Neil Walker, Jose Tabata

Pittsburgh writer leaves Heyward off Rookie of the Year ballot, includes two Pirates


UPDATE: We now know who the voters who left Buster Posey and Jason Heyward off their Rookie of the Year ballots were: Yasushi Kikuchi of the Kyodo News (He’s a member of the L.A.-Anaheim BBWAA Chapter) was the only one to omit Posey. He had Gaby Sanchez first, Heyward second and Jaime Garcia third. The voter to omit Jason Heyward was Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He had Posey first, and two Pirates — Neil Walker and Jose Tabata — second and third.

I can almost see Kikuchi’s vote if you assume that he’s a total hardass about playing time.  Still ridiculous to leave Posey off because his production more than outweighed his lost time, but at least there’s a potential philosophical thread to hold onto there.  Dejan, though? Dude, that’s just nuts.  The Pittsburgh guy voting for two Pirates, neither of whom were considered top rookies by really anyone this year, is sketchy.  I hope Dejan writes a column explaining his votes, because absent any other explanation, it smells like rank homerism. I like and respect Kovacevic’s work, so I want there to be a better reason than that.

2:33 P.M.: Like I said, I don’t take issue with Buster Posey taking the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Strong season, definitely deserving, even if I would have gone with Heyward. They were excruciatingly close in my mind once you controlled for Heyward playing in more games, but I don’t for the life of me presume to know how to value Posey’s defensive contributions and they may have made up for it.  You’ll never hear me complain about Heyward not winning.

But I can complain about this: one writer left Buster Posey off his ballot entirely. One writer left Jason Heyward off.  That is simply unreasonable.

Check out the voting yourself:there are 32 voters. Each one gets to name three players on their ballot.  Both Posey and Heyward were named on only 31 ballots. I don’t care if you have Posey first or Heyward first, but how do you not have one of them either first, second or third?

Can this be explained by Gaby Sanchez’s two inexplicable first place votes?  Is there a Florida insurgency? Did Sanchez’s flying clothesline of Nyjer Morgan not only catapult him higher in the rankings than he deserves, but also knock out votes for Posey and Heyward?

Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.