Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Knuckle Ball:Volume six

Welcome to this segment that I call the "Knuckle Ball" where basically I spew off my thoughts on a few items in the world of baseball. On tap for today I will look at the exciting American League rookie of the year race. The second item up for debate will be something that was discussed on the MLB network a little earlier this year and that was their interpretation that  Colorado Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado was one of the top five young baseball players in the game. I obviously disagree and will explain why later on. Lastly, because this will be for all purposes the last regular season edition, I will choose the two teams I see meeting up in this years fall classic and why I have come to this particular conclusion.

The American League Rookie of the Year race is certainly an intriguing one. Before the All-star break, it was a foregone conclusion that Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros had the award on lockdown, some including myself would've considered him a darkhorse M.V.P candidate. Truth be told, the fact that he didn't spend the entire year with the Astros organization was always going to be a hindrance when it came to the writers voting on the award but at the very least he has all but guaranteed himself hardware by being the odds on favourite for R.O.Y right? Not so fast, as two notable contenders have emerged from the woodwork and may have even surpassed Correa on the odds list. These two names happen to be Mark Canha of the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna. Let's first look at the merits of the young Athletic outfielder.  The prevailing opinion is that Canha isn't even the Athletics top rookie as most will suggest that mantra belongs to Billy Burns but I'm here to tell you based off of team value, Canha wins out simply when judging versatility. I'll pose it this way, what do the Oakland Athletics lack as a team? if you guessed everything in jest, you're not far off but to go down this route a little more seriously what they truly lack is team power. After deciding to gift wrap the "Bringer of Rain" Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays, they ridded themselves of 1/2 of their home run pop with only Josh Reddick possessing natural slugging abilities. Step on  up Mark Canha to aptly reference the hit game show Price is Right. Canha is the only rookie in consideration for the award that has showed consistent power for the award aside from the man who strikes out so much that it makes former Jays catcher J.P Arencibia look like a patient hitter in Steven Souza. Judging solely on the statistical line, Canha's the prototypical multi tooled player as he steals bases(seven on this year thusfar), is walloping the rest of the A.L rookie candidates in RBI's and that's saying something  as some nights the Athletics give off a minor ball club vibe even further impressive considering for a large part of the year he was hitting seventh and behind Billy Butler and as all close knit baseball observers know, getting Butler home is no easy task unless a cheeseburger is waiting at home plate. Burns can steal bases, Canha does everything else well which makes him not only the Athletics top rookie but a candidate for the league honours. Roberto Osuna on the other hand has been thrust into the spotlight on a contending baseball team. It's amazing to realize that going into the year, the Jays closer reign was handed to Brett Cecil which quickly shifted to current Colorado Rockie Miguel Castro and eventually to Roberto Osuna. Osuna took the closer role and ran. Seventeen saves in nineteen opportunities is commendable as that type of progress would be satisfactory for  a seasoned veteran let alone for a rookie. Osuna's on-field demeanor is nothing like what a rookie generally exudes as he's calm and has an incredibly quick recovery time after allowing a big  hit/home run. What may throw Osuna into the front runner category is the role he plays on a team destined for the playoffs and sure Astros Carlos Correa is also entrusted in the pennant race but the role he plays fails in comparison to the nightly pressure put on Osuna. In summary, Carlos Correa will win the award due to name recognition but the contributions of both Canha and Osuna should not be ignored.

So, I was going to make reference of this earlier but it slipped my mind so I thought I would give my two cents on this now. I was watching a program on the MLB Network earlier this summer, and  a panel headlined by the great Harold Reynolds was discerning who the top five young players under the age of twenty five were. Mike Trout, obviously, Bryce Harper, he's a MVP candidate in the National League,Kris Bryant may in fact lead the charge and break the curse with the Cubbies so by no doubt is he on this list, Manny Machado is the new Cal Ripken Jr. in Maryland as he's an absolute masher at the age of twenty three. Nolan Arenado? The fifth player in the top five consensus according to the MLB network is a good player, a franchise player would be stretching out his limits and certainly is not one of the best five players under the age of twenty five. If they weren't intending to include pitchers on this list then it's forgivable that they didn't choose to include the likes of Jose Fernandez and Michael Wacha but if pitchers were on the docket then coming to the conclusion that Arenado is more of a franchise player than those two hurlers is laughable. The problem I have with Arenado is, and once again I will preface this by saying that he's a good player is that he doesn't do one thing great. The definition of a great player is that he must do something great courtesy of the dictionary for dummies so I ask, what does Arenado do spectacularly? He's a good season hitting the home run ball but playing in the Colorado altitude as in years past, hacks like Dante Bichette have played in Denver coming out looking like Mark McGwire. The altitude cancels out his home run achievements. Does he run the base paths well? At six career stolen bases, the blog's resident whipping post Mo Vaughn is more of a threat to swipe a bag. Does he field well playing the hot corner? After watching Chase Headley play the hot corner for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays the last two nights and when analyzing his twenty seven errors over the last two seasons, I have a hard time differentiating which player I'm least comfortable playing defence. Arenado screams good player but the continued undeserved hype of this individual will quickly transition himself into the overrated category.

It's that time.... which two teams does this blogger foresee meeting up in the 2015 World Series? The playoffs are going to be an absolute epic battle as theirs not one team potentially headed to the dance that I would give zero chance to(okay, maybe the Twins).  As a Canadian, my selection of the Toronto Blue Jays will be perceived with a great deal of bias but nonetheless I will begin this by proclaiming that my American League selection is indeed the Toronto Blue Jays. Why the Blue Jays in the AL? Ever since General Manager Alex Anthopoulos made the trades in late July that brought over Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere this organization has kicked into high gear. Defensively, their the most sound team out of all the contenders even with Tulowitzki out with a cracked bone in the shoulder as his short stop replacement Ryan Goins is the best in the game and not many can provide an alternative name to make a valid argument. Starting pitching has been, so steal  a catch phrase from great Big Brother Canada season two contestant Paul Jackson "insane bro". David Price's dominance was expected pre arrival and he has done nothing to put any damper in these expectaitions. R. A Dickey, the Blue Jays resident Knuckle baller after a dismal first half of the season has completely turned around his fortunes and has been the second most effective pitcher this club has to offer. Marco  Estrada who came over from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Adam Lind has been a god's send as a guy who started this campaign in the bullpen will likely be called upon by John Gibbons to make an important playoff start. The escapades of this offence has been well documented as the trio of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion has been at times unstoppable. The aforementioned three get all the headlines but the offensive prowess of Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins, yes the same Ryan Goins who at one point Sportsnet/Fan 590's Mike Wilner entertained should be batting tenth in the order are providing pivotal contributions. The bullpen is the one sore spot and hopefully won't hinder a hopefully long playoff run. In the last two weeks, relievers Aaron Sanchez and Mark Lowe are battling consistency issues and you start to ponder that in a meaningful October game, would Gibbons show enough comfort in giving Sanchez the ball in the eighth inning or perhaps the safer play would be to employ Brett Cecil in that situation. A healthy conversation that my friend and I immersed in the other day was whether Mark Buehrle could be that set-up guy come playoff time considering he'll likely be that starter that draws the wrong straw pertaining to playoff assignments.  Barring significant injuries, this club will be representing the American League in the World Series. In the National League, the team I'm favouring are the New York Mets.  The Mets, who surprisingly are getting more play in local papers compared to the Yankees but maybe that shouldn't be totally surprising the drama that has ensued lately, from the "Dark Knight" Matt Harvey employing a sudden innings count, to Wilmer Flores crying on the field after finding out he was traded only to later discover that the trade never happened. The 2015 New York Mets story could be Hollywood worthy and a World Series championship would be the icing on the cake in completing this emmy-esque script.  I talked a little while earlier about the Jays starting pitching as being scary good, and I'm not quite sure I can provide an appropriate adjective for how good the Mets starters are and can be. Going into the post-season, they're going to fire out a rotation consisting of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, and Bartolo Colon.  Jeurys Familia has provided stability for the closing role and the acquisition of Addison Reed, who I was praying the Blue Jays would've been after may be that ultimate "Dark Knight" when Terry Collins assesses the bullpen structure. Does Yoenis Cespedes deserve the National League Most Valuable honour after only suiting up with the Mets for the last half of the season after spending the first half with the Detroit Tigers? My answer is no, but that's a conversation for another day. Cespedes arriving in New York has changed the identity of this team as what it's done is it's allowed quasi-juggernauts like Lukas Duda and Wilmer Flores to hit in rolls that they're more comfortable with. After creating his own mess with the Carlos Gomez no trade, General Manager Sandy Alderson must be thanking the heavens as can you imagine a world where the Mets went to battle with Carlos Gomex and not Yoenis Cespedes? It may have been a satisfactory world, but not a world that will ultimately lead to a World Series appearance.

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