Fave 5: Hope Springs Eternal

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For the second consecutive year, I went through and highlighted a group of five players that I liked coming into this MLB season.

This wasn’t necessarily based playing ability, star status or sometimes even active status. It was simply a guy I found interesting and found worthwhile to pay attention to. For the second consecutive year, it appears that I’ve given the kiss of death to most of, if not all the guys I’ve highlighted. Last year, I picked Buddy Carlyle, Torii Hunter, Mike Olt, Brandon Morrow and Manny Machado as my five favorite players to watch for the season. With the exception of Manny Machado, who had a breakout season, I owe all of them a fruit basket and an apology card. Carlyle appeared in 11 games with the Mets, posted a 5.63 E.R.A.before being sent to the minors and was released this spring, effectively ending his career. Torii Hunter had a solid season based on traditional numbers, with 22 home runs and 81 RBI, but he posted a negative WAR rating and retired after Minnesota missed the playoffs last season. Mike Olt appeared in a total of 30 games between the 2 Chicago teams, batted .191 with 4 home runs and 5 RBI and has been fighting for a roster spot in baseball purgatory in San Diego. Poor Brandon Morrow started off 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA and looked strong last year. Then he tore up his shoulder and had season ending surgery. He’s currently working his way back through the San Diego minor league system.

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I said “I’m sorry”, Mike!

This season is off to an equally inauspicious beginning for my highlighted players. Now, the very nature of picking out of the ordinary players to watch does carry some risk, since they’re typically out of the ordinary for a reason, but I also don’t pick guys I think are total bums. It’s not any fun watching guys who totally stink, unless it’s blatantly bad baseball and you can treat it like Mystery Science Theater or Sharknado and celebrate the badness. It’s still early, and I haven’t given up yet, so let’s take a look at how my hopeful heroes are doing so far this season.

Billy Hamilton:  Billy Hamilton is very fast. Billy Hamilton is also one of the worst hitters I have ever watched. At this point of the season, Hamilton is batting a measly .174 and only getting on base at a .255 clip. To put that in context, the average team batting average and on base percentage are .250 and .318 respectively.  Woof. Hamilton still plays magnificent defense, and has stolen 4 bases in his 13 appearances on the basepaths, so he’s still utilizing his speed, but it doesn’t matter how fast you are, if you can’t hit, draw walks or somehow work your way on base, you can’t steal bases or score runs. The Reds are rebuilding, so Hamilton gets more playing time than he would on a good team, but he doesn’t have much time left to figure things out. I watch sports to see the best of the best, and when it comes to blinding speed, Hamilton is the best. Let’s hope he can get things together enough that we get to see him play.

Byung Ho Park: One of my favorite things about baseball is that the sheer volume of players provides tremendous opportunity to make awful puns and dad-jokes using the players’ names. With that warning in place, despite his slow start, I am completely Byung Ho about Park’s potential in baseball. He’s off to a slow start, with a .236/.311/.527 line (Average, One Base, Slugging) thus far, but he’s shown definite signs of improvement in his maiden MLB voyage. He’s still striking out a ton, with 19 in 61 plate appearances, but he’s gradually figuring things out and has dropped his strikeout rate from 1 every 3.6 plate appearances to 1 every 4.3 appearances. That’s not a huge shift, but it’s improvement, and that’s all we can ask for. On the plus side, when Park does hit the ball, he hits it very hard. Of his 13 hits so far, he has 4 homers and 4 doubles, so if nothing else, the power can translate from the Korean league. The Twins have been a disappointment across the board, but as a team, they have too much talent to be this bad, and similarly, Park is too talented to be this bad all season.

Jorge De La Rosa: Thankfully, this is one situation where the player being hot garbage is both predicted and welcomed. I pegged De La Rosa to take a run at 20 losses as this seasons’ Mike Maroth, and Jorge has lived up (or down) to my wildest expectations. Through 5 starts, De La Rosa has hurled 20 innings, given up 23 earned runs, walked 12 batters and given up 7 home runs. All that badness gets thrown in a mixer and produces a 1-3 record and a 10.18 E.R.A. The one thing that may save him from a historically bad season is just how putrid De La Rosa has been. Among qualified pitchers, he’s leading the league in Runs Allowed, highest WHIP (

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Yeah, it’s that bad.

Walks/Hits per Inning Pitched), Home Runs allowed and E.R.A.  I tend to be pessimistic about my teams, so seeing something so exceedingly ugly will make me appreciate the glimpses of beauty that I do get to experience. He left his last start with a minor injury, so he may get a temporary reprieve, but for the sake of my bad-baseball viewing pleasure,  I hope he can get healthy soon and be back on the mound in no time. For the sake of opponents’ batting averages, get well soon, Jorge.

Cameron Maybin:  Maybin has been excluded from the curse I put on these players so far, with a wrist injury keeping him on the sideline to this point, but I was worried I had somehow gotten to him when the news of his shoulder injury came out last week. Thankfully, the MRI showed no damage, and he’s set to start his rehab from this injury and be back in Detroit sooner rather than later. The Tigers are a complete mess, with players flipping the bird to the fans, Victor Martinez ripping his teammates in the clubhouse and even Miguel Cabrera slumping a little bit. It’s not a good sign when your best offensive player is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I love the Salty Dog and I’m happy every time I see his name take up the entire back of his jersey, but if he’s carrying your club, you’re in trouble. The plus side of this is that when he does come back, Maybin should get plenty of opportunities to see time in center field. Also, with the Tigers’ awfulness, I can root wholeheartedly for Maybin without worrying about the team succeeding. As always, I hate Detroit, and all their teams.https://i0.wp.com/www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-chicks-who-dig-home-runs-aren-t-the-ones-who-appeal-to-me-i-think-there-s-sexiness-in-ichiro-suzuki-75-58-27.jpg

Ichiro Suzuki:   It’s great to have Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, but once upon a time, the Marlins had Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis as well. Before that, it was Trevor Hoffman and Gary Sheffield. Every star that has ever come through the Marlins’ system has ended up being traded the moment he becomes too expensive for ownership to stomach, so it’s impossible for fans to ever fully enjoy the moments they have.  Even with that underlying fear in place, at least they can enjoy Ichiro. He’s only played in 13 games and had 20 at-bats thus far, but he has 8 hits in those at bats and has provided his typically excellent defense and entertaining demeanor on the field. It’s impossible to quantify what it means to a team to have a player with this much experience and knowledge on their roster, but players and coaches alike have raved about his positive influence in what has the potential to be a miserable situation. Ichiro has said before that he wants to play until he’s 50 years old, and I’m not in the business of doubting guys who have 24 years of playing experience and over 4000 career hits. Whether he makes it or not, I’m going to enjoy  him while he’s still around. Keep it up, Ichiro. 

 

Matt Bush: His story was exhaustively told by ESPN, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. He’s gone from being the top pick in the draft, to prison, to working at Golden Corral and throwing in the parking lot with an ankle bracelet on and now the unquestioned darling of this group is currently toiling away in Texas for the Frisco RoughRiders. It’s impossible to do this story justice, and it keeps getting better. There’s no way of telling how a guy will do after such a long absence, but Bush has been stellar for Double-A Frisco thus far. In 6 appearances, he’s thrown 9 innings, allowed only 4 hits, struck out 6 and saved 2 games in 2 opportunities. It’s worthwhile to note that these are minor league batters, but 98 MPH fastballs translate well to any level, and the Rangers organization has some of the best pitching development coaches in the business. Even beyond the on-field success, the biggest thing has been Bush’s adherence to the zero tolerance policy in his contract. Not to make light of a substance problem, but nothing would make me want to drink more than 6 hour bus rides across the state of Texas. I give massive kudos to anyone who can beat addictions and live as a healthy human being. There’s nothing more heartwarming than a wasted life being reclaimed, and while it sounds cliché, whether he makes it to the Bigs or not, Matt Bush is definitely a winner now.

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That logo is fire. Go RoughRiders

 

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