Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Knuckle Ball:Volume four

Welcome back to the ever popular "Knuckle Ball" segment where I parlay my thoughts on some newsworthy baseball topics. In the fourth edition, we will analyze the true value of supposed superstar Mike Trout to the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels and whether he is even the M.V.P of his own club let alone a serious threat to take home another Most Valuable honour. Secondly, the resurgence of J.A Happ, a now important member of the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation is a fascinating development and one wonders if he's now being sought in a potential playoff rotation. To finish er' off this evening, the loss of Nathan Eovaldi for the rest of the regular season is a devastating blow to the Yankees and the question I'd like to consider when comparing Eovaldi's exceptional campaign with the sudden injury, where does he now fit in for the playoff rotation. The Ace? The number two guy? The bullpen? I'll share my thoughts a little later.

When listing today's top ball players, almost every so called "expert" will include Mike Trout at or near the top. And while statistical analysis won't disprove these claims, from a team value point of view, he's nowhere near the top of the Angels hierarchy. This will greatly contradict the viewpoint of the Toronto Blue Jays own analyst Gregg Zaun seen nightly on the Jays pre-game show "Blue Jays central" on sportsnet, who until very recently was of the opinion that Trout was again the leading front runner for the American League M.V.P even ahead of Jays own Josh Donaldson. I found this repeated notion from Zaun completely ridiculous as Donaldson has been the heart and soul of a playoff bound team while Trout has fought consistency issues the entire second half of the year for a team that the only reason they're still in the playoff conversation is due to Kole Calhoun. When dissecting Trout's individual game, I've come to the following conclusions. Trout's base running which has previously been lauded is a commendable asset but nothing that stands out as  a "weapon" of his. His power game is good, but when watching him on the at bats that he does knock the ball out of the ball park, anything in the inner half he'll use his quick hands and turn on the pitch where any breaking balls on the outer half, he's constantly in front of. Teams are beginning to be more pertinent with these scouting reports thus a decreased amount of effectiveness as of late. Regarding his play in the outfield,  his arm is satisfactory but nothing to write home about. I guess the long, convoluted point I'm trying to make is just because a player does a whole bunch of things 'good', doesn't make said player great. I look at Kole Calhoun as a more attractive piece going forward completely prepared to be mobbed with unparalled negative reactions, but it's how I feel.

J.A Happ as a Toronto Blue Jay was a player that the fans of T.O truly didn't appreciate the contributions that he delivered in 2014. He was then dealt to the Seattle Mariners in a trade that  brought over Canadian outfielder Michael Saunders. This has transpired to be one of those trades that you can classify as lose/lose as neither Saunders, due to injury for Happ, due to lack of performance materialized in their new markets. It appeared as if Happ was due for a write-off in 2015 but then a deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates ensued and it was as if a new player was born.  Happ was brought on with the sole intention of acting as a filler for the oft-injured A.J Burnett but now the Pirates find themselves in a dilemma(albeit a good one) with where Happ fits in the rotation come the post  season. My belief that he fits behind Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano but in all honesty with Cole's lack of trustworthiness of late, some will opine that Happ could slide in to the number two slot. Watching Happ hurl now, he has drawn comparisons in my own head to that of Al Leiter. Not overpowering by any stretch but when reminiscing to his tremendous 2014 season with the Jays a long with his superior 2015 second half, it's been Leiter-esque.

Probably for the third time in this blog I will stress the fact that I hate the Yankees, but due to the success of the organization this year, their a hot button topic. I will admit as a Blue Jay fan this year as I my ride with several bandwagons will surely continue that Eovaldi drew fear into me. The guy is good, and it takes a complete idiot like Miami Marlins president David Samson to agree to trade Eovaldi to the Yankees for journeymen Martin Prado and David Phelps.  Samson who was once  a contestant on the reality show "Survivor" and to no one's surprise was eliminated first, so the trade he made with the Yankees is like getting voted off first a second time. Samson continually making a mockery of the Marlins organization was to the pinstripes benefit as they acquired a bonafide ace. Eovaldi was sitting at a 14-2 mark which is outstanding although some will argue that we can't totally base a good season solely on pitching record as I'm quickly reminded that Toronto Blue Jays fringe starter Drew Hutchison has a superb record but the upper management of the Jays shows no confidence. You could make an argument for considering one of Tanaka, Severino, or Pineda the best of the bunch but in my humble opinion that stigma belongs to Eovaldi. Things were rolling seamlessly until elbow inflammation has forced the Yankees hand with the widespread belief in place that he will be shut down for the remainder of the regular season. The old adage in sport is that you don't lose your job from an injury but as any educated sports observer would obviously understand, that particular notion is well outdated. I could enlist hundreds of examples of athletes losing significant roles from injuries but to highlight a couple we have Drew Bledsoe from the New England Patriots which paved the way for the legend himself Tom Brady, or what about Roberto Luongo in the goaltending graveyard in Vancouver where injuries opened the crease to Corey Schneider essentially beginning in 2011 which led to a messy goaltending controversy that was well documented by the Canadian media. I think it's safe to say getting back to Eovaldi that his role with the Yankees is in no danger, but what role that exactly will be come playoff time is a little cloudy. Under the presumption that the Yankees will have the flexibility to organize their rotation  for an American League divisional series,  the Yankees could conceivably go many different ways. My sense is that what we'll see if a berth in the ALDS is granted is go with Tanaka, Severino , and Pineda with their three man rotation while waiving the caution flag with Eovaldi pertaining to a long term outlook. In the Yanks bullpen, you have a set 8th/9th inning tandem of Dillon Betances and Andrew  Miller so in a role that I similarly proposed for Marcus Stroman of the Jays although based on everything I've heard and read they're not running in this direction is to have Eovaldi as the permanent seventh inning stalwart.  A truculent trio of Eovaldi/Betances/Miller would be electrifying and daunting for fellow playoff opposition but the way I see it that's the best way to slice the cake for the Bronx Bombers. Is this a celebratory cake to applaud achievement of yet another World series title? Well, that's the beautiful thing about sports, to quote the great Kevin Garnett" Anythinnnnnnnng is pooooooooossssssssssssibble".

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