I’m not really excited about this streak. OK, yes I am. I kind of feel bad about that, Orioles fans, but it is pretty amazing. Forgive me.
Anyway, I hate to bring this up, but with the team now 35-37 and playing so poorly, the question has to be asked: Should the Orioles be sellers, and if they’re sellers do they consider trading Manny Machado? Some more or less random thoughts on this:
1. The obvious reason not to sell: They’re still in the wild-card race. Of course, everybody in the AL is in the race. Yes, it’s been a terrible month, but the starting pitching can only get better. Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman aren’t this bad. Plus … who would the Orioles trade besides Machado? Zach Britton would be the other player in demand, except he’s on the DL. Nobody else would really bring a significant return except fill-in closer Brad Brach.
2. The obvious reason not to trade Machado: He’s having a bad season, arguably cutting into his trade value. Plus, the team most in need of a third baseman is the Red Sox, and that seems like about the most unlikely trade partner you could imagine. Even if this is a lost season, you keep Machado and aim for 2018. J.J. Hardy, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tillman, Seth Smith and Wade Miley all can become free agents, clearing about $51 million from the payroll, money that can spent on new talent.
3. The obvious reason to sell: Let’s be realistic, this isn’t going anywhere. Machado is struggling, Mark Trumbo isn’t hitting 47 home runs again, Chris Davis is hurt. Even if you get to the wild-card game, whom are you starting? Even if you get by that game, this team isn’t good enough to make a deep run in the playoffs.
4. The obvious reason to trade Machado: He’s a free agent after 2018 and the Orioles are unlikely to re-sign him, so cash in now and admit it’s been a nice run the past few seasons but time for an influx of talent.
Food for thought: I’d put the odds at less than 5 percent that he gets traded. Most likely, the Orioles plow forward and hope that at some point they don’t give up five runs every game.
Do the Brewers have an ace?
Chase Anderson was terrific again in a 4-2 victory over the Pirates, allowing two hits with seven K’s over six innings and lowering his ERA to 2.92.
Six straight quality starts for Chase Anderson. 1.33 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 40.2ip in that span.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) June 22, 2017
That six-start stretch of quality outings ties Anderson with Max Scherzer for the longest active streak. So, what’s going on? Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had some good things to say about Anderson after the game, mentioning his mound presence and improved velocity. Indeed, Anderson’s fastball velocity is up from 91 mph to 93.1. Even factoring in that the new tracking system rates all fastballs about 0.5 mph higher, that’s a big leap. As a result, the OPS allowed on his fastball has dropped from .896 to .764. (Better command could be a factor as well.) Meanwhile, the OPS allowed on his changeup has dropped from .764 to .543, giving him a second excellent offspeed pitch to go with his curveball.
Six starts is six starts, and a lot of pitchers long forgotten have had such stretches, but it seems there’s real improvement here, and perhaps another reason the Brewers won’t go away as easily as everyone thinks.
Home run of the day
Sticking with the Brewers, Travis Shaw hit his 14th home run as part of a 3-for-4 day, raising his season line to .298/.350/.552:
— MLB (@MLB) June 22, 2017
But we wanted to mention Shaw because he’s faced real life off the field, where his newborn daughter remains in the hospital in Milwaukee after being born earlier this month with a congenital heart defect. He was at the hospital Thursday morning before going to the park and has amazed teammates with his ability to remain focused on baseball. Anderson, also a recent new dad, teared up after the game talking about Shaw.
So here’s rooting for Shaw … and the Brewers to stay in this thing.
Down goes Schwarber
The Cubs made a big bet on Kyle Schwarber. They didn’t try to re-sign Dexter Fowler in part to clear space in a crowded outfield for Schwarber, believing enough in his bat to toss aside concerns about his range in left field. Well, after hitting .171/.295/.378 with 75 strikeouts in 64 games, he was sent down to Triple-A. One month ago, Theo Epstein laughed off the idea of sending Schwarber down. Now the Cubs are admitting Schwarber needs an environment with less pressure.
On the surface, it’s hard to explain what has happened:
Kyle Schwarber: .193 BA on balls in play in 2017, last among 162 qualified hitters. His peripherals look the same as earlier in his career. pic.twitter.com/tNTER9ADy7
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 22, 2017
The approach has been the same, but the results have been poor. While he had a .293 BABIP in 2015, it’s been .193 in 2017, despite a similar rate of hard-hit balls. So maybe there’s some bad luck mixed in there. Maybe the knee has bothered him. The other truth, however, is that the Cubs maybe overrated Schwarber. He had the hot stretch soon after his call-up in 2015, but over a 99-game stretch going back to August of that year he’s hitting .171, including .100 against lefties. That’s a significant stretch of being bad, interrupted by an occasional monster home run.
He’s hit 64 fly balls, but only 16 of those to right field. Seven were home runs, so when he can lift the ball to his pull side, he has great success. Trouble is, when he pulls it, it’s usually on the ground. He’s hit 58 grounders, 36 of them pulled; he’s 5-for-36 (.139) on those grounders, making him an easy player to shift. He’s better than this, and while he does draw walks, he’s going to have to reconfigure some things at the plate.
The Diamondbacks pounded one of those Rockies rookies for a second straight day, scoring nine runs off Antonio Senzatela in a 10-3 win, taking two of three in the big NL West showdown. Zack Godley was superb once again and Paul Goldschmidt did this:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) June 22, 2017
Here’s the impressive thing about this hot stretch by the D-backs: Since May 25, they’ve played just six games at home, by far the fewest in the majors. They’ve still gone 17-8 since then, third-best in the majors, including 12-7 on the road.
One more note on Freddie Freeman playing third base
Here’s another reason I doubt it works, at least long-term: When the Angels tried to move Mark Trumbo to third base in 2012, I wrote this piece. Since 1950, there had been 24 players to play at least 300 games at both third base and first base. Only one of them was a true first-to-third conversion (Enos Cabell). The others had come up through the minors primarily as third basemen. In other words: I still say this is unlikely.