Mini Yadi? For Christian Vazquez, there’s no greater compliment



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ST. LOUIS — Near the end of the 2014 season, a few weeks after he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals Jersey to the Boston Red Sox Jersey, right-hander Joe Kelly Jersey came up with a nickname for his new favorite catcher.

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“Mini Yadi,” Kelly said then. “I call him that.”

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To Vazquez, there is no compliment higher than being mentioned in the same breath as Molina, the gold standard for defensive excellence behind the plate for nearly a decade and the most accomplished active backstop from Puerto Rico, a hotbed for catchers.

Game Jesus Sucre Jersey Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez Jersey grew up idolizing players such as the Molina brothers and Ivan Rodriguez. Now, he hopes to carve out his own legacy in a line of stellar backstops hailing from Puerto Rico. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox Jersey/Getty ImagesRemember when the Dominican Republic was known for churning out shortstops? Well, Puerto Rico has been a cradle of catching talent for 30 years. Other Latin American countries have spawned their share of solid backstops, but consider the roster of All-Star catchers who hail from Puerto Rico: Ellie Rodriguez, Ozzie Virgil Jr., Benito Santiago, Sandy Alomar Jr., Javy Lopez, Jorge Posada, the Molina brothers (Bengie, Jose and Yadier), Geovany Soto Jersey and, of course, newly elected Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.

Kids Jesus Sucre Jersey Editor’s PicksPuerto Rico’s spirit is alive on the baseball fieldsWhether it’s the peak of the World Baseball Classic success or the nadir of the country’s financial crisis, the flag instills a certain level of pride for its people.

“We see them like idols,” said Vazquez, who hails from Bayamon. “Growing up, you want to be like them. Those guys were very good, man. They give a good reputation to being a catcher, so the kids want to be there too.”

There’s a brotherhood, literal and figurative, among catchers from the island. The Molinas are the only sibling trio to catch in the majors, and each brother has won two World Series rings to boot. They also lend their expertise and advice to young catchers who come along.

For years, Vazquez and Jose Molina worked out together in the offseason in Puerto Rico. Yadier Molina Jersey would join them from time to time, and even now, after he relocated to Jupiter, Florida, in the winter, Yadi routinely keeps tabs on Vazquez through text messages.

When Vazquez was recovering from elbow surgery, he said he received frequent encouragement from Jose and Yadi.

“They texted me a lot during my rehab: ‘How are we doing? How do you feel?'” Vazquez said. “It was very good to know those guys were thinking about me. It kept me going.”

When Vazquez was recovering from elbow surgery, he received text messages from Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina Jersey (above) — encouragement that kept him going. Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesLike the Molinas’ father, Benjamin Sr., Christian’s father, Rafael Vazquez, played in the amateur leagues in Puerto Rico. He nurtured young Christian’s interest in catching by handing down his equipment, from the mask and bulky mitt to the chest protector and shin guards. To the less adventurous, they are the tools of ignorance. To the Vazquez men, they formed a suit of armor.

But the father’s real selling point to his son came in the form of an instructional video featuring Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was in the midst of a 21-year career in which he caught more games than anyone in big league history (2,427), was named an All-Star 14 times and won 13 Gold Gloves. He raised the bar for the catching position, with his reflexes behind the plate and his take-charge approach to calling a game.

What’s more, Rodriguez’s rocket arm served as a speed trap on the bases. There wasn’t a runner he didn’t dare pick off with throws from his knees, nor was there a base stealer he wasn’t sure he could catch. At his peak, from 1995-2001 with the Texas Rangers Jersey, Rodriguez threw out an average of 53.9 percent of would-be base stealers, including 60 percent (35 of 58) in 2001.

Vazquez’s father helped his son hone his skills by showing him an instructional video featuring the rocket-armed Ivan Rodriguez (above). Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsWith Rodriguez setting the example, it’s little wonder that a generation of young baseball players in Puerto Rico wanted to become catchers.

In 2011, after Rodriguez played his final game in the big leagues for the Washington Nationals Jersey, he went home to play a few games for Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He made a point of watching young catchers take infield practice, and Vazquez, then 20 and fresh off his first full minor league season as a catcher, caught Rodriguez’s eye with his arm strength and fearlessness.

MORE BEISBOL EXPERIENCEBéisbol Experience is ESPN’s season-long look at how the game and Latino culture intersect.

More from Béisbol Experience:

? Introducing Béisbol Experience / Bienvenidos a Béisbol Experience

? Julio Urias on his MLB experience / Julio Urias y su experiencia en MLB

? Baseball Tonight podcast with Pedro Gomez

“You could tell he watched a lot of videos of me, because I wasn’t afraid to throw the ball, either,” Rodriguez said in 2015, after Vazquez reached the big leagues. “When you’re not afraid to do that, you’re going to play the game for a long time. That’s good to see from a young catcher.”

Rodriguez complimented Vazquez on his throwing, a moment that meant everything to a young catcher struggling to find his way in the minor leagues. A few years later, they met again in Fort Myers, Florida, where Vazquez was working out after the season and Rodriguez’s son was pitching for the Minnesota Twins Jersey’ instructional league team.

The Red Sox called up Vazquez midway through the 2014 season, and he threw out 15 of 29 attempted base stealers, a 51.7 percent success rate that would make even a Molina blush. It took longer than expected, but Vazquez’s arm is back to pre-surgery form. He threw out three of the first four runners who tried to steal against him this season and was 7-for-11 entering this week’s series against the Cardinals.

Looking back, Vazquez said he believes the encouragement he received from Rodriguez helped propel him to the majors.

“Everybody wants to be like Pudge, you know?” Vazquez said. “That’s a good push, to hear from a guy like him that he thinks you’re doing a good job.”

Vazquez said he wonders whether the passion for catching will continue to grip the island’s young players. He returns home in the winter and sees kids idolizing shortstops Carlos Correa Jersey of the Houston Astros Jersey and Francisco Lindor Jersey of the Cleveland Indians Jersey. Perhaps the next generation of Puerto Rican talent in the big leagues will come at shortstop.

“Correa and Lindor, they are the stars now,” Vazquez said. “I think they don’t want to put all that [catcher’s] gear on and get hit and block the ball and go through all that. But for my age [group], for us growing up, Yadi and Pudge, Jose Molina and Posada, we wanted to be like them. That was very special to us.”

Another Cy surprise? Three aces no one saw coming



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With the Boston Red Sox Jersey facing the St. Louis Cardinals Jersey on Wednesday night (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET), the pitching matchup of Rick Porcello Jersey versus Mike Leake Jersey is particularly intriguing because Leake is perhaps this year’s Porcello. Last season, Porcello became a surprise Cy Young winner, entering the season with a career 4.32 ERA, but going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA to edge out Justin Verlander Jersey in the voting. Leake, coming off a 4.69 ERA with the Cardinals in 2016, now leads the NL with a 1.94 ERA.

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Is it for real? Probably not, but we would have said last year that Porcello or Kyle Hendricks Jersey wouldn’t keep it up. Hendricks also starts Wednesday, and after some rough outings to start 2017, he has allowed just four runs over his past four starts.

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Mike Leake Jersey, St. Louis Cardinals Jersey

Game Chris Iannetta Jersey Stats: 4-2, 1.94 ERA, 46 1/3 IP, 36 H, 10 BB, 32 K’s, 3 HRs

Kids Chris Iannetta Jersey Leake is a perfect fit for the Porcello profile: Veteran starter with a good health record, kind of viewed as a midrotation innings eater, in his second season with a new team after a disappointing first season. Porcello made one obvious change in 2016, throwing more two-seam fastballs instead of four-seamers. Leake has always been a sinkerball guy and hasn’t really changed his approach, but his cutter has been much more effective, with batters hitting just .169 against it, a key reason lefties aren’t pounding him like they did a season ago.

That said, there is some BABIP-driven luck going on here (seventh-lowest among starters). There is also a high strand rate (eighth-best among starters). His rate of home runs on fly balls — 13.5 percent in his career (which was also his 2016 rate) — is at 8.5 percent. His ground ball rate is the same as it was last year. His strikeout-minus-walk rate is essentially the same. So in many ways, he’s the same pitcher. In Porcello’s case, he has regressed this year in part because all those luck-driven factors have turned against him, so his ERA is up even though his strikeout and walk peripherals are a little better.

Note that sometimes “luck” isn’t a fair analysis. Pitchers — and pitches — aren’t always the same from year to year. In fact, Leake’s cutter is moving much differently. His career spin rate on the cutter has been about 850 rpm. This year it’s at 1,441 rpm. That seems to be affecting the movement. His cutter has always broken away from a right-handed hitter; this year, it’s breaking into them (or away from a lefty).

Jason Vargas Jersey, Kansas City Royals Jersey

Stats: 5-1, 1.01 ERA, 44 2/3 IP, 33 H, 8 BB, 39 K’s, 1 HR

How great is baseball? Vargas is 34 years old, he has made just 12 starts over the past two seasons after Tommy John surgery, his fastball is slower than ever and, suddenly, he’s pitching the best baseball of his life. He has thrown zeroes in four of his seven starts, his strikeout rate is better than ever, and his changeup has basically been unhittable. He’ll get a tough test Wednesday against the Yankees.

As he recovered from surgery last season, Vargas traveled with the team, working on his delivery with pitching coach Dave Eiland. “We really honed in on just cleaning up his delivery and repeating and repeating and repeating and repeating,” Eiland told the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd. “He’s always had good command. But now his delivery is so clean and on time, it’s almost like he’s perfected it.”

Of course, it’s not quite that simple, or every pitcher would simply clean up his delivery. Vargas has dropped his release point a little bit, so pitches are coming out of his hand about two inches closer to first base. That’s added more horizontal movement to the pitch, which seems to be working, as opponents are hitting .119 against it; in 67 at-bats ending with a changeup, they have just two doubles and no home runs. ESPN Stats & Info tracks the number of hard-hit balls against it at two. Batters are also swinging and missing more often: In his most recent full season in 2014, batters had a miss rate of 36.6 percent on the changeup; so far, it’s at 43.3 percent. Here’s a look:

Jason Vargas Jersey, 81mph Changeup grip/release/spin (scratchreel). #SRGif pic.twitter.com/GXbJ6BSH1X

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 14, 2017

Will this continue? It will not! His ERA is 1.01! As with Leake, there does appear to be some real improvement here, however. Look, the home run rate will go up at some point, and maybe batters will start adjusting to the changeup. But it’s a beautiful thing to watch, and as Jamie Moyer has proven, you can be successful throwing slow and slower. The Royals are playing better of late, but they remain long shots for playoff contention, which could make Vargas one of the most interesting names at the trade deadline.

Ervin Santana Jersey, Minnesota Twins Jersey

Stats: 6-1, 1.50 ERA, 54 IP, 23 H, 21 BB, 41 K’s, 6 HRs

Baseball is insane. That’s one of the strangest stat lines you’ll see. The walk rate isn’t impressive, the strikeouts aren’t impressive, the home runs allowed aren’t particularly low. Nothing makes sense. Batters are hitting .129 off him. He has allowed nine runs, and six of those were from the dudes who hit home runs, so only three of the other 42 baserunners have scored. His strand rate is 98.4 percent. Even crazier, six of those runs came in one game, when the Red Sox hit four home runs off him. Otherwise, he has given up no runs or one run, including four starts of two hits or fewer.

Ervin Santana Jersey is the 1st pitcher with 7 starts allowing 1 or fewer runs in his team's first 32 games since 1981 (Fernando Valenzuela).

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 13, 2017

I heard an interview with Santana last week, and he explained his strong start to “maturing and not trying to strike everyone out.” But he has been in the big leagues 13 years. He’s just maturing now? Of course, he’s not going to say, “I’m the same guy, the balls are just being hit right at people.”

Anyway, diving into some of the metrics, I don’t see Santana doing anything different. He’s still fastball/slider/changeup, same velocity, same everything. Just a guy with a low BABIP and Byron Buxton Jersey behind him.

Will the fire that makes Chris Sale great burn him out in Boston?



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This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s May 29 Issue. Subscribe today!

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LAST JULY, Chris Sale Jersey stunned the baseball world when he used scissors to shred a set of 1976 White Sox throwback uniforms because he did not want to pitch in them. The story quickly went viral: Who on earth would do that? Chicago team president Kenny Williams thought he was being pranked when his GM called to inform him. But here is a sampling of reaction from people who have known Sale well over the years:

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High school teammate and Pittsburgh Pirate Drew Hutchison Jersey: “I wouldn’t say I was surprised.”

Game Steve Clevenger Jersey High school pitching coach Bob Gendron: “Nothing surprises me with him.” Summer league and college pitching coach Derek Tate: “I smile; I just smile.”

Kids Steve Clevenger Jersey His own father: “I can’t say it surprised me.”

Informed that so many people were not exactly floored by his actions, the newly minted Red Sox ace laughs.

“That means you’re talking to the right people.”

ALMOST A YEAR later, in the first inning of Boston’s May 2 game against Baltimore, Sale rocks back and fires a 98 mph fastball behind Manny Machado Jersey’s knees. The teams have been feuding for weeks, and while Machado screams at the ump and manager Buck Showalter runs out to complain, Sale stands still, glaring toward home plate. Minutes pass; Sale barely blinks. When play resumes, he strikes out the Orioles star with another 98 mph fastball — this one on the correct side of his knees — and strides to the Red Sox’s dugout, where he high-fives every teammate he can find and yells. A lot.

Lounging in that same dugout a day later, the 6-foot-6 lefty pauses when asked whether he is angry when he pitches. “I’m competitive,” he says. “I would say there might be a little bit of anger. But I just really like competing. I really like it. It’s fun.”

Says his father, Allen, “He has that intensity if he’s playing pingpong with his mother.”

Sale has harnessed his over-the-top energy mostly for good, riding it to five All-Star Game selections with the White Sox before being traded to the Red Sox in the offseason. Through May 10 of this season, he led MLB in strikeouts, was second in WAR and had a 1.92 ERA.

But Sale’s intensity may also be the greatest threat to his continued success. It can overtake him on the mound, causing him to lose focus. “He can still get pissed,” says Don Cooper, his pitching coach for seven years with the White Sox. “I still think there’s things he’s got to master there.”

It can also lead to blowups — Sale is usually good for at least one per year. In 2015, he tried to bust into the Royals’ clubhouse to continue an on-field brawl. Last season, months before the uniform ordeal, he lashed out at Williams after the White Sox banned Adam LaRoche’s son from the clubhouse.

“You get in between the lines and you’re a little amped up, and sometimes it spills over outside the lines,” says Sale, 28. “Nobody’s perfect; you’re going to make mistakes. You just try to learn from them.”

Heading into the season, a popular question around Boston was whether such a combustible player could withstand the pressure of pitching in Fenway Park. But those who know Sale say he’s all but impervious to the outside world — he hasn’t had a social media account since he deleted Facebook in college. How he’ll do in Boston has nothing to do with the city and everything to do with him.

“When you have a positive mind frame and when you think more clearly and more positively, it’s going to be better,” Sale says. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox Jersey/Getty ImagesACCORDING TO HIS father, once Chris decides something is right or wrong, it is near impossible to move him. “A trait he has had since he was 2 is persistence,” Allen says. “That comes from the Sale side of the family. We are that way. Me, his grandmother and his great-grandfather Scamahorn.”

His sister is the same way. Allen recalls once referring to her as “stubborn” during a parent-teacher conference. The teacher chided him, saying that the school preferred more positive verbiage, like “persistent.” “I said that’s fine, she’s as persistent as a mule,” Allen says.

Chris also is, you might say, as persistent as a mule. “We used to say that he’d try to go through the table instead of around it. Something got in his way, he just bowled it over,” Allen says. “He is that intense. That is part of his persistence.”

Growing up in Lakeland, Florida, though, Sale did not have the talent to match his emotion. He could always locate the ball, but entering high school he was 5-8 and rail thin. He couldn’t throw hard and didn’t make varsity as a freshman or sophomore. Then one day the next summer, he got sick with what his parents figured was mono. When he finally popped out of bed four days later, he was suddenly taller than Allen, a former college swimmer who stands 6-3. Seeing him for the first time, his mother asked, “What are you standing on?”

Sale’s stretched-out limbs gave him newfound leverage, increasing his velocity. He couldn’t hit 90 on the gun, but his command allowed him to mow down hitters.

On the mound, though, his emotions were unrefined. “If a batter got a hit off him the time before, he’d throw at him the next time,” says Lakeland JV coach Ron Nipper. “He was trying to be the baddest guy on the field.”

“He could beat up a cooler a little bit with a bat,” his father says.

Then there was the truck. Allen and Chris got ahold of a gray Dodge pickup and souped it up with giant mud tires, a body lift and custom speakers. Chris and his friends would drive around blasting music — Jeezy was a favorite — at inconceivable volumes.

The police used to call Mike Campbell, the varsity coach, begging him to get Sale to turn it down. “He had more sound ordinances,” Campbell says.

Says Allen: “He liked to do the things that he liked to do, and if somebody didn’t like that he played his music too loud or drove his truck somewhere he wasn’t supposed to, sometimes he cared and sometimes he didn’t. But I have always said he was always good to children and small animals.”

Even as Sale improved, college recruiters stayed away. When Allen reached out to the University of North Florida’s baseball staff, nobody even replied. Sale’s only bite came from Florida Gulf Coast, a D2 program that was getting ready to move up to D1 the next season.

Rusty McKee, the FGCU coach who scouted Sale, recalls being mocked by a North Florida recruiter over the signing. “He said, ‘Ha, you got the Sale kid? You didn’t do your homework.'”

STILL ONLY THROWING in the 80s, Sale struggled as a freshman at FGCU. That summer he went to Wisconsin to play for the La Crosse Loggers in the Northwoods League. “I was getting crushed,” he says.

“He wasn’t in throwing shape,” says Tate, the Loggers’ pitching coach. Sale was so stiff, he could barely touch his toes. Every time he got shelled, he’d beat himself up, driving himself into a downward spiral.

About halfway through the summer, Sale went to Tate and told him he was ready to quit. “He said, ‘Coach, I almost drove home last night, I’m so frustrated,'” Tate says.

The team’s manager, Andy McKay, remembers having a long conversation with Sale in the bullpen. Sale decided to stay, and from that moment, McKay says, he took his preparation and conditioning more seriously.

“It ended up being a kind of life-changing summer for him,” says McKay, a trained sports psychologist who now serves as the Mariners’ head of player development.

At McKay’s urging, Sale increased his focus on the mental side of the game. “That was something that I had never even put my foot in the water in,” he says. “Baseball is a physical game, it’s a sport; you just go out there and play. And he brought a different aspect of the game to me. When you have a positive mind frame and when you think more clearly and more positively, it’s going to be better.”

Crucially, McKay and Tate also adjusted Sale’s delivery, lowering his arm slot to give him the deceptive three-quarters motion he has today. “I saw some pretty immediate success in terms of velocity and depth of pitches and movement,” Sale says. “It just felt more natural coming out.”

By the time he returned to Florida Gulf Coast for his sophomore season — along with Tate, who joined the Eagles as their pitching coach — he was a different player. “He’d show up to 5:30 a.m. weights at FGCU and was excited to be there,” Tate says.

Sale’s velocity climbed into the 90s, and by his junior year, scouts were swarming to Fort Myers, trying to divine whether the stick-figure lefty with the funky delivery could hold up in the majors. Allen Sale, who then weighed 250 pounds, got so fed up with their questions about his son’s build that he made himself a T-shirt to wear to games. On the front was the FGCU Eagles logo; on the back, beneath the word SALE, it read, “MY FAT ASS IS PROOF HE’S GOING TO PUT ON WEIGHT.”

Sale was virtually unhittable that season, earning National Collegiate Player of the Year honors in 2010. He gave up the truck, and in May, his future wife gave birth to their first son. Allen says Chris left college far more mature than when he entered.

Come draft day, Sale was projected to go as high as No. 4, but many teams still saw him as a reliever. After Kansas City selected Christian Colon Jersey at 4 and the Indians took Drew Pomeranz Jersey at 5, he began to slide.

Sitting at pick 13, the White Sox were surprised to see Sale still available. They envisioned him as a starter long-term, but the team needed immediate bullpen help. Kenny Williams, then the team’s GM, turned to Doug Laumann, his scouting director, and asked where Sale would fit on the current club.

At that moment, there happened to be a lefty throwing in the Chicago bullpen, visible from the draft-room window. “I can tell you right now, he’s better than that guy,” Laumann replied. Chicago picked Sale.

Chris Sale Jersey had his share of blowups on the South Side, but he was beloved by teammates. Keith Gillett/Icon SportswireSTANDING IN THE hallway of the White Sox’s spring training facility in Glendale, Arizona, pitching coach Don Cooper needs no prompting to discuss his prize pupil.

“I’ll just start talking, I guess,” he says.

“He had all the physical, I knew that from day one,” Cooper says. “It was more the mental side. And keeping him under control and not throwing pitches out of anger. And just continue to focus on the next pitch. He would hate it when somebody got him. He would come out of his shoes.”

Just two months after he was drafted and with only 10 innings of minor league experience, Sale was called up by the White Sox in August and dropped into the middle of a division race. In 23 innings down the stretch, he had a 1.93 ERA.

After spending the next season in the bullpen, Sale was inserted into the rotation to start 2012. He relied heavily on his slider early in the season, though, and came down with arm soreness. When manager Robin Ventura announced that he was moving Sale to the bullpen to protect his health, Sale protested to Williams. But the GM told him he agreed with Ventura. “He took exception to that,” Williams says, “so we had a very animated phone call in which he certainly expressed himself, and I encouraged it to a point, and then I expressed myself.

“Hell, it was a 25-minute conversation, and it was in the first 10 minutes that I told him, ‘OK, you can go back into the rotation.’ And he kept arguing with me that it was a bad decision in the first place.

“At the end of it, I got off the phone and I called [owner] Jerry Reinsdorf, and I said, ‘We have an ace.'”

Cutting down on his sliders, Sale made his first All-Star Game and stayed healthy through the season. He continued working with both Cooper and Jeffrey Fishbein, a sports psychologist who served as the White Sox’s mental skills coach, on harnessing his intensity.

“I just think for me, it’s channeling it, like finding a tunnel,” Sale says. “Early on as a starter, when I’d get into trouble, I went for more. And Coop’s big thing was, it’s never more stuff, it’s just more focus.”

As Sale grew into an ace, he became one of the most popular players in the White Sox’s clubhouse. A lot of pitchers are aloof, says former Chicago slugger Paul Konerko, but Sale was “one of the guys.” He’d dole out gifts to teammates and staff, like golf clubs or gift cards. And on the road, Sale often got a suite so teammates could hang out, order room service and play video games (mostly FIFA). “Give Chris room service and video games and he’s happy,” Konerko says.

Perhaps most appreciated, though, was that for all his fury on the mound, he made a point of never showing up teammates. “I don’t get upset at anybody other than myself on a baseball field,” Sale says. He believes so strongly in the sanctity of the clubhouse that he won’t even discuss what happens inside it with his father.

“Sale will do anything for anybody,” says White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino Jersey. “He’s got your back. And you love those guys that aren’t afraid to show it.”

All of which means that Sale is most vulnerable to boiling over when he believes his team or teammates have been wronged. In 2014, he appeared to accuse the Tigers of using binoculars to steal signs — miming binoculars from the dugout and motioning to the outfield — and beaned Victor Martinez Jersey, causing a massive brawl. The next year was when Sale, after being ejected in a fight, tried to continue the festivities in the Kansas City clubhouse.

“With him, you need to see it coming and talk him down before it gets to that point,” says Mark Parent, the White Sox’s bench coach from 2012 to ’15. But even when Sale snapped, teammates often appreciated the support.

“If you’re telling me one of his issues is that he cares too much and he flies off the handle when he doesn’t like somebody insulting his team or insulting him or one of his teammates and he goes nuts, like, I’m cool with that,” Konerko says.

Says Cooper, “The old term ‘I’d rather tame a tiger than push a donkey’ comes to mind.”

Last spring Williams decided that Adam LaRoche would no longer be able to bring his son to the clubhouse every day. LaRoche responded by retiring, setting off something of a national furor. In protest, Sale hung LaRoche’s and his son’s jerseys in his locker. He alleged that Williams had misled the team about the reasons behind his decision. “We got bald-faced lied to,” Sale said last March. “Somebody walked out of those doors the other day, and it was the wrong guy, plain and simple.”

Williams says he is back on good terms with Sale, though their relationship never fully recovered. “I certainly took exception to what he said because it wasn’t accurate,” Williams says. “But I can walk away and say, ‘OK, I hope everyone else is fighting that hard for a teammate.'”

The throwback uniforms were not a totally different situation. The shirts had long tails, and Sale’s close friend Carlos Rodon Jersey had trouble pitching in them the year before. “It kind of sucked,” Rodon says. “You got your jersey stuck on your leg.” Sale asked the team to move the throwbacks to a day when he wasn’t pitching, but the club declined. He thought the shirts would hinder his pitching, which meant they would hurt the team. “That was the only part of it,” Sale says.

Simply put, he was sure he was right and the White Sox were wrong.

“I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done on the field,” Sale says. “That’s adrenaline going, that’s being competitive.” Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox Jersey/Getty ImagesWHEN HE TRADED for Sale, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he looked into the pitcher’s behavior and was satisfied. “He’s got an edge to him, a good edge,” Dombrowski told reporters. “His teammates love him.”

But not all blowups are created equal. The Red Sox’s clubhouse is about a third of the size of the White Sox’s, and whenever a controversy emerges in Boston, reporters pour in and the airwaves overheat. Life quickly becomes miserable for everyone within a square mile of Fenway Park. This is a city that is still not quite over the great chicken and beer debacle of 2011.

Back in the dugout, Sale glances at team PR man Kevin Gregg nearby. “I’m trying to keep it easy on him this year,” he says.

Discussing his past incidents, Sale uses the phrase “learning experience” so often that he apologizes. “I hate to keep going back to it,” he says. He’s keenly aware of how his temper works and believes the explosions are behind him. “I’ve apologized for my actions to the people I needed to apologize to, and I’ve stood my ground where I thought I’ve needed to stand my ground,” Sale says. “I’m not here to change the past, I’m just here to try to do better in the future.

“I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done on the field,” he adds. “That’s adrenaline going, that’s being competitive.”

A season ago, Sale tried to pitch more to contact, cutting down on his velocity and strikeouts so that he could go deeper into games. This year he came to camp in better shape than ever — “I trained really hard this offseason,” he says — and has turned Cooper’s old advice sideways. He believes he can have more stuff and more focus. “I’m trying to find a way of raising both of those bars at the same time,” he says. “It’s a combination of both physically and mentally being in, I don’t want to say a better spot but just being in a different scenario.”

So far, it’s working: Sale is piling up innings and strikeouts. During Sale’s eight-inning, 11-K performance against the Orioles, Pedro Martinez tweeted, “Chris Sale Jersey is already surpassing everything I’ve done.”

The question, of course, is whether he can keep it up. “Probably, at some point, something will happen that he thinks is not right, and he’ll try to correct it,” Allen Sale says. “And if he can’t get it corrected, he’ll correct it in the way he sees fit at the time.”

Sometimes he will still get pissed on the mound. “I can’t change that,” Sale says. “I don’t think I want to change it completely. It’s what makes me who I am.”

Real or not? Freddie Freeman is the best hitter in baseball



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George Brett would later recall his 1980 season, when he hit .390 and chased .400 into late September, this way: “I was 27 and in the prime of my life.”

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Freddie Freeman Jersey is 27 years old and he’s hitting better than Brett did that magical summer when he produced a slash line of .390/.454/.664. After going 2-for-4 with his 14th home run in Tuesday’s win for the Atlanta Braves Jersey, Freeman is at .343/.457/.754 and it’s a beautiful thing to watch — this tall, lanky guy with the sweet swing swatting baseballs all over the place. Is there such a thing as being in the zone? We know announcers and players talk all the time about hot streaks, but are those merely random fluctuations of performance, or can athletes really achieve these higher levels when they seem to reach a state of invincibility?

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Trout: .447

Game Steve Baron Jersey Votto: .447

Kids Steve Baron Jersey Freeman: .443

Josh Donaldson Jersey: .425

Kris Bryant Jersey: .419

Your leaders in extra-base hits:

Freeman: 95

Charlie Blackmon Jersey: 84

Nolan Arenado Jersey: 84

Brian Dozier Jersey: 83

Mookie Betts Jersey: 82

Freeman is the only guy to appear on both lists. Here he is turning on a Marco Estrada Jersey pitch on Tuesday:

You can’t stop @FreddieFreeman5, you can only hope to contain him. pic.twitter.com/qCswu7bQ14

— MLB (@MLB) May 16, 2017

The amazing thing about Freeman’s stretch is this MVP level of play didn’t actually emerge until last June. On June 12, he had dropped to .242 with nine home runs. It took him 302 at-bats to hit 14 home runs last year; this season, he did it in 133. His turnaround, he told MLB.com in spring training, started when he changed his approach in batting practice:

“I have zero idea why I hit more home runs last year,” Freeman said. “I changed my batting practice in June by trying to hit line drives to the shortstop, and it turned my whole season around. I wasn’t trying to lift anything or do anything any different. I was just trying to stay on the ball and stay inside the ball and maybe backspin it a lot more.”

Can it flip just like that? Can a good hitter became great with a change in pregame routine? Baseball isn’t supposed to be that easy. A key factor is that Freeman was always an all-fields hitter, but now he has tapped into his power. Similar to Miguel Cabrera Jersey, he’s a good hitter with power, as opposed to just a power hitter. His opposite-field home run totals are similar to peak Cabrera:

Freddie Freeman Jersey's spray chart since last June 13 (he's hit .341/.444/.690 since then): pic.twitter.com/iDa5YxuAT6

— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) May 17, 2017

A few years ago, the Braves signed Freeman to a long-term extension, deciding to build around him rather than Jason Heyward Jersey, as Jerry Crasnick recently wrote. Now, about the rest of the team …

If the Braves weren't the worst team in baseball Freddie Freeman Jersey would be famous and stuff.

— Logan Booker (@LoganMBooker) May 16, 2017

K-Rod gonna K-Rod One of the best games of the season in Detroit, a wild 13-11 win for the Orioles. J.D. Martinez Jersey — scorching hot since his return — hit a grand slam in the seventh to give the Tigers an 8-7 lead. The Detroit bullpen had tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, but it needed 6 2/3. Mark Trumbo Jersey tied it up with a two-out home run off Justin Wilson Jersey.

An interesting moment came in the bottom of the 11th. The Tigers had runners at second and third, one out, Justin Upton Jersey at the plate with Martinez on deck. Some managers would have walked Upton here to set up a double play, even with a hot hitter at the plate. Buck Showalter made the right move: Pitch to Upton and hope for the strikeout. Alec Asher Jersey did fan Upton, and then Donnie Hart got Tyler Collins Jersey on a fly ball to right.

The Orioles would then score three runs in the 12th. Over the past five seasons, teams leading by three-plus runs in extra innings are 129-0. But the Tigers rallied to tie it up! Enter exiled closer Francisco Rodriguez Jersey for the 13th. Exit, baseball. Chris Davis Jersey slugs a two-run homer and Rodriguez picks up his fifth loss. Wilson has actually been terrific this year — five hits, 28 K’s in 17 innings — but do you see the Tigers winning with this bullpen? I don’t know. And I wonder how many more games K-Rod has left in a Tigers uniform …

Chris Davis Jersey: 2nd player to hit 2 HR in the 12th inning or later of a game. First- Matt Adams Jersey, 2013 Cardinalsvia @eliassports

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2017

The Rangers are .500, and that’s a minor miracle No, really, it is. Not because the Rangers weren’t supposed to be good, but because of how bad they’ve played and how many things have gone wrong. Check out Tuesday’s lineup. The only player with an OBP over .325 was backup catcher Robinson Chirinos Jersey. Sam Dyson Jersey blew like 48 saves the first week. Cole Hamels Jersey is on the DL. Adrian Beltre Jersey is still on the DL. But now they’ve won seven in a row! Yu Darvish Jersey beat the Phillies 5-1 with one of the most efficient games of his career: He threw 70 strikes out of 95 pitches, the second-highest rate of strikes in his career. And here’s why the Rangers are .500: They have the best rotation ERA in the majors at 3.38.

Now for the bad news:

Rangers have won 7 games in a row but gained only one-half game on Astros in that time. They were 8.5 out at start of streak, and now 8 out.

— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) May 17, 2017

Speaking of Darvish, note this column by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He points out that Rangers GM Jon Daniels was recently in Japan, apparently checking out Shohei Otani, who is on the DL over there, but working out with his club’s minor league team. Note that Otani and Darvish are friends and offseason training partners. Note that Darvish is a free agent and Otani may be posted this winter. Wilson speculates that the Rangers could have an inside track to signing Otani if they also re-sign Darvish.

Play of the day: Kyle Schwarber Jersey helps Joe Maddon win his 1,000th career game with this monster blast that nearly left Wrigley Field:

.@kschwarb12 launches one 462 feet.Longest HR of his career: ?Longest @Cubs HR of 2017: ? https://t.co/whMsRQRxGJ #Statcast pic.twitter.com/mGz4f7pe13

— #Statcast (@statcast) May 17, 2017

What has been wrong with the Cubs? Check out our roundtable discussion.

There was also this Corey Dickerson Jersey home run. Seems like 449 is a little conservative:

See those trees out there in center?@MCoreyDickerson hit it OVER them – 449 feet away.https://t.co/EfW7aGgF9y #Statcast pic.twitter.com/ehdPbQa2Jf

— #Statcast (@statcast) May 17, 2017

He’s baaaaaaaaaaackkkkkkkk … Umm, Craig Kimbrel Jersey is destroying hitters again after a shaky (for him) 2016 season. Check out the past 18 batters he has faced:

Strikeout

Fly out

Fly out

Strikeout

Strikeout

Groundout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Single

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

Strikeout

For the season, he has fanned 54.8 percent of the batters he has faced, which would top his previous career best of 50.2 percent in 2012.

Quick thoughts … Eddie Matz writes that Ryan Zimmerman Jersey doesn’t want to hear about your launch angles. … Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight with an interesting look at the “fly ball revolution” and how it’s not necessarily the right approach for all hitters. … The Mariners demoted Edwin Diaz as closer after four walks on Monday, and new closer Steve Cishek Jersey promptly served up a two-run homer to Oakland’s Matt Joyce Jersey to blow a 5-4 lead. … The Pirates look pretty hopeless these days. They’ll be sellers in July, but Andrew McCutchen Jersey’s trade value is minimal right now. … The Rockies take the first game of the big Rockies-Twins series. Yes, you heard that right. I watched much of this game, and I’d say Kyle Freeland was effectively wild. The trouble is he gets almost no strikeouts with his sinker, so his slider is his only strikeout pitch. He doesn’t throw his changeup much, which is probably the pitch he’ll need to develop. Charlie Blackmon Jersey has four three-hit games in his past nine games and is third in the majors in extra-base hits. The Rockies are fun, my friends.

Launch angles?! Don’t make Ryan Zimmerman laugh



Kids Tony Zych Jersey

Ryan Zimmerman Jersey is so over it.

Authentic Tony Zych Jersey

Over the past couple weeks, Zimmerman’s locker has become something of a metrics mecca. One by one, a nonstop parade of inquiring minds has approached the Washington Nationals Jersey first baseman in search of answers that might help explain his extraterrestrial start to the 2017 season. The prevailing theory within the analytics community is that launch angle has something to do with it. That the primary difference between last year — when he was one of the worst offensive players in the game — and this year is almost entirely attributable to a slightly increased propensity to hit the baseball in the air instead of on the ground. One by one, Zimmerman has dismissed the inquisitors, laughing off the launch-angle theory and instead professing that the real secret to his success lies simply in the fact that, for the first time in forever, he’s actually healthy. Finally, three hours before game time on a rainy Thursday afternoon in the nation’s capital, the hottest hitter on the planet has reached his breaking point.

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Believe it or not, the one-eighth of an inch that Zimmerman’s referring to is an actual number. Yep. Somebody somewhere took the time to figure out that over the first month or so of the season, the Nats’ cleanup man was striking the baseball, on average, an eighth of an inch lower than he did last year (per ESPN’s Sports Science). That’s the equivalent of two stitches on a seam. As a result of that two-stitch deviation, his average launch angle had increased by almost four degrees, from 9.0 last year, to 12.7 this April. Zimmerman is aware of this because in the Statcast era, when you’re the hottest hitter on the planet, these kinds of facts have a way of finding you — over and over and over again. Especially when people have reason to believe.

Game Tony Zych Jersey “I’m doing it on purpose. All offseason, I worked on hitting the ball one-eighth of an inch lower and it’s totally paying off. I used lasers and computers, and every time I didn’t hit it one-eighth of an inch lower, my bat blew up so that I had to get a new one.”

Kids Tony Zych Jersey Ryan Zimmerman JerseyIt all started in February when Daniel Murphy Jersey outed his teammate. Murphy, a noted bat rat who finished second in the National League in hitting last year, revealed that he and Zimmerman had been chatting about launch angle. “Ryan’s exit velocity last year was borderline elite,” said Murphy of Zimmerman, who last year batted just .218 despite hitting the ball harder than almost anyone in baseball (his average of 92.7 mph ranked third in MLB). “So he’s just looking at, if I can take the already elite skill of bat-to-ball and exit velocity off the barrel, but get it at the right angle, now we’re really starting to do some serious damage.”

Serious damage doesn’t even begin to describe the April that Zimmerman had. In 21 starts, he hit 11 home runs, tied for the major league lead and just four fewer than he had all of last season. He led MLB batters in pretty much every category you could think of, including average (.420), slugging (.886), OPS (1.344), hits (37), extra-base hits (19), RBIs (29), and number of M’s in his last name (three). Thanks to his monster start, the 32-year-old slugger received the National League’s Player of the Month award — and a whole lot of attention from inquiring minds.

“I’m just going to play along with it from now on,” says Zimmerman, referencing his snarky lasers-and-computers quip. He cracks a brief smile, which then disappears as he lapses back into the kind of monotone monologue that those who know him have come to expect from a guy who’s about as excitable as a stapler. This is when the truth comes out.

Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman Jersey has had a scorching start to 2017. But he has a message for the stat-heads who think they know why: Are you serious? Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports”Thinking about stuff, that doesn’t work for me,” says the University of Virginia product, implying that contrary to popular belief, whatever he and Murphy might have discussed back in spring training didn’t necessarily take. “I’m not saying it doesn’t work for other people. I think that’s the beautiful thing about baseball — there’s not one right way to do things. Pitchers pitch differently. Hitters, hardly anyone has the same stance. That’s just how it is. I think I just go up there and try to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”

For a player like Zimmerman, who spent the better part of the past three years battling injuries, putting a good swing on it has been easier said than done. From 2014 to 2016, the former first-round pick — who has hit more homers than anyone in a Nationals uniform — made five separate trips to the disabled list. He dealt with a broken thumb, a strained hamstring, plantar fasciitis, a rib cage strain, and a bruised wrist. And that doesn’t even count the oblique injury that ended his 2015 campaign early but that didn’t require a DL stint because, well, it was the end of the season. As a result, Zimmerman averaged just 90 games over the past three years, making it all but impossible to find his groove.

“It’s been frustrating,” he says. “Not being able to consistently play, being in and out of the lineup. Being around for a couple months and then being on the DL for six weeks. Every offseason, having some sort of procedure done, and then rehabbing and going into spring training with stuff still lingering. This year, I came in healthy, and all I had to worry about was playing and getting ready for the season. I hadn’t been able to do that in three years.”

D.C.? Try DLRyan Zimmerman Jersey has spent a lot of time away from his team the past three seasons. For him, health has been a key factor to date in his 2017 comeback.

YearGames playedDays on DL20146111020159547201611533The difference was evident back in February, when Zimmerman looked like a trimmer man upon first reporting to West Palm Beach. Even though his weight of 218 pounds is squarely within the 215 to 220 range he has maintained for the past decade, it looks like a different 218. A leaner and more muscular 218. “This is the strongest I’ve seen him,” says Washington hitting coach Rick Schu, who’s been with the club since 2009. When asked about his body fat percentage, Zimmerman says he doesn’t know the exact number, but he’s sure that it’s less than in the past. That lower body fat is translating to higher baseballs.

“Now that he feels healthy,” says Murphy of his teammate, “those balls that he was hitting hard but on the ground, he feels like he’s really able to take chances on them. So now he’s driving those balls as opposed to last year, when he was hitting the ball really hard but probably hitting it a little bit lower than he wanted to.”

In other words, Zimmerman isn’t on fire because he’s elevating the ball more; he’s elevating the ball more because he’s on fire.

“This launch angle stuff is all B.S.,” Schu says. “Look at his bubble gum card. He was 25 homers with 100 RBIs just because he was staying healthy and he was in good position to hit. Now that he feels great again, he’s in a power position to drive the ball. His whole lower half is working. He’s able to get extension on some balls, so his launch angle is going to change.”

It’s worth noting that recently, as Zimmerman has come back down to earth a bit, so, too, have the baseballs he has been hitting. In the first dozen days of May, a period in which his average dropped from .420 to .393, his average launch angle was 11.1 degrees, a 13 percent drop from April. During Washington’s recent home series against the Orioles, when he went just 1-for-13, his average launch angle was just 3.4 degrees. Because that’s what happens when you ground out seven times in three games, which Zimmerman did against Baltimore, in the process looking a whole lot like the .218 hitter he was last year instead of the Triple Crown-threat that he’s been this year.

“When you’re going good,” he says, “everything feels good and everything feels in sync. When you’re not, everything feels disconnected. Obviously, I’m not going to hit .420. You just show up each day and do your routine and hope it stays that way for a long time.”

The 10-day DL and the starting pitcher apocalypse



Kids Joe Wieland Jersey

On Oct. 1, 2016, Clayton Kershaw Jersey didn’t make history. He left his final start of the 2016 season with a WHIP of 0.725, lower than Pedro Martinez’s record of 0.737. But Kershaw threw only 149 innings, so he didn’t make history.

Authentic Joe Wieland Jersey

Major League Baseball tells us what it takes to make history: 162 innings, the threshold laid out in rule 10.22(b) to delineate a “full” season, as opposed to a partial one. I’ve argued that this threshold is badly outdated, now that starters pitch less often, throw fewer innings per start and spend more time on the disabled list. The percentage of full-time major league starters who reach 162 is plummeting, not because the percentage of failures is rising but because teams have different expectations and make different strategic decisions.

Youth Joe Wieland Jersey

For the same two minutes every game, Yu Darvish Jersey is an awful pitcherThe ace of the Texas Rangers Jersey is very, very good. But he has a singular weakness — and you can set your watch by it.

Game Joe Wieland Jersey Juice the ball. Or don’t juice it. Just tell us!Conspiracies are fun for fans. But for Major League Baseball, suspicion about the integrity of the game isn’t fun at all. So why not manipulate the ball for all to see?

Kids Joe Wieland Jersey 2 Related

In the past week, the Los Angeles Dodgers Jersey made two decisions — one involving a pitcher who made his scheduled start, one involving a pitcher who didn’t — that demonstrate the further erosion of 162 as a meaningful mark. Recent rule changes and managing trends are redefining what it means to be a starter.

The pitcher who didn’t start was Kenta Maeda Jersey. His spot in the Dodgers’ rotation came up Monday, but he was on the new 10-day disabled list with, uhhhh, well, it says here “tightness in his left hamstring” experienced “a few weeks ago.” Maeda was coming off one of the best starts of his career, in which he pitched into the ninth inning to earn a win. It wasn’t the most convincing excuse a team has ever come up with.

Maeda’s undoubtedly brief stint on the disabled list might best be viewed as strategic use of roster space, allowing the Dodgers “to navigate through the season while shuffling six or seven starting pitchers,” including Maeda, who appeared to tire in the second half last year, and the oft-injured Brandon McCarthy Jersey, Rich Hill Jersey and Hyun-Jin Ryu Jersey. It might also be viewed as, essentially, the velociraptors testing the fences.

That’s because the league’s 10-day DL opens up possibilities for roster creativity — or, if you prefer, manipulation or even exploitation — that were less convenient with the 15-day DL. Now a club could look ahead at the schedule, see an off-day and “disable” the fifth starter, skipping his spot in the rotation and using that roster space to call up an extra reliever from Triple-A. By the time the fifth starter is needed again, the 10 days would be up, and the extra reliever could be sent back down.

The Dodgers appear to be using the low, low cost of a DL stint in a different way: To carry 26 qualified major leaguers when roster rules seem to limit teams to 25. (Maeda’s disabling coincided with the activation of Ryu, who had just spent exactly 10 days on the DL with a hip bruise.) This lets them hedge against risk by keeping more good players under their control. It lets them schedule regular rest for their starters into the season, reducing injury risks and keeping the starters fresher for the Dodgers’ all-but-inevitable postseason appearance. It might also make it possible for Los Angeles to use a six-man rotation for parts of the summer.

So far, teams have only tiptoed around these possibilities. DL stints are up slightly this season — there were 215 10-day DL transactions from March 31-May 14, and there were 185 15-day DL transactions during the same period last season — but that would be expected (injuries have been increasing for years) and welcomed (that was the point, after all, of the 10-day DL). There’s little doubt, though, that front offices will come to squeeze out these benefits if they can. Exposing and exploiting the vulnerabilities of game play are as much a part of the analytics era as analytics.

See, for example, what happened after 2012, when Major League Baseball instituted new restrictions on signing international prospects. The restrictions were intended to limit how much clubs could pay top-tier international teenagers, with most teams getting around $3 million to spend before invoking penalties. A number of clubs gleefully turned the system of limits and penalties into a logic puzzle to solve, in many cases obliterating their caps. In the 2014-15 signing period, the New York Yankees Jersey overspent their bonus pool by a factor of nine, collecting 10 of the top 28 international free agents and essentially killing the premise of the system. This year’s rules were changed significantly to prevent such gaming.

By old-fashioned innings standards, Clayton Kershaw Jersey basically didn’t exist last year. Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsThere’s less reason to expect the league to step in to protect the integrity of the DL because almost everybody benefits from liberal DL rules. As Ben Lindbergh wrote at The Ringer, using the 10-day DL to call up a minor league reliever puts more money into the players’ collective pockets, as the “injured” player will continue to receive his major league salary while the newly recalled pitcher will get a huge raise (for the 10 days he’s in the majors, at least). Both players will collect service time, pushing them closer to free agency. Using the 10-day DL as a way of carrying 26 or 27 major leaguers “around” the major league roster will, theoretically, increase league-wide demand for veteran free agents. Meanwhile, using roster flexibility to give pitchers rest, preserve their health and keep them fresh for the postseason seems to be a good thing. Who, after all, would argue against preventative health over expensive emergency room visits?

The possible result is this: Starters aren’t all going to be expected to make 32 starts per season anymore. Many will, but for others, 25 or 28 or 31 might constitute a full season. If teams can find ways to schedule rest without taking a major hit midseason — to “shorten the season,” as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts put it last week — they will.

Which brings us to the second decision the Dodgers made, the one involving a pitcher who did start: Alex Wood Jersey. On Sunday, Wood threw a masterpiece, striking out 10 batters and shutting out the Colorado Rockies Jersey at Coors Field. But he left the game after six innings and just 88 pitches, with the Dodgers leading 4-0.

We all know that starting pitchers don’t work as deep into games as they used to, as teams try (unsuccessfully) to preserve their pitchers’ health. What’s most notable this year is when starters are increasingly getting the hook: not when they’re losing but when they’re winning.

This year, starters have averaged 5.96 innings per start in games their teams won. That’s down from 6.17 innings at the same point in the season last year and down from 6.36 innings per start one decade ago.

There’s much less change in how deep starters go when their teams lose: This year’s starters are averaging 5.28 innings in their teams’ losses, down from only 5.32 last year and 5.40 in 2007. The gap between innings pitched in “good” and “bad” starts has shrunk by 30 percent.

Teams are more aware of the struggles that almost all pitchers face the third time they go through the opposing lineup, whether because of fatigue or familiarity. They have deep bullpens overflowing with hard-throwing relievers and situational specialists. They are investing in relief aces who will pitch in the seventh and eighth innings, not just the ninth. This all adds up to swifter hooks even when the starting pitcher is, as Wood was, pitching a masterpiece.

No longer does a five- or six-inning outing signify a pitcher who didn’t do his job; his job has been redefined. Wood was named NL Pitcher of the Week. He made two starts. He threw 11 innings. At that pace, even 29 starts would not get a pitcher to “qualifying” status in a season.

Last year, Chase Anderson Jersey made 30 starts but didn’t qualify for the ERA title. He was a league-average pitcher, with a better adjusted ERA than that of Michael Pineda Jersey, Gio Gonzalez Jersey or Dallas Keuchel Jersey. By the “qualifiers” standard, he didn’t exist. Kershaw led the majors in WAR — a counting stat! — and had by far the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in history, but by the qualifiers standard, he didn’t exist.

Detroit Tigers Jersey rookie Michael Fulmer Jersey lost the ERA title — lost the chance to be the first rookie in 40 years to win the ERA title — because he came up three innings shy of 162. He started 26 times. Only 75 major leaguers — exactly half of the league’s rotation spots — started more often than Fulmer did. By modern standards, it was a full season, but by MLB Rule 10.22(b)’s standards, it wasn’t.

It’s only a matter of time before MLB Rule 10.22(b) changes. The question is whether we’ll retroactively credit Kershaw and Fulmer with making history.

Top 25 under 25: Does Bryce Harper or Manny Machado move to the top?



Kids Taijuan Walker Jersey

This year’s edition of the top 25 players under 25 — that’s under 25 years old, by which I mean players who are younger than 25, which is what the “under” part is for, and I hope someone will actually read this part — is out a little earlier to give us (me) a break from draft coverage for the moment. The list also has seen big changes from last year’s edition: Eleven of the 25 players, including No. 1 Mike Trout Jersey, in last July’s rankings have aged out of the list, and one more, Jose Fernandez Jersey, died in September.

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This list is limited to players whose seasonal ages for 2017 are 24 or younger — that is, any player who will not yet have turned 25 on July 1, 2017 — and players who have exhausted their rookie status. That means no Mike Trout Jersey or Kris Bryant Jersey (both are already 25) and no Cody Bellinger or Yoan Moncada (they haven’t exceeded rookie status).

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What’s wrong with the Cubs?



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It isn’t quite time to press the panic button on the North Side, but we’re past the point where the Chicago Cubs Jersey get a pass. The early part of the season is finished, and a 5-0 beatdown by rival St. Louis emphasized the holes in the Cubs’ lineup. We asked our panel to address the problems plaguing the World Series champions and, more importantly, how the team can fix those issues.

Authentic Nick Vincent Jersey

Should Joe Maddon shake up the lineup?Jesse Rogers: If leadoff man Kyle Schwarber Jersey were the only struggling player, it might make sense. But Anthony Rizzo Jersey is hitting .213, Addison Russell Jersey is .226, and Ben Zobrist Jersey is .223. Batting average isn’t the tell-all about a player, but when that many individuals are struggling, it’s hard to imagine that just changing the order will make much of a difference. Maddon can do it, but the Cubs’ best hitters need to be the best hitters, no matter the batting order.

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Bradford Doolittle: The lineup will get going whether or not Schwarber is swapped out of the leadoff spot. Of the nine players with the most plate appearances for the Cubs, eight have a below-average OPS+, with Kris Bryant Jersey as the exception. That isn’t going to last. Schwarber will get hot at some point, as will Rizzo, Zobrist, etc. If you want to use Zobrist in the leadoff spot to get a few more balls in play, though, that might make sense, especially against lefties.

Game Nick Vincent Jersey Why is the defense regressing?Rogers: I think the numbers are misleading. If you look at the statistics, Schwarber is the one guy dragging the defense down. That should not be surprising; everyone knew his play in left field wasn’t going to be his strong suit. I would contend that Baez is more disappointing. He was all-world last year but has already made five errors and has generally not looked as sharp. The rest of the team has been OK, though Willson Contreras Jersey needs to rein it in a little when it comes to throwing the ball. Other than left field, I don’t think defense will be a yearlong problem.

Kids Nick Vincent Jersey Schoenfield: Guess what? If you put a slow, converted catcher in left field, your defense is going to be worse. It’s not all on Schwarber, but he has been a big liability at minus-5 defensive runs saved. Last year, the outfield converted 93 percent of fly balls into outs, the best rate in the majors. This year, the Cubs rank 27th at 89 percent. The big surprise is that Baez hasn’t rated well, at least according to the metrics. Last year, he was at plus-16 DRS across three positions; this year, he’s at plus-1. Range factor isn’t a tell-all, but Baez made 5.05 plays per nine innings at second base last year, compared to 4.32 this year, so the raw numbers indicate that he is making fewer plays. As is the case with a lot of things about the 2017 Cubs, some regression was likely. They’re still a good defensive team — just not a great one.

Doolittle: Part of it seems like it has to be intangible: They’re just not dialed in, as Miguel Montero Jersey suggested. They’ve given up more unearned runs than anybody. But the pitching problems extend to the defense as well. The Cubs’ .120 well-hit average against last season was the best in the majors, but that’s up to .162 this season, which is 24th. If the pitching gets better, I think the defense will as well. But there’s no getting around the fact that Schwarber is limited in left.

Jake Arrieta Jersey might never get back to ace-level pitching, but he needs to improve — as does the rest of the starting rotation, which was the best in baseball last year. Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesHow worried are you about Jake Arrieta Jersey?Rogers: I’m very worried when it comes to Arrieta. His velocity’s down, and I’ve never seen him be so easy to hit. He’s pitching for his next contract, so at some point, that might mess with his head as well. If the velocity returns, perhaps his nastiness will as well, but right now he’s just an arm that is prone to some good days and some bad ones. The Cubs are counting on — and need — more.

Schoenfield: I’m a little worried about his performance but not overly concerned. Here’s a fun stat: Over his past 24 starts, Arrieta has allowed 21 home runs; over his 24 starts before that, he allowed 21 earned runs. It has been close to a year now since the peak Arrieta of 2015 and early 2016. If there’s good news, it’s that he isn’t walking batters like last season, but that has translated to more hits and more home runs. I don’t think we’ll see ace Arrieta again, but he’s better than a guy with a 5.44 ERA. Regression across the board was to be expected after last year’s historically great rotation. The rotation enters the week 11th in FanGraphs wins above replacement, and that’s with Arrieta struggling and Brett Anderson Jersey being a disaster, so I still think this can be a top-five rotation by season’s end.

Doolittle: I’m fairly worried, especially about Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks Jersey. Hendricks’ velocity dip is amazing considering how little of it he had to begin with, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. I also wonder if that has contributed to the spike in his walks, as he’s trying to be too fine. However, I’m more worried about Arrieta, who has also lost a lot of zip and looks very hittable without that explosion on his pitches. I think the Cubs will have to aggressively pursue a rotation upgrade. Eddie Butler Jersey can’t save the day by himself.

What change would help the most?Rogers: I’m not sure it’s a move, but any semblance of consistency from the starting staff would set things up nicely for the rest of the team. That might mean adding a pitcher, but we’re not at that point in the season yet, so it has to come from within. Butler made a nice debut, and three of four other guys all had nice turns through the rotation recently, so perhaps it’s coming.

Editor’s PicksVote: Cubs Confidence MeterThe Cubs have fallen under .500. Do fans still feel there’s a dynasty in the works at Wrigley? Or is there an outbreak of agita on the North Side?

Has the bar been lowered for Cubsa?? Jake Arrieta Jersey?Either manager Joe Maddon has tempered expectations or he’s sticking up for his guy. Either way, the 2015 NL Cy Young winner doesn’t look the same.

Why this week matters: Cubs face tough test, MLB’s surprising sluggerIs it too soon to be worried about the Cubs? Plus what’s going on with Yonder Alonso Jersey’s newfound power, Rich Hill Jersey’s return and David Price Jersey’s rehab.

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Schoenfield: Rizzo and Schwarber have to hit. The lineup was built around those guys and league MVP Bryant, and two of the three have struggled at the plate. As mentioned, most of the other issues in the lineup were predictable. Rizzo hitting .213 and Schwarber struggling with a .656 on-base plus slugging weren’t.

Doolittle: There are no half-measures to be taken here. The Cubs need to add a couple of arms, but that was true before the season started. They have hitters and pitchers underperforming, according to their track records, up and down the roster. Despite that, the Cubs are still only a game under .500 and have a positive run differential. There shouldn’t be a Giants or Blue Jays level of panic.

How far will the Cubs go this season?Rogers: I never thought they would repeat because getting a 108-year monkey off your back takes a lot out of you. But if they don’t win the division, it’s a colossal disappointment. But we aren’t there yet. They’re still a 93-95 win team, perhaps a win or two fewer, but it just won’t be as easy as it was last year. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The only question in my mind now is: How hard will it actually be?

Schoenfield: I still project them to win the division. Basically, no player has exceeded expectations so far, and a whole bunch have underperformed. They’re not going to win 103 games again, but remember, they went 12-14 in July last year. Even good teams can have long stretches of .500 ball.

Doolittle: The Cubs remain very much in the mix to repeat as champs, but they are not clearly the best team in baseball at this moment. I’d put the Astros, Dodgers and Nationals ahead of them. In retrospect, I think we’ll look back at the start of this season and see it as an almost inevitable outcome of last year’s highly scrutinized journey. I’m confident that the Cubs will still win the NL Central, and they remain my pick to win it all. They need to step it up, though, because there are some budding powerhouses elsewhere in baseball.

Real or not? Astros’ double-play combo has chance to be one of best ever



Kids Evan Scribner Jersey

Remember a few weeks ago when Carlos Correa Jersey was struggling? Through his first 15 games, he was hitting .196 with one extra-base hit — a home run on Opening Day. Through May 2, he was still scuffling at .226 with six extra-base hits. Maybe it was the WBC hangover. Maybe it was just a little slump. Whatever the problem, he just wasn’t driving the ball.

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Well, scary thought for the rest of the AL West: The Astros were still winning, and now Correa is heating up. While he went 0-for-3 in Monday’s 7-2 win over the Marlins, Correa did draw two walks, and over his past 12 games he’s hitting .413 with eight extra-base hits and more walks than strikeouts, raising his season line to a respectable .288/.369/.468. The Astros are 9-3 in those 12 games, improving their MLB-best record to 27-12.

Youth Evan Scribner Jersey

— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) May 16, 2017

Game Evan Scribner Jersey Jose Altuve Jersey, Correa’s double-play partner, homered and drove in three runs. His numbers are below what he did last year, when he finished third in the MVP voting, but he’s still hitting a solid .292/.364/.458. So here’s my thought of the night: Where do Correa and Altuve rank in the pantheon of great double-play combos? In 2016, Baseball-Reference valued Altuve at 7.6 WAR and Correa at 6.0 WAR. Both are certainly capable of 5-WAR seasons once again, and that would put them into rarified company.

Kids Evan Scribner Jersey We’ll get to that list in a moment. Here are some combos that never had two 5-WAR seasons together:

Roberto Alomar and Omar Vizquel, Indians: Together for three seasons, they did have 5-WAR seasons in 1999.

Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, Tigers: Both have strong cases for the Hall of Fame, but they cleared the 5-WAR barrier together only in 1983, with Whitaker at 6.7 and Trammell at 6.0. This was mostly a matter of timing, as Trammell had six such seasons and Whitaker four.

Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion, Reds: Morgan was a two-time MVP winner, while Concepcion was a plus defender, but he hit .300 just twice and didn’t have much power, so he was a league-average hitter or better only a few times. He cleared 5 WAR just once, in 1974.

Nellie Fox and Luis Aparacio: They teamed together with the White Sox from 1956 to 1962 and finished first and second in the MVP voting in 1959, when the White Sox won the AL pennant. Both are Hall of Famers, but they had zero 5-WAR seasons together. In ’59, MVP Fox is valued at 6.0 WAR, but Aparacio hit just .257/.316/.332 and is valued at 3.3 WAR.

OK, the roll call of multiple 5-WAR seasons together:

Chase Utley Jersey and Jimmy Rollins Jersey, Phillies (2007-2008): Rollins won MVP honors in 2007 and Utley finished eighth but probably deserved to win.

Bobby Grich and Mark Belanger, Orioles (1975-1976): Grich was a good hitter at second base, when most second basemen couldn’t hit, and a plus defender. Belanger was an eight-time Gold Glove winner, and the pair swept Gold Glove honors both seasons. Belanger couldn’t hit but did have a fluky solid season in ’76, and he crossed the 5-WAR barrier in ’75 thanks to off-the-charts defensive numbers.

Red Schoendienst and Solly Hemus, Cardinals (1952-53): Who? Schoendienst is a Hall of Famer, but Hemus was a regular for only three seasons. He was really good, though. In 1952, he led the NL with 105 runs, and in 1953 he scored 110. His OBPs those seasons were .392 and .382. He apparently wasn’t much of a shortstop, although Baseball-Reference gives him decent metrics. Here’s the weird thing: After he scored 110 runs, the Cardinals turned him into a utility player. He played 124 games in 1954 but batted just 276 times. The team won 11 fewer games.

Eddie Stanky and Al Dark, Giants (1950-51): They teamed together for four seasons — two years with the Boston Braves and two years with the Giants. They were traded together after the 1949 season. The story goes that Stanky didn’t get along with manager Billy Southworth. He and Dark were best buddies, so they were traded together. Stanky, known as “The Brat,” was one of the game’s all-time great walkers. Only five players have drawn 130-plus walks at least three times: Ruth, Bonds, Williams, Eddie Yost and Stanky. He was traded after ’51 to become player-manager of the Cardinals (he was the guy who eventually sent Hemus to the bench).

Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese (1949, 1951-52): Our only pair to have three seasons that meet our standard. Robinson won MVP honors in 1949 (9.6 WAR), while Reese finished fifth (7.0).

Joe Gordon and Lou Boudreau, Indians (1947-48): Two more Hall of Famers, they led the Indians to the World Series title in 1948. Boudreau (10.4 WAR) was the MVP after hitting .355, and Gordon (6.6) finished sixth after hitting 32 home runs and driving in 132 runs.

Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky, Red Sox (1942, 1946): They might have had more, but Pesky lost three seasons and Doerr one to World War II.

Charlie Gehringer and Billy Rogell, Tigers (1933, 1935) They were the primary DP combo for the Tigers from 1932 to 1938. Gehringer is a Hall of Famer.

So that’s your history lesson. Obviously, it’s difficult to match the longevity of Whitaker and Trammell, but consider this possibility: The only combo to have two 6-WAR seasons was Gordon and Boudreau. Given their ages, Altuve and Correa should both be great together through 2019, when Altuve becomes a free agent. If Houston can keep them together, it seems they have a chance to become one of the game’s greatest DP combos, not just in peak value, but in longevity, as well.

Yes, we’re jealous of Astros fans.

In other happenings on a light night of action …

Indians own Chris Archer Jersey. The Rays ace has started six times in his career against the Indians and lost all six games. He was his own worst enemy, walking six batters in five innings of the 8-7 loss. For the Indians, Carlos Carrasco Jersey left in the fourth inning with “left pectoral tightness,” so watch for updates there. Given the lack of depth in their system, the bad starts for Trevor Bauer Jersey and Danny Salazar Jersey, and Carrasco’s inability to stay off the DL, I wonder if the Indians will be in the market for a starting pitcher in July. Of their opening five starters, four have ERAs over 5.00 (including Corey Kluber Jersey, currently on the DL).

Francisco Lindor Jersey hit his ninth home run in 37 games (it took him 72 games to get there last year):

You're an awesome human, Francisco Lindor Jersey.

— Scott Cottos (@ScottCottos) May 16, 2017

Yeah, I’m going to post a Mike Trout Jersey video. He homers for the fourth straight game. Given the horrifying output of the rest of that lineup, I’m surprised he’s even seeing strikes to hit right now.

It’s not even fair.4 games, 4 home runs for @MikeTrout. pic.twitter.com/bWjAjXtSdI

— MLB (@MLB) May 16, 2017

Quick thoughts … Tough first six weeks for the Braves, but Freddie Freeman Jersey and Matt Kemp Jersey are tearing it up, with Freeman hitting his 13th home run and Kemp going 4-for-4 in a 10-6 win over the Blue Jays. … Have any spare change? Like a few million dollars? You might be interested in making a bid for the original founding documents for the National League in 1876. … David Ross Jersey advanced to the finals of “Dancing With the Stars.” … Bad day for outfielders: A.J. Pollock Jersey (groin strain), Hunter Pence Jersey (hamstring) and Carlos Gomez Jersey (hamstring) all land on the DL. Maybe trainers need to institute mandatory in-game stretching. Or something. … Has the Terry Collins watch officially started? Another bullpen meltdown for the Mets as the Diamondbacks score five times in the eighth to break open a 1-1 tie. Ahh, the future that 2015 promised seems so long ago.

Is Carlos Beltran a Hall of Famer?



Kids David Rollins Jersey

Do you remember Dos Carlos? If you’re a Kansas City Royals Jersey fan of a certain age, you surely do. That was the moniker attached to a pair of hotshot Royals rookies in the late 1990s: second baseman Carlos Febles and center fielder Carlos Beltran Jersey. During those years, Royals fans would grab at anything that looked like hope, and for a while, Dos Carlos was definitely a thing.

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After both reached the majors late in the 1998 season, Febles and Beltran spent their official rookie campaigns together the following year in Kansas City. They were both good. Febles hit 10 homers, stole 20 bases and provided above-average, often flashy defense. He finished 10th among MLB rookies that season with 2.0 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Youth David Rollins Jersey

Editor’s PicksPuerto Rico’s spirit is alive on the baseball fieldsWhether it’s the peak of the World Baseball Classic success or the nadir of the country’s financial crisis, the flag instills a certain level of pride for its people.

Game David Rollins Jersey Carlos Beltran Jersey, Carlos Correa Jersey bridging generation gap with AstrosGrandpa Carlos? Beltran has too much swagger for a moniker like that. But baseball’s ageless wonder is spending his final years teaching Houston’s next superstar the finer points of the game.

Kids David Rollins Jersey Do Vlad, Edgar and Moose really have Cooperstown cred?Was he ever the best player in the game? Was he even the best player on his own team? We ask 15 hard questions about Hall of Fame hopefuls Vladimir Guerrero, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina.

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That turned out to be half-true. Febles’ rookie season turned out to be his best, and he was out of the majors before he reached his 28th birthday. Right now, as you read this, he is only 40 years old and is in his second season as the manager of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

Meanwhile, Beltran went on to become one of the best all-around players in baseball and one of the best in Royals history. His economic value long ago outgrew the constraints of the Royals’ budget, and he has gone on to star for several teams. A player who was once so uncertain of his own ability that he initially refused to return to the minors for injury rehab — Beltran was afraid he’d never make it back to The Show — has earned more than $200 million playing baseball.

This is the shape of a Hall of Fame career: Great out of the gate. Great for an extended period of time. Productive even after skills begin to fade. And make no mistake, the 40-year-old Beltran is in the fading phase of his career. If that Dos Carlos thing seems like a long, long time ago, it’s because it was — Bill Clinton was president when Beltran reached the big leagues. That’s how long it takes to build a Hall case if you aren’t among the elite of the elite, one of those slam-dunk players whose Hall worthiness is never questioned.

Beltran’s Hall of Fame case is not a slam dunk. He has been an All-Star nine times. He has won three Gold Gloves, though these days he hardly dons a glove at all. He garnered MVP support in seven seasons but has never finished higher than fourth in the voting. On the all-time WAR leaderboard, he is tied for No. 99 with Scott Rolen, who isn’t in the Hall. Right above Beltran is Barry Larkin, and right behind him is Gary Carter. They’re both in Cooperstown. But others ahead of Beltran — Rick Reuschel, Alan Trammell and Bobby Grich — have yet to be inducted.

Let’s consider Beltran’s case using one my favorite things: Bill James’ Keltner questions, which I most recently used in January to look at three Hall-eligible players.

Keltner questions1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Probably not. The most damning evidence is the lack of MVP support that Beltran received, even during his best seasons. In 2006, the year he finished fourth in the balloting, Beltran ranked second among position players with 8.2 WAR, just behind peak-level Albert Pujols Jersey. However, there is an argument that Beltran has briefly been the best at a very key time of the year. We’ll get to that.

When Carlos Beltran Jersey first came up with the Royals, there was nothing he couldn’t do. AP Photo/Ed Zurga2. Was he the best player on his team?

Beltran ranks 13th in Royals history by WAR, and none of the players ahead of him was an exact contemporary. It’s pretty clear that Beltran was the Royals’ best player during most of his time in Kansas City. With the New York Mets Jersey, Beltran was outperformed by David Wright Jersey, though Beltran ranks sixth in Mets history in WAR. Also, for what it’s worth, Beltran was probably the Astros’ best player during the partial season he spent there in 2004.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Like most players with long careers, Beltran’s defensive responsibilities have waned over the years. Nevertheless, 71 percent of his career starts have come in center field, and that is the position for which he will be remembered. It was his primary position for 12 years, from 1999 to 2010. There are many ways to drill down on this question, but consider this: During those 12 years, among those who played at least 75 percent of their games in center, Beltran’s 56.5 WAR were nearly six wins better than anyone else’s, with Andruw Jones coming in a distant second. Beltran checks both of these boxes.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Beltran didn’t get much of an opportunity in this area when he was in Kansas City, save for the fleeting success of the Royals’ 2003 season. But the very next year, he helped put the Astros over the top in the NL playoff derby. He has played in 55 postseason games in seven postseasons. However, Beltran has played in just one World Series: St. Louis’ loss to Boston in 2013.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

Very much so. Beltran has been an All-Star five times since he turned 30, including last season, when he was 39. Although he isn’t off to a great start for the Astros this season, he is still a regular player.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

No, even leaving aside those who aren’t yet eligible, were banned or are being shunned because of PED-related issues. But it’s close. I’d give Trammell and Mike Mussina the nod over Beltran. If we include those who aren’t in for reasons other than performance, Beltran is below the standard of Roger Clemens, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Joe Jackson, et al.

7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

This is a mixed bag. According to the similarity scores at Baseball-Reference.com, just four of the 10 players with career numbers most similar to Beltran’s are in Cooperstown: Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, Al Kaline and Tony Perez. Another, Adrian Beltre Jersey, is an active player who is a future no-brainer enshrinee.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

For this, we’ll use Jay Jaffe’s ingenious JAWS system. Again, it’s close. Beltran is just off the averages in both career WAR and peak WAR among Hall of Fame center fielders. It’s not over yet, but this season’s slow start has Beltran below replacement value, which costs him WAR in the career category.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than what is suggested by his statistics?

This might be the tipping point for Beltran, whose entire career has played out in the wild-card era, in which postseason production has taken on added importance when it comes to assessing a player’s career value. We mentioned Beltran’s 55 career postseason games. That total is tied for 47th all time. However, if he had played prior to 1994, it would rank fifth.

Anyway, Beltran not only has played in a lot of playoff games but also has often dominated when it matters most. His career postseason slash line is .323/.432/.646 with 16 homers. That 1.080 OPS ranks fourth among players with 100 postseason plate appearances, behind Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Lenny Dykstra.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

Returning to JAWS, the answer is yes, but it will become no if he continues to deliver below-replacement production and slips behind Kenny Lofton among center fielders. Right now, Beltran ranks eighth, and the top seven are in Cooperstown.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

We’ve covered this. He never got into the top three in the voting, but his 2006 season was clearly MVP-worthy.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star Games did he play in? Were most of the other players who played in this many All-Star Games inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Beltran has had five seasons with five or more WAR, the rule of thumb for an All-Star-type season, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He has played in eight All-Star Games, and among the 77 players who have appeared in eight, 56 are in the Hall.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

In general, if a player has had an MVP-caliber season, which Beltran has, the answer to this question is yes. But it’s more concrete if the player was actually the best performer on a pennant winner, and that hasn’t happened for Beltran.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Although Beltran hasn’t changed the game in any tangible way, his prominence as a Puerto Rico-born ballplayer has had a great deal of influence. Only Roberto Clemente has produced more WAR among those born in Puerto Rico. Beltran operates a baseball academy on the island.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

High marks in this area. A consummate professional on the field and a role model off it.

Bottom lineFor me, the eighth question is the first to consider as the jumping-off point: Do the player’s numbers warrant Hall consideration? In Beltran’s case, they clearly do. From there, he skirts along the borderline on most questions. However, none of these questions would rule him out. When you get to his postseason record and his intangible characteristics, those soft factors ultimately tip the scale. Carlos Beltran Jersey, regardless of what he does from here on out, is a Hall of Famer.