Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Inquirer offers five possible explanations for Ryan Howard’s struggles during the World Series:
(1) He’s putting too much pressure on himself;
(2) That’s just baseball. Slumps happen;
(3) The time off between the NLCS and World Series cost him his “mojo”;
(4) The Yankees pitchers are just executing; and
(5) The Yankees have a better game plan against Howard than anyone else;
Reasons number one and three are basically unquantifiable for us in the peanut gallery. What’s the scientific definition of mojo anyway? Who besides Howard can say if he’s putting too much pressure on himself, and even if he is, might that not be a reaction to his slump as opposed to its cause?
I’m far more partial to reasons two four and five. Partially because they represent phenomena that can actually be observed in the rational universe as opposed to residing inside someone’s head, but also because all three of them go together nicely. The Yankees have a bunch of good pitchers. They have a pretty sharp pitching coach and a manager who was a pretty spiffy defensive catcher. Slumps happen. It’s all of a piece, really, and that’s before mentioning the fact that Howard can’t hit lefties to begin with.
Any other possibilities here? Body snatchers? El Nino? An international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids?
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.