Bryce Harper

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 9, Pirates 7: This could have been an awful, awful defeat, what with the Nats bullpen once again pooping all over itself. At least I’m assuming it would have been a defeat. The game was tied entering the bottom of the ninth. Thanks to Bryce Harper’s walkoff homer, however, we don’t know how extras would’ve gone had they been required. Though I’m guessing after the stretch the Nats have been on, Nats fans have a gut feeling.

Yankees 2, Rangers 0: Hiroki Kuroda does his part to blow some fresh air into the A-Rod-funkified Yankees Universe. Wait, the universe is mostly the vacuum of space, so there can be no air, clean or otherwise. Hurm. Anyway, Kuroda, Robertson and Rivera combine for a shutout.

Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 1: A homer and a double for Aaron Hill, who had been mired in a slump. He may still be mired in a slump, with this being but one brief shining moment amidst a long stretch of doom and despair. Wait: I think I just realized why baseball writers use selective end points so often. To not do so is rather depressing.

Mets 7, Braves 4: Zack Wheeler worked around trouble and John Buck drove in three for the series split. I did not realize this until I just read it: the Mets are 20-13 since they called up Wheeler.

White Sox 7, Tigers 4: Jake Peavy gutted out seven innings while Justin Verlander continued to look quite mortal, allowing 11 hits and striking out only four in six innings of work. This could’ve been Peavy’s last start with the White Sox as he is being heavily scouted and is subject to all kinds of trade rumors.

Padres 10, Brewers 8: Will Venable hit a couple of doubles and made a sweet catch in center. Yovani Gallardo didn’t do much to help the Brewers peddle him to a contender: six runs on eight hits while walking three in three and two thirds.

Blue Jays 4, Astros 0: Mark Buehrle with the two-hit shutout, snapping the Jays’ seven-game losing streak. He worked quickly, as usual, and was happy about that. Why? He said after the game that he had tickets to see Tim McGraw last night and really didn’t want to be late. Well then.

Marlins 5, Rockies 3: A four-run ninth for the Marlins. A three-run ninth for the Rockies. Advantage: Marlins because, well, that’s how math works.

Cardinals 3, Phillies 1: The Cardinals win their seventh of nine, thanks to Lance Lynn’s strong outing.

Royals 7, Orioles 1: This win closes out a 5-2 stretch against the Tigers and O’s. Not too shabby. They play their next 12 against sub-.500 clubs. They’re only seven back. I guess crazier things have happened. Can’t think of any at the moment, but still.

Angels 8, Athletics 3: Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo each drove in two runs. The Angels had 12 hits. Eleven of them were singles.

Reds 5, Dodgers 2: Mat Latos — owner of cat Cat Latos — ends the Dodgers winning streak.  Jay Bruce and Xavier Paul homered off Zack Greinke. The Reds won, but Shin-Soo Choo had two awful plays. He got deked by the shortstop on a hit-and-run and tried to retreat back to first only to get tagged out. He also fielded a single by Yasiel Puig, thought he’d try to peg him at first base when Puig made a big turn and threw the ball away for a two-base error. Well, oops.

Mariners 8, Twins 2: A six-run second inning for the M’s was pretty much all she wrote. Who’s “she,” anyway? She writes a lot. Maybe I should meet her. I’d like to know what makes her so prolific.

Rays vs. Red Sox: POSTPONED:  “And you’ll always love me won’t you? Yes. And the rain won’t make any difference? No.”

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.