I’m not sure why I feel so strongly about the mostly arbitrary deadline of the All-Star break, but I really hope the Cubs manage to take a sole possession of first place by the time it rolls around (they’re currently a half-game back with equal numbers in the loss column). There seems to be something psychologically relieving about entering the break in first place that has a disproportionately positive effect on my brain. Give me those good feels, yo.
Here’s some news from around the league …
- Although I’ve often heard and understood the arguments against the shift (i.e. that it’s hurting baseball not only for the offense it subtracts in obvious ways, but also because of how it can change the type of hitters MLB produces), I’ve never really heard that it’s hurting lefties more than righties – or, well, that it’s unfair that it’s hurting lefties more than righties. But according to Scott Boras, that is indeed the case. “You want right handed hitters and left handed hitters treated equally,” Boras said to Jon Heyman FanCred Sports. “I think you have to (legislate) having two players on the other side of the (second base) bag.” His theory is built on 1) the fact that first basemen stand on the right side of the field no matter what and 2) right-handed pitchers (of which there are a majority) throw breaking balls that break away from righties, making it easier to go the other way.
- I’m sure there is a little bit of self-interest in there (he represents several left-handed hitting power hitters who’ve seen their batting averages drop recently), but maybe there’s something to it. I’d love to see some more raw data on it, but having watched Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo hit liner after liner into short-right field for outs, I could be selfishly persuaded to make a change. More at FanCred. [Brett: I think it’s interesting to try to argue against the shift for an entirely new and different reason, at least. I’m mostly ambivalent about this particular topic, to be honest. The shift is fine. Kill the shift. I don’t really have a strong opinion, but I do like hearing the arguments and the data.]
- Nolan Arenado has become the latest star to get sick of killing it for bad teams: “I just get pissed because I don’t want to lose anymore. I’ve only been to the playoffs once and it was only one game. And I really want more than that.” Arenado continued saying that he’s tired of losing and has begun to go home questioning whether he likes “this place.” Woof. On the one hand, I can understand his plight, but it’s not as though the Rockies haven’t invested in their teams. They’re fairly active on the trade and free agent front, it just hasn’t worked out. That, to me, is a HUGE difference between Giancarlo Stanton’s concerns/comments with the Marlins, and Jacob deGrom’s with the Mets.
- What Jacob deGrom comments? These ones: “I’m frustrated. I’m tired of losing, to be honest.” Like I said, Arenado was just the latest to repeat this chorus, but deGrom’s was nothing new either. Good players have been stuck on bad teams forever and unfortunately for them, there’s nothing they can really do about it.
- On June 23rd, the Brewers were forced to send 2017 breakout star Domingo Santana to the Minor Leagues after he laid an egg to start the year (79 wRC+). But he’s not the only promising youngster to have his 2018 season go sideways. Orlando Arcia (27 wRC+, -0.6 WAR) has been sent back to the Minors for the second time this season. And although this decision was somewhat roster related, it’s obviously not something the Brewers would have done had it not been necessary: “The short term is we had to have an arm today. But probably more important longer term is that we’ve got to get Orlando going offensively,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Unfortunately, I feel like we’ve kind of failed here in just trying everything we can to do it.”
- You know who else has failed to live up to his 2017 hype? Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham. After turning a 148 wRC+ and positive center field defense into a 6.0+ WAR campaign last year (and then betting on himself), Pham is hitting just .297/.329/.418 (106 wRC+) this year and only just ended a nine-game hitless streak. Since May 20th (a date I picked to make him look as bad as possible, but also one with about 150 plate appearances in it), Pham has slashed .174/.218/.290 (37 wRC+). That’s not great.
- While I wrote that last bullet with a smile, I have far less pleasure sharing Dexter Fowler’s .171/.276/.278 slash line this season, because things have really not gone well. Indeed, get this: Fowler didn’t record one single RBI in the entire month of June. He was only granted 61 plate appearances that month, but, still, that’s just … something. And now, his own team’s president is unfairly and publicly calling him out and questioning his effort and work ethic. If you ask me, that’s not only unbelievable, inappropriate, and probably inaccurate, it’s arguably an attempt to separate himself from Fowler’s struggles at the plate and the responsibility the president shares in bringing him aboard and then not putting him in a position to succeed. Get Dex out of there already.
- Aaron Hicks joined Lou Gehrig (1927) and Mark Teixeira (2010) as the only Yankees in team history to have a three-homer game against the Red Sox. The Yankees hit a total of six homers that night, five of which were allowed by David Price (what happened to you, man?). “That’s probably as good a night as we’ve had all year,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Just all night, a lot of different guys, on a lot of different pitches. I thought our game plan going in was really good. Those guys went out and really executed in a big series. That’s a peek at what we can do when we are really clicking.” Gleyber Torres hit one of the homers. Get over it.
- In other former Cub news, Matt Szczur was designated for assignment by the Padres yesterday to make room for infielder Carlos Asuaje on the big league roster. And from the sounds of it, Szczur was just a bit unlucky with his timing (not like his experience with the Cubs): “[Szczur’s] had a tough hand dealt to him,” Manager Andy Green said. “He didn’t play much, and it just got to the point, with as many outfielders as we have in this organization, that he’s kind of been buried in the situation. He was the right guy at this point in time to take off.”
- The Cubs are about to host the Tigers for two quick games at Wrigley Field starting tomorrow, but they won’t be at full strength. Center fielder Leonys Martin, who’s been worth 2.3 WAR (top 20 in the AL) this season, just hit the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. And closer Shane Green is joining him on the shelf with a right shoulder strain. Bad news for the players, good timing for the Cubs.
- And finally, from Baseball is Fun, the Blue Jays are clearly cheating by employing one of the Avengers:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) July 2, 2018