Incredibly now in his 65th year of calling Dodgers games, Vin Scully has witnessed a lot of special moments. As pointed out by the folks over at mlb.com’s Cut4 blog, “He’s been in the booth for three perfect games (thrown by Don Larsen, Sandy Koufax, and Dennis Martinez), all six Dodgers World Series titles, at least one earthquake, Hank Aaron‘s 715th home run and basically every important moment the franchise has had over the last 65 years (ya know, except for Josh Beckett‘s Memorial Day Weekend no hitter).” He has provided commentary for Hideo Nomo‘s no-hitter, Bill Buckner‘s fatal error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, darn near everything. And while he hasn’t had any especially historic performances to announce so far this year, it feels like a career year for Scully.
Already this season, the 86-year-old Scully has anointed Yasiel Puig the King of Bat-Flips, provided move-by-move analysis of a young fan’s dance habits, and narrated what will eventually become the best childhood videos ever. Heck, he’s even worked through a magnitude 5.1 earthquake that struck an Angels vs Dodgers tilt.
Then, on Tuesday night, he had another couple of gems. First he noted the dialogue going on between Puig and Jose Abreu at first base…*
… before minutes later relaying the entrance of a toddler wearing a tutu, a bow in her hair, beads, and a Puig shirsey:
As Jonah Keri noted on Twitter, “This game has the feels, man.”
Vin Scully’s voice is literally the only thing (aside from the possibility of an obnoxious bat-flip) I like about the Dodgers. He makes their expensive mess (at least so far this season, S/O to belligerent Matt Kemp!) somewhat bearable. I know that some day in the future, unfortunate as it may be, he won’t be behind the microphone. I hope however, it’s a long way off yet, because Vin Scully, like a fine wine, is just getting better with age.
* I would pay big $$ for a transcript of that particular conversation.
Do I even need an excuse to ‘write’ a post about baseball’s best bat-flippers anymore? There are so many fantastic pimp-jobs every week that it’s becoming a regular feature. Throw in the absolutely devastating Jose Fernandez news though, a loss that will take everyone, not just his fantasy owners (like me), a long time to get over, and my lack of care to celebrate baseball seriously today is a little more understandable. Without further ado then, the fourth installment detailing the contenders for the 2014 Bat-Flip Championship Belt:
How better to start than with an emphatic cut and bat-flip combination on the very first pitch of your team’s turn on offense? Obviously, we’re talking about Carlos Gomez here, Milwaukee’s leadoff irritant, who last Monday (literally hours after I posted the last Bat-Flip Royale update), swung nearly out of his shoes at Mike Bolsinger‘s opening pitch. Despite nearly losing his balance, he still managed to pump the ball deep over the fence, putting the Brewers on the board before the broadcast’s score graphic had time to finish unfurling. The violent swing ensured the inevitable bat-flip wasn’t ever going to be one of Gomez’s most artful efforts, but the 28-year-old adjusted marvelously to turn his hack into a stupendously aggressive bat-slam, missing pulverizing Miguel Montero‘s left foot all the way to China with his backswing by mere millimeters. Way to set the tone Carlos.
Now if you missed the usual embellishment from Gomez, don’t worry, because Junior Lake has your flourish-fixation covered this week. Batting with the bases loaded in the top of the third inning against Scott Carroll on Thursday night, Lake drew a 3-2 RBI walk, and promptly unveiled this baby:
That looks like at least a 720° back-flip of the bat, a one-handed effort too no less. Style points are taken back for Lake’s artistry occurring in the third freakin’ inning, but given the situation – full count, two outs, and the Cubs trying to stave off a four-game sweep at the hands of their crosstown rivals – you can’t especially blame him.
Neil Walker on the other hand, has a far better sense of timing when it comes to egregious showboating.
Walker’s extended pose and subsequent wrist action came in a far more high-leverage circumstance: down 3-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning of a Pittsburgh home game against NL Central foes St. Louis, and with the flame-throwing Carlos Martinez on the mound, the 28-year-old second baseman crushed a curveball to deep right, driving in not simply himself but Jordy Mercer and Gaby Sanchez too, and giving the Pirates a 6-4 lead they wouldn’t squander. If Pittsburgh weren’t looking terrible so far, or this occurred later in the season, I swear Walker’s flip would have been bigger news. As it was, it was somewhat obscured by the ‘what’s wrong with the Cardinals?’ narrative – a real shame considering his fine performance. We recognize you Neil!
Still, his grandstanding still falls way short of last week’s best bat-flip effort (my apologies for the lack of GIF):
That’s Nyjer Morgan of the Cleveland Indians going on full-on Tony Plush, his fantastically outspoken alter-ego which was so well documented recently by Michael Baumann. And my goodness was it terrific. After ensuring his first homer in the big leagues since July 30, 2012 landed safely in the right field seats, first Morgan displayed the delayed bat flip, then proceeded to jog around the bases with his left arm curiously tucked to his side. When he finally reached the plate, he put his hands in the air and formed a T – referring to his alter ego Plush. In his words, it was “Just a little one. I kind of short-armed it,” but considering how his leadoff shot proved to be the winning run in the Indians’ 6-5 victory over the Rays, he probably should have been a little more emphatic. Good job he made sure to atone for his under-exuberance in his instant-classic postgame interview with WTAM of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
T-Plush earns the weekly Bat-Flip award then, and thus entry into the end of year Royale, but that’s not the end of this week’s BFR segment. Quite simply, it wouldn’t be a recap without mentioning the 2013 champion, Yasiel Puig.
Puig has already secured his seeding for the ultimate bat-tle (he’s a no. 1, obviously), but judging by his numerous flips, the wild Cuban horse seems intent on repeating by crushing his challengers with sheer quantity. First, there was his pulling off the Carlos Gomez staple move – a solid toss away on a routine fly-ball against the Washington Nationals. No big deal, Puig does that all the time, nor was it against a divisional opponent. No controversy there. Puig’s disposing of his offensive weaponry only got more, well, offensive as the week went on though, as the Dodgers took on San Francisco.
The already-heated NL West rivalry most notably took on another edge thanks to the young right fielder’s post-jack antics on Friday. Down 3-0, Puig first irritated Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner by declining to call time because of something in his eye, and taking a called strike instead. When he took Bumgarner deep two pitches later then, issued his now customary bat-flip, and then proceeded around the bases in an extremely leisurely fashion, the pitcher was less than impressed.
The whole incident was so #PuigbeingPuig it was comical, not that it seemed to affect the man at the center of it all in any way. Only two games later, he was inflicting the same embarrassment on Tim Hudson (though rather than remaining down, this time he tied the game at one apiece). Later on too, he’d get to Sergio Romo. Hudson, thankfully, had a far more relaxed approach to it than Bumgarner:
Tim Hudson has a different opinion of Yasiel Puig’s bat flip: “He hit the piss out of it, so I probably would’ve flipped it too.” — Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) May 12, 2014
Hudson knows. This is a guy with a 28.99-second homer trot on his résumé after all. Puig only took 29.04 seconds, discussion and all, to round the bases against Bumgarner. Bumgarner’s anger in fact, disqualifies any consideration he earned for his post-grand slam showboating earlier in the season.
There’s no room for hypocrites in the Bat-Flip Royale.
It’s only May 5th, but believe it or not, this post marks the third installment already in which I’m having to detail the contenders vying for a coveted spot in the end-of-year Bat-Flip Royale – there’s just been that many early season efforts worthy of attention. Don’t get me wrong, the sheer quantity is certainly appreciated, but for all you MLB players out there, don’t forget a single instance of quality can get you a shot at the belt. You don’t have to do all your outrageous pimping before Memorial Day. That said, you can do some – I’m looking at you in particular Bartolo Colon…
I understand that you’re new to this whole ‘pitchers have to bat too in the National League’ lark, but Bartolo: generally you drop the bat even if you’re just running out a routine grounder. You don’t need any extra weight to be carrying down the first base line, nor will you running off with the lumber mean you won’t have to bat again. Teams have plenty of bats to share.
I’d like to use this opportunity to throw some further shade too, and call out the otherwise-sensational Jose Abreu. As I detailed last week, the Cuban rookie has got off to a tremendous start at the dish, setting records left, right, and center by virtue off his blasting home runs, well, to left, right, and center field. But despite having 11 jacks and considerable reason for some swagger, this is the best flip we’ve seen from Chicago’s new first baseman:
Step it up already Jose – some guys are putting in work when they don’t even hit it out after all.
It seems every time Tampa Bay and the Yankees meet, old bat-flip hand Alfonso Soriano gets jealous of the glorious, youthful peacocking of Wil Myers. In the last Bat-Flip Royale update, he responded nicely to Myers’ first two outrageously languid tosses of the bat of the year, cranking out one of his own like he was back in his noughties heyday. But flipping so brazenly, when all you’ve done really is fly out to Desmond Jennings in center, missing even scraping the wall by a full five feet – what was that Sori?!
Lost respect is what – the same of which can’t be said for Myers. Like Soriano, the Rays sophomore didn’t hit C.C. Sabathia‘s offering (far from a terrible pitch by the way) out into the Yankee Stadium cheap seats (because such things don’t exist -ha!), but boy did he make up for it with his peripheral showboating stats; After the customarily bored-looking flip – Myers has just about mastered the ‘been there, done that’ disdain already – he proceed to cruise down to first, thinking it was gone.
Not so much. The ball hit off both the wall and Jacoby Ellsbury in center, Carlos Beltran simply stood watching in right field, and Myers turned on the jets to bag himself an inside the park home run. Unlike with most inside the parkers, Myers made it round so easily in fact, that he pretty much strolled into home, thus finishing his afternoon jaunt in the same graceful ease with which he started his trot.
It’s a pleasure to see Myers’ laid-back style leading the next generation of bat-flippers, but he does sometimes lack a certain aggressive obnoxiousness. For that reason then, Starling Marte‘s walk-off shot and subsequent showboating vaults the fellow second year player ahead of Myers in this installment of BFR consideration. Sure, his jack was a legitimate game winner, capping off a Sergio Santos-centric Blue Jays bullpen implosion (the Jays were up two heading into the bottom of the ninth before a Pedro Alvarez homer tied it, and Marte finished the job), but the throwdown work was the real show stopper – a solid 65 on the scouting 20-80 scale according to Jonah Keri. Thrown in some solid preening at the plate too though, and I’m forced to bump it to a 70 grade (75 future).
Unfortunately for Marte’s celebration party however, the 2013 champion answered back with a grand riposte only the day after – a three-run, 452-foot monster of a shot off Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner that was a no-doubter from the moment it left the bat. And then there was the flip.
I have little idea what must be running through Yasiel Puig‘s brain when he steps up to bat. Maybe he ponders what I imagine the rich and famous do often – what sort of fast car he will buy (and not recklessly speed) next. Sometimes perhaps his thoughts wander back to being smuggled into America by a Mexican drug cartel, and the subsequent death threats. Who knows, occasionally he might even think back to a scouting report that was passed to him before the game. But when he makes juicy contact with a hanging breaking ball, straightens up, and unleashes that amazing flip, I can only assume Yasiel Puig has one song playing in his head.
As once (fictionally) remarked by Ron Burgundy, “well that escalated quickly.” Only last Tuesday did I first detail the early contenders for the 2014 Bat-Flip Belt, a post that was not only well-received (thanks!), but seems to have provoked a veritable outbreak of hot-dogging*; since Jayson Werth was awarded the early possession for his “Bat-Flip of Maximum Conquest Maximus”, several perennial heavyweights have flexed their own muscle and thrown their flip into the ring. Let’s have a look at some of their awesome efforts.
Almost as if in response to my tease last week that he had yet to build on the promise of his tremendous rookie bat-flip campaign (though more likely in order to justify Jonah Keri’s ranking of him the fifth-best flipper he’d ever seen), Wil Myers announced his candidacy for the 2014 belt with a supreme exhibition against the Yankees.
A steady stare, but not his finest bat work. We’ll let young Wil off the hook though, considering how it was his first jack of his sophomore season. That initial piece of preening was in fact, more just a shaking off of the rust in preparation for his later effort.
That is the bat-flip of pitchers’ nightmares; less prolonged staring at the plate this time, more of a callous whip on swinging flip, and a solid continued admiration going down the first base line. Sure, he loses points for the fact that his two jacks came against Ivan Nova – who is now out with a partially torn UCL, and likely headed for Tommy John surgery – but boy, that peacocking… regardless of the level of difficulty involved, the prolonged gaze of ‘yeah, I just did THAT. Hide your kids’ after every crush, will pretty much ensure Myers a strong seeding in the end of year bout.
Of course, Alfonso Soriano wasn’t going to allow Myers the series bat-flip spotlight all to himself; what we have below is a veteran drop-and-observe move. Myers would probably be at second by the time Soriano makes it out of the opposing batter’s box.
That Sori took it to David Price too – in my estimation at least, a pitcher you probably don’t want to piss off – earns him extra consideration, as does his delightfully artistic gum chew, but I’m going to need to see some more blatant obnoxiousness to be convinced he belongs in the ring with the real heavyweights. Speaking of which…
Now, you’re probably thinking ‘That doesn’t look like much.’ You’re quite correct, that doesn’t. This, on the other hand, shows the exclamatory flip Yasiel Puig applies to his tater off of the woeful Josh Collmenter in all its glory. As put by Marc Normandin on SB Nation, “I’m upset at every camera operator at the park for not properly capturing Puig’s emphatic bat flip on this shot. Puig deserves better than that. We all deserve better than that.”
Puig had himself a pretty strong week in posing actually, throwing in a sustained hold of his swing on a pop out to right field – all whilst refusing to run down the line and marching back to the dugout – in the 12th inning of the Dodgers’ game against San Francisco on Jackie Robinson Day. Puig’s strutting was rather overshadowed however, by one of his chief rivals for the belt – fellow agitator, Carlos Gomez.
I last week alluded to Gomez’s hilarious celebration of successful sacrifice flies- well, now I’ve managed to find some GIF evidence of it. I’m sure you’ll agree, such showboating is so bad it’s good.
This weekend however, Gomez perhaps took his swaggering too far. Facing Pittsburgh’s Gerritt Cole, the Milwaukee center fielder crushed a pitch out – but only in his mind. There was a gloriously contemptuous flip – a left-handed snap with all pizazz added by the wrist action – and 5 or 6 seconds of trotting in which Gomez lorded it over his vanquished foe, before realization set in.
‘It’s not going over the fence. S***. RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN!’
What followed when Gomez (eventually) made it to third base has been written to death already – not that it has become any less watchable. Most notably, Cole wisely stomped off back to the mound to enjoy watching the fracas, Travis Snider waded in, a Milwaukee coach got in a very solid sucker punch, and Gomez was ejected. Discipline has not yet been handed down, but hear this; the longer the suspension, the better for the other CarGo’s final seeding in the B.F.R. He might not have smoked the home run, but Carlos Gomez has declared himself ready to drop the bat and throw down.
* There’s even been grandstanding at the college level, junior shortstop Mitch Skaggs lifting his College of Idaho Coyotes over the Menlo College Oaks by the score of 10-6 with an 11th inning walk-off grand slam – and one incredible bat flip.
Believe it or not, but we’re still only two weeks into the 2014 MLB season. Maybe it’s been the mounting injuries, or relatively expected results so far, but it feels like it’s been a lot longer. Anyhow, what with players still working out the small sample size kinks, and my unfortunate obligation to write an essay on Robinson Crusoe by tomorrows ENG 321 class, today there won’t be any serious analysis going on. Rather, I figured I’d have some GIF-related fun, and document some of the first-class bat-flipping we’ve already witnessed this season. Last year saw a strong rookie effort from now-notorious preener Wil Myers, and a breakout showing by Carlos Gomez (who has been at it again on shallow sacrifice flys so far in 2014). Both however, were edged last year by Yasiel Puig, who’s monumental performance in the NLCS secured him the 2013 bat-flipping belt. Where better to start then, with the reigning champion, a man who in the very first game of the Opening Series in Australia, turned a HBP into a bat-flip exhibition. Tremendous stuff indeed (not from you though Trevor Cahill).
Now, if this were merely a celebration of bat-drops, I’d need look no further than Atlanta. The quick, punchy swing that barrels the ball over the fence; The lumber being brought back across the body just as rapidly, and at almost the exact same angle – like a rocket-fueled, 33-ounce pendulum; The exquisite drop into the opposite batter’s box after maintaining the two-handed grip throughout. There is no better bat-dropper in the ML than Justin Upton, which make his home run binges all the more enjoyable (and, for the causal observer at least, maybe not for Atlanta fans though, more than make up for the subsequent dry spells).
Unfortunately for Upton the Younger however, this is a bat-flip contest. You can’t bring a knife to a gun fight and expect to win, especially when there’s pitchers out there putting forth spectacular efforts like this:
It turns out that as well as a plus cutter and curveball, Madison Bumgarner also possesses an 80 grade bat flip. That fourth-inning shot (a grand slam by the way) off poor Jorge De La Rosa on Friday night, and MadBum’s fantastic pimping of it, had lingering influence apparently…
… for only two days later, it was teammate Brandon Crawford admiring a walk-off jack that ended up in McCovey Cove. Crawford earns extra hot-dogging points too for writing about his effort later – attributing everything he learnt about the bat-flipping art to Bumgarner in addition to admitting “I’ve watched the replay twice already, I’m not going to lie. I’ll go home and probably watch it again. I might keep it on a loop. Maybe make a GIF for my phone.” Do it Brandon, it’s not every day you take a lefty-killer like Rex Brothers deep for the win after all.
Such personal promotion can’t lift Crawford’s effort above Anthony Recker‘s walk-off bat-flip however. In fact, even with the writing, it might pale in comparison. By my count, the most handsome man in baseball (according to Baseball Prospectus anyway) is a full four strides down the first base line before languidly tossing the bat aside after his 13th inning solo shot off Matt Shoemaker. That he picked up a horrendously ugly Jose Valverde effort – probably ensuring Papa Grande’s role as closer for another week at least – doesn’t diminish such an otherwise aesthetically-pleasing performance by Recker.
The Mets’ backup catcher has a looong way to go before he can rival what Dayn Perry of CBSSports called the “Bat-Flip of Maximum Conquest Maximus” though. The utter disdain emanating from Jayson Werth – undoubtedly on account of the Marlins intentionally walking Anthony Rendon to get to him – is transferred fully into a bat-flip that might still be going off-camera. Sure it wasn’t a walk-off, but a no-doubt grand slam complete with an ESPY-worthy flip and stare-down combination? That’s a winning formula.
For now at least anyway.
What an odd Saturday that was. Without Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, or Zack Greinke, the Los Angeles Dodgers secured a season opening sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks (who were themselves without Patrick Corbin after learning the day they departed for Australia their ace would need Tommy John surgery), winning 3-1 in a game that started at 4am Eastern, and 7-5 in the 7pm affair. Some things were to be expected; Clayton Kershaw demonstrating his usual dominance, Paul Goldschmidt going 4-9 at the plate, Mark Trumbo being predictably terrible in left field, the beautiful Sydney Cricket Ground outdrawing Tampa Bay’s two most-attended home games last year, Yasiel Puig doing Puig-like things… Others, not so much; Kirk Gibson’s decision to play Didi Gregorius over Chris Owings against the left-handed Hyun-jin Ryu, Jayson Stark referencing the Dodgers’ PECOTA projection on the MLB Network’s broadcast (!), some of the just awful fielding on show (that means you Miguel Montero), Yasiel Puig doing Puig -like things… And then, in the second game, Dee Gordon’s performance.
At just 25-years-old, it already seems easy to place Gordon. After being called up to L.A. in June 2011, the son of Tom played 56 games that summer for the Dodgers, hitting .304 (and stealing 24 bases) as a classic beneficiary of a small sample size. Aged just 23, Dee began 2012 as not only the Dodgers’ everyday shortstop, but also leading off for Don Mattingly’s squad; this time around however, his numbers regressed. His average had precipitously dropped to .229 (his OBP to an atrocious .280) before he injured his right thumb stealing third on July 4, and when he returned on Sept. 11, the newly-acquired Hanley Ramirez was manning short, and Gordon was without a job. He would receive only 94 at-bats with the ML team in 2013, serving primarily as a pinch-runner in his time up, and would spend the majority of the year in Triple-A Albuquerque.
In other words, he’s a 5’11, 155lb, extremely light-hitting shortstop who, although a threat on the basepaths, ranked by Fangraphs’ WAR measure as the 15th worst player in baseball (on both sides of the ball) over the last three years: of the 343 hitters to collect at least 600 plate appearances over that time, his .274 wOBA is better than only 12 other hitters, while he also racked up 35 fielding errors in the 160 games he appeared in. He lost his job to Nick Punto of all people last year – and a 35-year-old Nick Punto at that. Quite simply, Gordon is bad. Yet on a team with a $233,658,334 payroll, he’s now starting. Not at shortstop though – but at second base.
In forking out $28M in guaranteed money (including a $10M signing bonus) to bring in the then-26-year-old Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero on a four year contract, the Dodgers bought themselves quite the 2B quandary; giving the unproven Cuban the reins, they declined Mark Ellis’ $5.75m team option on October 31, let Skip Schumaker leave for Cincinnati, allowed the aforementioned Punto depart to Oakland, and saw Michael Young and Jerry Hairston opt for retirement – leaving Gordon and his 3.2 innings of time as the only remaining player with 2013 experience at the L.A. keystone. So when Guerrero bombed in his adjustment to second base this spring (like Gordon, he’s a natural shortstop), making an acclimation period in the Minors necessary, the spot was unexpectedly opened up for someone to claim. Not wanting to completely block Guerrero by trading for Brandon Phillips or alike, the Dodgers just needed anyone to step up for a while, and not be truly horrific; so far, by virtue of his being the lesser of evils after hitting .286 this spring with four triples and nine steals without getting caught, it seems Gordon has secured himself the dubious distinction of beating out Justin Turner and Chone Figgins for a majority timeshare of the position.
Which brings us to Saturday’s second game, in which Gordon was… strangely electric? Batting leadoff ahead of Yasiel Puig (a typical Mattingly lineup that reared it’s ugly head when Gordon had second easily stolen on a 1-0 pitch, only for Puig to unnecessarily foul off the ensuing delivery), the speedster got aboard 4 times (3 hits, 1 HBP – courtesy of Addison Reed), and was driven in on two occasions. He would have tripled but for Ryu slowing his progress ahead of him, provided a sacrifice fly when required, and generally looked like a prototypical leadoff man. Could it be then, that at 25, Gordon has cracked it?
Yes, he’s using his blazing speed more to his advantage while at the plate, and showed significant improvement in regards to his approach last year at Triple-A (he had a .385 OBP at Albuquerque). Recognition must also go to how he eliminated basketball from his offseason workouts in an effort to gain weight and put on muscle; Gordon’s apparently up to 170lbs now. But he’s still barely a replacement level player, and the sooner the Dodgers can get Guerrero ready, or find a suitable replacement, the better. The offensive performance was an aberration on Saturday, but the fielding wasn’t; Gordon butchered an easy snag of a line drive, and crossed in front of Hanley Ramirez on a double play opportunity that resulted in every runner being safe. Furthermore, he couldn’t even be trusted to play against Wade Miley – hardly Cliff Lee in terms of lefty-death – in the series opener because of his severe platoon splits (Gordon’s a .271 career hitter against righties, but a miserable .221 vs. lefties).
As much as I don’t want to say so, because it was as fun as watching Puig try and bottle up an ill-advised throw he desperately wants to uncork in the direction of third base, we might well have just witnessed Dee Gordon’s best performance of the season. The Dodgers, considering their World Series aspirations, would be wise in recognizing a return to normalcy is imminent.
Happy baseball everybody! By the time this has posted, the 2014 MLB season will be one game old, and the Dodgers and Diamondbacks might already have sparked an international incident by taking their ongoing feud to foreign soil; one Yasiel Puig bat flip and the Australian public could have a brawl on their hands. Anyway… With everyone already gambling on March Madness (my two brackets are already busted – S/O to Duke!), what better time to lay some additional baseball-related bets? As a responsible 22-year-old, I’ve picked out a few of my favorite props for the upcoming season – some of which are informed value plays, others simply hunches. Feel free to consider/ignore them at your leisure.
I love, love, LOVE me some Rays action this year. Perennially underrated by the bookmakers in regard to their over/under regular season wins total, Vegas finally seems to have caught on to the fact these guys are routinely good; the over has been a solid bet for the past couple of seasons, but their newly jacked line and stiff AL East competition have me staying away from laying anything on it this year. Instead, I’ll be taking them to win the whole darn thing. With David Price still leading a loaded pitching staff, Wil Myers’ mighty presence in the offense all year, and Joe Maddon’s usual defense/matchup innovation, at +1500 on sportsbook.com, Tampa Bay represent a terrific value to go all the way – especially given how fellow contenders Detroit, Texas, and Oakland have all suffered rough Spring Trainings. I’d also very happily take them over the defending champion Red Sox, who at +1200, somehow have longer odds than the Yankees (+1000).
If I was strictly taking a winner from the NL, I’d pick the St. Louis Cardinals, whose price of +900 trails only the Dodgers (+600) in lowest possible gains. This considered, I’d much rather have the Washington Nationals at +1200, a team much like the Rays in that they boast great pitching (both in terms of talent and depth), complemented by an above-average offense. Their division looks to be a cakewalk, so wagering a few dollars on the Nats to win the NL East wouldn’t be a bad move, just one with little potential. Similar to the AL teams, there are a few curious odds for Senior Circuit teams; the Giants for instance (at +3000), are twice as likely to win than the Diamondbacks (+6000), and also have lower odds than the Reds (+4000). I know it’s an even numbered year again, but c’mon man, the Giants?!
On to individual player props then, and a few which especially stood out. Though I despise the win statistic’s weight when it come to judging pitchers, betting the over on Sonny Gray’s 12.5 line is one of the few props that will net you more than your original stake (+105). My logic on this one, aside from the value offered, is that Gray’s a potential stud on a good team, and with the recent injuries of staff ace Jarrod Parker and rotation mate A.J. Griffin, will be leaned upon more than ever – eradicating any innings limit fears that might have limited his opportunity to hit the over.
I’m less bullish on Matt Cain. He has the same 12.5 line as Gray, and at even money, playing his under could be a strong move. As I may have given away above, I’m really not sold on this Giants team’s capacity to finish above .500, especially in a division featuring the Dodgers, much improved Padres, and forever #gritty Diamondbacks. Though he rebounded nicely after a couple of disastrous innings during the first half of the season, I’m sufficiently worried about Cain to lay money on a poor 2014 win-loss record.
Equally, I’m not in love with Chris Davis’ (no, not the Khris Davis I focused on yesterday) chances of crushing 50+ HRs once more. Understandably though, he’s favored to repeat as the long ball champ; even factoring in some regression, his awesome power should get him to at least 35. If you’re looking for a dark-horse candidate, Prince Fielder at +1800 offers a nice play. After enduring a rough year off the field during 2013, I’m hoping he’ll respond in a big way in 2014. Additionally, his winter move to the Rangers and the very homer-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington can only be considered another cause for optimism concerning Fielder’s revival.
When it came to odds for awards, I turned to the Bovada sportsbook. I’ve documented my love for Mike Trout, believing his candidacy for AL MVP this year to be little more than a slam dunk; at 5/1 he has the least profitable odds – even over two-time defending winner Miguel Cabrera – but hey, when can you turn down free money? On the NL side of things, although I advocated for Bryce Harper as part of my ongoing award predictions, I also cited Yadier Molina as a strong figure of opposition. At 12/1, Harper isn’t a bad play, but the 16/1 odds you’ll receive on Yadi make him a more appealing prospect. As the heart and soul of perhaps the best team in the NL, should he manage to stay healthy all season long, Molina will have himself a strong case to take home the hardware.
Choosing between potential Cy Young award winners was slightly more difficult. In the NL, I plumped for Stephen Strasburg’s 8/1 number over the heavily favored Clayton Kershaw, but there weren’t really any good value plays – a problem which carried over into the AL. Given my Rays affection, it’s probably not surprising I like David Price to win the Junior Circuit trophy, but the guy is legitimately incredible; after returning from the DL last season, the lefty pitched 131.2 innings, in which he racked up 102 strikeouts while allowing only 13 walks, good for a 2.53 ERA, and a .233/.253/.337 opponents’ line. Price is only 9/1 though, just behind Yu Darvish, so isn’t an especially sexy choice. His teammate Alex Cobb on the other hand, at 33/1 is an attractive outside shot, much more so than fellow rotation member Matt Moore, who is 12/1.
There are so many bets out there that you can always find value in some place. Just remember to observe the only two rules of baseball gambling: 1) Clear your internet history so you don’t look like a complete degenerate. 2) Never, ever, pick Fernando Rodney to win AL Cy Young (66/1). With that in mind, Happy baseball (betting) everybody!