Tagged: Padres

Game 5- Atlanta Braves

Game 5 brought us to Atlanta with the Braves hosting the San Diego Padres at Truist Park. We have driven 2,189 miles so far. The weather was touch and go, but it was a beautiful night for baseball. It was great to catch up with family and friends before heading further south. 30 Games in 30 Days continues.

DJ

The 30 in 30 Schedule

The baseball schedule is a grind. Day after day, game after game. 162 games is no easy feat. Neither is 30 games in 30 days. We have our schedule for seeing all 30 teams in 30 days. It is not for the faint of heart. 

After much time and research, here is the schedule we will follow for our 30 in 30 baseball road trip. 

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
July 16July 17
St. Louis
Cardinals
Cincinnati
Reds
July 18July 19July 20July 21July 22July 23July 24
Philadelphia PhilliesWashington NationalsAtlanta
Braves
Tampa Bay RaysMiami
Marlins
Houston
Astros
Kansas City Royals
July 25July 26July 27July 28July 29July 30July 31
Minnesota
Twins
Chicago
Cubs
Cleveland SpidersBaltimore OriolesBoston
Red Sox
Buffalo
Blue Jays
Pittsburgh
Pirates
August 1August 2August 3August 4August 5August 6August 7
New York
Mets
New York YankeesDetroit
Tigers
Milwaukee BrewersChicago White SoxColorado
Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
August 8August 9August 10August 11August 12August 13August 14
Oakland AthleticsSan Diego
Padres
Los Angeles AngelsSeattle
Mariners
San Francisco GiantsArizona DiamondbacksTexas
Rangers

In 30 days we will drive 15,611 miles and roughly 237 hours. We have 11 drives over 500 miles. This includes three drives over 500 miles, three over 700 miles, and five over 1,000 miles. We will be driving a rental car, no sense destroying our own cars. There will be long days where we do not want to drive. However, it will be worth it in the end. 

This is one of the truly great baseball road trips. The most common reaction from people has been shock at the enormity of the trip and the amount of driving. Kevin and I both understand and are thankful Bernie will be joining us later in the trip to be our third driver. Hopefully knowing the end is in sight energizes us. 

There are two types of challenging drives. Difficulty because of game start time and distance. The two drives that are difficult because of start times are early in the journey. Our third game is the Phillies with a 1:05 PM start time. It is 576 miles and almost 9 hours from Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The easy solution would be to drive some after the Reds game. However, I live in Cincinnati so it makes more sense to sleep in my own bed before leaving. This means we will hit the road around 3 AM. Rise and drive. The second challenging start time is in Tampa. We will be coming from Atlanta, 493 miles and almost 8 hours away. The Rays game starts at 12:10 PM. Again the easy solution is to start driving the night before, but finances play a role. I am from Atlanta so we will stay with my family, plus hang out with Jesse and John. You cannot pass up free lodging. Kevin and I will have another 3 AM departure. Great for beating traffic, but no one wants to wake up that early. 

We are hoping for nothing but blue skies, green grass, and baseball. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The second category of difficult drives is the distance between teams. Try as we might, some teams are isolated or at dead ends. The Marlins and Rays present a problem. The Braves are the only close team so we knew there would be a long drive to or from Florida. We will have a mostly free day in Miami, and free lodging thanks to our friend Jason, so we should be rested for the drive to Houston. The Astros are 1,186 miles and 17 hours away. Unfortunately Miami has a night game, so another short night before setting off around 2 AM. The change from Eastern to Central Time helps, but a 17 hour drive is tough. Miami to Houston is our longest drive of the trip. 

The West Coast could make or break the trip. Our limited window and the schedule gave us limited options. The trip west begins after seeing the White Sox. We will drive 1,004 miles and 14 and a half hours to Denver. The time zones again help. After the Rockies game we have to keep moving, our next game is in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium is 1,022 miles and almost 15 hours away. Back to back 1,000 mile days will be brutal, but our baseball guardian angel, Bernie, joins us at the perfect time. After a few days driving up and down California we face a drive from Anaheim to Seattle. The Mariners are 1,163 miles and 18 hours north. While it is a few miles shorter than Miami to Houston, California traffic can be a nightmare. The key is simply getting out of Los Angeles.  The final long drive is to our final game. We head 1,047 miles and 15 hours east from Phoenix to Arlington for the Rangers game. The time zones will work against us. The final leg will either have us completely spent or we will be hyped as we complete the most ridiculous trip of our lives. The only thing that will matter is watching our 30th game in 30 days. 

There will be plenty of difficult drives along the way, but we know these are the ones that will test our commitment to completing 30 in 30. Having an off day in Miami and New York should reenergize us. The short drives between Milwaukee and Chicago as well as San Diego and Los Angeles will give one of us a day off. This is our schedule to see 30 games in 30 days. Hopefully we hit minimal traffic and avoid rain delays and rain outs. 

DJ

The King of the Golden Age

Let’s start with the obvious. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a generational talent with the bat in his hands. He can do it all, which is why the Padres rewarded him with a gigantic contract. There is no debating his talent, but Tatis needs to improve his defense.

The 22 year old Shortstop has work to do in the field. In 164 career Games, Tatis has played 1,414.2 Innings, had 606 Chances, made 194 Putouts, with 380 Assists, 32 Errors, turned 79 Double Plays, posting a .947 FLD%, 3.65 RF/9, 3.50 RF/G, and -21 Rtot. His FLD% is -.023 below league average. This is not always an indicator of a poor fielder. However a low FLD% combined with below average range is not great. Tatis is -0.17 RF/9 and -0.23 RF/G below league average. His defense allows opponents to score 20 more runs a season than if he were replaced by a league average defender. He is reaching 35 fewer balls in play, making 47 fewer plays, and committing 18 more errors. This hurts the Padres in a tough division against the Dodgers where every game is critical. 

Fernando Tatis Jr. is already a super star despite playing below average defense. (Orlando Ramirez/ Associated Press)

Yes this critique of Tatis is nitpicking. However, he is the face of the Shortstop Golden Age. Tatis with Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor should rule baseball for the next decade. This Mount Rushmore of modern Shortstops does not include Andrelton Simmons as he is already an all time great defender. It also lacks Trea Turner, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager who are also elite. Baez is an above average Shortstop, who creates plenty of highlights. His Range is slightly better than league average, but his FLD% is below average. Correa is a very good defensive Shortstop, saving the Astros 33 runs in his career defensively. Lindor is an elite Shortstop with 59 career defensive runs saved. Collectively, they are redefining what an elite Shortstop is. Tatis does not need to be the second coming of Ozzie Smith or Andrelton Simmons. If he becomes league average his value only increases and he makes San Diego better. 

Tatis is not moving off Shortstop. He played 154 Innings between Second and Third in the Minors. He is the Padres Shortstop now and in the future. His infectious energy makes baseball better. Maybe it does not matter if Tatis’ defense improves. Maybe we should just enjoy watching him play every night, but imagine how special Tatis can be if he becomes an all around player.

The Golden Age of the Shortstop is here. The era of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra was once the peak. It included two Hall of Fame talents and a third that seemed destined for Cooperstown. This current group of Shortstops may have even more talent and are laying the foundation for their induction into the Hall of Fame. Enjoy this special era in baseball while it lasts.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Illinois

The Land of Lincoln is one of the most fertile states for producing Major League players. Illinois has sent 1,069 players to MLB. There are great players born in Illinois. Robin Roberts is the greatest pitcher born in Illinois. His 86.05 career WAR ranks him the 14th among all state and territory leaders. Rickey Henderson is the greatest position player born in Illinois. His 111.20 WAR ranks him 8th among state and territory leaders. Combined Roberts and Henderson give Illinois 197.25 WAR, ranking the Land of Lincoln 11th among all states and territories. 

Robin Roberts was born in Springfield. The Right Handed Pitcher spent 19 seasons in the Majors, pitching for four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1948-1961), Baltimore Orioles (1962-1965), Houston Astros (1965-1966), and Chicago Cubs (1966). Roberts was dominant during his time in Philadelphia and continued pitching for several more seasons as a crafty veteran. In his career, Roberts appeared in 676 Games, made 609 Starts, threw 305 Complete Games, including 45 Shutouts, pitched 4,688.2 Innings, allowed 4,582 Hits, 1,962 Runs, 1,774 Earned Runs, 505 Home Runs, 902 Walks, 2,357 Strikeouts, posted a 286-245 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Roberts was an All Star in seven consecutive seasons, 1950-1956. He finished in the top seven for the National League MVP in five of the seven All Star seasons. Roberts was the only pitcher to win against the Braves in their three home cities: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. 

Robin Roberts’ easy motion hide the fierce competitor on the mound. (www.mlb.com)

There are plenty of great seasons in Robin Roberts career, but 1952 was the most consequential. Pitching for the Phillies, Roberts appeared in 39 Games, made 37 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 330 Innings, allowed 292 Hits, 104 Runs, 95 Earned Runs, 22 Home Runs, 45 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posted a 28-7 record, 2.59 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and 141 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Games Started, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, and Hits allowed. Roberts won 20 of last 22 Starts and 17 of his last 18. He also began a streak of 28 straight Complete Games from July 20, 1952 to June 14, 1953. Roberts was named an All Star and finished a close second to Hank Sauer for National League MVP. Commissioner Ford Frick later told Roberts he wanted to create an award, the Cy Young award, to honor pitchers, in part due to Roberts’ 1952 MVP snub. 

Robin Roberts was a terrific player on the field and served as the Phillies player representative during negotiations with the owners. He fought for higher pay, better pensions, and benefits. Roberts later served at the head of the National League players representatives. He, along with fellow future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, approached Marvin Miller about serving as the first Executive Director of the Players Association. They knew the players needed a full time advocate. This choice of Miller led to greater benefits, free agency, and higher salaries, among other areas of progress for the players. 

The Man of Steal never lacked self confidence. Everyone in the stadium knew Rickey Henderson was going to steal, yet the opposing team could rarely stop him. The Chicago native played 25 seasons with nine teams: Oakland Athletics (1979-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1995, 1998), New York Yankees (1985-1989), Toronto Blue Jays (1993), San Diego Padres (1996-1997, 2001), Anaheim Angels (1997), New York Mets (1999-2000), Seattle Mariners (2000), Boston Red Sox (2002), and Los Angeles Dodgers (2003). Henderson was a one man wrecking crew. In 3,081 career Games, he collected 3,055 Hits, 510 Doubles, 66 Triples, 297 Home Runs, 1,115 RBI, scored 2,295 Runs, 1,406 Stolen Bases, 335 Caught Stealing, 2,190 Walks, 1,694 Strikeouts, .279 BA, .401 OBP, .419 SLG, .820 OPS, and 127 OPS+. He is the All Time leader in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, and Caught Stealing. Henderson was a 10 time All Star, won a Gold Glove in 1981, three Silver Slugger awards, the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP, won two World Series (1989- Athletics and 1993- Blue Jays), and the 1990 American League MVP. He led the league in Stolen Bases 12 times and stole at least 50 Bases 14 times. Henderson led the league in Runs scored five times and scored at least 100 Runs 13 times. He led the league in Walks four times and drew at least 100 Walks seven times. He struck out more than 100 times just once, at age 39, but also drew 118 Walks that season. Henderson hit over .300 eight times. His unequalled resume earned him induction into the Hall of Fame in 2007. 

No player in baseball history was as feared on the bases as Rickey Henderson (www.mlb.com)

Rickey Henderson’s MVP season may not be his greatest season, but it is still worth examining. Playing for the Oakland Athletics in 1990, he appeared in 136 Games, collected 159 Hits, 33 Doubles, 3 Triples, 28 Home Runs, 61 RBI, scored 119 Runs, 65 Stolen Bases, 10 Caught Stealing, 97 Waks, 60 Strikeouts, .325 BA, .439 OBP, .577 SLG, 1.016 OPS, and 189 OPS+. He led the American League in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. He was eight seasons removed from his record 130 Steal campaign, and was combining his otherworldly speed with power. In his 12th Major League season, many assumed Henderson was at his peak. Few imagined his career would continue for more than a decade after his MVP season.

Illinois has been critical in the development of baseball. Cooperstown is filled with 23 natives from the Land of Lincoln: Al Barlick (Umpire), Ed Barrow (Executive), Jim Bottomley, Lou Boudreau, Charles Comiskey (Executive), Jocko Conlan (Umpire),  Billy Evans (Umpire), Warren Giles (Executive), Will Harridge (Executive), Rickey Henderson, Whitey Herzog (Manager), Freddie Lindstrom, Joe McGinnity, Hank O’Day (Umpire), Kirby Puckett, Robin Roberts, Red Ruffing, Ray Schalk, Red Schoendienst, Al Spalding (Executive), Jim Thome, Bill Veeck (Executive), and Robin Yount. Growing the game happens on and off the diamond. Next week the United States of Baseball visits Illinois’ neighbor. The Hoosier State is next, Indiana. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Hawaii

Baseball may not be the top priority for visitors to Hawaii. However, the game is alive and well on the islands. The Aloha State has produced 47 Major League players, but it is still waiting for its first Hall of Famer. Despite no representation in Cooperstown, Hawaii has produced several great players. Charlie Hough is the greatest pitcher born in Hawaii. His 39.03 career WAR ranks as the 40th highest among all state and territory leaders. Shane Victorino is the greatest position player born in Hawaii. His 31.46 career WAR is the 46th highest among position player leaders. Their combined 70.49 WAR ranks Hawaii 43rd among all states and territories. 

Charlie Hough was born in Honolulu and pitched for 25 seasons in the Majors. The Right Handed knuckleballer pitched for four teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (1970-1980), Texas Rangers (1980-1990), Chicago White Sox (1991-1992), and Florida Marlins (1993-1994). In his quarter century on a Major League mound, Hough pitched in 858 Games, made 440 Starts, Finished 240 Games, threw 107 Complete Games, including 13 Shutouts, 61 Saves, pitched 3,801.1 Innings, allowed 3,282 Hits, 1,807 Runs, 1,582 Earned Runs, 383 Home Runs, 1,665 Walks, 2,362 Strikeouts, posting a 216-216 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, and 106 ERA+. His lone All Star selection was in 1986. 

1984 was the best season of Hough’s career. In 36 Starts for the Rangers, he threw 17 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitching 266 Innings, allowing 260 Hits, 127 Runs, 111 Earned Runs, 26 Home Runs, 94 Walks, 164 Strikeouts, posting a 16-14 record, 3.76 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, and 110 ERA+.  He led the American League in Starts, Complete Games, and Hits allowed. While his season was not eye popping, Hough’s knuckleball kept batting guessing every time he took the mound. 

Charlie Hough’s knuckleball could confuse batters and catcher alike. (Fpcus on Sports/ Getty Images)

Catching a knuckleball can be impossible on certain days. It flutters, dips, and dives. Geno Petralli can attest to his own personal disdain for Charlie Hough’s knuckleball. Hough’s career was prolonged by throwing the knuckleball and expansion. His final two seasons were spent in south Florida, a climate not all too different from his native Hawaii. Hough took the mound for the inaugural game in Marlins history on April 5, 1993 in a 6-3 win over the Dodgers. The Marlins began their history as Hough wound down his career as baseball’s last active player born in the 1940’s. 

Not every career lasts a quarter century. Shane Victorino played 12 seasons for five teams: San Diego Padres (2003), Philadelphia Phillies (2005-2012), Los Angeles Dodgers (2012), Boston Red Sox (2013-2015), and Los Angeles Angels (2015). The Wailuku born outfielder was a switch hitter until injuries forced him to bat only from the right side in the last few seasons of his career. Victorino was twice a Rule 5 Draft pick. The Padres took him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers in 2002. He made his debut with San Diego, but was returned to Los Angeles in late May as he struggled with the Padres. Two years later the Phillies took Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft. He did not make the Philadelphia roster and was offered back to Los Angeles. The Dodgers declined, so he reported to the Phillies’ Triple A team. Philadelphia would love the results. 

In his career, Victorino played in 1,299 Games, collected 1,274 Hits, 231 Doubles, 70 Triples, 108 Home Runs, 489 RBI, scored 731 Runs, 231 Stolen Bases, 381 Walks, 626 Strikeouts, .275 BA, .340 OBP, .425 SLG, .765 OPS, and 102 OPS+. Victorino primarily patrolled Centerfield. In 1,219 Games, he played 10,026.1 Innings, had 2,704 Chances, 2,613 Putouts, 76 Assists, committed 15 Errors, and turned 23 Double Plays. His .994 FLD% was well above the league average .986 FLD%, which combined with his above average Range (2.41 RF9 vs 2.20 lgRF9), resulted in a 34 Rtot. Victorino helped his team score and prevented the opposition from scoring. His relentless effort on the diamond earned him two All Star games (2009 and 2011), two World Series rings (2008 Phillies and 2013 Red Sox), and four Gold Gloves (2008-2010, 2013).

Shane Victorino was a key part of the Phillies 2008 World Series victory. (Ron Cortes/ Staff Photographer- Philadelphia Inquirer)

Victorino’s best season was his 2009 campaign with the Phillies. In 156 Games, he collected 181 Hits, 39 Doubles, 13 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 62 RBI, scored 102 Runs, 25 Stolen Bases, 60 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .292 BA, .358 OBP, .445 SLG, .803 OPS, and 110 OPS+. He led the National League in Triples, was an All Star, won his second Gold Glove, and finished 18th in MVP voting. 

Victorino was a great player on and off the field. He won the 2008 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The annual award is given by the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity to honor the MLB player who best exemplifies the spirit and character of Lou Gehrig on and off the field. Victorino also won the 2011 Branch Rickey Award, which was given annually to a member of a MLB organization in recognition of their exceptional community service. Victorino appeared on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. While he did not receive any votes, it is still an honor to have your name on the ballot. 

Hawaii is more than a tropical paradise, it produces solid Major League players. The Aloha State is critical to baseball’s success. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to the mainland. The Gem State is next, Idaho. 

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

Baseball is back. The 162 game Regular Season grind is back. So too is the unpredictability of the season. No single player can dominate so completely that they carry their team to a World Series title. Baseball is different, the best player does not always come to bat with the game on the line. The Angels would love to send Mike Trout to the plate in every big moment, but that is not how baseball works. The game is back to normal and if we know anything our predictions will foretell what will not happen this season. Your guess is as good as ours for the 2021 season.

American League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
YankeesGod’s Waiting RoomYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysSpankiesDudein JaysRaysPoutineRays
Snow BirdsSorrysDevil RaysFlorida BirdsRaysBlue Jays
Red SoxBaltimoreSad BirdsRed SuxRacistsRed Sox
Dead BirdSoxFenwaysBmoreOh DearOrioles

The American League East is the Yankees to lose. Gerrit Cole makes any team better, but New York signed him to be the workhorse in October. If the training staff can keep the pinstripes healthy the rest of the division is in trouble. The Tampa Bay Rays seemed to get worse by trading away Blake Snell. However, it is hard to count the Rays out as they seem to find underrated players who exceed expectations and put Tampa in the thick of the Postseason race. The biggest question for Tampa is will they have a World Series hangover. The Toronto Blue Jays could be snow birds for the entire season. There has been no official word on when the team can return to Canada. They will play their home games in Dunedin, Florida for the foreseeable future. Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will provide plenty of excitement wherever they play. The Red Sox traded away Andrew Benintendi and lost Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Brewers in free agency to complete the teardown of one of the most exciting outfields in recent memory. Boston fans are still excited about the financial flexibility the Mookie Betts trade gave them. Baltimore is a great baseball town. The Orioles are in the middle of a painful rebuild. They will not contend this season, but Baltimore is on the rise…finally.

American League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox
TwinkiesSouth SidersTwinkletittesTwinklesWhite SoxTwins
MonarchsTeam to be named laterQuarter PoundersClevelandRoyalsRoyals
SpidersTigersCleveland Footbal teamRoyalsSpidersSpiders
Motor City KittiesMonarchsDetroit Why Am I HeresTigersTigersTigers

The South Side of Chicago will have plenty of fireworks. The reigning American League MVP in Jose Abreu. The always exciting Tim Anderson. A pitching staff that can compete with any team in baseball. Can Tony La Russa harness Chicago’s potential or will a clash between old school and new school derail the White Sox. The Minnesota Twins continue to be a great Regular Season team. Their signing of Andrelton Simmons might be the most underrated free agent move of the offseason. Can they figure out a winning formula in October? Kansas City has quietly built a solid team on a budget. Signing and trading for Mike Minor, Andrew Benintendi, and Carlos Santana with Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez already on the roster will create plenty of wins for the Royals. Is it enough to compete with the White Sox and Twins for the division? Cleveland could be a very good team, but in a tough division good is not good enough. They still have Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, but the team needs more if they want to contend. The Detroit Tigers continue rebuilding. Miguel Cabrera’s continued ascent up the record books will draw fans. Wins will be difficult to come by, but the Tigers have a bright future ahead, but Detroit should not expect a trip to the Postseason in 2021.

Tim Anderson is never boring on the diamond. (www.si.com)

American League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
MoneyballWhite ElephantsLA’s other teamA’sBeane BallersAthletics
TroutHouston Astr-hosMoneyballTrash CansAngelsAngels
Trash CansAngelsCheatersAngelsCheatersAstros
Ranger DangerNolan Ryan Hot DogsSea hagsStarbucksMarinersMariners
MarinersGriffey Used to Play HereAgent ZerosChuck NorrisRangersRangers

Could this be the year the Astros lose their grip on the division? George Springer is gone and Justin Verlander is out with Tommy John surgery. Houston is still a competitive team, but the division is catching up. Bang the trash can slowly. Oakland has a dynamic duo in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. The young and hungry A’s are built to compete and the team is posed to deliver. Mike Trout deserves better. The best player in baseball for almost a decade has been stuck in Los Angeles as the Angels keep turning potential into disappointment. Shohei Ohtani is healthy and Albert Pujols can still hit. The Angels owe it to Mike Trout to finally deliver him to the Postseason, but he cannot do it alone. This was not the offseason Seattle wanted. The ire of an entire sport focused on the stupidity spewed by their now former President and CEO about the team’s young talent has not set the team up for success. The Mariners have not played in October since 2001. Seattle has drafted and signed prospects that appear set to be the future stars for the Mariners. The Robinson Cano signing told Seattle it cannot rely on a single player with a monster contract. Lesson learned, they are a few seasons away from winning. It will be a long hot summer in Texas. The Rangers have some good pieces, but not enough to matter. At least their new stadium has a roof so the players and fans do not cook in the Texas heat. 

National League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosAtlanta BallclubBravesBravosBravos
MetsGnatsCohensMarlinsMetsMets
NatsFishFlorida FishMetsMarlinsMarlins
MarlinsAmazins2019 ChampsNatsNationalsNats
PhanaticsPholliesSad HarpersPhilliesPhilliesPhillies

The National League East is the toughest division in baseball. Atlanta was 1 game away from the World Series last year. Instead of hoping for better results the Braves got better by signing Charlie Morton and will get Mike Soroka back from his torn Achilles. Their offense is led by reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman and future MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. The Amazin’s are a force to reckon with, especially after adding Francisco Lindor, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. The question is can the Mets win enough. The Marlins have finally built a team internally. Miami bought two World Series championships but those were short term successes followed by fire sales and long rebuilds. The young Marlins will be fun to watch and are building towards October. The Nationals may have the best rotation in baseball. The keys for Washington are keeping everyone healthy and can the offense, besides Juan Soto, keep up with the pitching. Philadelphia has Bryce Harper, but one player cannot put an entire team on his back. The Phillies will be good, but in a deep division they could be the best last place team in baseball. 

National League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Red BirdsCincy…..why not?ArenadosMiller TimeCardinalsCardinals
Red LegsCardsDrink pretty goodCardinalsBrewersBrewers
Brew CrewBrewcroodsShitcagoRedsCubsReds
Teddy BearsBuccarooniesCincincincin…..CubbiesRedsCubs
Burn the ShipsNorthsidersNice stadiumsBonds’ ex-gfJack SparrowsPirates

Yadier Molina is an ageless wonder. 17 seasons behind the plate for the Cardinals and he is still among the best catchers in baseball. St. Louis is set at the corners with Paul Goldschmidt and the nearly acquired Nolan Arenado. The Central crown runs through St. Louis. Milwaukee got better by signing Kolten Wong away from their divisional rival Cardinals. The Brewers are one of the more underrated teams in baseball and have a real chance at the Postseason in an already tight division. Cincinnati made it back to the Postseason in the shortened 2020 season. The Reds have the pitching and offense to return this season. The division may be too difficult to win, but the Wild Card is within reach. This could be the final season of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez at Wrigley. Looming free agency makes it nearly impossible for Chicago to retain all three players long term. The Cubs will be good, but change is coming. The Pirates are barely a Major League team. It was a little surprising MLB did not cull them with the other Minor League teams this winter. They have a projected team payroll of $46 million, with nearly a quarter of it tied to Gregory Polanco. Ke’Bryan Hayes provides hope for the future but the Postseason is out of the question.

Traded to St. Louis with $50 million, Nolan Arenado will finally play for a winning team. (Getty Images)

National League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersYou want a hot apple pie with that?BettsDodgersPadresDodgers
DaddyThe over hyped LA teamPadresPadresScullysPadres
SnakesSILVER BULLET!!!!!!!!GentsGiantsRattlersGiants
Jolly GreensScam Fram BricsoQuarterbacksDbacksGiantsDiamonbacks
Rockie Mt HighI’m a snakeIt Smoke Pretty GoodRockiesRock BottomsRockies

The reigning and defending World Series champions will return to October, but can they fend off the Padres. The championship team is back and will continue racking up wins. Clayton Kershaw is no longer the only pitcher Los Angeles can depend on in the Postseason, the Dodgers should make a deep run to defend their crown. San Diego is built for success now and in the future. Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and Chris Paddack are tough to beat every time they take the field. The race for the West will be fun to watch. The gap between the top and bottom of the division is huge. Few teams were as high as the Giants a decade ago, but that is the past now. The rebuild continues in the back end of Buster Posey’s career. How long will he continue playing is unknown, but he is already a San Francisco legend. Arizona is not a bad team, but can they compete with the titans on the coast? The Diamondbacks have plenty of good players, including an underrated Ketel Marte, but they lack a superstar to compete in October. The Rockies managed to enrage their entire fanbase with a single move, trading away Nolan Arenado. Every team makes tough roster decisions, but Colorado decided it was best to rid themselves of the best Third Baseman in baseball and keep a General Manager that has not shown any ability to put a winning team on the field. Yes Trevor Story is still on the team, but his impending free agency will see him shipped out before the season is over. Once Story is gone what is left to build around? Get ready for a long and brutal rebuild Colorado fans.  

Postseason

The Poseseason is a roll of the dice. A team can come in hot and suddenly turn cold and be gone. A team struggling can suddenly find their footing and go on a tear. The beauty of October baseball is that it is more unpredictable than the Regular Season.

American League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
YankeesTwinkiesAsA’sYankeesA’s
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersBravosDodgersDodgersBravosDodgers
PadresGnatsCincyPadresDodgersPadres
BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves
BravesTwinkiesDodgersBravesYankeesYankees
BravesBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves

Congratulations to the 2021 World Series Champions, the Atlanta Braves. We will find out just how wrong our predictions were in October. None of us have high hopes that we were right. Happy Opening Day!

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies will lead the Braves to the World Series. (New York Times)

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB

United States of Baseball- Georgia

Major League Baseball continues to see a steady stream of players from Georgia. The warm weather for much of the year combined with the Braves dynasty in the 1990’s and early 2000’s created a generation of baseball crazed players and fans. The Peach State has sent 390 players to MLB. The Hall of Fame has welcomed six Georgia natives: Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson, Johnny Mize, Jackie Robinson, Bill Terry, and Frank Thomas. Kevin Brown is the greatest pitcher from the Peach State. His career 68.21 WAR ranks 20th among all state and territory leaders. Ty Cobb is the greatest position player. His career 151.02 WAR is the 4th highest among position players. Brown and Cobb’s combined 219.23 WAR ranks Georgia 9th highest among all states and territories.

Kevin Brown was born in Milledgeville. He played 19 seasons in the Majors for six teams: Texas Rangers (1986, 1988-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995), Florida Marlins (1996-1997), San Diego Padres (1998), Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2003), and New York Yankees (2004-2005). On the mound, Brown pitched in 486 Games, making 476 Starts, throwing 72 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, pitching 3,256.1 Innings, allowing 3,079 Hits, 1,357 Runs, 1,185 Earned Runs, 208 Home Runs, 901 Walks, 2,397 Strikeouts, posting a 211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, and 127 ERA+. Opposing hitters knew they were in for a rough day with Brown pitching. 

Kevin Brown throws the ball to San Francisco batter William VanLandingham during his No Hitter against the Giants. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Brown’s elite pitching earned him six All Star selections, the 1997 World Series, and two ERA titles (1996 and 2000). He finished sixth in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting. He finished in the top six for Cy Young voting five times (1992- 6th, 1996- 2nd, 1998- 3rd, 1999- 6th, and 2000- 6th). He threw a No Hitter against the Giants in 1997. A year later, Brown’s success on the mound saw him rewarded with the then largest contract in MLB history. He signed a seven year free agent contract with the Dodgers for $105 million. It was baseball’s first $100+ million contract. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2011. He received 2.1% of the vote, failing to reach the minimum 5% to remain on the ballot. 

Unquestionably, Brown’s best season was in 1996 with the Florida Marlins. In 32 Starts, he threw 5 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 233 Innings, allowed 187 Hits, 60 Runs, 49 Earned Runs, 8 Home Runs, 33 Walks, 159 Strikeouts, posted a 17-11 record, 1.89 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, and 215 ERA+.  Brown led the National League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He was an All Star, finished second for the Cy Young award, and 22nd for the MVP. Kevin Brown was outstanding and was among the National League’s best in 1996. 

No player was ever more fanatical about baseball than Ty Cobb. He was born in Narrows and played 24 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1905-1926) and Philadelphia Athletics (1927-1928). In 3,034 career Games he collected 4,189 Hits, 724 Doubles, 295 Triples, 117 Home Runs, 1,944 RBI, scored 2,245 Runs, 897 Stolen Bases, 1,249 Walks, 680 Strikeouts, .366 BA, .433 OBP, .512 SLG, .944 OPS, 168 OPS+, and 5,854 Total Bases. When he retired, Cobb held the record for most Hits, Stolen Bases, and BA. Both Hits and Stolen Bases have since been surpassed, but his record .366 BA seems untouchable.

Ty Cobb was a ferocious competitor, who would do anything to win. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Cobb is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time. He hit over .400 three times. He won 12 Batting Titles in 13 seasons, including nine straight. He led the American League in Hits eight times and collected at least 200 Hits nine times. He led the league in Doubles three times. He hit at least 30 Doubles in 15 seasons and at least 40 Doubles in four seasons. Cobb led the league in Triples four times, legging out at least 10 Triples in 17 seasons, and at least 20 in four seasons. He had seven 100 RBI seasons, leading the American League four times. He led the Junior Circuit in Stolen Bases six times with nine seasons of at least 50 Steals. Cobb was the premier player of his era, winning the 1909 Triple Crown (9 HR, 107 RBI, .377 BA). In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its first class: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. It was Cobb, not Ruth, who received the most votes, with 98.2% for induction into Cooperstown.

Selecting the greatest individual season of Cobb’s career is nearly impossible. He was consistently brilliant. Examining his MVP 1911 season with the Tigers seems the most appropriate. In 146 Games, he collected 248 Hits, 47 Doubles, 24 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 148 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 44 Walks, 42 Strikeouts, .419 BA, .466 OBP, .620 SLG, 1.086 OPS, 196 OPS+, and 367 Total Bases. Cobb led the league in Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Triples, RBI, Stolen Bases, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases. He won the first American League MVP award. He finished 7th in 1912, 20th in 1913, and 14th in 1914 after which the award was discontinued. The MVP returned to the Junior Circuit in 1922, but previous winners were ineligible to win again. It is not difficult to imagine the Georgia Peach winning at least five MVP awards if he was eligible. 

Georgia continues to send great players to the Majors every year. The state shows no sign of slowing down. Next week the United States of Baseball goes west, really far west to the  Land of the Chamorro. Guam is next. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Colorado

Colorado is better known as an outdoor playground than a hub for baseball. The mountainous terrain in the western half of the state and cold winters are not conducive to year round baseball. Nevertheless, the Centennial State has sent 97 players to the Major Leagues. Colorado may trail other states in sheer numbers, but the state makes up for it with quality. Roy Halladay has the highest WAR among Colorado born pitchers, 65.37, and ranks 22nd among state and territory leaders. Chase Headley leads all Colorado born position players with 25.92 WAR, ranking him 48th among all leaders. Halladay and Headley’s combined 91.29 WAR ranks Colorado 38th highest. More and more baseball talent comes from the Centennial State each year, it will undoubtedly continue climbing higher in the rankings.

Roy Halladay is one of the great pitchers in recent baseball history. The Denver native pitched 16 seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays (1998-2009) and Philadelphia Phillies (2010-2013). In 390 career Starts, Halladay posted a 203-105 record, throwing 67 Complete Games, 20 Shutouts, 2,749.1 Innings Pitched, allowed 236 Home Runs, 592 Walks, 2,117 Strikeouts, with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. He was an 8 time All Star, finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award seven times, won 2 Cy Youngs (2003 and 2010), and was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history on the way to Cooperstown. (Mel Evans/ AP)

Halladay’s career numbers reflect the era in which he pitched. Pitching continues to evolve, gone are the days of massive innings totals, double digit Complete Games, and the ability to contain most teams inside the ballpark. Hall of Fame voting for pitchers is changing and Halladay helped lead the charge. 

Unquestionably Halladay’s greatest season was his 2010 campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 33 Starts, he posted a 21-10 record, throwing 9 Complete Games, 4 Shutouts, in 250.2 Innings, allowing just 68 Earned Runs, 30 Walks, 219 Strikeouts, with a 2.44 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, and 167 ERA+. Halladay led the National League in Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, and Innings Pitched on his way to his second Cy Young and finishing 6th in MVP voting. His crowning achievement was Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Halladay missed the zone with a full count in the 5th Inning. This Jay Bruce walk was all the offense the Reds could muster. He pitched 9 Innings, allowing 0 Hits, 1 Walk, 8 Strikeouts, faced 28 batters, and threw 104 pitches. Halladay became the second pitcher to throw a No Hitter in the Postseason after Don Larsen’s Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series. Halladay was nearly unhittable in 2010 and was in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Chase Headley played 12 seasons for the San Diego Padres (2007-2014, 2018) and New York Yankees (2014-2017). The Fountain native appeared in 1,436 Games, collected 1,337 Hits, 272 Doubles, 16 Triples, 130 Home Runs, 596 RBI, scored 637 Runs, 93 Stolen Bases, 574 Walks, 1,298 Strikeouts, .263 BA, .342 OBP, .399 SLG, .742 OPS, and 106 OPS+. Playing primarily Third Base, Headley played 9,643.1 Innings, had 2,888 Chances, made 703 Putouts, 2078 Assists, 107 Errors, and turned 173 Double Plays. Both his career .963 Fld% and Range, 2.60 RF/9, were above average. Headley was a solid hitter and above average Third Baseman. While his numbers will not see him inducted into Cooperstown, he was a productive player throughout his long career. 

Chase Headley was a solid Third Baseman with the glove and the bat throughout his career. (The Athletic)

Headley’s best season was in 2012 with the Padres. In 161 Games, he collected 173 Hits, 31 Doubles, 2 Triples, 31 Home Runs, 115 RBI, scored 95 Runs, 17 Stolen Bases, 86 Walks, 157 Strikeouts, .286 BA, .376 OBP, .498 SLG, .875 OPS, and 145 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI, and won his only Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. Headley peaked in San Diego before he was traded to the Yankees who re-signed him as a free agent to a 4 year, $52 million contract. Players are rewarded for past performance and Headley cashed in.

Colorado has sent two players to Cooperstown. The WAR leader, Roy Halladay, and Goose Gossage. Undoubtedly more Coloradans will follow as the Centennial State continues building its baseball legacy. Next Week the United States of Baseball heads east to the Constitution State, Connecticut. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Arizona

The heat is the most challenging part of baseball in Arizona. It is hard to concentrate when your brain is melting. Despite the extreme heat, Major League Baseball came to the desert in 1998. A retractable roof made the Diamondbacks possible. Not every field in the Grand Canyon State has a roof, yet 121 Arizona born players have reached the Majors. John Denny and Ian Kinsler helped build a proud baseball legacy. Denny is the greatest pitcher born in Arizona with 31.1 career WAR. He ranks 44th among state leaders. Ian Kinsler is the greatest position player with 55.2 career WAR. He ranks 37th among position player leaders. Combined Denny and Kinsler have a 86.3 WAR, giving Arizona the 41st highest combined WAR.

John Denny pitched his way to the 1983 National League Cy Young Award. (1984 SPX/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

John Denny is the pride of Prescott, Arizona. He is the only Major Leaguer born in the city. He pitched 13 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals (1974-1979), Cleveland Indians (1980-1982), Philadelphia Phillies (1982-1985), and Cincinnati Reds (1986). Denny’s best season was with the Phillies in 1983. He made 36 Starts, threw seven Complete Games, one Shutout, in 242.2 Innings, with a 19-6 record, 2.37 ERA, 1.162 WHIP, and 152 ERA+. Denny led the National League in Wins and won the Cy Young award. Arm troubles soon diminished his abilities and he was out of the Majors after 1986 at just 33 years old. In his career, Denny Started 322 Games, threw 62 Complete Games, 18 Shutouts, in 2,148.2 Innings, a 123-108 record, 3.59 ERA, 1.336 WHIP, and 105 ERA+. He leads all Arizona born pitchers in Games Started, Wins, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Walks, Strikeouts, and of course WAR. 

Ian Kinsler is one of 33 Major Leaguers born in Tucson, Arizona. He played 14 seasons for the Texas Rangers (2006-2013), Detroit Tigers (2014-2017), Los Angeles Angels (2018), Boston Red Sox (2018), and San Diego Padres (2019). He was a four time All Star and won two Gold Gloves at Second Base. Kinsler’s best season was with the Tigers in 2014. He collected 188 Hits, including 40 Doubles, 4 Triples, and 17 Home Runs, scored 100 Runs with 92 RBI, 15 Stolen Bases, 29 Walks, and 79 Strikeouts. He posted a .275 BA, .307 OBP, .420 SLG, .727 OPS, and 103 OPS+.

Ian Kinsler could do it all on the diamond. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Defensively, Kinsler played nearly 1,900 Games and 16,000 Innings at Second Base. He was a slightly below average fielder (-.003), but his Range was significantly higher than average (+0.25 per nine innings). He helped his team win with his bat and glove. Kinsler collected 1,999 career Hits, including 416 Doubles, 41 Triples, 257 Home Runs, scored 1,243 Runs, 909 RBI, 243 Stolen Bases, 693 Walks, and 1,046 Strikeouts. He posted a .269 BA, .337 OBP, .440 SLG, .777 OPS, and 107 OPS+. Ian Kinsler leads all Arizona born players in All Star appearances, Games Played, Plate Appearances, At Bats, Hits, Doubles, Triples, Home Runs, Runs Scored, RBI, Stolen Base, Walks, Strikeouts, and WAR.

The Grand Canyon State continues to build a strong baseball legacy. Leaving the desert of Arizona for the Natural State, Arkansas is next for the United States of Baseball.

DJ

The Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

On the Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again. Failure is part of baseball. Successful batters fail seven out of ten times. Pitchers do not always throw strikes. Umpires miss calls. It is part of the game. When a runner fails on the bases, they can kill a rally. The undisputed Stolen Base king, Rickey Henderson, is also the Caught Stealing king. Success comes with risk. Unfortunately for Oscar Robles, he took the risk without any reward. He was Caught Stealing the most times without a successful Stolen Base, 0 for 8. 

Robles split his time between Shortstop and Third Base in three seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2005-2006) and San Diego Padres (2007). 2005 was his best season, playing 110 Games, hitting .272, collecting 99 Hits, including his 5 career Home Runs, and 8 Stolen Base attempts. 

Oscar Robles tried to help the Dodgers by stealing a base, but was out every time. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Success comes to those who try and Robles tried. On June 4th against the Milwaukee Brewers, Robles Singled off Victor Santos. The Dodgers tried to hit and run with Antonio Perez, but Perez struckout and Damian Miller threw Robles out at Second. Two weeks later in Chicago against the White Sox, Robles walked in the 2nd Inning. He then tried to steal Second against Freddy Garcia, but A.J. Pierzynski’s arm was faster than Robles’ legs. Out at Second. In the 9th Inning Cliff Politte walked Robles, who tried to steal again. Pierzynski’s throw beat Robles. Tadahito Iguchi caught the ball and ran Robles back to First, tossing the ball to Paul Konerko for the tag. 0 for 2 on the day. 

Robles was not deterred. On July 10th in Houston Brad Ausmus threw Robles out. In his final three Stolen Base attempts his teammates failed to protect him. Robles was part of a Strike Out Throw Out Double Play on July 15th against the Giants with Mike Matheny catching. On August 12th against the Mets, Jeff Kent struckout and Mike Piazza completed the Double Play. Danny Ardoin threw Robles out on August 23rd after Hee-Seop Choi whiffed against Colorado’s Jamey Wright. Oscar Robles’ final attempt was on September 5th against the Giants. Mike Edwards struckout and Yamid Haad threw Robles out. 

Half of Robles’ Caught Stealings were part of Strike Out Throw Out Double Plays. His teammates failed him. Unfortunately, Oscar Robles is saddled with the record for most Stolen Base attempts without success. His futility on the bases demonstrates how difficult baseball is to play. Some players are just dealt bad hands.

Happy Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.

DJ