The Cubs are off, but there is a heck of a lot to get to today around MLB …
- There’s something of a weird story developing around Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper right now, and MLBTR has the summary. In short, On Tuesday, Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated) twice reported that the reigning NL MVP, Harper, is playing through a shoulder injury that is “severely hampering his ability to perform at the plate.” HOWEVA, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post relayed that the Nationals are “vehemently” denying any such injury – GM Mike Rizzo, for what it’s worth – called the report inaccurate, while Harper refused to comment. But today, in a weird twist, Janes is reporting that Rizzo, Manager Dusty Baker, and trainer Paul Lessard had a “sit-down” with Harper to see if there was anything to which they were unaware. The outcome, expectedly, is that Harper is fine. It’s a truly bizarre series of events. Since returning from an injury on August 14, Harper has slashed .260/.375/.441, which is good for a 116 wRC+. Since September 3, however, he’s hitting just .145/.309/.200 (37 wRC+).
- If the New York Mets find their way into the 2016 postseason, they’ll have to go it without another one of their top pitchers, Jacob deGrom. In case you missed it, deGrom’s season has officially come to an end, after undergoing surgery to repair nerve damage in his right elbow. Apparently, deGrom experienced some pain in his elbow while shagging fly balls in the outfield, before doctors diagnosed him with ulnar nerve damage (which is apparently common after Tommy John Surgery).
- Meanwhile, other injured Mets starter Steven Matz is said to be “good to go,” for Friday’s start against the Phillies after a successful bullpen session in New York on Wednesday. He, too, is recovering from an injury (left shoulder impingement) that makes his immediate future uncertain. Even if Matz is healthy, however, the Mets are concerned about whether he can build up enough stamina between now and October to actually make a full start in a playoff game. In other words, while he appears to be healthy right now, he isn’t a lock for the postseason (then again, neither are the Mets – Ender Inciarte made sure of that). Without all of deGrom, Matz, and Matt Harvey, the Mets rotation is in some serious trouble.
- UPDATE: Strike that …
Alderson just came into press conf room and confirmed Matz not starting tmrw
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) September 22, 2016
- But they aren’t the only Wild Card contenders with rotational injuries at the top. Indeed, the San Francisco Giants are waiting to see if Johnny Cueto will be healthy enough to make his next scheduled start (this Sunday) against the Padres. Cueto, if you recall, strained his left groin on Monday in the Giants’ win over the Dodgers, and may miss up to a week. If it’s really that short of a window, the Giants may be able to weather the storm and sneak into the playoffs at 100%, but if they enter October without Cueto in the rotation, they’ll have some issues of their own.
- Speaking of the Giants’ starters, make sure you don’t ever look at Madison Bumgarner … he doesn’t like to be looked at. At the end of the 7th inning on Monday, Yasiel Puig grounded out to Bumgarner for the final out of the inning. On his way to first, Bumgarner yelled at Puig, asking him why he was looking at him – which led to a bench clearing confrontation. Having seen the video, I’m not sure Puig did anything wrong (or anything at all, really). Instead this seems like Bumgarner just losing his cool. Or maybe I’m just biased because I love what Puig did the next day:
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) September 20, 2016
- Not only did Puig and the Dodgers make #DontLookAtMe shirts, he eventually signed one – adding his other hashtag #PuigYourFriend and “I Like You” – and sent it to Bumgarner. I’m pretty sure that makes the score Puig 10, Bumgarner 0.
- As of today, Mookie Betts has accumulated an impressive 7.4 WAR as a 23-year-old outfielder for the Red Sox. Most years, that (and the rest of his production and defense) might be enough for him to be considered the AL MVP favorite – that is if you completely ignore Mike Trout … which is what everyone is doing … yet again. At the beginning of the day today, Mike Trout has already been worth 8.8 WAR, which is by FAR the most in all of baseball and a massive 1.4 WAR more than Mookie Betts. I’m not one to suggest that the award should be based on WAR alone (there’s plenty of flaws in that argument), but the sheer massiveness in the difference between the two is staggering. For some weird reason, fans and voters have gotten so caught up with the word “valuable” in MVP, that they’ve completely lost sight of the award’s purpose.
@Michael_Cerami Best player in MLB on a bad team? MVP. Best player in MLB on a great team? MVP. Is your name Kris Bryant? MVP.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 14, 2016
- It is my humble opinion that the MVP be given to the best overall player – not just one that’s on a competitive team – and that is so clearly Mike Trout it’s criminal. Ken Rosenthal has already prepared himself for the inevitable robbing of Mike Trout (once again), and asks how will voters rob him of the award this year. Joe Posnanski writes about the same issue at NBC sports, with an angle on how “boring,” Trout is perceived to be. You should really check out the article, but I have to tease you with this punchline: “On the pro side, he’s the best player. On the con side, you know, let’s give the MVP award to someone who isn’t the best player because it would be more interesting. Now THAT is a boring argument.” Cheers!
- Have you been paying attention to whatever the hell Gary Sanchez is doing to baseballs lately? Since being called up on August 3, Sanchez has crushed 19 home runs – the most by any player through 45 games in MLB history – in less than 200 plate appearances. His overall slash line this season, then, is a herculean .337/.410/.747. Despite having less than 200 plate appearances this year, Jeff Sullivan (who has a vote this year) is even making his case for Rookie of the Year at FanGraphs. What he’s done is hard to ignore.
- Also at FanGraphs (and also from Jeff Sullivan), Sullivan discusses the turn around Carlos Gomez has put up since leaving the Astros and heading to the Rangers. The short version: “Over 126 games spent with the Astros, Carlos Gomez was worth 0.6 WAR. Over 25 games spent with the Rangers, Carlos Gomez has been worth 0.7 WAR.” Since landing with the Rangers, Gomez has found his former self. In over 100 plate appearances, he’s slashed .261/.352/.500 with six home runs, four doubles, and an 11.4% walk rate. I would have never predicted such a rebound, but at just 30 years old (with his pedigree), it isn’t hard to believe. The Rangers will benefit greatly from his bat in October.