a result of testing positive for marijuana during the World Baseball Classic, landed on the disabled list with an oblique injury in July, and has gone 6-for-47 (.128) since coming off the shelf. He’s hitting just .212/.318/.371 in 84 games overall.
On the other hand, while that represents a massive dropoff from his rookie numbers .212/.318/.371 is still significantly better than Hill’s career .215/.290/.311 line and basically equal to Hill’s .245/.329/.347 mark this season. Soto has also done a solid job behind the plate, throwing out 30 percent of steal attempts and pitch-calling his way to a decent 4.16 ERA. In other words, “a struggle for Soto” is more or less Hill at his best.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.