Revisiting the NL ROY race

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Though there isn’t much drama in the
National League’s divisional races, the field for the Rookie of the
Year Award is more competitive than at any point this season. Last
month, I favored southpaw J.A. Happ for the award with Randy Wells as his closest competition
down the stretch.

Here’s just a few of the notable performers since my last check-in:

J.A. Happ

Season: 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.19 WHIP):

Since August 23: 0-2 with a 4.23 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP over three starts.

Happ missed two starts with an
oblique injury. He was pulled from Friday’s start for precautionary
reasons, but should be fine for his next start. Some individual
hardware would be
nice, but the Phillies clearly have the bigger picture in mind.

Randy Wells

Season: 10-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.28 WHIP

Since August 23: 1-3 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP over five starts

Wells has been uncharacteristically
wild of late, walking 14 batters over his last 26 2/3 innings,
including a career-high five in a 7-4 loss to the Brewers last week.

Tommy Hanson

Season: 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.18 WHIP)

Since August 23: 1-1 with a 0.82 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over four starts

While the other favorites have
faded, Hanson has pitched some his best baseball recently, having gone
17 innings without allowing a run, including back-to-back scoreless
outings against the Astros and Mets.

Chris Coghlan

Season: .310/.380/.450 with nine homers, 42 RBI and 74 runs scored

Since August 23: .381/.431/.558 with two homers, eight RBI and 22 runs scored in 113 at-bats

Coghlan already created quite a buzz
last month with a 12-game hitting streak, including eight straight
mulit-hit games, but his recent success has vaulted him into serious
ROY consideration. Coghlan leads the majors with 30 hits in September.
Only Derrek Lee (19) has scored more runs than Coghlan (17) this month.

Here’s the National League rookies ranked by VORP (batters and pitchers):

1) Happ (PHI) – 46.2

2) Hanson (ATL) – 33.5

3) Wells (CHC) – 30.2

4) Garrett Jones (PIT) – 28.5

5) Coghlan (FLA) – 27.9

6) Casey McGehee (MIL) – 26.0

7) Andrew McCutchen  (PIT) – 23.5

8) Ronald Belisario (LAD) – 22.4

9) Dexter Fowler (COL) – 20.4

10) Everth Cabrera (SD) – 20.1

Many people forget that Jones leads
all major league rookies with 19 home runs. As you can see, Happ still
looks like the heavy favorite, in large part because of the three
complete games and his strong showing as a reliever (2.49 ERA and 1.06
WHIP in 21 2/3 innings) before joining the rotation. While Coghlan is
an intriguing spark plug at the top of the Marlins lineup, I view
Hanson as the biggest threat to Happ at this point, especially if the
Phillies continue to be cautious in preparation for the postseason. But with only a couple of starts left after Sunday, Hanson is running out of time to make his mark.

If you still think there’s still a little room for some baseball talk on this football Sunday, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi
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You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.