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Joe Mauer Is the MVP, End of Story.

joe-mauerI was enjoying what was truly a lovely evening (yes, that included a trip to the Olive Garden and some odds-on cotton panties), up until I came across a headline that just fouled up my entire mood. From Jeff Fletcher at FanHouse, who should fly to Minnesota next time he wants to get quotes about who the AL MVP should be, his headline read: Slow Start Firmly in Rearview Mirror, Teixeira Mounts Bid for MVP. Sure, Mark Teixeira is an excellent all-around player and certainly amongst the best in the league. But just because he happened to have signed a contract with the Yankees where he’s now on a team full of $15 million a year all-stars, batting in the middle of a loaded lineup, with an even more fully-loaded press corps, doesn’t mean he should be mentioned ahead of a player who deserves the award more than anyone else in baseball: Joe Mauer.

I’ve been on the Joe Mauer bandwagon ever since his rookie season and was calling for him to be MVP back in ’06 when his teammate Justin Morneau won it, largely for driving in Mauer most of the time. What Mauer is doing, especially considering his position, is simply unfounded. First of all, he’s making a run at .400 towards the end of the season. He’s leading the league in average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. This all after missing the first month of the season following kidney surgery over the winter.

The guy can run although he hasn’t had to too much this year, and he throws out runners trying to steal at a high percentage. Oh yeah, he also gets a lot out of what generally is a mediocre pitching staff. Sure Teixeira and other first baseman generally possess stronger numbers in the power categories of HRs and RBIs that voters love to see, but they’re just one in a group of many doing it. For every Teixeira, there’s a Kendry Morales, Miguel Cabrera, and Kevin Youkilis. For every Joe Mauer, there’s a … the guy is likely to go down as the best all around catcher we’ve ever seen. Too bad most writers and media members have their heads stuck so far up the Yankees’ ass they’re not noticing it. They’re missing out on a hell of a show.

The .300 Club Angels Roll Along

The Angels may have swapped out Maicer Izturis for Howie Kendrick at second base on Wednesday night, but the .300 club still had a strong showing. Entering the game, every Angel starter except Kendrick had an average of .300 or better. By the end of the game, catcher Mike Napoli’s average had dropped below .300 after he went 0-for-2 with two walks. Mr. Lonely Hearts will now carry a .298 average into his next game. Still, it’s pretty incredible that the Angels could field an every-day lineup of nothing but .300 hitters. Heading into the season, you would have figured Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu were near locks to reach that mark, while Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick were likely to surpass it. That the Erick Aybars, Juan Riveras, Torii Hunters, and Mike Napolis are also hitting .300 is just a statement of how well the Angels are hitting the ball right now. In the case that Napoli has dipped below .300 for good, here’s a screen capture for the ages, from Tuesday’s game.

Angels .300

It was the first time since 1930 that had happened. I will definitely savor that moment because the chances of it happening again are very slim. The only thing better than having a lineup full of .300 hitters is having a lineup full of .300 hitters in late September and October, and said lineup does not have to face Red Sox pitching.

Cliff Lee Is This Year’s CC Sabathia, Only Better

Phillies Cliff LeeLast year the reigning AL Cy Young winner, CC Sabathia, was traded by the Indians prior to the trade deadline. CC performed magnificently, going 11-2 with seven complete games in 17 starts for the Brewers, frequently pitching on three days rest towards the end of the season. Sabathia posted a 1.65 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP in his 130.2 innings for the Brew Crew while almost single-handedly pitching them into the playoffs before he ran out of steam in the first round against the Phillies. This time around, it was the Phillies making the pre-deadline acquisition of the reigning AL Cy Young winner, also striking up a deal with the Indians.

Cliff Lee went from Cleveland to Philadelphia along with Ben Francisco in exchange for four minor leaguers. In four starts with the Phillies, Lee has gone 4-0 allowing only one run in each one of his starts, one of which wasn’t earned. The dude has been an absolute stud, posting his second complete game win in four starts with his new team. He’s 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and a 34/6 K to BB ratio. Likewise, CC was 4-0 in his first four starts with the Brewers, posting three complete games. Sabathia had a 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and a 31/6 K to BB ratio.

Both pitchers were awesome their first four starts with their new team and Sabathia continued his masterful ways. The Phillies are hoping for the same outcome in the regular season, but a different one in the playoffs. I must also give the Phillies more credit for acquiring Lee than I initially did because I was so fixated on them not getting Roy Halladay. First off, Halladay would have had a tough time out-pitching Lee. Secondly, none of the prospects the Blue Jays wanted were involved in the Cleveland deal — the Phillies could have had both! Could you imagine their rotation with Hamels, Lee, Halladay, Happ, and Blanton? My goodness.

Mark Reynolds Receives His Golden Sombrero Crown from Cliff Lee

mark-reynoldsThe LBS Golden Sombrero Club is beginning to discriminate in terms of membership. Garrett Jones of the Pirates takes one last week against the Rockies, the LBS presses are not halted. Hank Blalock was lucky to have slipped between the cracks last week too. But Mark Reynolds, possibly the hottest hitter in baseball, getting crowned by the hottest pitcher in baseball, Cliff Lee, is definitely front page worthy.

A few things must be pointed out here. First off, Cliff Lee has been the best pitcher in baseball this month, and when he’s throwing a complete game two-hitter, you really can’t blame the hitters too much — certainly not a free swinger like Mark Reynolds. Reynolds actually leads the majors in strikeouts by a comfortable margin and even appears to be on pace to break his own single-season record.

Ordinarily I’d spend this time ripping on Reynolds for whiffing so frequently, but you have to give the guy tremendous credit because his approach is certainly paying off this year. Reynolds might be the most underrated hitter this year, ranking second in home runs and in the top 10 in nearly every major statistical category. He’s also been on fire since the All-Star break, leading the majors with 14 home runs and posting a ridiculous 1.222 OPS. We’ll definitely give him a pass for Wednesday night.

Ryan Zimmerman: Strasburg’s Leverage Will Never be Higher

Notebook San Diego State Strasburg BaseballLast week we had a similar story where Vernon Davis was telling Michael Crabtree to take what he can get from the 49ers and get his butt into camp. I backed Crabtree in that case because football’s different from baseball — players generally are better when they’re younger because they’ve sustained less injuries. Couple that with the lack of guaranteed contracts and it’s enough reason try to get all the money you can. But when it comes to baseball draft picks signing, I have somewhat of a different perspective.

The showdown between Scott Boras’ client, number one overall pick Stephen Strasburg, and the Nats looks like it will come down to Monday’s midnight signing deadline. The Nats have gone on record saying they’ve given Strasburg a “record offer” which doesn’t mean much to me since the previous record given to Mark Prior is outdated. Given what highly regarded Boras pitchers have done lately (Jered Weaver, Rick Porcello), I don’t think a $15-20 million bonus would be out of line. Sure it would be a bad precedent to set for MLB, but if you’re the Nats you need this guy to turn the franchise around.

On a similar note, if you’re Strasburgh, you should be focused on getting good money and signing now in order to begin your career. Pitchers who refuse to sign and re-enter the draft the following year don’t have a great track record. Plus, as Ryan Zimmerman pointed out, Strasburg won’t ever have more leverage:

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Adrian Beltre on DL with Testicle Injury

adrian beltreBetween Nicklas Lidstrom and Felix Pie, we’ve seen athletes get ensnared in some serious testicle issues lately. With these other guys maybe it was a fluke injury, but with Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre, there really isn’t anyone to blame for the injury other than himself. Despite playing the hot corner and dealing with balls getting smashed his way at like 100mph and only 100 feet away, Beltre doesn’t wear a cup because they’re uncomfortable. While Beltre may have gotten by until this point, he finally got burned in Wednesday night’s 14-inning game against the White Sox.

Manager Don Wakamatsu said the Gold Glove third baseman is out indefinitely, and might need surgery because of bleeding in a testicle. Beltre does not wear a protective cup because he says it’s uncomfortable. If Beltre needs surgery, he could be out for an extended time. If there’s no surgery, he would need 10 days to two weeks to recover.

Beltre stayed in the game after the ninth-inning injury and scored the winning run in the Mariners’ 1-0 victory 14 innings. “It hurt pretty bad,” Beltre said. “It was hurting me pretty much the whole game after that.

Man, I even saw Beltre do the postgame interview on FSN Northwest despite the injury. I’m sorry he had to go through that painful injury but hopefully he learned his lesson and will wear a cup from now on. I can’t believe he never got burned before considering he plays third base. Or maybe he only got burned this time because he’s a long ball guy.

Picture: Classy Cubs Fan Pours Beer on Shane Victorino During Game

If this were a basketball game in Detroit, Shane Victorino might have wound up in the bleachers. As it stood, Victorino made a catch in the bottom of the 5th at Wrigley Field with the bases loaded and one out. Some dopey Cubs fan who likely was a) drunk and b) pissed the team was down 12-2 in the 5th, showed Victorino what he thought of him. In a pathetic act, the fan threw his beer all over the center fielder. Check out the photo via the Sun Times:

8-12 cruze cubs phillies 10

You pay your money, buy your ticket, I guess you have the right to heckle opposing players, even though I don’t like it when it crosses lines. But come on, let the guys actually play. Tossing a beer on someone at the exact moment he’s trying to make a catch? Might as well flash a picture five feet from the batter as he’s trying to hit a 95mph fastball. Deadspin has possibly identified the culprit if you’d like more of this story.