With many teams at or approaching the halfway mark in this bizarre 60-game season, it seems interesting to me that the standings look just about as chalky as we’d expect. The Dodgers, Cubs, Braves, Athletics, Twins, and Rays all lead their respective divisions. There are no real surprises there. The Yankees are still great. The Astros will be fine. Of the ten playoff teams from last season, all but two (Cardinals and Nationals) have playoff odds above 65 percent.
Of course, we have bad teams like the Marlins and Orioles who have a chance to make the postseason. At this point though, it seems unlikely that either will be able to get the job done. As far as breakout teams, both the Padres and White Sox give me 2015 Cubs vibes of being super young and talented while also contending a year earlier that people may have expected.
As far as player production, things still look pretty weird. Mike Yastrzemski (2.2) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (2.1) have been exchanging the top spot on the NL fWAR leaderboard all season long. Both were good last season, but both also took a tremendous leap this year. Mookie Betts (1.8) unsurprisingly is not far behind. In the AL, Anthony Rendon (1.8) currently leads the league in fWAR. That is not super surprising. Brandon Lowe (1.8) and Kyle Lewis (1.7) are right there breathing down his neck. That is a little surprising. Mike Trout (1.0) has played 26 games this season and is 30th in fWAR on the year. To me, that’s weird.
As far as pitching goes, Shane Bieber (1.8 fWAR) still remains the frontrunner in the Cy Young award race. He may get some MVP votes as well. At this point, I am used to Bieber’s dominance and expect him to strike out 12+ batters a game. That was not the case at the beginning of the year. Yu Darvish (1.5) may have found his former Texas Rangers self. His 500-pitch repertoire has been extremely effective this year. Kudos to him for turning things around. Zack Greinke (1.5) might fool batters with 54 mph curveballs until he’s 55.
Zack Greinke, calling his own pitch…and throwing a 54mph Curveball. 😂 pic.twitter.com/gp0g2vNFWj
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 23, 2020
This lob came from his start on Sunday.
A friend of mine asked me over text, “What would you do with that pitch as a hitter?” As badly as I wanted to say that I’d crank that ball 500 feet, I simply and smartly responded by saying, “Miss.”
Let’s give Kenta Maeda (1.3) some love. In a start against the Brewers last Tuesday, Maeda took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, and, at one point, struck out eight straight batters. He too will be in the Cy Young conversation as the season draws to a close. At the beginning of the year, I randomly thought that he might have a chance to win the award.
2020 baseball: chalky yet still weird.
Let’s look at some weird things from this past week.
During the bottom of the fifth in last night’s game between the Rockies and Diamondbacks, Ketel Marte hit an innocent pop fly to left field that Raimel Tapia easily handled. Trying to catch Kole Calhoun snoozing his way back to first base, Tapia fired the ball in and it got away from first baseman Daniel Murphy. Luckily for the Rockies, Tony Wolters was backing up on the play and got Calhoun stuck in a rundown. Wolters fired the ball to second base and Calhoun headbutted the ball away. Heads up play, right? Good job of using your head, yeah? No. Calhoun was called out for runner’s interference. The Rockies would win the game 3-2.
Here’s another angle of Calhoun’s literal intuition.
I have been on the floor laughing at this, my goodness pic.twitter.com/M2HRK1E4HU
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) August 25, 2020
In a Sunday afternoon matchup between the Angels and Athletics, an extremely weird play occurred in the top of the third inning. With a runner on first, Trout hit a bloop fly ball the dropped right in front of center fielder Ramon Laureano who immediately fired the ball to second base. With both the second baseman and shortstop attempting to catch the ball, second base could have easily been vacant. Not on this play though. Pitcher Frankie Montas covered the bag and was there to record the out. It was an 8-1 putout. I had never seen that before. The Athletics would win this game 5-4.
For the first time in baseball history, a team hit a grand slam in four straight games. That team is the 2020 San Diego Padres. Ironically, Tatis Jr. got the streak started last Monday night when his manager infamously called him out for swinging at a 3-0 pitch. For the next three games, Wil Myers, Manny Machado, and Eric Hosmer all got a taste of the grand salami.
Entering Slam Diego, population: 4
No team has ever hit a grand slam in 4 straight games until NOW.
— MLB (@MLB) August 21, 2020
The Padres won all of these games. As it turns out, hitting four-run dingers can really help a team out.
Robot Umps, Please?
This might just be me, but it seems like there were a decent amount of obvious strikes called balls this week.
— Geoff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 22, 2020
This was called a ball 🤔 pic.twitter.com/GhMebCPYqX
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 23, 2020
This is flat out blasphemy. It’s almost comical actually. Both of these pitches were fastballs. Both had zero movement. They were right down the middle of the plate.
Personally, I go back and forth on whether or not I would like to see robot umps. On one hand, I enjoy the charming aspect of different human umps having slightly different zones. Seeing players adjust to these zones adds another layer of nuance to the game that I enjoy.
On the other hand, these calls are downright offensive, and humans should no longer be trusted to consistently make the right calls.
Other Strange Things
- Last Wednesday, two opposing pitchers made their major league debuts as starters for the first time since 2018.
It's debut night in Chicago!
Starting pitchers Casey Mize (DET) and Dane Dunning (CHW) are making their MLB debuts against each other.
This is the 1st game with both starting pitchers making their MLB debuts since July 10, 2018: Enyel De Los Santos (PHI) & Drew Gagnon (NYM). pic.twitter.com/gmVOsRlRkW
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) August 19, 2020
- A Trout rookie baseball card recently sold for a lot of money. Like, it’s the most expensive baseball card of all-time money.
BREAKING: This Mike Trout Superfractor card has just been sold for $3.84 MILLION in the @GoldinAuctions sale, breaking the record of the Honus Wagner ($3.1M) for the highest price of a card ever sold.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 23, 2020
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)