Tag Archives: Jacob deGrom

More Than A Friday: Thinking of Lamar Odom During a Busy Week in Sports

Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.

Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.

I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.

In Major League Baseball

If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.

The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.

Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.

We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.

For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.

As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.

It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.

Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.

It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.

Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.

What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.

Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.

1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.

In Football

Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.

Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.

Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.

On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.

In the National Hockey League

Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.

It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.

The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.

Cleveland Indians: Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez for AL Cy Young

Major League Baseball is in the midst of handing out their regular season awards and several Cleveland Indians are either award recipients or potential recipients. The two big announcements come today (11/12) and tomorrow (11/13) with the Cy Young and MVP, respectively. The Indians have a horse in each race in Corey Kluber (AL Cy Young) and Michael Brantley (AL MVP). Before looking ahead, here is a look at some of the other major award winners.

Rookie of the Year

American League – Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

National League – Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

Manager of the Year

American League – Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

National League – Matt Williams, Washington Nationals

Unsurprisingly, no Cleveland Indian won a Gold Glove or Defensive Player of the Year award, although a case could’ve been made for Michael Brantley (.996 fielding percentage with only 1 error, 2 double plays, 12 assists and 271 putouts in 1304.1 innings of work in the outfield). Speaking of Brantley, he and Yan Gomes were given American League Silver Slugger Awards, which honors the games top hitters and is decided by votes compiled from MLB coaches and managers. Brantley finished the year batting .327 and had an OBP of .385. He hit 20 home runs, had 97 RBI, scored 94 runs and had an even 200 hits. Gomes hit .278 with a .313 OBP while hitting 21 home runs to go along with 74 RBI and 61 runs scored on 135 hits.

Looking ahead, tonight we will find out who will win the Cy Young award. In the National League Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto as well as Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals will more than likely finish as runners up to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, who was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball for the entire 2014 season. Over in the American League Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners) and Corey Kluber are in a much tighter race, with many feeling it’s between Hernandez and Kluber. To completely rule Sale (12-4, 2.17 ERA, 174 IP) out of the race isn’t fair, but both Kluber and Hernandez have the fuller body of work (mostly due to an injury Sale suffered to start the year). However, assuming the experts are correct, this race is between Kluber and “King Felix”. While it shouldn’t factor in, Hernandez has the more impressive resume with five All-Star appearances, twice the American League ERA leader (including this season) and one Cy Young already (2010). But don’t dismiss Kluber, who can be considered an AL All-Star snub, was tied for most wins among AL pitchers this season and finished near the top in most statistical categories. If you look at this race by the numbers it’s very tight, and a slight edge might go to Hernandez depending on what you place your values on. Kluber was 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. In 235.2 innings of work he struck out 269 batters, walked just 51, allowed 64 earned runs (74 total runs), and a K/9 ratio of 10.27 while the opposition had a batting average of just .233 against him. He also had three complete games and one shutout. Hernandez numbers read as follows: a 15-6 record with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. In 236 innings he struck out 248 batters, walked 46 while giving up 56 earned runs (68 total runs allowed) with a K/9 ratio of 9.46. The opposition hit an even .200 against him, however he never had a complete game or a shutout. He also gave up two more home runs than Kluber (16 vs. 14). A voter putting more emphasis on wins and losses will likely vote for Kluber, whereas a voter placing more emphasis on numbers like ERA will likely be inclined to vote for Hernandez. The two aces were also almost identical in team run support, with Hernandez getting an average of 4.29 runs per start and Kluber getting an average of 4.35 runs per start. If you want to look at Sabermetrics their numbers are still similar, with Kluber edging out Hernandez in WAR (wins above replacement) 7.39 to 6.75.

Both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were dominant in 2014.
Both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were dominant in 2014.

So is there anything that can definitively set somebody apart in this race? Perhaps, yes.

The Cleveland Indians defense during the 2014 season was horrendous. They finished with a .981 fielding percentage while committing 116 errors. Both of these numbers were the worst in baseball last year. Conversely, the Seattle Mariners had a .986 fielding percentage (3rd) and committed just 82 errors (2nd). It isn’t unfathomable to think that with even an average defense behind him, Kluber may have had another win or two and more than likely would’ve had a lower ERA. Put a top of the league defense (or at least a defense that committed as few errors as Seattle did) behind Kluber and his ERA, WHIP, and opposition batting average probably much closer resembles that of Felix Hernandez. If you subscribed to Sabermetrics stats then maybe Kluber (with a higher WAR than Hernandez) may have even had better numbers than Felix with Seattle’s defense. That’s all, of course, speculation. What isn’t speculation is this. Kluber was slightly more dominate later in the season (August, September and October) when both teams were in playoff contention. During this time Kluber was 7-3 with a 2.10 ERA in 77.1 innings of work while Hernandez was 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 70.2 innings.

Despite the defensive factors, there isn’t really a clear winner in this race. As much as Corey Kluber deserves to be the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, so does Felix Hernandez. Personally, my vote would go to Kluber. While he does have a slightly higher ERA he has a better K/9 ratio and more strikeouts overall, more wins (which, admittedly, aren’t all due to a starting pitcher) and a higher WAR.

Come back tomorrow as we discuss the AL MVP race between Mike Trout, Victor Martinez and Michael Brantley.