We all know strikeouts have increased. We are seeing what is perhaps best described as obscene rates of strikeouts, although maybe your views differ. Each team has averaged 8.72 strikeouts per game this season, up from 7.71 in 2015 and up from 6.77 in 2008, so that means about four more strikeouts between both teams per game than we had a decade ago. That's a lot of trudging back to the dugout without any action.
I'm not here just to rant about the strikeouts, however. Let's give some credit to the pitchers. What's making me ornery these days is the complete inability of some players to adjust their swings or their approaches as they stick with an all-or-nothing approach in this era of launch angles and home runs -- even if the results are mostly a whole lot of nothing. A few examples:
• Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick: 41 SO, 1 BB, .141/.151/.282. I didn't think it was possible for a non-pitcher to strike out 41 times for every walk. Apparently, it's possible. Hall of Famer Joe Sewell struck out 41 times over seven seasons and 4,357 plate appearances.
• Marisnick's teammate Derek Fisher: 34 SO, 4 BB, .186/.224/.443. That's 34 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances. But hey, at least he has four home runs.
• Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond: 44 SO, 6 BB, .172/.214/.352. OMG.
• Cubs outfielder Ian Happ: 49 SO, 9 BB, .232/.303/.424. Happ's overall line isn't terrible, but imagine what it could be if he weren't striking out 45 percent of the time.
• Orioles first baseman Chris Davis: 51 SO, 14 BB, .170/.253/.274. Of course, he has twice topped 200 strikeouts in a season, so it's no surprise that he's on pace for 202. He also used to hit home runs. Only $92 million and four years left on that contract after 2018. In a related note, I searched for all batters with at least 50 plate appearances, and the Orioles have the batters who rank third, sixth, eighth and 11th in lowest walk rates. That doesn't even include Davis! I suddenly feel sorry for Orioles fans.
• Rangers first baseman/outfielder Joey Gallo: 58 SO, 15 BB, .199/.280/.470. Sure, he's fun with that prodigious power. You know what's not fun? A .199 average, sub-.300 OBP and 224-strikeout pace.
Those are just a few examples. This is why my favorite players these days are guys such as Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez and Andrelton Simmons and Jose Altuve -- yes, great players, but also great hitters who put the ball in play at a high rate. Heck, I've discovered a love for Nick Markakis I never knew existed. I don't have much of an opinion on Steve Brault the pitcher, but get this: The Pirates lefty has 32 career plate appearances ... and has never struck out.
It can be done.
The Braves are doing it all: The Braves finished a 6-1 road trip with a makeup-game win at Wrigley Field. They're 25-15, the best record in the National League, and they continue to play well against good teams. Their run differential is an impressive plus-57, they're second only to the Yankees in runs per game and wOBA (without the benefit of a DH, of course), they're 7-3 in one-run games, and they have lost just one game they led after five innings.
In the 6-5 win over the Cubs, Ozzie Albies belted his 13th home run and 14th double, giving him 28 extra-base hits. Only Hank Aaron with 30 in 1959 had more extra-base hits for the Braves through 40 games, and going back to 1900, no player 21 or younger on any team has had 28 extra-base hits through 40 games.
Meanwhile, Ender Inciarte, the two-time Gold Glove center fielder, showed why he earned those trophies with this great catch:
The Braves and Cubs now head to Atlanta for their regularly scheduled three-game series. Do you believe in the Braves? The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has them at 15-1 to win the NL pennant (from 25-1 at the start of the season). If you do believe, maybe you can soon place a bet, given Monday's Supreme Court ruling.
For more on the Braves, Brad Doolittle writes that they're starting to resemble the 2015 Cubs.
Everybody wants Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to get called up to the majors ... like, right now: Here's the short version of what happened on Monday:
1. Vlad Jr. posted a photo of himself at JFK Airport on Instagram.
2. The Blue Jays happen to play the Mets in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday.
3. Twitter went crazy thinking Guerrero just outed his call-up to the minors.
4. An astute researcher discovered that Guerrero had posted the same photo in December.
5. Guerrero showed up in Hartford with his New Hampshire Fisher Cats teammates and knocked out three hits, including his sixth home run:
Vlad Jr. is now hitting .405 with 20 extra-base hits in 32 games, with nearly as many unintentional walks (11) as strikeouts (14).
Is the 19-year-old ready for the majors? There's no doubt the bat-to-ball skills are impressive enough that he'd probably hold his own. Like his dad, he has an aggressive approach, and that could be exploited given his age. Kendrys Morales is hitting .154/.250/.275, so there is a potential spot in the Blue Jays' lineup at DH. Morales was worth minus-0.2 WAR in 2017, so just because he's owed $12 million in 2019 isn't reason to keep playing him in 2018 ... not if you're serious about chasing a playoff spot.
Anyway, the kid has only 32 games above Class A. It feels a little premature to rush him to the big leagues, although you have to think a promotion to Triple-A might come soon. Still, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Guerrero in Toronto sometime this summer.
(In other minor league news: Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes, making a rehab start for Class A Peoria, struck out 12 in five innings and hit 100 mph. He's expected back in late May or June, and the Cards could use him, with Carlos Martinez on the DL with a lat strain and Adam Wainwright maybe headed there with elbow issues after his start on Sunday.)
Angels hand Astros a lump of Kole: Good game in Anaheim, as Andrew Heaney outdueled Lance McCullers Jr. in a 2-1 Angels victory. The key play came in the ninth and was one of my favorite plays of the year. Rookie right-hander Justin Anderson came on for the save after Heaney's eight masterful innings, but George Springer greeted him with a ground ball base hit. Alex Bregman lifted a fly ball down the right-field line, with Kole Calhoun drifting over to make the catch in foul territory as he leaned into the stands. Springer attempted to tag up from first base, but Calhoun threw a laser beam for a double play:
I loved the play from both ends: Springer's aggressiveness to get into scoring position and Calhoun's throw. I guess you can criticize Springer, considering Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa were coming up, but it wasn't going to be an easy throw for Calhoun, given how he made the catch. Sometimes the other guy just beats you. Altuve then singled and Correa walked (after a passed ball), but Yuri Gurriel grounded out as Anderson recorded his first major league save.
Anderson was in there because Keynan Middleton landed on the DL with a UCL injury. It will be interesting to see how Mike Scioscia handles the late innings. Anderson's minor league numbers last year weren't impressive, mostly in Double-A (42 K's and 31 walks in 64 innings). He has a bit of a funky delivery with a lot of moving parts and has improved his strikeout rate so far in the majors (15 in 10⅓ innings), but there's no track record here that says "closer."
Anyway, we have a tie for first in the AL West.