Yes, you’re reading that headline correctly. We are, roughly, a quarter of the way through the 2020 baseball season, such as it is. The Cardinals have not played a quarter of a 60 game season, of course, but the rest of baseball has. Most clubs have played somewhere between thirteen and sixteen games, putting us right around the quarter pole. Most years this would put us somewhere in about mid-May, 40 or so games in. Not quite to the Memorial Day trimester mark where I always like to start drawing conclusions, but getting there quickly.
Obviously things are wacky this year, but here’s a handful of things that have jumped out to me about the 2020 season so far. Let’s keep this shortish if at all possible.
- The Oakland A’s look kind of fantastic this year. And I’m not just saying that because of a winning streak; even aside from being a hot team right now, they’re also just a really good team. Their pitching staff in particular is outstanding, which I admit I wasn’t really expecting coming into the season. Jesus Luzardo is a tremendously talented pitcher, that much I think everyone knew. But I really didn’t expect him to look as mature as he does right out of the gate. Even more impressive has been Frankie Montas, who I admit I was pretty lukewarm on when he was a prospect, but seems to have taken a serious step forward the past couple years. Now, can he stay healthy? I have no idea. He never has before, so that’s obviously a concern. But he looked like a legitimate ace for half a season in 2019, and so far this year he’s looked even better. Speaking of teams with really good pitching staffs....
- Remember a couple years ago, when the Cleveland Indians had the best starting rotation in baseball, and by some measures one of the very best ever? That group of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger was pretty much unbeatable, and carried a club with serious bullpen issues all the way through. Well, here we are again. The Indians (I’m voting for Spiders if/when they change the club’s name, by the way), have the most impressive starting rotation in baseball, and they’ve built that rotation while trading away the two most notable names of that previous group I just mentioned. No Kluber, no Bauer, no problem. This year’s unit, led by Cy Young frontrunner Shane Bieber, looks every bit as intimidating as their last dominant rotation, with Zach Plesac, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, and Clevinger filling out a group capable of carrying a club that, admittedly, has some definite issues in other areas. Clevinger hasn’t really pitched well yet, and still the Indians can boast a rotation with four pitchers below the 3.00 ERA mark. The Cardinals and Dodger organisations both get a lot of credit for pitching development par excellence, but at the moment there is really no one in the game who has cracked the code quite like Cleveland. My only concern is that most of this current crop of guys feature short-arm deliveries, and I worry about injuries derailing what looks like an historic group of arms. (There’s also a brewing...thing going on with two of those starters I mentioned, so we’ll have to see how things go there.)
- I told you all the Cardinals were screwing up big time not going over the top in the bidding for Luis Robert. And I was right.
- Seriously, how do the Angels keep finding ways to not win with that roster? They have Mickey Mantle in his prime, were gifted a two-way star for essentially free (admittedly, the Ohtani Experience isn’t going great this year), put out the money for a top three third baseman over the offseason, and appear to have possibly lucked in to Dylan Bundy finally living up to expectations. Oh, and Joe Maddon was going to have birthday clowns make everyone balloon animals to throw the team into overdrive. Hookers and blackjack, too. And they are currently playing .389 baseball.
- The Mets are self-destructing, again. I find that way funnier than I really should. Marcus Stroman just opted out, Michael Wacha’s shoulder is in flames again (or maybe just inflamed? I wasn’t listening to the news that close), and Rick Porcello looks like a horrible investment. I don’t know why seeing the Mets crash and burn brings me so much joy, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. (Oh, and I’m calling it now: Jacob DeGrom is going to get hurt soon.)
- I don’t think the Rockies are all that good, just like I don’t think that Charlie Blackmon is going to hit .400. However, if Kyle Freeland is back to being this guy again, there is at least a chance. At being good, I mean, not the .400 thing.
- I honestly didn’t realise just how much the Nationals’ offense relied on Anthony Rendon to give it legitimacy last year. Juan Soto is a certifiable monster talent, but the rest of that offense is just not very good. They can still pitch, but I really do wonder if they will be able to cobble together enough hitting to compete.
- Also, holy shit. Did you know Sam Freeman is on the Nationals? I didn’t. I always liked Sam, always hoped it would happen for him, but it never really did. I thought Carmen Cali was going to be good, too; I might just have a thing for smallish lefties. Not the same way I do for cartoon brunettes (big fan of both Velma Dinkley and Daria Morgendorffer), but, you know. I should really pay attention to the things I put in these columns. Yikes.
- Speaking of, do you know that it took me like three years of listening to Lithium before it dawned on me the woman doing the interstitials is supposed to sound like Daria? I feel like I should have realised that sooner.
- I don’t care what it costs, the Cardinals need to figure out who is teaching Dodger hitters to stop striking out, and then hire that guy. Or kidnap that guy. I don’t give a shit. Just get him. Or her. Whatever. Will Smith is currently walking twice as often as he strikes out, and he’s cut his strikeout rate in half this season compared to last. This is after Cody Bellinger went from a 26.6% K rate in 2017 to a 16.4% rate last season en route to the NL MVP award. Seriously, there are a couple organisations right now who are miles ahead of everyone else in their player development departments, and if you’re a team as dedicated to building a sustainable pipeline of young talent as the Cardinals are, you have to find a way to get into that club. Period.
- Does it irritate me that Lance Lynn is apparently just one of the best pitchers in baseball now for some reason? Yeah, a little.