MLBits: Slow Starts for All-Stars, Pirates Get Reinforcements, DBacks Lose Ray, Fun Police, Dodgers, More

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MLBits: Slow Starts for All-Stars, Pirates Get Reinforcements, DBacks Lose Ray, Fun Police, Dodgers, More

Chicago Cubs

I’m headed to Austin, Texas this weekend for my bachelor party, but the forecast calls for thunderstorms both Friday and Saturday … I guess I don’t really have a point, but, you know, that stinks. Anyone have any good Austin suggestions?

Here’s some news from around the league …

  • At Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan discusses the ugly and slow start to the season for, well, all of baseball: “Generally speaking, April doesn’t offer the cleanest brand of baseball. This, though? This start to the season where home teams, who typically win about 54 percent of games, are 200-207? This sliver of time in which 22.7 percent of plate appearances have ended in strikeouts? This is the sort of stuff that tends to get lost amid the everyday shiny objects.” Passan rolls through a list of seven teams on pace to lose 100+ games this year, and while not all of them will, they do exemplify the frustrating opening to 2018.
  • Speaking of that slow start, Dan Szymborski does his thing at ESPN, trying to identify which individual players’ ice cold starts should scare you the most. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton makes the list – he’s currently an above average offensive performer (107 wRC+), but that’s obviously a far cry from last season when he was the MVP (156 wRC+). Szymborski doesn’t think it’s all over for Stanton – not by a long shot – but he does see some troubling peripherals behind the scenes. I’m just happy Anthony Rizzo didn’t sneak his way onto this list … not that I’m worried about him, but, well, you know it hasn’t been great.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  • ESPN asked Bradford Doolittle, Sam Miller, and David Schoenfield to weigh in on some of the biggest stories from the first month of the season, and the first topic is which of the three NL powerhouses should be the most worried (Dodgers, Nats, or Cubs)? All three chose the Nationals for various reasons, from underperformance, to health, to scary in-division rivals who weren’t supposed to be that good. The trio also discussed the Mets’ playoff odds, how many homers Giancarlo Stanton will hit, how good will Shohei Ohtani ultimately be and much more. Check it out.
  • To go back to the struggling Nats for a moment, Yahoo Sports goes through some of starter Stephen Strasburg’s post-game comments, suggesting that he thinks his teammates might not be giving it their all. I didn’t exactly read it the same way, but I can understand how the comments are being received. I’m also eternally grateful that the Cubs have had relatively few off-field distractions in recent years.
  • The Dodgers might not be struggling as much as the Nationals, but manager Dave Roberts did just pull Cody Bellinger, one of the best and youngest players in baseball, for not hustling *on a double* during Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Giants. “I feel like I’m always hustling, hustling on ground balls, and it kind of didn’t make sense to me,” said Bellinger. “But I get it as well. Just trying to prove a point, for me not hustling, being the young guy, got to hustle.” Roberts is generally considered to be a good manager, but this one makes me scratch my head more than just a bit. And for what it’s worth, Bellinger didn’t seem to be too please with the decision: “I don’t think anyone can tell me how to play. I’ve always played hard.” He later added that he was not trying to make an out on the bases by going to third when they were down four runs … all good points.
  • Speaking of other dumb things, Salvador Perez was unhappy with Tim Anderson’s home run celebration and it led to the benches clearing. We’ve seen this a thousand times, so I don’t have much to add outside of, “Hey, you, fun police, go home. No one likes you.”
  • Because there’s officially been enough data to measure, Baseball Prospectus has just gone live with their Deserved Runs Average, which is a cousin of ERA that credits pitchers for the runs they deserved to give up rather than the runs they were charged with. Among the most interesting new developments is the inclusion of an uncertainty factor, alongside each new DRA. Basically, BP has provided a plus or minus for each player’s DRA, which allows you to better estimate the range of expected results looking backward (to better predict what might happen next). We don’t use DRA a lot, but I like where it’s heading.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks (19-8) have the second best record in baseball and tops in the National League, but they just lost their big left-hander, Robbie Ray, to an oblique injury on Sunday. “I felt great up until that one pitch,” Ray said. “It was probably in the middle of my delivery. I was letting go of the ball. Just felt my side grab. I wasn’t able to finish the pitch. Just left it up and away. Wasn’t able to get anything on it or extension. I felt amazing coming into today’s game, bullpen session and everything. It’s baseball.” Ray hasn’t had the best start to 2018, but he did have a sub-3.00 ERA and 3+ WAR last season, so he’s certainly a big part of this team. He hasn’t hit the DL as of this post, but he is getting an MRI today and is largely expected to go on the disabled list soon.
  • In other NL West injury news, Giants second baseman Joe Panik might need thumb surgery and could be out anywhere from six to eight weeks.
  • It’s not your imagination, the Cubs are pretty bad at scoring runners from third with less than two outs. More specifically, run scoring league average in those circumstances is around 50% (it was 51% last year and is currently at 49% this year). The 2018 Cubs, however, have batted 62 times with fewer than two outs and a runner on third and that runner has scores … 22 times (35.5%). Jeff Sullivan explores why certain teams are worse at it than others and provides some general context for the numbers.
  • Heads up: The Rockies are gaining one player but losing another, ahead of their series with the Cubs:

  • Speaking of gaining players, the Pirates are getting some reinforcements on both sides of the ball, and they could be significant. The first, Jung-Ho Kang:

  • After getting caught for not one, not two, but three DUIs, Kang had lost his right to work (play baseball) in the United States. He had tried desperately to fight the government’s decision, but was turned down. He then went and played (terribly) in some international leagues to stay sharp. Now, he’s making his way back to MLB and will apparently re-join the Pirates. We’ll see how good he is, though, because through 24 games in the Dominican Professional Baseball League, Kang hit .143/.219/.202, and he was much older (with much more experience) than anyone else in the league.
  • The Pirates also got a boost in the form of Nick Kingham:

  • The Pirates pitching staff currently ranks around the middle of the pack, but Kingham, 26, made a marvelous debut: 7.0 IP, 1H, 0BB, 9Ks against the Cardinals. Yeah. That’s legit. Oh and it’s not even the best part:

  • And finally, just for fun:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami