A Wicked Liftoff: The Year of the Injury

Hello internet,

This blog will discuss all things baseball, using the current season as a lens to examine the culture and history of the game, as well as fantasy advice, musings, and beer.

If you made it past that first paragraph then you have my thanks and my congratulations. I promise it will only get better.*

*(does not constitute a legally binding promise)

 

 

The Year of the Injury

Five weeks of the season are in the books, and pundits and hack bloggers everywhere are already dubbing it “the year of the injury.” They aren’t wrong (just ask the Mets pitching staff). According to Spotrac, 230 players have been or are currently on the DL in the young 2017 season. Compare that to 475 players on the DL for all of 2016, and we see a clear uptick. That puts us on pace for over 1,200 DL trips this year, or a whopping 260% increase in injuries. Did everyone suddenly cut their calcium intake? Is there an Illuminati-like conspiracy among MLB training staffs? (Dan Brown, if you’re reading, you do not have my permission to use that as the subject of your next book)

The obvious answer is the shiny new 10-day DL. And like all new toys, managers and organizations want to play with them. Who can blame them? Why eat a roster spot for a guy who will be out for a week? Frustrated fantasy owners and Yankee fans alike are familiar with the “strategic” use of the 10-day DL for Spring-Training-darling-turned-bust Greg Bird and his questionable ankle injury. After struggling with a putrid 6-for-60 start at the plate, Bird was placed on the 10-day DL by New York for an ankle bruise sustained during Spring Training, raising suspicion that the Yankees are placing the promising youngster on the DL to fix his head, rather than his body.

Bird is legitimately injured and has multiple MRI’s to prove it (are you listening, Noah Syndergaard?), but clearly his injury was not so serious that the Yankees weren’t willing to let him play a month to start the season. After posting a filthy Spring Training slashline of .451/.556/1.098 how could they not trot him out to first base in April? But there’s no denying the slumping slugger’s trip to the DL was convenient for him and the organization. Is it wrong? Maybe. We’ll see how it pays off once he returns to the field. Personally, I’m of the belief that if a system exists then someone somewhere will find a way to game it. And bully for them. (Don’t cheat on your taxes, though)

But for every team that puts a player on the 10-day DL for strategic rather than injury purposes, there are two hurt pitchers (and one of them is a Met). The Gigantic Walking Blister, known to friends and family as simply “Rich Hill,” might be a good example of a guy who benefits from the new DL system as the season progresses. Ten days is the perfect amount of time for a team to rest a starting pitcher nursing a minor injury without having them miss the better part of a month. This will allow teams to give rest to guys that need it without the unspoken pressure for a quick return so they aren’t sitting on the bench, taking up space. Teams and players would rather have a man on the 10-day DL instead of the old standby of have a player ride the bench with an injury too minor for the 15-day+ DL but too severe to have them play. While that has clearly led to significantly more DL stints, I’m all for it if players are staying (generally) healthier and missing less time overall.

la-sp-dodgers-hill-blister-20170416

The Blister almost looks human. Don’t let it fool you, though. The dead, blistery eyes are what give it away.

By the way, I avoided shoehorning a joke in there about Bumgarner drag-racing Ben Roethlisberger on their bikes, so you’re welcome.

Fantasy slant: Did your commissioner adjust the number of DL slots in your league? Mine sure didn’t, and we’re all feeling it. It’s almost certain that more players will be placed on the DL this year than any other season in history. We’re already halfway to last year’s total number of DL stints and it’s not even June yet. Bottom line: have a good utility player on your bench, preferably with IF/OF eligibility. You’re going to need someone to fill in when you inevitably find a quarter of your team on the 10-day DL. Hernan Perez (MIL) is a solid option as a bench guy in deeper leagues; he has 3B and OF eligibility, has a solid AVG/OBP, 4 homers, and 2 stolen bags while getting much more consistent playing time. He’s available in 75% of ESPN leagues.

 

Biggest Surprises

Aaron Judge is leading all of baseball with 13 home runs. A bit surprising? Sure, but considering he’s roughly the height and weight of The Mountain that Rides, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. What is shocking is his .317 batting average and .410 OBP. So much for the free-swinging rookie narrative. We’ll see how pitchers adjust to Judge-y, and how he adjusts in turn, but everyone’s favorite underdog team from New York might just have a perennial All-Star roaming right field.

9da0b044f8e3018b17e594093c6e8f71

Aaron Judge’s smaller, younger brother sharing a laugh with Miley Cyrus (Chewbacca not pictured)

And how about the nearly-as-impressive Eric Thames? The young Brewer is trailing Judge by one HR and slashing just above his counterpart’s line at .324/.438/.731 despite his recent slump. Is he here to stay? Or is regression (like winter) coming? Only the baseball gods know for sure, but it’s been fun as hell to watch.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are quietly winning at a clip of .677, behind only division rival New York for the best record in baseball. This, despite Tillman starting the season with an injury, Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez fighting to see who can shit the bed harder, and the sleepy offense getting off to a sluggish, middle-of-the-pack statistical start. It almost makes you sad that 90% of the AL East headlines will focus on Boston and the Yankees, as they always do. Watch out for these O’s, they’re not quitting on anyone this season.

Speaking of surprising starts, how about those Cubbies? We all know the baseball gods don’t suffer World Series winners to start hot out of the gate, but Chicago is a middling 16-15 to start the season, mostly thanks to their underperforming pitching staff. Despite this, you’ll still find them near the top of most prognosticators’ power rankings by virtue of their name and their status as reigning champs. Not to say that they won’t turn it around, but keep an eye on the NL Central. Even the lowly Pirates are finding some life in their bats in the wake of Marte’s ill-advised self-inflicted butt-stabbing (the technical term for using steroids, for the uninformed), with Cutch boldly stating that centerfield is now his. Add that to the revival of Ivan Nova (another pitcher mishandled by the Yanks and having a renaissance in Pittsburgh) and the emergence of Taillon as a bonafide starter and they’re really cooking at beautiful PNC Park.

As an important aside, wishing all the best of luck and health to Taillon as he fights testicular cancer. The guy is a class act and a badass to boot. Fuck cancer.

captain-phillips2-look-at-me-starling-i-am-the-centerfielder-now-until-your-suspension-is-over

I would have photoshopped Cutch’s face on there, but I don’t know how. Just pretend it’s him.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Antonio Senzatela; the rookie Rockies starter who has been anything but rocky in this tender young season. In his first six starts, Senzatela has posted a 2.84 ERA and a WHIP hovering just above 1, despite playing in the notorious bandbox known as Coors Field. His one blemish of the season was a 6 inning, 4 ER effort against the blazing hot Nationals. Considering they were playing in Coors and it was against, you know, the freaking Nationals I’d say that 6 IP and 4 ER is the next best thing to a CGSO. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, with only 20 K’s in 38 IP, but he keeps the ball on the ground and gets guys out. What more do you want?

The last surprise I wanted to make note of was Dallas Keuchel. The dude is just dealing, no other way to say it. He appears to be back in Cy Young form, posting a clean 1.88 ERA and a sexy .85 WHIP through seven starts, even after getting tagged for 5 ER last week against the Angels. Perhaps most impressively, especially if you’re in a QS fantasy league, is the fact that Dallas has lasted 7 innings or more in every outing this season, including a complete game against Cleveland. While the former Cy Young winning lefty isn’t exactly an under-the-radar pitcher, 2016 saw him post an unseemly 4.55 ERA, and his resurgence as an ace should have him in contention to add to his hardware case.

Fantasy Slant: The Nationals, Yankees, Reds, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks lead all of baseball in scoring, in that order. If you need help on offense, especially in the R or RBI category, take a hard look at their players on the waiver wire. Anyone batting in front of Paul Goldschmidt is worth grabbing (so basically the entire D-Backs OF), as is Scott Schebler (4 multi-hit games and 3 HR in his last 10 starts), Brett Gardner (suddenly decided he’s a clutch power hitter) or Didi Gregorius, Cody Bellinger (though in any league worth it’s salt he shouldn’t be available), and Michael Taylor. Shout out to Starlin Castro, who apparently receives sexual gratification from making the Cubs feel foolish for trading him.

starlin-castro.jpg

Castro singing his favorite Rihanna song as he casually does some kind of good baseball-y thing. (no, it’s not “Umbrella,” he listens to deep tracks only)

 

Beer!

Oh yeah, the beer part of the blog. You didn’t forget about that, did you?

I recently made my way up to Pittsburgh for a Pirates-Yankees game and had my first I.C. Light (IC = Iron City, for the uninitiated) to wash down my first game at gorgeous PNC Park. While the stadium and the game didn’t fail to disappoint (managed to see the only Yankee win of the weekend!), the beer sure did, and I will not be waxing poetic about I.C. Light today.

Instead, I’m going to recommend a new release by Bell’s (makers of Two-Hearted Ale, Hopslam, Oberon, etc) out of Michigan, named Mars: Bringer of War. Mars is a double IPA, and clocking in at over 10% ABV, it lives up to the styling. Like the planet it’s named for, Mars is smooth, red, and a little different. I’ve been having one with my evening baseball watching, as the subtle hops, bittersweet smoothness, and piney-citrus taste help make the wait between Aaron Judge’s at-bats a little more tolerable.

mars

*Disclaimer: is not actually the size of Mars, nor made with any local Martian ingredients (sorry hipsters)

It pours smooth and reddish-orange with a nice, light, foamy white head, but comes on a little heavy in terms of mouthfeel for an IPA, even as a double. That being said, it’s imminently drinkable, and sure to wash down the bad taste of watching as one of your players limps onto the 10-day DL or K-Rod blows yet another save (seriously, when is Justin Wilson going to take over in the 9th??). Just be careful, as that smooth drinkability makes a dangerous bedfellow with the 10% ABV. Grab a glass (or two, if K-Rod is your closer) and make a toast to America’s Pastime.

Game of the Week (to drink a beer): Ok, I’m going to cheat and include two games of the week here.

  • Tuesday, 5/9: Nova (PIT) vs. Urias (LAD).
    • Why: Nova is having a career year and the Pirate’s offense is somehow doing well. Combine that with the exciting young rookie hurler making his 3rd start of the season, and you’ve got yourself a fun pitching matchup to drink beer to.
  • Thursday, 5/11: Keuchel (HOU) vs. Pineda (NYY).
    • How embarrassing, my Yankee bias is showing. But c’mon! Keuchel, as I stated above, is making a case for the Cy this year. And Big Mike is finally, just maybe showing us all that he can be more than an inconsistent tease. Two big, dominating pitchers going at it is always reason to drink a good beer.

 

Speaking of craft beer, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Anheuser-Busch’s acquisition of Wicked Weed, one of America’s most successful and beloved craft breweries. Since most CEO’s regularly check my blog, I’ll add my two cents for the benefit of Joao Castro Neves: treat the beer with respect. While it’s hard to fault anyone for working their ass off and getting paid for it, it’s also easy to get upset with someone for selling out. And as the Reel Big Fish so eloquently state for us, selling out = bad. Especially to a company as unapologetically douchey as Bud. Patronize small businesses, and small breweries!

 

Whelp…

That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed my first post; stay tuned for more, and thank you for reading.

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One thought on “A Wicked Liftoff: The Year of the Injury

  1. Pingback: Fun Fridays: Making Baseball Fun Again (or why we love the game, and beer) | Baseball and Beer

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