houston astros

Max Scherzer in Verlanderland

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To the surprise of absolutely no one, Max Scherzer dominated the Lastros last night: 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts. Despite a drop in fastball velocity this season, he’s still put up an impressive 1.72 ERA so far. Yet, after he spurned the Tigers’ six year $144 million extension offer, I feel slightly conflicted about rooting for him. Don’t get me wrong, I still want the Tigers to win every game he pitches, but part of me feels like it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to be, like, slightly less awesome. If he puts up another monster season, does this mean he definitely leaves as a free agent next season (especially since the Tigers blew all their money on the insane Miguel Cabrera extension)? Is he leaving regardless? There’s definitely a bit of a mercenary sheen on him this year, and no one likes rooting for mercenaries.

That being said, I think I understand his rationale in turning down the Tigers’ offer. I’m convinced that the Tigers were unwilling to pay Scherzer greater than or equal to what Justin Verlander is making. And I don’t think Max wanted to be told, “Sure, we’ll pay you as a top five pitcher in the league, but as long as you’re in Detroit, you’ll always be #2.” What defending Cy Young winner would want to sign a long term deal like that?

So who’s #1? If Scherzer keeps doing what he’s doing and Verlander continues to be mortal, I’m interested to see if a debate develops between the Verlanderlanders and the Scherzerians. (If Justin Verlander were a country, it would of course be called Verlanderland and its citizens would be called Verlanderlanders. No, the country would not be called just Verland. That sounds dumb.) I’m a Verlanderlander. And Scherzer is pretty damn good, but the guy doesn’t have a single complete game in his entire career. That’s right. Not once has he retired all 27 guys; he’s always needed help. And that’s why he’s not #1. But prove it Max. Do it again, but sprinkle in a few shutouts and I just might be convinced to defect. And, more importantly, Scherzeria can have all of the gold in Ilitchtenstein. Well, whatever’s left, that is.

The Terrible Tigers Bullpen

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The Detroit Tigers bullpen is a flaming wet turd. You may ask, how can something be both wet and on fire at the same time? Such is the seeming impossibility of this craptitude. The Tigers bullpen has a 5.65 ERA, ranked 29th in the majors. The only team that is worse so far is Houston at 6.05, but the Astros are not a real team. Well, they are real in the sense that they are physical objects and not illusions, but, according to reliable sources, the entire Astros roster is actually a barnstorming team from the 1890’s (people were generally smaller back then, so this explains the existence of Jose Altuve) that has been resurrected via Edo Tensei, which best translates as Impure Reincarnation Summoning Technique. In other words, the Astros are literally the walking dead. But…the Tigers’ aggregate bullpen numbers include 6 innings of scoreless “relief” thrown by Drew Smyly, a starting pitcher. Subtract Smyly’s innings from the total and the bullpen ERA rises to a spectacular 6.22. As mentioned in my season preview, the Tigers will likely struggle to create any space in the division all year, because the bullpen is the terriblest in the league. They are even terribler than a bunch of zombies.

Other thoughts this week:

  • Hitter of the year, to date: Who the hell is Charlie Blackmon? And what the hell is he on? He’s the #1 hitter in fantasy at the moment, hitting .402 with 5 HR and 6 SB. I’ve heard him mentioned in the same sentence as Mike Trout, and that sentence is usually “Let’s not get carried away and compare Blackmon to Trout.” But Trout hasn’t been running this year and has 31 strikeouts. Blackmon has struck out six times. SIX. I’ve always said that Trout, with his square head, blocky frame and red garb, looks like an Autobot, specifically Hot Rod (I’m talking about Transformers the Movie from 1986, not any of this Michael Bay garbage. If you have not seen it, you need to go see it immediately. I just made it a requirement for league membership). Blackmon, swathed in black and purple, may be Trout’s perfect Decepticon counterpart. Charlie Blackmon is Cyclonus




 Hm…looks like Mike Trout could use some more courage. 



So what is Charlie Blackmon on? A little energon and a lot of luck. Or maybe it’s a little luck and a hell of a lot of energon. And steroids. And HGH. I don’t know. But we know now, thanks to my connecting the dots, that he is definitely a bad guy. Because all Decepticons are bad guys. So nothing would surprise me. 

  • Pitcher of the year, to date: Adam Wainwright is the #1 pitcher in fantasy, and right now looks like he can do whatever he wants. He has not been scored on in 25 straight innings, and has only given up 9 hits in that span. Waino had two starts last week; he left the first start after 79 pitches and 7 innings because he tweaked his knee and left the second start after 99 pitches and 8 innings probably because of lingering concerns about that knee.  It looks like the knee will be a non-issue, but in normal circumstances, that should have been two shutouts. We are inundated these days with good starting pitching performances (ESPN reports that Sunday produced a record 10 pitchers throwing 7 innings with 3 hits or less allowed), but Wainwright still stands apart from the crowd. Despite my well-documented loathing of the Cardinals (I found a new reason this weekend, as I discovered their Hawk-Harrelson-esque announcers are audio vomit), this is not an attempt to jinx Adam Wainwright. I can be objective (sometimes), and I think Wainwright finishes the year as the #1 pitcher in fantasy baseball. It won’t even be close. 
  • Pitching line of the week #1: On Saturday: Danny Duffy, 0.0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, LOSS, 3 batters faced. The mystery is in the line; if he faced three batters, how come his line is all zeros? This was a disaster for Duffy. Hit batter, then the next batter bunted and Duffy threw it away. Then the following batter bunted and Duffy threw it away AGAIN as the winning run scored. You’ve really got to watch it, it’s spectacular. For all that, Duffy still gets to have an ERA of 0.00 for the season. Sometimes stats make no sense. 
  • Pitching line of the week #2: Again on Saturday, Brandon Morrow: 2.2 IP, 0 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 1 K. This is how you get pulled from a no-hitter in the 3rd inning. Thing is, he almost got away with it. Despite walking four batters in the first two innings, two double plays helped Morrow to enter the third inning unscathed. He then walked four batters to allow one run to score, got pulled, then the reliever came in and gave up a grand slam. I blame the manager for this. Only one run had scored at this point. Leave Morrow in and either let him work it out or go for the all-time walks record (16). No-lose scenario. 

Andy Pettitte: Overrated Postseason Performer

Quick question:  Which of the following pitchers would you rather have?

Pitcher 1:  14-9, 4.11 ERA, 206 IP in 33 starts, 130 K
Pitcher 2:  14-5, 3.44 ERA, 209 IP in 33 starts, 199 K

Obviously, neither of these pitchers is a superstar, but given the lower ERA and higher strikeout rate of Pitcher 2, I’d go with him any day.

Now…

Pitcher 2 is Angels pitcher John Lackey’s 2005 season.
Pitcher 1 is Andy Pettitte’s career postseason statistics.

My point?  Anyone who says that Pettitte is this fantastic clutch postseason performer has no idea what they’re talking about.  The only reason he has so many wins is because he has had so many chances to pitch in the postseason, and if he didn’t have the Yankees offense behind him, he never would have won 14 games.  While Pettitte did have a great season this year, he’s always really been nothing more than a poor #2 starter or a good #3 starter his whole career.  So when I hear comparisons of Oswalt-Clemens-Pettitte to Smoltz-Glavine-Maddux it kind of makes me sick.  It’s Oswalt-Clemens…and then Pettitte.  How people can even confused the caliber of these 3 pitchers is beyond me; Pettitte’s not even close to being in their class.  I mean, come on, in 33 career postseason starts he doesn’t even have a single complete game?  Ugh.  Yet another beneficiary of unjustified New York hype.  At best, Pettitte is a guy that might keep your team in the game…but he’ll never win the game for you by himself, like Oswalt did last night.  And on the nights Pettitte doesn’t keep you in the game, he lets you down…bad.  Game 1 of the NLCS is one example, but does anyone remember Game 6 of the 2001 World Series?  Yankees up 3-2 with a chance to close it out and Pettitte just gets blown out of the freaking water by Arizona, while getting to watch a real ace, Randy Johnson, dominate the Yanks.  Final score of that game was 15 – 2, and Pettitte only made it through two measly innings.  What a dud.  And then everyone knows what happened in Game 7 of that series…

I’m not knocking John Lackey, he’s an above average pitcher.  But if he were on the Astros, no one would be talking about Clemens-Oswalt-Lackey with any sort of reverence, nor should they.  Trust me, there aren’t any hitters on the White Sox who are going to be thinking, “Aw crap, I gotta face Pettitte?”  Puhleeeez…

Prediction:  Astros in 7.

EDIT:  Okay, okay, I know that Pettitte doesn’t suck, but I guess I’m just trying to make the point that while he’s a decent pitcher, he’s not quite what people have made him out to be.  Basically, Andy Pettitte is Jarrod Washburn, just better looking and with a lot more press.  And if he can keep the Astros in games, then I’ll be very happy…for Astros fans.  But I’d prefer to have the Astros win and to have Pettitte’s mediocrity exposed.