As we head towards the final month of the regular season, the pennant races in baseball are heating up, and so are the awards races. The MVP races in both leagues are looking very intriguing as we get into crunch time.
In the American League, there are several worthy candidates, though two teams are heavily represented. The National League race is even more wide open, with no clear standouts — a factor that could open the door to a pitcher winning the award for the first time since 2014.
Here’s a look at the top five MVP candidates in both the American and National League.
5) Francisco Lindor, Indians
Lindor finished fifth in last year’s voting and he’s having an even better season than he did last year. Hitting just shy of .300 and with his second consecutive 30-home run season in sight, the Cleveland shortstop’s candidacy will be bolstered not just by his offensive numbers, but because he plays quality defense at one of the most important positions on the field. Despite this, he’s viewed as a longshot, as his offensive numbers lag behind those of his key competitors.
The Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks got into it on Tuesday night over a sequence of tense events between the teams.
In the top of the seventh inning, Steven Souza Jr. was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. Cubs second baseman Javy Baez tagged him out at the base but was standing in the basepath, so when Souza slid into the bag, he collided with Baez.
Though Souza showed immediate concern over the collision, the Cubs were still bothered by what happened.
When Souza came up to bat in the ninth, Cubs reliever Steve Cishek hit him with a pitch. Souza then complained about it to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, leading to conversations between both sides.
Hitting Souza with the pitch seemed completely unnecessary, especially when you consider that Baez left him nowhere to slide and that Souza immediately felt bad about the contact. Arizona won the game 5-1. Don’t be surprised if they address things in Wednesday’s game.
The Chicago Cubs have so many players they could conceivably fit into their lineup that it’s getting a bit tough to juggle them all.
With Kris Bryant’s return from the disabled list, Javier Baez is moving out of the No. 3 spot of the lineup. He’s taken on the role of good teammate, too, with a rather amusing quote about his role.
“I’ll bat wherever,” Baez said, via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “I’ll bat 12th in the lineup if I have to.”
Batting third has been good for Baez. Since Bryant went on the disabled list in late June, he hit .377, but he’s okay moving out of the spot to accommodate Bryant.
“Oh yeah,” Baez said. “But at the same time we miss KB and need him.”
Baez doesn’t really have to worry about losing his spot in the lineup, especially if he’s capable of doing things like this regularly.
Javy Baez did not seem to be too concerned about his elbow after being hit by a pitch during Sunday’s game.
The Chicago Cubs shortstop was hit in the elbow by St. Louis Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty during the top of the third. He fell to the ground after being hit and was replaced by Addison Russell.
Baez was initially diagnosed with a contusion, but there was talk about him undergoing X-rays to ensure there was no fracture. He said after the game that he thought the X-rays were unnecessary.
“It feels pretty sore, but right now I’m good,” Baez said.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon also initially said he didn’t think it was very serious.
Though Baez said he was fine, he was not sure if he could play in Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 25-year-old is batting .255 with 14 home runs this season and has an .805 OPS.
Javy Baez is raising the stakes when it comes to sliding technique.
The Chicago Cubs slugger stole second base during the second inning of his team’s 8-4 win over the White Sox on Saturday. The throw easily beat Baez, but he used a bait-and-switch move to fool Tim Anderson and slide in safely. Check out Baez’s excellent hand movements:
Baez looked like a magician with the move. We saw another NL player make a similar move on the bases earlier this year, but that was executed to perfection.
Baez, who batted leadoff in the game, also triple and scored two runs. That was his fourth stolen base of the season, and easily the niftiest.
Javier Baez was forced to leave Monday’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins early due to an injury.
During the seventh inning, Baez was in obvious discomfort while in the field. He was soon visited by a member of the Cubs’ training staff before ultimately being replaced by Tommy La Stella.
The Cubs later announced Baez would not return due to right groin tightness that apparently occurred during a play at second base during the fifth inning.
Baez has been extremely productive so far this season for the Cubs. He came into Monday hitting .285 with nine home runs and was tied for the National League lead with 29 RBI. Baez hit his tenth home run in Monday, a three run shot to center field.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is an extremely cool event that showcases many of baseball’s best players. One of the best storylines every summer involves those who are making it to the Midsummer Classic for the first time in their careers. Their stories often vary. Some are young guys who have long been touted for superstardom and are living up to their potential, while others are journeymen or veterans who never really expected to be in the position they’re in.
Here are ten players who could certainly find themselves in Washington, D.C. in July for their first All-Star appearances.
1) Shohei Ohtani, Angels
At the rate he’s going, the question isn’t whether Ohtani will be an All-Star, but how he gets in. Given how he’s captured the sport’s imagination, it seems eminently possible he’ll be voted in as a possible starter by the fans, though it will be very intriguing to see how the league handles his ability to both hit and pitch. Whatever the case, the guy has potential to be an All-Star as both a hitter, where he’s off to a fine start, or as a pitcher. Barring a dropoff, he’ll be in Washington.
2) Carlos Carrasco, Indians
Carrasco has been pitching at an ace level for Cleveland for several years now, and this could be the year he gets All-Star recognition for it. He’s given up just 29 hits in 38 innings, winning four of his first five starts with an ERA of 3.08 on the season. Often overshadowed by Corey Kluber, Carrasco finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting a year ago. The time has come for him to get the recognition he’s owed from the rest of the sport.
3) Javier Baez, Cubs
One of the flashiest and most fun players to watch, Baez has begun to put up star numbers to go with his awesome personality. The slick-fielding infielder is off to a very good start in 2018, hitting .304, walking more than he has in years past, and leading the NL in RBIs through the first few weeks of the season. He’s still fielding his position well, and when you combine all this, there’s a real chance he becomes an All-Star for the first time.
4) Didi Gregorius, Yankees
It’s tough to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes at shortstop for the Yankees, but Gregorius has done about as well as anyone conceivably could have. In a lineup that features Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, it is Gregorius who leads the the team — and league — with an .800 slugging percentage. He’s begun the season with eight doubles and ten home runs in 26 games. He continues to come into his own as a legitimate star at short, and there’s a real possibility he could push Carlos Correa in the fan vote this time around.
5) Tommy Pham, Cardinals
Pham took a very long time to cement himself as a Cardinals starter — much to his annoyance — but his play might have them wondering what they were waiting for. After hitting .306 and picking up MVP votes in 2017, Pham is showing that it was no fluke. He’s hitting .353 thus far in his role as the Cardinals’ starting center fielder. His .461 OBP stands out as well, and it could very easily get him a trip to D.C. later this summer.
6) Rick Porcello, Red Sox
Porcello seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s still only 29 and has really just come into his own as a pitcher. He’s won a Cy Young Award, but amazingly, he doesn’t have an All-Star appearance to his credit. That could change this year. Porcello bounced back from a down 2017 by winning his first four starts with a 1.93 ERA, striking out more batters and walking fewer than he ever has before. Porcello won’t be denied if he continues pitching at an ace level.
7) Sean Manaea, Athletics
Even before he threw the 2018 season’s first no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox, Manaea was showing signs of a breakout campaign. Once the prize in the 2015 Ben Zobrist trade with the Kansas City Royals, Manaea looks like he’s developing into an ace, with a 1.03 ERA over 43.2 innings. The Athletics have a lot of young talent, but Manaea stands out among the bunch, and he looks like he’s only getting better.
8) Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
MLB has more consistently recognized non-closers, including the game’s elite setup men — remember when Wade Davis was simply a Kansas City Royals eighth inning guy? That culture shift could benefit Bradley, who was outstanding enough to earn MVP votes in 2017. Still not Arizona’s closer, he continues to be deployed in a fireman role, sometimes pitching multiple innings to help Arizona out of jams. He has a 1.76 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. All-Star recognition could well follow for one of the game’s best relievers.
9) Jose Berrios, Twins
Long touted as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball, Berrios looks like he’s finally putting it all together for the Twins and evolving into the ace they hoped he would be. Still just 23, Berrios has demonstrated unbelievable dominance so far in 2018, striking out 36 and walking just three over 31.2 outstanding innings of work. It’s impossible to expect him to keep that up, but he’s making a huge impression, and he would fit in perfectly in D.C. this summer.
10) Charlie Morton, Astros
Morton didn’t look like a big impact signing when he joined the Astros before 2017. He proceeded to get the last out of Houston’s first World Series title, and he’s following that up with one of the best starts to 2018 of any pitcher in baseball. He’s given up seven runs (six earned) in his first 29 innings of work, good for a 1.76 ERA. He’s also striking a lot of guys out, with 35 of them, good for a career-best 10.9 per nine innings. Morton looks excellent. The only thing that could cost him an All-Star bid will be that Houston will have plenty of candidates. Still, Morton is doing everything he can to not be denied.
Javier Baez is defending himself amid questions about his respect for the game of baseball after a recent bat flip.
During Wednesday’s game between the Cubs and Pirates, Baez tossed his bat after a popup to shortstop Jordy Mercer. That did not sit well with Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle.
“You watch Baez flip that bat in the air last night. Where’s the respect for the game?” Hurdle told MLB.com. “The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means you can take your bat and throw it 15-20 feet in the air when you pop up like you should have hit your fifth home run? I would bet that men over there talked to him, because I believe they’ve got a group over there that speaks truth to power and the kid’s showing physical power.”
Hurdle was correct. Players on the Cubs reportedly did speak to Baez about his moment during the seventh inning. On Thursday, Baez defended himself publicly, saying he’s going to continue “playing his game.”
“No one plays this game harder than me,” Baez told MLB.com. “But you don’t go out there and talk trash about someone.”
“To be honest, I have a lot of things I could say right now,” he continued. “I don’t control what’s out there, what people say about me. I’m just going to keep playing my game.”
In recent years, baseball has had a problem of players (many of whom are of Latin decent) perceived as being disrespectful to the game because of on-the-field actions. Yasiel Puig has had that criticism directed at him on more than a few occasions. So has Bryce Harper.
Oftentimes those who play the game with a youthful exuberance or flair are seen as not taking the game seriously. Rarely is that actually the case. Baseball prides itself on its participants policing themselves. Chipper Jones alluded to it regarding Joe Kelly hitting Tyler Austin with a pitch after a spikes-up slide.
It’s not surprising Baez came out and said he’s going to continue playing the way he always has. It’s what makes him an exciting and entertaining player to watch. It may rub some (like Clint Hurdle) the wrong way, but it sounds like Javy Baez is gonna be Javy Baez regardless.
Javy Baez broke out of his postseason slump in the biggest way possible.
Baez entered Wednesday’s Game 4 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers 0-for-20 in the postseason. The Chicago Cubs kept faith in their slick-fielding second baseman and left him in the lineup. The decision paid off.
Baez smacked two home runs and drove in two of his team’s three runs in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers to extend the series to a fifth game.
One amusing detail that must not be overlooked is that Baez hit one of his homers while blowing a bubble with his chewing gum:
“I was struggling a lot this series and the series before. I just said let it go, don’t try too hard, and that’s what happened,” Baez said after the game in an interview with TBS.
Not to be overlooked is Jake Arrieta, who allowed just one run over 6.2 innings to pick up the win.
Clayton Kershaw and Jose Quintana are expected to square off in Game 5 with the Cubs again facing elimination.
Javy Baez’s shining defense came into play once again for the Chicago Cubs.
Baez cut down a run during Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday with a nice fielding play at second. Bryce Harper was up with one out and Trea Turner on third in a 1-0 game. Harper grounded the ball to Baez, who fielded the ball and threw home perfectly to get Turner:
That preserved a 1-0 lead for the Cubs. They ended up surrendering a big inning in the second anyhow, but when you can save a run in a playoff game with your defense, that’s a big deal.