Lost in Mike Trout’s historic rookie season and the heated AL MVP debate is that the Angels didn’t call him up from Triple-A until April 28 and will likely end up missing the playoffs by 2-3 games.
Obviously there’s no guarantee that having Trout from Opening Day on would have equaled 2-3 more wins for the Angels, but considering they got off to a 6-14 start while playing Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos before his arrival … well, it does make me wonder how differently things may have gone.
Trout dealt with the flu and a minor shoulder injury during spring training, but hit .403 in 20 games at Triple-A before his call-up and hit .355 in his first 20 games for the Angels. With him in the lineup the Angels are 80-56 and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) pegs Trout as being worth about 10 wins more than a hypothetical “replacement-level” outfielder, which basically describes Wells at this point.
At the very least taking 80-100 plate appearances and 150-175 innings defensively from Wells (and/or Bourjos) and giving them to Trout would almost surely mean that the Angels were still alive in the playoff race right now. Hindsight is 20/20, especially considering his spring training ailments, but when talking about one of the greatest rookies in the history of baseball and a narrow playoff miss it’s not such a stretch.
All season long the Cubs have been ahead of schedule, going from 73 wins to 97 wins in Joe Maddon’s first year as manager. And now they’ve knocked out the kings of the National League Central, dispatching with a Cardinals team that won 100 games for their third straight division title.
Maddon gave starter Jason Hammel a quick hook in the fourth inning and then pieced together the rest of the game playing the matchups with a motley bullpen crew that was made up of ex-starters, waiver wire pickups, and previously washed up veterans rescued from the scrap heap.
It was a helluva thing to watch–Trevor Cahill! Fernando Rodney! Clayton Richard!–and the bullpen holding the Cardinals in check allowed the Cubs lineup to do what it’s done all year: Young hitters hit bombs. Chicago set an all-time record with six homers in Game 3 and went deep three more times in Game 4, with those long balls coming from a 25-year-old (Anthony Rizzo) and a pair of 22-year-olds (Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber). Overall in the four-game series the Cubs scored 15 of their 20 runs on homers.
Schwarber’s homer was particularly mammoth, leaving Wrigley Field:
John Lackey shut down the Cubs in Game 1, but the 36-year-old veteran of 20 playoff starts couldn’t come up with another gem on short rest and failed to make it out of the fourth inning. Baez, filling in at shortstop for injured rookie Addison Russell, delivered a three-run, opposite-field blast to do most of the damage. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny no doubt envisioned a Cubs-like, pieced together bullpen performance and Adam Wainwright did his part with two shutout innings, but left-hander Kevin Siegrist–who’d been so dominant all season–served up two homers to left-handed hitters and that was it.
Chicago has finally won a playoff series at Wrigley Field for the first time in franchise history and the Cubs now await the Mets-Dodgers winner in the NLCS, with ace Jake Arrieta fully rested for Game 1.
Allen Craig has been dreadful since the Red Sox acquired him from the Cardinals in the mid-2014 John Lackey trade, slashing .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances last year and .152/.239/.203 in 88 plate appearances at the major league level this year.
Craig hasn’t been the same player since suffering a Lisfranc injury in 2013, and the 31-year-old first baseman and corner outfielder is still owed $20 million from a five-year, $31 million extension he signed with the Cardinals. So, yeah, the Red Sox would love to find a taker this winter, as new club president Dave Dombrowski told Tim Britton of the Providence Journal on Tuesday …
You don’t often hear an executive express that kind of thing publicly. It was former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington who brought Craig to Boston.
Cardinals starter John Lackey had a clean first inning in Game 4 of the NLDS on Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but Anthony Rizzo opened the bottom of the second a shift-beating single to the left side of the infield and then Starlin Castro reached on a fielder’s choice grounder to short. Kyle Schwarber came through with a single and Jason Hammel followed a Miguel Montero strikeout with a two-out, run-scoring liner up the middle.
Enter young shortstop prospect Javier Baez, who’s filling in for the injured Addison Russell in Game 4 as the Cubs try to advance to the NLCS …
Opposite field. Wind-aided, sure, but it probably didn’t need the wind anyway. What a shot.
Chicago leads the visiting Cardinals 4-2 as the sixth inning gets underway at Wrigley.