Back when I was a kid – Chris Berman used to have a line that anyone who loves sports will remember about former Vikings Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter. I guarantee someone out there more clever than me has used it when referring to Vernon Christopher Carter and his home run hitting ability.
That brings us to your Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten Memorial Player of the Week from last week. The award is not just about hitting for average or bringing varying degrees of good play to the table. It’s just about straight mashing. Carter has done that all season long, without being quite as terrible as he was last season during the process.
9 for 28 (.321), four home runs, nine RBI, 1.083 OPS
His .818 OPS for the season is up almost 50 full points from where he was last season. He has already matched his 2013 home run total with 29. And he’s cut his strikeout % from 36.2% to a sparkling 30.4%. So he still strikes out a shitload, but he’s improving! FanGraphs went as far as to do a post on what’s different for our chameleon first basemen/outfielder hybrid this season.
He’s actually been as valuable to his fantasy owners as Albert Pujols. He’s helping someone beat me in a fantasy league and keeping me in second in another.
Chris Carter. All he does is hit homers. And strike out some. And help people like me lose people fantasy leagues.
We had just returned home from our local fireworks display when the Angels gridlocked the Astros at 6-6 on a Howie Kendrick double. As the game headed to the bottom of the ninth inning, we saw that Mike Trout would lead off the inning, and said to ourselves wouldn’t it be just like Trout to do something huge on July 4th to win the game for his team, less than an hour that the news broke that their division rivals had acquired two arms in a big trade (including Jeff Samardzija) that probably puts them out of reach of being caught.
Tony Sipp dealt Trout a low 0-2 pitch, a sin that he would never survive. As the ball went flying into the dark night air, the man that some are calling the runaway AL MVP won another game for his team.
Here it is, forever for your enjoyment. Even though forever isn’t enough time to appreciate how good Mike Trout is right now in the year 2014; at the summer’s highest point.
I love the tagline – and I’m sure George Springer’s time in the sun on this blog will come soon enough (and he can’t wait). I guess it’s time to stop hating the Astros. They’re not in the National League anymore. We can leave hating the Astros in our childhood. They’re going to be some kind of fun in a short time. Good for them.
I know what you are thinking, this post is about the Astros, so let’s get to the jokes already, right? Sadly, there will not be that many jokes at the expense of the Astros here thanks to a contract that my buddy MJ made me sign this past winter. Yes, the contract was written out on a cocktail napkin. Yes, I did sign said contract in mustard. No, I will not tell you how much alcohol was consumed. Yes, I should have a lawyer on standby so I stop doing stupid stuff like that. Don’t worry, MJ, if your buddy, Kevin Goldstein, gets upset, it won’t be because of this article.
Interestingly enough, however, the joke may be on all of us in a couple of years. Why is that, you say? That is because the future is bright in south-eastern Texas. Now, pipe down, no questions until the very end.
Pretty special moment tonight in a guy’s career we’ve followed since day one.
Jay Bruce reached the 100 RBI plateau in Houston (which is not far from his hometown Beaumount, Texas) for the first time in his career. He did it with a grand slam – the second of his career and first since his rookie season in 2008. It was his 30th home run of 2013.
It’s a nice milestone, and you can tell from Bruce’s reaction in the video highlight along with the interaction with his teammates it has been something that has eluded him for too long of a time. He’s finally done it, and it confirms what has been the feeling all along; that this is the most complete season of Jay Bruce’s big league career; advanced metrics be damned.
Tonight’s guest: Xavier Cedeno of the Houston Astros. Everyone knows the Astros are not really trying to win this year so I try to cut them some slack, but this made Carlos Marmol look like Nolan Ryan. At least Marmol got some people out. Cedeno has only pitched 30 some innings in the majors and he’s going to wish he could start over after tonight. Cedeno allowed 6 runs and did not get a batter out. Most of the harm came from walking 3 batters. The bright side is that he did only give up 1 hit. Silver lining kids!
Cedeno left the game tonight with a hardy 108.00 ERA for the season. Cedeno is a young kid so he won’t get quite the shit that Heath Bell and Marmol got. He’ll shake it off and be out there another day. I think it will be a while before we see another 6 run, 0 out performance so we’ll have to wait for another blown save by some tossed around closer.
Marwin Gonzalez kept everyone from seeing history tonight. His single in the bottom of the 9th inning was only the second ball that left the infield off Yu Darvish all night long.
The guy was so dominant; I don’t know where to begin. Yes, it was against the Houston Astros lineup which didn’t have many hits in it to begin with after blowing their load on Opening Night, but it was still impressive. This was the first Darvish start that I’ve watched from start to finish. He struck out 14 Astros on the night and featured a fastball that crept up to 97 miles per hour at one point.
The guy has pretty much announced to the world that he’s elite with this start if he hadn’t already prior. My fantasy team thanks Yu (pun).
Now for the stats rundown.
Home Runs: 1 (Ian Kinsler 1)
Stolen bases: none (still haven’t seen a stolen base live yet, lost art)
Official time watching baseball: 2 hours, 54 minutes
Times taking the dog out to pee: 1
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): two
Household chores completed that I’ve been asked to do: zero
STATS during the 2000-Inning Quest:
Home Runs: 5
Bryce Harper home runs: 2
Stolen bases: NONE
Official time watching baseball: 12 hours, 49 minutes
Times taking the dog out to pee: 7
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): two
Innings left to go: 1,953 (I’m giving myself 7 more innings b/c I watched the Giants/Dodgers game on MLB Network too before finding something else to do)
I feel like I was more excited for this season to start than I’ve been for any other previous in my lifetime. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but with the completion of tonight’s Opening Night game, I’m now just 1,991 innings away from completing my goal.
Opening Night 2013 was the Justin Maxwell show. He made a base-hit robbing catch of an Elvis Andrus liner early in the game–it was a trap, mind you–and added a pair of triples including one that drove in the first two runs of the 2013 season. He was named the Chevrolet Player of the Game.
The first home run of the 2000 inning quest and of the season went to an unlikely source: Rick Ankiel. Matt Harrison started off pitching well and struck out nine Astros, but Houston quickly settled in and made their return to the American League a triumphant one. Little Jose Altuve added a couple of knocks. Nelson Cruz as well.
There have certainly been more entertaining Opening Night match-ups. But let’s face it, no one is watching these guys tomorrow. This could very well be the only time during the season that the Astros are on my ‘Watch List’. Now for the meat and potatoes of what this post will include.
STATS during the 2000-Inning Quest:
Home Runs: 1 (Rick Ankiel, 1)
Stolen bases: zero
Official time watching baseball: 3:00
Times taking the dog out to pee: 2
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): Zero
Innings left to go: 1,991
The Houston Astro embark on a new journey in the AL. Many years ago (not that many, but more than some) the Milwaukee Brewers left the AL Central and ventured into the NL Central giving the NL 16 teams to the AL’s 14. In order to rectify this great inequity, the Astros are being moved to the AL. It’s not too tragic. They were an expansion team, have never won the World Series for the NL, and will get a great regional rival with Texas. Unfortunately, the rivalry won’t be much to speak of for the next few season. While the Rangers have plenty of talent, the Astros are trying desperately to acquire it. They have a minuscule payroll and their highest paid player makes $3M. Felix Hernandez now makes $25M.
Let’s take a closer look at the Astros.
Major Off-Season Moves:
Signed SP Erik Bedard.
Signed 1B Carlos Pena.
Acquired OF/DH Chris Carter from Oakland.
The Astros traded away what they could to acquire prospects. It’s tough to evaluate an off season like this except that it was necessary. The Astros have been going down hill for several years and it’s time to flip the switch. They had nothing at the major league level that they could build around. Carter is a good pickup but Pena and Bedard are stopgaps until they can get some newer players there.
Now on to who is going to take the field this year.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Jose Altuve. We’ll be forever indebted to the little guy (and the other 11 owners who didn’t pick him up when we had to drop him due to roster constraints before again adding him for a stretch run) for helping deliver yet another fantasy baseball championship with his average, steals, and runs on a bad team.
But shouldn’t Opening Night belong to a couple of teams that have a bit more pizazz? A little more sparkle? Those new threads are not sparkle. They’re a cross between the Detroit Tigers and a well-sponsored Pony League team. Not a fan.
Welcome to the year 2013. A year in which the Astros will donate some 90-something wins to teams of the American League, beginning with Opening Night.
Good teams steal wins. Bad teams seem to gift them.
On Sunday, when I was celebrating my one year marriage anniversary with my wife; Jay Bruce provided Reds fans with a gift and helped Cincinnati steal another win in Houston yesterday afternoon. This was one of the longest home runs I’ve ever seen Jay Bruce hit.
The three run shot was Bruce’s 31st home run off a lefty pitcher in the past three seasons. That’s tops in the big leagues by a lefthanded stick.
With the Cardinals dropping their third game in four contests in Washington 4-3, the Reds sat comfortably at 9 and 1/2 games in first place. I thought the 2012 Reds would win the division by double digits games; that it wouldn’t even be a race when things settled. We’re about to see if I was right.
“I’m feeling now like I’m ready to make the right move on the right pitch,’’ Bruce said Sunday. “In years past, if I hit home runs, I did. If I didn’t, I didn’t. I didn’t know why.’’
“Earlier in my career, I never really knew anything but that I was good at baseball,’’ he said. “Up here. everyone’s good at baseball. Still, no matter what I did, I expected more.’’ Problem was, Bruce said Sunday, he didn’t do the work needed to satisfy his expectations. He’d been good his whole life without it.
Bruce goes on to talk about a refined approach and some of the other ideologies that have made him successful thus far this year. In fact, he speaks like a ten-year veteran with one quote in the story.
“Always remember,’’ he said, “that the game doesn’t owe you anything.’’
If Bruce can keep up anything close to this production, he’ll be mentioned in conversations with the game’s elite. That’s been the hope and expectation for him all along.
It’s funny to hear Joey Votto in the post-game show talking about how he hopes that Jay Bruce has figured it out. To be honest, if he truly has his ceiling is higher than that of Votto. And it won’t even be close. And the Reds will go running away with the NL Central.