The divisional races have all but wound down and the playoff teams are nearly set.
Of course, as I’m sure you already know, the Cubs were the latest team to clinch their division and the Twins managed to lock in an unexpected Wild Card spot, too. The Cardinals were eliminated by the Cubs altogether last night, and the Red Sox have a magic number of just 1 to clinch the AL East.
The Brewers, meanwhile, picked up a half game on the Rockies yesterday and are just two games back with three to go. The Rockies get the Dodgers for the last series and the Brewers get the Cardinals. It’s … possible.
But there’s plenty more going on around baseball, so let’s check in on some news from around the league …
- You already know that there were more home runs in baseball this season than any other year in the history of the sport, but did you know the same was true for strikeouts? At the end of Wednesday night, the 2017 season witnessed 39,168 Major League strikeouts, which overcame the previous record of 38,982 … set last year. Which broke the record set the year before. (And you can do that dance for 10 straight seasons.) Yep, homers and strikeouts are WAY up throughout the league, as many have jumped on the dingers or bust bandwagon.
- The Marlins sale has been approved:
Per source, owners have APPROVED Marlins sale. Derek Jeter/Bruce Sherman will be Marlins' new owners, pending closing next week.
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 27, 2017
- Now it’s time to see how involved the new owners will be (my early sense is that they seem VERY involved, which isn’t necessarily a good thing) and how big of a role Derek Jeter, in particular, will take – rumors previously suggested he wanted to be the President of Baseball Operations, which … I don’t know.
- Speaking of owners being very involved, this is precisely why it can be a very, very bad idea:
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) September 28, 2017
- White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon (who was selected just before Kyle Schwarber in the 2014 MLB draft) underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will be out anywhere from 6-8 months.
- At CBS Sports, R.J. Anderson takes a deep look into concussions in the game of baseball, particularly their disproportionate volume/affect on catchers. And this topic is relatively well timed. Yadier Molia, you’ll recall, was hit the face mask a couple of times on Monday night, and the good news is that he was quickly ushered into MLB’s concussion protocol.
- But current Cubs catcher Alex Avila, for one example, wasn’t as lucky back in 2011 when a foul ball off his face mask literally generated sparks and he was left in the game. Avila has dealt with concussions throughout his career, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that this isn’t an issue limited to football or hockey.
- Remember Cubs third base prospect Christian Villanueva? He was always known for having a great glove, but could never quite hit his way into the Majors with the Cubs (especially because of Kris Bryant’s presence). Well, after hitting .296/.369/.528 in Triple-A this season after being let go by the Cubs (by FAR his best performance at that level), he’s gotten off to a hot start with the Padres. In his first ten big league games, Villanueva is slashing .333/.333/.778 with FOUR home runs. That’s quite a start, and I wish him the best.
- At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron notes that there are up to 13(!) players with legitimate arguments for the 2017 NL MVP award. Rolling through the list, Cameron eventually lands on Kris Bryant, suggesting that he’s the best offensive player who also 1) comes from a playoff team, and 2) has played the entire season (those qualifiers eliminated Joey Votto and Justin Turner, in case you’re wondering), but Cameron adds that his low RBI total is going to hurt his case among voters. It’s a nice little discussion and worth your time. I think the ballots are going to be fascinating.
- Giants starter Matt Cain, who turns 33 on Sunday, will be retiring at the end of the year. And with that retirement, he’ll also become just the fourth player in franchise history to play his whole career with the Giants while also playing at least 10 seasons in the Majors. That’s always fun to see. Cain had quite a career with some title moments (a perfect game in 2012, 2.10 ERA through eight postseason starts, and starts for the clinching game in all three series during the Giants 2012 run), but he’ll be hanging it up at the end of the year after injuries and ineffectiveness took their toll.
- This is fun: the Tigers’ Andrew Romine has already played eight positions this season, but on Sunday, the final game of the year, he’ll do something special: Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus said that he’ll have Romine play all nine positions on the field before the game is over. The only one he hasn’t ever done yet is catch, but apparently he’ll get the chance on Sunday (he’s literally never done it as a professional before, so … ). That’s pretty cool.
- Speaking of awesome things:
— Enrique Rojas/ESPN (@Enrique_Rojas1) September 27, 2017
- Joon Lee writes about why bobbleheads usually look so terrible over at Bleacher Report, and recalls a story of how the Sacramento River Cats’ 2013 Barry Zito bobblehead not only looked nothing like the star left-handed pitcher, but also … his glove was on the wrong hand. *Yikes*. Apparently, when alerted to the mistake, the marketing department suggested no one would notice. But *Double Yikes* they did. However, not all bobbleheads are created equal (or so I’m learning). In fact, a few teams are exceptionally good at making promotional bobbleheads, combining improved life-like-ness and far more creativity into their work. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d read a whole piece about bobbleheads, but it’s really quite interesting stuff.
- Giancarlo Stanton crushed homers number 58 and 59 last night, and here was the second one of the evening:
Here's Giancarlo obliterating homer number 59 on the year, his second of the night. pic.twitter.com/LaEPJ3NIme
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) September 29, 2017
- And with that blast he’s officially in the top ten for most homers in a single season (he’s actually tied with Babe Ruth’s 1921 season). And, of course, he’s just two shy of Roger Maris’ 61 homers, which is something for which Stanton had previously suggested he was shooting.