NEW YORK — Clint Frazier is no longer the future of the Yankees outfield — or, as it has sometimes seemed over the past few years, of somebody else’s — he’s the present. The 26-year-old righty-swinging redhead, who began the season toiling at the Yankees’ alternate training site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, homered for the second straight night on Wednesday, helping the Yankees overtake the Blue Jays for second place in the AL East. During a season in which Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have played a combined total of 35 games due to injuries, in which age has finally caught up to Brett Gardner, and in which the 2019 magic has worn off of Mike Tauchman, Frazier has shown that both his lightning-quick bat and much-maligned glove are ready for prime time.
On Tuesday and Wednesday night in the Bronx while facing the Blue Jays — who came to town half a game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East standings — the Yankees erupted for 33 runs, winning by lopsided scores of 20-6 and 13-2 while hitting at least six homers in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history; they added another 10 runs and six homers on Thursday night. While Stanton and Judge went hitless in their respective returns from injuries, and AL wRC+ leader (!) DJ LeMahieu and major-league home run leader (!) Luke Voit produced their share of fireworks on both nights, Frazier was right in the middle of the action, collecting two hits, two walks, and a homer in each game. Using MLB.com’s fantastic new Film Room feature, we can play the hits from those two nights in one clip:
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NEW YORK — On Wednesday night, DJ LeMahieu got it started for the Yankees, as he has so often done since arriving from Colorado in January 2019. Blue Jays starter Tanner Roark, having missed the strike zone with his first pitch of the night, left a 90.5 mph four-seam fastball in the upper outside corner of the zone — an area where the right-handed LeMahieu rarely swings — and this time the 32-year-old second baseman reached out and poked it onto the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field for a solo home run. The Yankees, who had dropped 20 runs on the Blue Jays on Tuesday night while retaking second place in the AL East, added another 13 more on Wednesday via a season-high season seven homers, including three by backup catcher Kyle Higashioka and another by LeMahieu. They did all of this despite Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge going hitless in their respective returns from injury.
“DJ just continued to set the tone for us,” said manager Aaron Boone, a night after LeMahieu had gone 4-for-6 with a homer and five RBI. Here’s the first-inning shot:
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 16, 2020
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 16, 2020
The home run was LeMahieu’s fifth to lead off his team’s half of a game, moving him into the major league lead:
It was the 11th time LeMahieu has hit a leadoff homer in his two seasons as a Yankee; in that time, only Springer (15) has more, though until Wednesday, Acuña and Joc Pederson had as many in the same span. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday, I delved into what chaos there is to be had when it comes to the 2020 playoff picture in the National League. The answer, alas, is not very much, at least relative to a normal season. Alongside Major League Baseball’s combination of health and safety protocols and the expansion of each league’s playoff field from five teams to eight has come the decision to settle all seeding matters — including, potentially, who grabs a spot and who just misses — via the gripping excitement of mathematics instead of those boring tiebreaker games. MLB’s reasoning is that going the math route will minimize travel and keep the schedule as compact as possible during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and on the one hand I get it, but somewhere a McKinsey consultant must be proud of this bloodless, ultra-efficient solution. It stinks on ice, but like so much else, we’ll do our best at Entropy Central to play the hand that we’ve been dealt while hoping that things return to normalcy in 2021.
To refresh your memory regarding the format that was announced on Opening Day, each league’s playoff slates will include the division winners (who will be seeded 1-3), the second-place teams (seeded 4-6), and then the two other teams in the league with the best records (seeded 7-8, and deemed the Wild Card teams). For the first round, teams will be matched up in the familiar bracket format: 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, and 4-5, with all three games at the higher-seeded team’s ballpark in an effort to provide them with some kind of advantage.
If teams are tied for spots after the schedule has been completed, ties will be broken on the following basis:
Like so much else with the year 2020, those of us who root for end-of-season chaos in the form of tiebreaker games have had our hopes crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, or more specifically, Major League Baseball’s combination of health and safety protocols and the expanded playoff format. Not only does the expansion of each league’s playoff field from five teams to eight take some of the do-or-die pressure off plausible contenders on the margins, but the league has decided that the equivalents of Game 163 — whether of the play-in variety or merely to settle which team wins the division and which is the Wild Card — will not be played so as to minimize travel and keep the schedule as compact as possible.
Instead, all seeding — including, potentially, who grabs a spot and who just misses — will be settled in the most exciting manner of all… mathematically! As MLB’s marketing arm knows, that’s the best way to capture kids’ attention these days.
While we won’t get any bonus regular season baseball out of this situation — the added layer of best-of-threes in the postseason is a horse of a different color — the way things shake out could still produce a fair bit of end-of-season scoreboard watching and nail-biting. Like so much else, we’ll do our best at Entropy Central to play the hand that we’ve been dealt while hoping that things return to normalcy in 2021.
To refresh your memory about the format that was announced on Opening Day, each league’s playoff slates will include the division winners (who will be seeded 1-3), the second-place teams (seeded 4-6), and then the two other teams in the league with the best records (seeded 7-8, and deemed the Wild Card teams). A trial balloon regarding the top teams picking their opponents was floated, and it persisted to the point of confusion before being popped. Instead, for the first round teams will be matched up in the familiar bracket format: 1 seed versus 8 seed, 2-7, 3-6, and 4-5, with all three games at the higher-seeded team’s ballpark in an effort to provide them with some kind of advantage. Here it’s worth noting that after so much talk about the dissipation of home-field advantage through the absence of crowds, home teams thus far have a .544 winning percentage this year, higher than it’s been since 2009 (.549); last year, it was .529. Read the rest of this entry »
Lou Brock was a catalyst, not only for the Cardinals — whom he invigorated upon being traded from the Cubs in 1964, in one of the most infamously lopsided deals in major league history — but for all of baseball. Along with the Dodgers’ Maury Wills and the White Sox’s Luis Aparicio, Brock helped restore the stolen base to prominence as an offensive weapon, one that was particularly valuable during a low-scoring era. A cerebral, intensely competitive, and electrifying speedster who was ahead of his time in using film to study pitchers, Brock sparked the Cardinals, who hadn’t won a pennant in 18 years, to three in a five-year span and carved himself a niche in October while helping the team win two World Series. In his 19-year career (1961-79), he went on to set the single-season and career records for stolen bases, surpass the 3,000 hit milestone, have his uniform number (20) retired by the Cardinals, and earn first-ballot entry into the Hall of Fame.
Brock died on Sunday, September 6, having battled multiple health issues for several years. He had his lower left leg amputated in 2015 due to complications related to Type 2 diabetes, underwent treatment for multiple myeloma in ’17, and suffered a stroke the following year.
A six-time All-Star, Brock finished his career with a .293/.343/.410 (109 OPS+) line and 3,023 hits, a total that ranks 28th all-time; he also hit 149 homers. He hit .391/.424/.655 with four homers and a record 14 steals in 92 plate appearances spread over three World Series. He led the NL in stolen bases eight times, finished second an additional three times, and ran up impressive records. His 118 steals in 1974, when he was 35 years old, broke Wills’ modern record of 104, set in ’62. He surpassed Ty Cobb‘s modern record of 892 steals in 1977 and then 19th century star Slidin’ Billy Hamilton’s total (believed to be 937 at the time) two years later, finishing with 938. Rickey Henderson eventually surpassed Brock’s single-season and career marks, swiping 130 bases in 1982 and blazing past Brock on May 1, 1991, en route to a whopping total of 1,406 steals.
“The numbers can hardly tell the full story of Louis Clark Brock,” wrote New York Daily News reporter Phil Pepe on August 9, 1979, as Brock closed in on 3,000 hits. “They cannot tell you of the enthusiasm he possessed, the zest for the game, the excitement he generated, the joy of watching him. If you have not seen him play, you have missed one of the great joys of sport.”
“Watching Lou Brock taking a lead off first base is the best fun in baseball,” wrote Roger Angell in The New Yorker in 1974. Read the rest of this entry »
Even before they dropped 10 runs on a beleaguered Yankees bullpen on Monday night, the Blue Jays rated as one of the season’s top success stories. Coming off three straight sub-.500 seasons, forced out of their home country and into their Triple-A ballpark amid the coronavirus pandemic, and fielding the majors’ youngest lineup, the temporary inhabitants of Buffalo’s Sahlen Field are nonetheless running second in the American League East at 23-18, 4 1/2 games behind the Rays (28-14) but two games ahead of the banged-up Yankees (21-20). While much of the focus has been on the likes of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. given their pedigrees, their best hitter to date has been Teoscar Hernández, but the 27-year-old slugger’s impressive breakout has been interrupted by a left oblique strain and he appears likely to miss “serious time.”
After going hitless in back-to-back starts for the first time this season — an outage which in this case ended his career-high 15-game hitting streak — Hernández went 3-for-5 on Saturday against the Red Sox, with a 442-foot solo homer to center field off Ryan Weber in the second inning:
The homer was his 14th of the season, pulling him into a short-lived tie with Mike Trout and Fernando Tatis Jr. for the major league lead; within the hour, Trout homered against the Astros, the 300th of his career no less, and Tatis homered Sunday, but that’s impressive company nonetheless.
However, Hernández’s day ended on a down note, as he suffered a left oblique strain while striking out in his final plate appearance, against Mike Kickham. An MRI taken on Sunday morning proved inconclusive, and so the Blue Jays planned for him to get a second MRI once the swelling reduced, but the team placed him on the 10-day Injured List on Monday nonetheless. “That’s going to be a big loss if he has to go out a while,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »
Not for nothing did they call Tom Seaver “The Franchise.” When he debuted in 1967, the Mets lost 101 games, their fifth time in triple digits in six seasons of existence. Two years later, he led the team not only to its first winning record but to an upset of the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. A month shy of his 25th birthday, he had given “the Miracle Mets” a leg up against the crosstown Yankees, who were going through a fallow period after dominating baseball for four and a half decades, and in doing so he became an all-American icon. Uniting a powerful, efficient “drop and drive” delivery with a cerebral approach and impeccable command, he would go on to check virtually every important box in his 20-year major league career, winning three Cy Young awards, making 12 All-Star teams, leading his league in a triple crown category 11 times, tossing a no-hitter, surpassing the 300-win and 3,000-strikeout milestones, and setting a record with the highest share of a Hall of Fame vote when he became eligible in 1992.
Last summer, in celebrating the 50th anniversary of that championship, the Mets announced that they would officially designate the address of Citi Field as 41 Seaver Way (after his uniform number, which they retired in 1988), and dedicate a statue to “Tom Terrific.” Alas, by that point, Seaver’s family had gone public with the news that he had been diagnosed with dementia and was retiring from public life; he had battled health problems for years, including multiple bouts with Lyme disease. He missed the anniversary festivities and never lived to see the statue’s completion. Seaver passed away on Wednesday at age 75. According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he died peacefully in his sleep from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.
Seaver spent 11 1/2 of his 20 seasons with the Mets, departing in rather traumatic fashion first on June 15, 1977, in a trade to the Reds that was dubbed “The Midnight Massacre,” and then again in 1983, when after returning to New York via a trade and spending a season back in Queens, he was left unprotected in what was called the free agent compensation draft. He spent 2 1/2 years with the White Sox and his final half-season aiding the 1986 Red Sox’s pennant push, though a late-season knee injury kept him off the postseason roster and he could only watch as his former team won its second World Series.
Seaver was so durable that he made at least 32 starts and threw at least 200 innings in the first 13 seasons of his career and in 16 in all, the last at age 40. He finished with an ERA+ of at least 100 while qualifying for the ERA title in 18 of those seasons, including his final one at age 41; that’s tied with Walter Johnson for fourth behind only Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, and Cy Young, all with 19. His 3,640 strikeouts still rank sixth all-time, while his 311 wins rank 18th. He’s seventh in shutouts (61), 15th in starts (647), 19th in innings (4,783), walks (1,390) and home runs allowed (380), and in a virtual tie for 22nd among pitchers with at least 2,500 innings in ERA+ (127).
On the advanced statistical front, his 109.9 bWAR (including offense) ranks sixth behind only Johnson, Young, Clemens, Pete Alexander, and Kid Nichols. His seven-year peak score is “only” 20th, but his 84.6 JAWS is eighth; every pitcher ahead of him save for Clemens last pitched in the majors prior to World War II. Read the rest of this entry »
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Wracked by injuries and currently running fourth in the NL East at 15-20 — but even so just two games out of the eighth playoff spot — the Mets added a trio of players via separate deadline deals with the Rangers and Orioles on Monday. While catcher Robinson Chirinos and infielder Todd Frazier are the more familiar names and could have relevance beyond this season, it’s reliever Miguel Castro who will probably have the most staying power. Each addition addresses an area of need, though their 2020 impact might be minimal, and the hard-throwing righty did cost them a prospect of note as well as either a player to be named later or cash.
On a team that lost Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery and Marcus Stroman to an opt-out, then sent Michael Wacha and now Steven Matz to the Injured List with shoulder woes, the Mets have raided their bullpen to draft Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo into the rotation alongside Jacob deGrom, Rick Porcello, and rookie David Peterson. Particularly with Dellin Betances joining the IL due to right lat tightness, the need for competent relief work became particularly acute, and the addition of Castro, a 25-year-old righty with a live arm, helps to remedy that. Castro’s two-seam fastball averages 97.7 mph and goes as high as 99; as Ben Clemens recently observed, when he’s facing lefties, he tends to use his changeup as a secondary pitch, while against righties, he goes to his slider as an alternative. The fastball is even more hittable than most, but the secondary pitches are very good.
While Castro, who debuted with the Blue Jays in 2015 but still has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, got rather mediocre results in 2019 (4.66 ERA, 4.73 FIP in 73.1 innings), this year, he’s pitched markedly better (4.02 ERA, 3.71 FIP in 15.2 innings). His strikeout rate has spiked from 22.3% to 34.3%, while his walk rate has fallen from 12.8% to 7.1%; as a result, his K-BB% has nearly tripled, from 9.4% to 27.2%. His home run rate has climbed from 1.23 per nine to 1.72, but at the same time, his batted ball profile has taken on a different shape — harder contact but more grounders, and a ridiculous HR/FB rate: