We are officially heading down the stretch now that most teams hit the 40+ games played mark. Man, this season really flew by (I’m sorry I had to).
Looking around at the standings, it is crazy to see that the New York Yankees (21-20) are in full-on collapse mode. Since August 18, they are 5-14. Nobody expected that they would trail the Toronto Blue Jays by two games in the standings at this point in the season. Even more strangely, they only lead those feisty Baltimore Orioles by 1.5 games. Although the Yankees would still make the playoffs if the season ended today, the cause for concern is still high. They are clinging to that final spot. Injuries aside, missing the playoffs, especially an expanded playoffs, would be a monumental disappointment for a team so talented. Gerrit Cole (3.63 ERA 3.47 DRA) has been good this season but not great. They need him to be great. Today is his 30th birthday. Happy birthday to him!
In terms of player weirdness, who would’ve thought that Ian Happ (2.3 fWAR) would be the Chicago Cubs’ best position player this season after spending most of last season in the minors?
Not only is Mike Trout (2.0 fWAR) not the best player in baseball this year, he’s currently not even the best player on the Los Angeles Angels. Anthony Rendon is (2.2 fWAR). Don’t worry though, Trout is still great and has more than enough time to overtake the fWAR leaderboard (he’s currently seventh among all position players). His 15 home runs lead the AL. Right behind him are Teoscar Hernandez and Luke Voit who each have 14. All three would be on close to a 60-home run pace if the season were a normal length.
Looking at the pitchers, Shane Bieber (2.7 fWAR) is still great. Jacob deGrom (2.0 fWAR) is still great. In my opinion, the biggest pitching surprises at this point in the season come from Max Fried (1.8 fWAR) and Dinelson Lamet (1.6 fWAR). Fried was the solid number two guy for the Atlanta Braves last season behind Mike Soroka. This season though, he has stepped up as a more than capable ace in Soroka’s absence.
Lamet’s rise to ace-hood sort of came out of nowhere. The 28-year-old right-hander has always racked up strikeouts, sure. This season though, he has been able to cut walks and rely more heavily on his slider. With Chris Paddack (0.5 fWAR) not quite progressing from his impressive rookie season, the likes of Lamet and Zach Davies (1.3 fWAR) have led the way for the San Diego Padres’ rotation.
Speaking of Davies, I’d like to take a moment to recognize a trade from the offseason. Last November, the Milwaukee Brewers sent Davies and outfielder Trent Grisham to the Padres in exchange for infielder Luis Urias and left-hander Eric Lauer. As of right now, this looks like an absolute fleecing for the Padres. Davies and Grisham have both been a top-20 pitcher and position player in all of baseball this season. Grisham (1.7 fWAR) has a 124 wRC+ while also playing excellent defense. Davies has a 2.23 ERA (3.23 DRA). Meanwhile, for the Brewers, Urias is hitting .267/.337/.320 with no home runs in 83 plate appearances. Lauer has pitched 9.1 total innings this season. It’s still way too early to judge such a trade when the players on both sides have many more years left of team control. That said, up to this point, this trade has looked about as great as could have for the Padres and as terrible as it could for the Brewers.
Alright, let’s look at some weird things from the past *two* weeks.
The old 5-3-5 double play
Double plays are a common thing to occur in baseball. The 4-6-3 and 6-4-3 double plays are probably the most common. The 5-4-3 double play isn’t particularly rare either. The 5-3-5 double play on the other hand is a pretty strange occurrence. Saturday night, we got to see that strange occurrence happen.
With a runner on first base in the top of the second inning in a game between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, Scott Heineman hit a ground ball to third baseman Kyle Seager. Seager quickly flung the ball to first baseman Evan White. White alertly realized that the runner originally on first base, Shin-Soo Choo, was headed for third base so he fired the ball back to Seager who tagged out Choo for the double play.
The 5-3-5 double play. Textbook. pic.twitter.com/6VXeAUV9ks
— MLB (@MLB) September 6, 2020
Freddie Freeman‘s grand weekend
Freddie Freeman has racked up many accomplishments over the first ten years of his big league career. He has finished in the top-five of MVP voting two times. He has made four All-Star teams. If he can put together another five or so elite seasons, Freeman may have a chance of getting into the Hall of Fame.
One thing Freeman had not done before Friday night was hit a grand slam.
11th season, 1st career grand slam for Freddie Freeman
He picked a good time for it. pic.twitter.com/6vLwS0A7pe
— MLB (@MLB) September 5, 2020
That in itself is not all that weird. Sure, Freeman has always been a power threat and one would have expected that he hit a four-run dinger at some point earlier in his career. It is what it is. He simply had just never done it.
The strange thing happened two days later when Freeman hit his second career grand slam less than 48 hours later.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 6, 2020
Is it impressive that Freeman hit his first two career grand slams in one weekend? Probably not. Is it a weird coincidence? Yes, and we are here for it.
A pair of dingers for each outfielder
On Sunday, August 30th, a first happened in Major League Baseball. For the first time in MLB history, three outfielders hit two home runs each in one game. Those three outfielders were the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber (LF), Happ (CF), and Jason Heyward (RF). They all went yard twice in a game against the Cincinnati Reds.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) August 30, 2020
This is more or less just another weird coincidence. In my mind though, it’s weirdly interesting that this had never happened before.
A literal stolen run
In today’s power-driven game, the steal is less prominent than it once was. Why steal when it’s possible to score from first base at any given moment?
Miami Marlins outfielder Jon Berti doesn’t care about your power. On Tuesday, August 25, Berti stole second base in a 2-0 game in the bottom of the sixth inning against the New York Mets. He then stole third.
Then he stole home.
Jon Berti walked to 1st
so Jon Berti could run to steal 2nd and 3rd,
so Jon Berti could 🗣*bear-crawl to steal home*. pic.twitter.com/U2uyE5HhDB
— Marlins (@Marlins) August 26, 2020
Things like this just don’t usually happen in today’s game.
In 2020 though, anything is possible at any moment.
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)