Manny Ramirez comes up empty as White Sox's playoff hopes slip away

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Needing a sweep of the Twins to have any kind of realistic shot at the AL Central title the White Sox instead dropped Game 1 of a three-game series in Chicago last night as Manny Ramirez repeatedly came up empty in crucial at-bats.
In the first inning he came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second in a 0-0 game. He struck out swinging.
In the fourth inning he came to the plate with one out and a runner on third base in a 0-0 game. He struck out swinging.
In the seventh inning he came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in a 4-3 game. He struck out swinging.
Ramirez did draw a walk and score a run in the sixth inning, but he whiffed in three at-bats where a hit of any kind could have dramatically changed the game. Chicago’s playoff chances were already slim when they acquired Ramirez, they’ve gone 7-5 in his 12 games, and he’s hitting .270 with a .400 on-base percentage, but remarkably has yet to produce an extra-base hit or drive in a run.
Obviously a dozen games is hardly enough to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions about what Ramirez has left, particularly since he posted a robust .915 OPS in 66 games with the Dodgers, but the White Sox took the small sample size gamble by assuming the $4 million remaining on his contract for just 30 games and his bat certainly looked slow last night as he repeatedly swung through fastballs.
And now that the White Sox are seven games behind the Twins what Ramirez does or doesn’t do for the final three weeks is almost meaningless. General manager Ken Williams took a $4 million gamble that Ramirez would be productive for 30 games, but after 12 games of little impact the remaining 18 games hardly matter. According to the simulations at Baseball Prospectus and Cool Standings, the Twins have a 99 percent chance of winning the AL Central.

Mike Trout has been really good at baseball lately

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“Water wet,” “Sky blue,” “Dog bites man” and “Mike Trout good” are not exactly newsworthy sentiments, but once in a while you have to state the obvious just so you can look back later and make sure you were, in the moment, aware of the obvious.

And to be fair, “Mike Trout good” is underselling the Angels outfielder lately. He’s on the greatest tear of his great career lately, and dang it, that’s worthy of a few words on this blog.

Last night Trout went a mere 1-for-1, but that’s because the Diamondbacks were smart enough not to pitch to him too much, walking him twice. There was no one on base the first time he came up and he got a free pass. There was a guy on first but two outs the second time, so he was once again not given much to hit and took his base again. Arizona was not so lucky the third time. The bases were loaded and there was nowhere to put Trout. He smacked the first pitch he saw for a two-run single. They probably shoulda just walked him anyway, limiting the damage to one. The last time up he reached on catcher’s interference. Maybe Arizona figured that literally grabbing the bat from him with a catcher’s mitt was the best bet?

If so you can’t blame them, really. Not with the month he’s had. In June, Trout is hitting .448/.554/.776 with five homers. He currently leads the league in the following categories: home runs (23), runs (60), walks (64), on-base percentage (.469), OPS (1.158) OPS+ (219), total bases (179) and intentional walks (9). He currently has a bWAR of 6.5. WAR, in case you did not know, is a cumulative stat. When he won the 2014 MVP Award, he “only” had 7.6 for the entire year.

Sadly, one man does not a team make, so the Angels are only 9-8 in the month of June and have fallen far back of the red-hot Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners in the division race. For this reason I suspect a lot of people are going to do what they’ve long done and overlook Mike Trout’s sheer dominance or, even more ridiculously, claim he is overrated or something (believe me, I’ve seen it even this month).

Feel free to ignore those people and concentrate instead on the greatest baseball player in the game today, who has somehow managed to up his game in recent weeks.