Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.
This week, another is player busted for PEDs, the Yankees mash, but have difficulty at the back of their rotation, and the Diamondbacks continue their slide. All this news and more in this week’s Musings.
News and Notes
80 - Game suspension for White Sox catcher Wellington Castillo, who tested positive for Erythropoietin, an MLB-banned endurance drug. While it’s refreshing to see Castillo admit this as his mistake, and his mistake alone (what a low, low, bar we have set), it’s just another kick in the teeth for an already dismal last place White Sox team.
1 - Pitch it took for Juan Soto to blast his first major league home run in his first start. Soto debuted as a PH for the Nationals on Sunday, but earned his first start Monday against the Padres. He blasted the first pitch he saw from Robbie Erlin for a 422-foot, three-run dinger. The 19-year-old is hoping to step into what has been a pathetic outfield duo complementing Bryce Harper. So far, beyond Harper, the Nats have thrown out Adam Eaton (60-day DL), Michael Taylor (65 wRC+), Matt Adams (yikes), and a pile of players with negative fWARs.
3 - Consecutive games of eight or more extra base hits for the Yankees, who crushed it against the Royals last Saturday and Sunday, and dismantled the Rangers pitching Monday. It’s the first time in Yankees history a team has posted eight extra base hits in three games, and only the fourth time it’s happened in MLB history. Unfortunately for New York, they lost the next two games in Texas, despite dropping ten runs on Wednesday night and holding multiple leads. CC Sabathia looked terrible in his 4 ⅓ innings, as did the rest of the bullpen.
3 - Wins for the DBacks since their three game winning streak May 5-8. The Diamondbacks have been absolutely terrible since peaking at a 24-11 record. They have lost series to the Nats (sweep), Brewers, Mets (sweep), Brewers again (sweep) and Athletics. Despite the tailspin, the DBacks are remarkably only 1 1/2 games back of the division-leading Rockies.
30 - Rank for the first-place Colorado Rockies by wRC+. At some point, this becomes less of a slump and more of an admittal that this team is just not working offensively. With a team wRC+ of 76, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are the only players producing regularly.
2 - Teams currently in first place who were projected to finish in first at the start of the season. With ⅓ of the year behind us, we can take a look at the standings and make some broad-based evaluations. The biggest surprise so far has been the faltering Dodgers, who remain three games below .500 and 3 1⁄2 games out of first place. The Brewers have been a pleasant surprise and sit in first place, while the AL Central has been a dumpster fire so far this season. Despite all their injuries and suspensions, the Mariners remain within a game of the Astros. With so much time to go, plenty can happen between now and October, and with no division runaway (the biggest lead is the Brewers 4 1⁄2 game lead over the Cubs) it will be a fun summer.
Matchups to Watch
Wednesday, May 30
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) v. Luis Severino (NYY), 7:05 ET
Yesterday Justin Verlander tipped his cap in appreciation for the Bronx Cheers he heard after pitching a gem. JV has started more games (12) than he’s given up runs (10). Houston has the pitching advantage in today’s game (Charlie Morton v. C.C. Sabathia), but the most interesting matchup is tomorrow, when New York’s ace takes on notable Yankee-killer Dallas Keuchel.
Noah Syndergaard (NYM) v. Julio Teheran(ATL), 7:35 ET
If the Mets want to continue to keep pace in the NL East, they’re going to have to start winning series against their divisional opponents. Since their torrid 12-2 start, New York has lost series to the Nationals, Braves (twice, including one sweep), and Marlins. A strong showing with their ace on the mound will go a long way.
Thursday, May 31
Aaron Nola (PHI) v. Clayton Kershaw (LAD), 7:35 ET
Kershaw is making his first start since May 1st, on a team that was heavily favored to win the division and has not gotten rolling as yet. The Phillies are looking like a sort of anti-Dodgers, with low expectations, they are challenging for the NL East lead. Aaron Nola has been tremendous this season, keeping the ball in the park, and improving his walk rate.
Friday, June 1
Chris Sale (BOS) v. Gerrit Cole (HOU), 8:10 ET
The Astros have a grueling week, coming off a Yankees series, they get Boston for four games, including a juicy matchup between two of the best pitchers in baseball. Chris Sale got rocked in his last outing, and is looking to bounceback against the ‘stros and their league-leading +126 run differential.
*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano