Nov 16

Broadway comes to Chavez Ravine

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, “What do you do with a problem like Maeda?”

The Athletic tells us today that Maeda doesn’t want to relieve, partly because his contract is built around him being a starter but (probably) more because he’s been a starter his entire life and doesn’t think of himself as anything else. The Dodgers don’t bluntly say “pitch better, then” but you get the sense that’s what they feel. As we’ve seen the last couple of years, he starts most of the year and then is moved to the bullpen in September and October.

The strategy has proved effective for the Dodgers. But the approach vexes Maeda. It damages his pride and trims his paycheck. He has vocalized his frustration to Dodgers officials. After an unsuccessful attempt last winter to renegotiate his incentive-laden contract, which lasts another four years, Maeda remains steadfast in his desire to start. His agent, Joel Wolfe, reiterated that during a meeting with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman this week.

“Kenta wants to make 30 starts, 32 starts during the season,” Wolfe said. “He would prefer not to be constantly shuttled to the bullpen and back. He doesn’t like it.”

[snip]

[Friedman] suggested if Maeda could improve against left-handed hitters he could solidify his place in the rotation.

“We think there’s actually more room for him to be even better, which we’re going to work with him on trying to tap into,” Friedman said. “And if he’s able to take that next step, not only do I see him in the rotation, I can see him potentially starting playoff games, if we’re fortunate enough to make it into October. He has been really good. And we think there’s another gear in there.”

I don’t blame the guy for wanting his role defined and set in stone; in my experience most people prefer that. And while Maeda has gotten some of the pay from the incentives in his contract, he’s certainly not maxing them out.

Maeda received a $25 million guarantee across eight years, with $10 million per season available in incentives.

The problem for Maeda is that those incentives were related to milestones achieved by starters, like starts made and innings pitched, and the Dodgers have chosen to use him as a reliever in September for the past three years. In 2016, when Maeda was a full-time starter, he earned $7.25 million in incentives, according to Spotrac. That number fell to $4.25 million in 2017 and then $3 million in 2018, before rebounding to $5.4 million this year.

Maeda was lights-out against right-handers in 2019; only Max Scherzer was better among ERA qualifiers in weighted on-base average. Against lefties, however, he was 36th of 88 pitchers in that ranking.

The problem doesn’t seem intractable, but it’s not a small one either. It will be interesting to see how the two sides resolve it.

Oct 30

Game Seven, 2019 World Series

Nationals at Astros, 5:07 PM PDT, TV: Fox

Ah, Game Seven. I wrote this five years ago on my blog, and I see no reason to change my mind.

There’s no more dramatic phrase in sports, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve said so before and I’ll say it again: Game Seven is evocative of heroics on the field in do-or-die circumstances: Bill Mazeroski’s and Joe Carter’s home runs, Sid Bream’s slide, Carlos Beltran’s strikeout, Luis Gonzalez’s dribbler off Mariano Rivera, Koufax’s gutty 10K, three-hit shutout on two day’s rest … so many instances of melodrama.

Today’s edition offers two former Cy Young Award winners, righthanders Max Scherzer for the visiting Nationals and Zack Greinke for the Astros. I’m sure Scherzer will be on a very short leash with all hands on deck to relieve him if the neck spasms which prevented him from starting yesterday recur. Greinke dodged and weaved for 4 2/3 innings in Game Three of this series in a game the Astros eventually won.

Nationals lineup:

Astros lineup:

Oct 27

Game Five, 2019 World Series

Astros at Nationals, 5:07 PM PDT, TV: Fox

The big news of the day is that the Nats’ scheduled starter Max Scherzer has neck spasms and has been scratched. In his place will be RHP Joe Ross, who started the season in the bullpen but emerged as a member of the Nationals’ rotation when relieving didn’t suit him. He had Tommy John surgery in 2017; 2019 was his first full season back from that. He’ll face the Astros’ Gerrit Cole, who had an uncharacteristic loss in Game One in which he gave up five runs on eight hits in seven innings.

Astros lineup:

Nationals lineup:

Oct 22

Game One, 2019 World Series

Nationals at Astros, 5:00 PM PDT, TV: Fox

On paper this is a starting pitcher’s series like we haven’t seen in quite a while. Each team’s rotation has three excellent starters: Verlander, Cole and Greinke for the Astros and Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin for the Nats.

All six of those starters performed admirably this season. In fact, they were all top 20 in ERA among qualified pitchers: Cole was third, Verlander fourth, Scherzer eighth, Greinke ninth, Corbin 13th and Strasburg 16th. It’s the first World Series since 1945 to feature six of the top 20 pitchers in ERA, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

[snip]

That’s when the Tigers, with Hal Newhouser (1st) and Dizzy Trout (T-10th), faced the Cubs, who had Claude Passeau (4th), Paul Derringer (T-10th), Hank Wyse (T-15th) and Ray Prim (T-15th).

Game One will feature RHP Max Scherzer for the Nationals and RHP Gerrit Cole for the Astros. Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his last start, Game Two of the NLCS against the Cardinals. Cole has won all three of his postseason starts, giving up ten hits and one run in 22 2/3 innings.

Nationals lineup:

Astros lineup:

Oct 11

NLCS 2019

Game One, Nationals at Cardinals, 5:08 PM PDT, TV: TBS

RHP Aníbal Sánchez goes for the Nats while RHP Miles Mikolas pitches for the Cards.

Game Two, Nationals at Cardinals, 1:08 PM PDT, TV: TBS

Two veteran righties take the mound in this game: the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. Scherzer went seven innings in Game Four of the NLDS, giving up just one run. Wainwright pitched Game Three of the other side of the NLDS, giving his team 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Game Three, Cardinals at Nationals, 4:38 PM PDT, TV: TBS

The Cardinals ask their second-half ace RHP Jack Flaherty to stop the Nationals’ express. The Nats counter with RHP Stephen Strasburg. Flaherty threw six innings of one-run ball in the Cards’ Game Five blowout of the Braves. Strasburg gave up two early home runs to the Dodgers in the Nationals’ own Game Five, but gave them no more in six innings.

Game Four, Cardinals at Nationals, 5:05 PM PDT, TV: TBS

The Nationals are on the verge of a sweep, leading the series 3-0. Tonight they’ll pitch LHP Patrick Corbin, who started one game in the NLDS and relieved in two others against the Dodgers. The Cardinals hand the fate of their season to RHP Dakota Hudson, who went 4 2/3 innings in Game Four of their series against the Braves, giving up four runs (only one earned).

Oct 07

NLDS Games Four, 2019

The early game is the Braves at Cardinals, 12:07 PM PDT, TV: TBS

The Braves haven’t yet announced their starter, but an informed guess would be Dallas Keuchel or Julio Teheran. Whoever it is will face the Cardinals’ rookie RHP Dakota Hudson, whose 16 wins led all MLB rookies this year. He had a 2.75 ERA at home in Busch Stadium, too.

Braves lineup:

Cardinals lineup:

Dexter Fowler (S) CF
Kolten Wong (L) 2B
Paul Goldschmidt (R) 1B
Marcell Ozuna (R) LF
Yadier Molina (R) C
Matt Carpenter (L) 3B
Tommy Edman (S) RF
Paul DeJong (R) SS
Dakota Hudson (R) P

The late game is the Dodgers at Nationals, 3:40 PM PDT, TV: TBS

The Dodgers start LHP Rich Hill, who may be pitching with a knee brace and is not expected to go more than three or four innings. He’ll face RHP Max Scherzer, last seen striking out the side in the eighth inning of Game Two of this series on Friday.

Who is hot and who is not?
Dodgers: Turner had a homer, double and single in Game 3 and has hit safely in 10 straight NLDS games, batting .390 (16-for-41) with two homers and 10 RBIs. Since 2015, he has hit safely in 19 of 20 NLDS games. David Freese is equally a postseason monster and on Sunday became only the fourth player in postseason history to come off the bench with a three-hit game.

Dodgers lineup:

Nationals lineup:

Oct 01

NL Wild Card Game, 2019

Brewers vs. Nationals, 5:08 PM PDT, TV: TBS

The visiting Brewers send RHP Brandon Woodruff out to the Nationals Park mound to face Washington’s RHP Max Scherzer. The Brewers were 18-4 in games Woodruff started this season, but he’s just back from an oblique injury which caused him to miss six weeks in August and September and isn’t expected to go more than two or three innings. Fortunately for the Brewers, their bullpen has been very good this year. Scherzer has had nagging injuries in the second half of the year and missed much of August. He’s 0-2 with a 3.72 ERA in four postseason starts with the Nats, who have never won a postseason series. They did, however, end the season on an eight-game winning streak, which tops even the Dodgers’ season-ending streak of seven, so they’re hot.

Lineups when available.
Brewers:

Nationals:

May 11

Game 42, 2019

Nationals at Dodgers, 6:10 PM PDT, TV: KTLA, MASN 2, MLBN (out-of-market only), SPNLA

The redoubtable RHP Max Scherzer (1-4, 3.78 ERA) takes the hill to face the Dodgers’ RHP Walker Buehler (4-0, 4.95 ERA). The Nats are 1-7 when Scherzer has started this season; they’re not scoring many runs when he pitches. Buehler’s first start of the year was horrible; he lasted just three innings and gave up five runs, leaving him with an ERA of 15.00. Every outing since has caused his ERA to drop. At this point in the season he’s having trouble the third time through the opponents’ batting order; they’re hitting .196 the first two times through and .409 the third.

Today in Dodgers’ history:

  • 1963 Sandy Koufax takes a perfect game into the eighth inning before walking Ed Bailey on a 3-and-2 pitch, but will finish the Dodger Stadium contest with the second of four career no-hitters, blanking the Giants, 8-0. The Los Angeles southpaw beats San Francisco ace Juan Marichal, who will also author a no-hitter next month.

Three years ago tonight’s starter had a history-making performance: In 2016 Max Scherzer ties a major league mark when he strikes out 20 batters in a nine-inning game, joining Roger Clemens (1986, 1996 Red Sox), Kerry Wood (1998 Cubs), and Randy Johnson (2001 Diamondbacks). The 31 year-old right-hander, who goes the distance in Washington’s 3-2 victory over the Tigers at Nationals Park, has an opportunity to establish a new record with two out in the ninth, but James McCann grounds into a force out at second base to end the contest.

Lineup when available.


Oct 03

AL Wild Card Game, 2018

As at Yankees, 5:08 PM PDT, TV: TBS

The As are making a virtue of necessity by planning to “bullpen” this game, using a multitude of pitchers. This strategy is supposedly different from a bullpen game in which relief pitchers are used in 1- or 2-inning stints, but I’m not entirely sure how. As manager Bob Melvin “…noted the distinction between a ‘bullpen game’ — using a series of relievers in 1- and 2-inning stints — and using Hendriks as an opener before turning to a traditional starter for multiple innings, in the role the pioneering Tampa Bay Rays call ‘the bulk guy.’

It will be RHP Liam Hendriks, then, who starts for the As. He’s 0-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 24 innings this season and has made 8 appearances in the “opener” role. He’ll face the Yankees’ more traditional starter RHP Luis Severíno (19-8, 3.39 ERA). He started last year’s Wild Card Game against the Twins and got knocked out early, giving up three runs and two homers.

Today in As history:

  • 1924 At Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League beat the Eastern Colored League’s Hilldale Giants (PA), 6-2, in the opening game of the first Colored World Series. The ten-game event, in which KC will capture the crown, winning five games to 4 with one tie, features games played in Chicago, Kansas City, and Baltimore.
  • 1965 At Metropolitan Stadium, Angels’ first baseman Vic Power (Pellot) ends his 12-year major league career going 1-for-5 with an RBI single in a 5-2 loss to the Twins. The .284 career hitter will have the distinction of being the last active player to have worn a Philadelphia A’s uniform (1954).
  • 1976 On the last day of the season, Kansas City’s George Brett and Hal McRae and Minnesota’s Rod Carew are separated by .001 for the batting title. Brett, who goes 3-for-4 , edges his Royals teammate (.333 vs .332) for the American League crown with the deciding hit, an inside-the-park home run, being a misplayed line drive, leading McRae to believe the lack of effort was intentional.
  • 1993 Eighty-three year-old Mel Harder throws the ceremonial ‘last’ pitch at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. As a member of the 1932 Indian squad, he also had thrown the first pitch as the team’s starting pitcher in the ballpark’s inaugural game, a 1-0 defeat to Lefty Grove and the A’s.
  • 2012 In the final game of the season with the AL West title on the line, Ranger’s center fielder Josh Hamilton’s fourth inning-error opens the floodgates that allow the A’s to erase a five-run deficit when they score six times en route to their 12-5 victory at the Oakland Coliseum. The Texas loss puts the team into the new one-game AL Wild Card contest against Baltimore.

Today in Yankee’s history:

  • 1947 In Game 4 of the Fall Classic, Bill Bevens comes within one out from pitching the first no-hitter in World Series history. The Yankee hurler loses his claim to fame and the game when Cookie Lavagetto, pinch-hitting for Eddie Stanky, hits a two-out ninth-inning double, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 improbable victory.
  • 1948 After taking his position in center field in the bottom of the eighth inning at Fenway Park, Joe DiMaggio, is removed from the game by Yankee manager Bucky Harris. As the superstar of their hated rivals limps off the field, the enthusiastic Red Sox crowd of 35,000 gives Joltin’ Joe a lengthy and loud standing ovation, a gesture he will later refer to as one of the greatest thrills of his career.
  • 1995 The Yankees, 9-6 victors over the Mariners in the Bronx, and the Rockies, dropping a 5-4 decision to the Braves in Colorado, become the first clubs to participate in the postseason not having been a first-place team. The two wild-card clubs will not advance further in the playoffs, both losing their three-out-of-five divisional series.
  • 2009 Needing only a win or a Colorado loss for the past week, the Dodgers finally clinch the National League West title with a 5-0 victory over the wild-card Rockies. Joe Torre, who will be managing in the postseason for the 14th consecutive season, has won thirteen divisional titles, including ten with the Yankees, one with the Braves, and now his second with LA.
  • 2010 The Rays, entering the final day of the season tied with the Yankees, win their second AL East crown when their rivals lose to Boston. With the title not in jeopardy, even with a loss due to their overall record against New York this season, Tampa Bay rallies for a 3-2 victory over Kansas City in 12 innings to take the division by a game.
  • 2013 Alex Rodriguez announces he has filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court, accusing Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig of pursuing “vigilante justice” as part of a “witch hunt” in an effort to “destroy” his reputation and career. On August 5, the Yankees star was given a 211-game suspension for alleged violations of baseball’s drug agreement.
  • 2015 In the nightcap of a Citi Field twin bill, Max Scherzer throws his second no-hitter of the season when the Nationals beat the first-place Mets, 2-0. The 31 year-old National right-hander becomes the fifth pitcher to hurl two no-hitters in the same regular season, joining Nolan Ryan (1973 Angel), Virgil Trucks (1952 Tigers), Allie Reynolds (1951Yankees), and Johnny Vander Meer (1938 Reds), who also accomplished the feat.

As lineup:


Yankees lineup: