June 23, 2024

MLB players dish about the league, each other; the Tigers pitcher making a Cy Young case


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It’s player poll time, and the opinions are hot. Also: The Yankees gear up for the trade deadline, the London Series was a good time and Tarik Skubal is making a case for the AL Cy Young award. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal, welcome to The Windup!


What players REALLY think

It’s that time again: Our MLB anonymous player poll is here. More than 100 players participated, answering questions about their peers (“Who’s the most over/underrated” is always a fun one). In addition, they spoke on the reputations of various organizations and answered a few questions that have lingered over the league recently.

A few of the questions ended up being interesting enough to turn into separate articles. For instance, if you had to guess which team players would most like to play for if money and roster were no issue, would you have guessed that it’s Atlanta?

Another question was raised earlier this year when Anthony Rendon suggested that the baseball season was too long. We asked players if they agreed or disagreed, and while there were compelling reasons on either side, more than two-thirds of players disagreed (though everyone seems to agree that spring training is, in fact, way too long).

And then there was my favorite question: What’s your least favorite criticism that today’s players get from former players? Sure, bat flips and celebrations were mentioned, but one player had this to say:

“Do you watch the (old) games on TV? The skill level of the game is (so much better now). The infielders are great. They have arm strength. Those pitchers (back in the day) stink. One of our Triple-A guys would have been like the best closer in baseball 15 years ago.”

I have watched those games, and our mystery player is not wrong.


Ken’s Notebook: How the Yankees should approach the deadline

An excerpt from the story I wrote today about the Yankees with The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner:

Nothing about to be said, nothing that happened while losing two of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, should detract from the broader view of the New York Yankees’ season.

Without Gerrit Cole throwing a single pitch, the Yankees are 25 games above .500, owners of the best record in the American League. If Cole and Juan Soto return healthy, their first World Series title since 2009 finally would appear to be within reach.

But just as the Dodgers have found that spending $1.4 billion in the offseason couldn’t buy a complete roster, the Yankees are discovering that their $300 million payroll goes only so far.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo’s struggles are an issue. Second baseman Gleyber Torres is less than reliable defensively. Third baseman DJ LeMahieu needs to round into form after missing two months with a non-displaced fracture in his right foot. And the bullpen, while performing well, could use more swing-and-miss.

The current Yankees team is more balanced than the one that won 103 games in 2019, leading the American League in runs during the regular season but finishing 14th in ERA. That team had its offense exposed by the Astros in the ALCS, scoring only 14 runs in the final five games of a six-game defeat.

These Yankees make better contact, presenting a greater challenge for opposing pitchers, thanks to the additions of Soto and Alex Verdugo. They entered Sunday seventh in the majors in runs per game, but first — again, even without Cole — in ERA.

A rare opportunity is at hand. The trade deadline is seven weeks away. Difficult decisions await general manager Brian Cashman, the kinds of decisions that can take the Yankees from a mere World Series contender to a legitimate favorite. For a team in this position, even marginal improvements can make a massive difference.

The areas requiring the heaviest scrutiny, detailed in our story, are:

  • First base: The reeling Anthony Rizzo
  • Second base: The curious case of Gleyber Torres
  • Bullpen: Seeking swing-and-miss
  • Juan Soto: Obviously not a problem, but a necessary piece for 2024 and beyond.

More Yankees:


Phillies, Mets bring the action to London

Having lived in Oldbury, England, for a couple of years, I feel an uncontrollable desire for the London Series to showcase great, entertaining baseball. Maybe it’s the same feeling as when two of your friends who don’t know each other very well hang out and you really hope they get along.

This year’s series passed the test. The first game wasn’t all that close, but the fans did get to see Ranger Suárez — who has (almost inarguably) been the best pitcher in baseball this year — pick up his league-leading 10th win. Bryce Harper gave the crowd a little show after his home run, doing the slide-on-both-knees soccer celebration on his way back to the dugout (though I’m undecided where it falls on the cool/cringe spectrum).

Sunday’s finale definitely provided a bit more intrigue, however. The Phillies took a 3-0 lead before the Mets battled back with three runs in the sixth. David Dahl continued his resurrection tour with a solo shot to put the Phillies back up by a run before the Philadelphia bullpen melted down to allow three runs in the top of the ninth to make it 6-4 New York.

The British fans got their pound’s worth of intrigue in the bottom of the inning — after a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-5, this bat-shattering double play ended the game.

More London Series:

• How West Ham’s stadium was converted for baseball use in 18 days.

• While all this was going on, the U.S. was celebrating a shocking win over Pakistan in a T-20 cricket World Cup match. Grant Brisbee enlisted the help of Richard Sutcliffe, who covers Wrexham and Sheffield United for The Athletic, to try to understand the rules of the game.


Tarik Skubal, Cy Young candidate?

“I’ve been trying to hit 100 for a while, and I can’t do it.” That’s what Tarik Skubal told Rob Friedman (the “Pitching Ninja”) about a month ago.

The Tigers beat the Brewers 10-2 yesterday. Skubal struck out 10, allowing just one earned run on five hits and two walks, which lowered his ERA to 1.92 for the year.

Oh, and he hit 101.7 mph.

Not only was it a personal record, but it was tied for the fastest pitch thrown by a member of the Tigers in the Statcast era, and it was the second-fastest pitch thrown by any starting pitcher this year (Paul Skenes, 101.9).

But Skubal’s success extends well beyond his newfound triple-digit heat. He currently ranks in the top three in the American League in ERA (1.92, second), WHIP (0.89, 1st), wins (8, T-second), strikeouts (96, third) and opponents’ batting average (.192, third).

Sifting through the stats, I think there are really only four candidates thus far. Let’s compare them side-by-side, through 13 starts each:

AL CY Favorites

Pitcher Avg. WAR* Record IP ERA WHIP Ks BBs

2.4

8-1

79.2

1.92

0.89

96

15

2.9

6-5

85

1.91

0.92

84

15

1.7

9-1

84.1

2.13

1.02

71

19

1.8

8-1

75

2.04

0.93

90

35

*Avg. WAR is taken by averaging WAR from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs

There’s a lot of season left, but it’s an interesting discussion. Do you value pitcher wins? If so, Skubal edges Houck, but Lugo and Gil have an argument. Do you value ERA or WAR more? Skubal has the edge over the latter two, but not Houck. Do you try to balance all of the above? Skubal might be your guy. Cody Stavenhagen has the full breakdown here.

Also, if you have a few minutes, you should watch the condensed game. In addition to Skubal’s performance, Matt Vierling and Riley Greene provided some highlight-reel outfield defense.

More Tigers: With Father’s Day right around the corner, here’s a cool story on why Tigers rookie Justyn-Henry Malloy switched uniform numbers from 36 to 44.


Handshakes and High Fives

It sounds like a very Las Vegas thing to marry someone without considering their ex’s side of the breakup. Anyway, here’s an A’s story.

Jayson Stark seems refreshed from his vacation: Here’s a bonus Weird & Wild on the teams and players you should be paying attention to.

In a matchup of two mega-teams, the Dodgers won the weekend series over the Yankees. And they did so while their fans did something Yankees fans have done for years.

Keith Law files a scouting report on a few Yankees and Rockies prospects.

You can buy tickets to every MLB game here.


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(Top photo of Orlando Arcia and Ozzie Albies: Geoff Burke / USA Today)





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