The MLB Weekend Top 10: Does Anyone Love the AL East?
Like the man at no. 10 during the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl, let’s jump right into the fray.
10. Yasiel Puig, the Cienfuegos Slammer (LAD-PIR)
I left Puig off the list last week, and certain factions were upset. So here he is, in all his shiny glory. But a word of warning: Sure, the guy has been playing well, but it’s a small sample size. He’s due to regress. (Last sentence intended exclusively for the desk of Jay Caspian Kang.)
9. This Week’s Reason to Watch the Royals (KCR-TAM)
I’ll give you two, both related to Tampa, the team they’re facing. The first is a positive — Ben Zobrist is murdering the ball over the past seven days, and Evan Longoria is hitting for a lot of power. And the negative: Ugly regression has kicked in big-time for Matt Moore. Nine days ago, he was 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA. His FIP and xFIP numbers, which attempt to reduce statistical noise and regulate any good or bad luck the pitcher is experiencing, predicted that his undefeated joyride wouldn’t last long. And man, those nerdy nerd stats were right. In his past two starts, Moore has allowed 14 earned runs in seven innings, lost both games, and watched his carefully cultivated ERA rise from 2.18 to 3.78. It’s almost like he sold his soul to the devil for one-third of an awesome season, and when the devil collected, the universe showered him with all the bad luck he’d staved off. Or something. Anyway, it’ll be fascinating to see if he can recover as the year goes along, or if he’s been put in his place by statistical karma for good.
8. Hot Bat of the Week: Adam Dunn (CWS-HOU)
Six games, four jacks, .348/.444/.913 line. That’ll do. Unfortunately, the White Sox are facing Houston, who will almost certainly shut him down.
[Hold for laughs.]
[Hold for the kind of applause that follows laughs.]
[Hold for silence.]
[Wait 10 seconds.]
[Repeat the joke.]
7. The Weekend of the Mismatch
There are just a ton of matchups between really good and really bad teams, and it probably won’t be fun. But if you’re a little off and enjoy that kind of thing, don’t miss Reds vs. Brewers, Pirates vs. Dodgers, Diamondbacks vs. Padres, A’s vs. Mariners, Yankees vs. Angels, Tigers vs. Twins, Rangers vs. Blue Jays, and Rays vs. Royals. Am I missing any? Oh yeah …
6. THE KING OF THE MISMATCHES! (STL-MIA)
The worst team in baseball is playing the best. You are compelled to watch at least one inning. If you watch any more, you’re a sadist. If you watch any less, you’re a coward.
5. I Leave This Spot Blank in Protest
Here at the MLB Weekend Top 10, we take it as a personal insult if anyone watches anything other than baseball, ever. That being said, desperate times call for desperate measures, and on weekends like this, when the matchups and narratives leave much to be desired, we may be more lenient than normal. You want to watch the U.S. Open? Sorry, we were looking the other way. Did the channel change? Didn’t notice. You think LeBron vs. the Spurs might be more compelling? We’ll be outside taking a stroll, unable to monitor how you operate your remote control. You want to spend time with your loved ones? OK, don’t get greedy.
Seriously though, we’ll even offer you our own alternative:
4. The College World Series
I encouraged you to check out the super-regionals last week, and now that the eight best teams are in Omaha, I encourage you DOUBLY. Baseball championships aren’t meant to be decided in three-game series or double-elimination tournaments, but man, when circumstances force it on us, it is really, really exciting. If you watch just one game, make it the North Carolina–NC State derby on Sunday at 3 p.m. Not only is there a ton of hatred and resentment between these two schools (for the full sociological take, read this post), but they’ve nurtured a really great rivalry this season that culminated in an epic 2-1 UNC win in the ACC tournament. I’m personally excited that they’ll meet in Omaha, if only to witness the impending Triangle Twitter meltdowns as decades (centuries?) of mutual disdain rises to the surface. But in this case, the baseball is attraction enough.
3. Pitcher’s Duel of the Week: Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Bartolo Colon (Sunday, SEA-OAK)
I went into some pretty insane detail on Iwakuma’s incredible abilities (and why I love him) in last week’s pitchers’ duel diary, so a link will have to suffice for that side of the equation. As for Bartolo Viejo, the 40-year-old medical miracle with an 8-2 record and a 2.92 ERA, I don’t know what to say. He’s still hitting 93 mph on his fastball, FanGraphs has his slider valued as the fourth-best in baseball, and reports from the A’s clubhouse indicate that he eats three full pizzas before every game — four if he’s starting. I have two questions about his performance. First, is he juicing? Second, is everyone just kind of ignoring it because he plays in Oakland? Like the way people ignore syringes and dogshit on the sidewalk in really bad neighborhoods, but the people in gated communities would hold a town meeting if a broken Snapple bottle was left on their streets for more than 60 seconds? I don’t know.
But I do know this: We missed a Adam Wainwright–Matt Harvey pitchers’ duel by ONE DAY. And it lived up to the hype! The PDotW has never held the no. 1 spot in the top 10, but that might have been the first.
2. The Great San Francisco De-Cooling (SFG-ATL)
Apparently, San Francisco is not cool anymore because of all the douchebags. The new square spirit of the city has also infected the baseball team, which has outlived its fun, innocent, Lincecum days and become just a little bit mediocre. And weirdly enough, it’s not because of the offense, which has been better than average. This time it’s the pitching; the Giants have given up 297 runs, third-worst in the National League. Starters used to be the backbone of this team, but now they’ve put up the 25th-worst ERA in the entire sport, and the competent bullpen can’t rescue them. (Though that’s a bit like asking a Monday morning cleanup crew to save a frat house from being ravaged by drunks, right?) The sad part is, nobody has been good. Madison Bumgarner has been OK, but the rest have been downright poor. This is a team that would have killed for a decent offense two years ago, but now that that hole has been plugged, another, more critical leak is threatening to bring them below .500.
1. The Killer Bs (BOS-BAL)
You might have deduced by now that this is a pretty blah weekend for baseball. The only really compelling series is Boston-Baltimore, and even then, I feel like these teams inspire fatigue. Here’s my list of the top five fatigue-inspiring teams, the ones nobody wants to hear about anymore, regardless of how well they’re playing. The Tim Tebows of the baseball world, if you will:
Honorable Mention: Mets — They inspire a lot of comedy, saving them from the top 5
5. Rays — Terrible fans, terrible park, always on the verge but never there. Better when they were called “Devil Rays.”
4. Athletics — Everybody plays Moneyball now, but Oakland is still good. That’s tiresome, and the name “Billy Beane” is too cute for its own good.
3. Orioles — The sad part of this team improving is how clear it’s become that they’ll never win anything meaningful.
2. Yankees — Everyone hates the Yankees, but the fact that the roster is old and hurt adds a kick of malaise. The mononucleosis of baseball teams right now.
1. Red Sox — They are the erratic girlfriend who has cut your clothes into tiny pieces for no reason, or the boyfriend who gets jealous when you talk on the phone to a male customer service rep from Time Warner Cable. So much drama, so little payoff, and only vague memories of the good times.
We don’t even get Clay Buchholz in this series! That being said, it’s the best we’ve got. I guess I should just quit complaining and thank my lucky stars that I can watch the whole series because of Major League Baseball’s sensible plan for distribution of television rights.