As is always the case at this time of year, I’m at a bit of a loss. My brain and body still think it’s baseball season. The hot stove stuff doesn’t seem very real yet. And, even though we’ll totally get into it like crazy now, it does feel like a step down from where we’ve been.
Indeed, I feel like someone who just came back from a grand adventure or a fantastic journey who has trouble slipping back into the ho-hum of daily life. Free agency is fun, but it’s not a baseball game. Damn far from it. And it seems even farther from it this year, what with just how thrilling the playoffs and World Series were. How did a medieval French soldier go back to farming after surviving the Second Crusade? How did Neil Armstrong teach undergrads at the University of Cincinnati after walking on the moon? How do you come back down from something that harrowing and wonderful?
I have no idea, but onward we must go.
If you missed it over the weekend, we learned that Bud Selig is going to step in and deal with Theo-compensation. We also heard that the Angels’ 2012 payroll isn’t going up. Jason Giambi and the Rockies decided to stay together, making him one of the only gigantic stars to actually have a third act to his career. The Indians kept Fausto Carmona because they realized that pitching does not grow on trees. The Yankees exercised their options on Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. Javier Lopez (Giants) and Marco Scutaro (Red Sox) learned that they’d be staying put. In the biggest news so far — though when it’s all done it will likely be no big deal — we learned that CC Sabathia will opt out of his contract.
There will be other twists and turns. Pujols. Darvish. The new collective bargaining agreement. Big splashy free agent signings that we’ll talk about as if Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn never happened. Some deals so minor that we’ll almost completely overlook them as if Mike Napoli never happened. I’ll go to the Winter Meetings and once again realize that it’s far more interesting to talk about them as a happening than it is to talk about what actually happens there. I’ll devote a solid two weeks to alienating the entire professional baseball press when I rail against the Hall of Fame voting. I assume that a good two dozen guys will be in The Best Shape of Their Lives. It will all be fun. And within a few days I’ll be totally into it and the 2011 season will seem like a distant memory.
But I’m not quite there yet. For now, I want to close my eyes and try to recapture the wonder of everything we just experienced. I want to savor the 2011 season for one last moment before it ceases to be a present happening and, instead, becomes forever consigned to history …
… There. OK. Forward. Onward. Into the offseason we go.
Yankees starter Luis Severino pitched last Friday, putting him on track to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Twins. The Yankees mulled the possibility of pushing him back to start on Friday against the Blue Jays after an off day on Thursday so that the Twins wouldn’t get an early look at Severino in a potential AL Wild Card matchup.
However, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports that Severino will indeed start on Wednesday against the Twins instead of Masahiro Tanaka. Hoch adds that Severino’s preference is to pitch on regular rest.
Severino, 23, has been the Yankees’ best starter this year and would be the most reliable arm in a must-win game. The right-hander is carrying a 13-6 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 218/49 K/BB ratio in 184 1/3 innings.
Entering Tuesday’s action, the Yankees hold a five-game lead over the Twins for the first Wild Card slot. The Angels hold a 1.5-game lead over the Angels for the second slot. The Yankees are also very much in the AL East race, trailing the Red Sox by only three games with 12 games left in the regular season.
The claim of “East Coast Bias” is often hurled as an accusation of smug superiority, and it’s often met with denial, but it’s a thing. It’s not the exact thing the west coast people think it is — it’s not hate, it’s just a function of time zones and TV ratings — but there are certainly factors that cause stuff that happens in California to get shorter shrift than that which happens back east, where most of the national media people are.
One thing getting short shrift this year: the performance of Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson, which one has to imagine would be getting all kinds of press if he played back east.
Wait, we don’t have to imagine that at all. Because Olson is doing basically the exact same thing Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez did last year, and Sanchez got tons of headlines for it while I’m guessing most baseball fans who either (a) live outside of the Bay Area; or (b) aren’t big fantasy players, attuned to all of the latest callups, haven’t heard Olson’s name much if at all . Their respective lines:
- Sanchez 2016: 53 games, .299/.376/.657, 20 HR, 168 OPS+
- Olson 2017: 54 games, .267/.360/.663, 22 HR 168 OPS+
Sanchez’s rate stats were better but Olson is doing it in tougher parks for hitters. Obviously Sanchez is catching and Olson playing the corner, but a dude coming out of the minors to put up these kinds of numbers in the final two months of the season is rare. That it’s happening again, in almost the same way, is quite the thing.
Part of the reason for the discrepancy in press is that Sanchez was making a strong argument for the Rookie of the Year Award despite playing less than half the season whereas Olson has no shot given what Aaron Judge has done this year. But I’m guessing more of it is simply a function of Olson’s games starting at 10:30 or so back east and most of us not seeing what he does unless we look at the box scores the next day.
Still, Olson, the A’s first round pick from 2012, is not someone to sleep on. And, given that he hit 23 homers in 79 minor league games this year — the last guy to hit 20 in both the bigs and minors in the same year was Giancarlo Stanton — he’s not a fluke. Indeed, he’s one of the few rays of sunshine for the Oakland Athletics. And someone to whom us folks back east should pay a bit more attention.