Looking ahead to two more Game 5s

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Four best of five playoff series, four Game 5s. Life is good.

We do it again two more times tonight, with the following action on tap:

Orioles at Yankees, 5:07 PM ET, TBS:  It has been an offense-free zone for both teams, but it’s not surprising given the big names and big contracts that the Yankees are catching all the heat right now. Alex Rodriguez has been terrible but, really, Curtis Granderson has been worse. And it leaves Joe Girardi with a tough call tonight: do you play an elimination game without your future Hall of Famer and your 40+ home run center fielder in the lineup? Do you go with Eric Chavez and/or Brett Gardner in an effort to shake things up?  I doubt he’d make both of those calls, but benching A-Rod would not surprise me at all.

But maybe it’s the Orioles who need to worry more about their offense tonight, as they face CC Sabathia, who shut them down in Game 1. And, while they’re not getting the headlines Rodriguez and Granderson are getting, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones have been godawful too. They’ll need to figure something out if the O’s are going to advance to a meeting against the Tigers in the ALCS.

Cardinals at Nationals, 8:37 PM ET, TBS: Two things that I sort of don’t believe in in baseball: momentum carrying over and experience carrying the day.  The Nationals — thanks to Jayson Werth’s dramatic walkoff homer — have the former and the Cardinals — thanks to having the 2011 World Series hardware in their trophy case — have the latter, but that’s not really gonna matter tonight, as momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher and experience doesn’t put runners on the bases.

For the Cardinals it’s Adam Wainwright, for the Nats its Gio Gonzalez. Each are coming off strong Game 1 performances and each are facing lineups who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat in Game 4. The concern has to be more on the Nationals side, however, because even in victory yesterday the bats were mostly silent, whereas the Cardinals have been doing quite alright otherwise.  One gets the feeling that this will be a close, low-scoring game, however, decided by the bullpens.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.