And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 1, Reds 0: There were five shutouts in Major League Baseball yesterday. Three of those games and four of the teams involved were in the National League East. It’s as if a rift was created in the space-time continuum allowing for 1968 to become localized over certain portions of the eastern seaboard. I’m assuming red matter was involved somehow, but I need to consult Memory Alpha to get the details down accurately. Here it was all zeroes until Freddie Freeman singled home the game’s only run in walkoff fashion in the bottom of the 10th.

Phillies 2, Diamondbacks 0: A.J. Burnett tossed eight shutout innings to outduel Brandon McCarthy, who struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings. The Diamondbacks are now 8-20 and have a staggering -59 run differential.

Mets 4, Marlins 0: Quote of the day goes to David Wright, talking about Dillon Gee: “I’m not sure if Dillon is all that sexy of a pitcher. He just goes out there and gets the job done.” (1) I’d say three hits over eight shutout innings is sexy; and (2) even if it isn’t, someone who just goes out and gets the job done is often way better to have than someone who is sexy. The more superficial aspects of sexy go away after a while. Having someone who simply has their crap together is highly underrated.

Cardinals 7, Pirates 0: The starting pitcher was fantastic, shutting out the opposition until the bullpen carried the shutout the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the shortstop had two homers.

Cubs 4, Brewers 0: The starting pitcher was fantastic, shutting out the opposition until the bullpen carried the shutout the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the shortstop had two homers. No, this is not a copy-and-paste error. It was basically the same game as the Cards-Pirates thing. Only difference: Jason Hammel pitched seven shutout innings to Adam Wainwright’s eight and Starlin Castro’s two homers were solo shots while Jhonny Peralta drove in four. In other news, Hammel has four wins for a team that only has eight overall.

Astros 5, Athletics 1: Collin McHugh is Lou Gehrig to Scott Feldman’s Wally Pipp. Well, maybe not exactly — the Astros will find a place for Feldman when he comes back while someone like Lucas Harrell gets bumped — but there’s no question McHugh is parlaying his injury-necessitated callup into a full time gig. Here he allowed one run on two hits over eight and two-thirds while striking out seven. In his first start he shut out the Mariners into the seventh inning while striking out 12. Strong stuff.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:10pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Padres 4, Nationals 2: Ian Kennedy gave up three hits, struck out nine and didn’t walk anyone over seven, retiring 16 straight batters at one point. Cameron Maybin made his first big league start of the season and had a couple of hits. The Nats couldn’t have had a worse couple of days. They put Bryce Harper on the DL and then their starter for this one, Taylor Jordan, showed up with the flu. He attempted to pitch but had nothing.

White Sox 9, Rays 2: Jose Abreu keeps doing it. He homered and drove in four, bringing his totals to ten bombs and 31 RBI, both of which are records for he first month of the season for a rookie. And true, Abreu is a much more seasoned rookie than most, but the guy whose records he broke in both of those categories is Albert Pujols, who was no typical rookie himself.

Rockies 6, Dodgers 1: The Rockies are quietly putting together a nice season so far. They’ve won four series in a row and are tied with the Dodgers for second place in the division at 14-12. Jorge De La Rosa allowed one run over seven and Josh Rutledge had a three-run homer.

Giants 4, Indians 1: Brandon Hicks hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth with the score tied 1-1. That gave the Giants a series sweep. Not bad for a dude who signed a minor league deal and wouldn’t even be here if Marco Scutaro wasn’t hurt.

Mariners 6, Rangers 5: Kyle Seager had two homers including a three-run shot in the eighth to complete the M’s come-from-behind victory. Seager is on fire: he has five home runs in four games, and he’s had at least two hits in all of those games as well.

Royals 9, Orioles 3:  Have yourself a day Omar Infante. The Royals second baseman drove in six, with an RBI groundout in the first, a sac fly in the third, a two-run double in the fifth and a two-run homer in the seventh. James Shields tossed seven innings of three-hit ball.

Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 1: The Blue Jays salvage one and end a four-game losing streak. The Jays’ lineup featured six players from the Dominican Republic, which is believed to be a record. I would like to think that this was John Gibbons’ direct rebuke to the unnamed Jays scout who was reported to have said “this team has too many Latinos on it to win” at some point last year.

Yankees 3, Angels 2: Tanaka struck out 11, Teixeira hit a homer from the left side of the plate and the Yankees scored what proved to be the winning run via a passed ball and a wild pitch.

Tigers vs. Twins: POSTPONED:

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.” 

 

If 2020 season is cancelled, which players would be hurt the most?

Miguel Cabrera
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Last week, I went over a few teams that stood to be hurt most if there were to be no 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, we will look at some players who may be adversely effected by a lost year.

Milestones

Players chasing milestones, especially those towards the end of their careers, would be stymied by a lost season. Tigers DH and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is the first one that comes to mind. He is 23 home runs short of joining the 500 home run club. Though he hasn’t hit more than 16 in a year since 2016, he would likely have at least hit a few this year and would have had an easier time getting there in 2021. He turns 37 years old in 10 days. Cabrera may be under contract through 2023, but it is not clear that his age and his health would allow him to play regularly such that he would be able to reach 500 home runs if the 2020 season were to be cancelled. (Cabrera is also 185 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.)

Mike Trout has 285 home runs for his career. It’s almost a given that he would get to 300 and beyond in 2020. He is currently one of only 13 players with at least 250 home runs through his age-27 season. The only players with more: Álex Rodríguez (345), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), and Ken Griffey Jr. (294). Trout likely would have also reached 1,000 runs for his career, as he is currently at 903. Losing a full season could really make a difference where he winds up on the all-time leaderboards at the end of his career.

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina will be a free agent at season’s end, though he and the Cardinals have expressed interest in a contract extension. He turns 38 this summer and is 37 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. Even if this season never happens, Molina will likely join the 2,000 hit club in 2021 whether or not he signs a multi-year extension. Molina is also 84 RBI shy of 1,000 and 21 doubles shy of 400.

Free Agents

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto headline the free agent class heading into the 2021 season. Even if there eventually is a 2020 season, or something resembling it, teams are losing money across the board and that will result in stinginess in the free agent market. Make no mistake, Betts and Realmuto, as well as Trevor Bauer, Marcus Semien, and Marcus Stroman will still get paid handsomely, but they likely won’t get as much as they would following a typical year. The players that really stand to get hurt are the mid-tier free agents, whose cost won’t match their relative upside — players like James McCann, Howie Kendrick, Yuli Gurriel, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Turner, Michael Grantley, Marcell Ozuna, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jay Bruce, and Josh Reddick.

2020-21 Draftees and International Free Agents

At the end of March, MLB and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement on a deal covering issues including service time, pay during the pandemic, and the amateur draft. In exchange for players on active rosters getting credit for a full year of service time whether or not there is a 2020 season, the league got the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds. The league also gained the right to delay the start of the 2020 and 2021-22 international signing periods.

The MLBPA effectively sold out what will be their future union members. A shortened draft this year and/or next year would mean that players who would otherwise have been drafted this year will go undrafted and thus will either become unsigned free agents or return to the draft next year as part of a crowded pool of players. Likewise, pushing back the international signing period will add more players to the market at the same time. This, obviously, benefits ownership as a surplus of labor diminishes those laborers’ leverage.

Bounce-back Candidates

Players coming off of injuries or otherwise down years in 2019 were hoping to use 2020 to bounce back, reestablishing themselves in the league. Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani didn’t pitch at all last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was hopeful to rejoin the starting rotation at some point in the first half of a normal 2020 season. We learned yesterday that Ohtani is expected to throw off a mound “soon.” If a 2020 season does happen, it likely wouldn’t begin for another couple of months at minimum, which should afford him enough time to get into pitching shape.

Ohtani’s teammate and perennial Gold Glove Award candidate Andrelton Simmons played in only 103 games last season due to an ankle injury. He mustered a meager .673 OPS as well, compiling just 1.9 WAR, his lowest total in any season since debuting in 2012. In 2017, he peaked at 7.8 WAR and put up 6.3 the following season. Simmons will become a free agent after the 2020 season, so he most certainly needed a healthy and productive 2020 to maximize his leverage on the market.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, now 36 years old, is coming off of the worst offensive season of his career. He hit .261/.357/.411 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 608 plate appearances, continuing a downward trend. He registered a 167 adjusted OPS as recently as 2017, but that declined to 126 in ’18 and 98 last year. The Reds, back to being competitive, were definitely banking on a bounce-back year from Votto. (Votto, by the way, is also 56 RBI short of the 1,000 milestone for his career.)