It’s the MLB Game Day Recap Day 8, that means it’s time to debate the ethics of intentionally trying to lean into a pitch. First off, I get it. Everyone wants to win, and “doing everything” to win means finding an edge anywhere. That said, intentionally breaking the rules to steal wins is not gamesmanship, it’s cheating. No one wants to hear this, but what’s the difference between this type of cheating and the Astros cheating scandal? The answer is the scale and level of premeditated work. The Astros did their cheating across an entire team and season using a computer software setup. Conforto did his cheating by making a split second decision to lean into it. The scale is absolutely not the same, but the intent to cheat is. Do not applaud this, it’s trash. It’s one more reason replay blows. It flat out sucks.
Let’s talk about something nice. Let’s talk about Mike Trout. Once again Trout is the best player in baseball. Entering today, he had a casual .368/.556/.737 triple slash with 5 runs and 2 homers over 6 games. Today he went 3 for 5 with a solo bomb and 2 runs scored. The best player in baseball just simply can’t stop being the best player in baseball. Mike isn’t the type of player who needs to lean into it, he’s so damn good he’ll just place it over the fence. It’s almost insulting to put Trout in this category because it insinuates he wasn’t already up. He’s truly the greatest, let’s focus on his greatness.
Brad Keller was a Cy Young candidate in 2020. 2021 Brad Keller is 2 for 2 in winning the ‘Letdown’ award. His Opening Day start was worse, but he still gave up 4 runs over the first 2 innings. Fantasy expectations were low for Keller, but he somehow has still massively underachieved. Today’s start saw 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 earned with 2 dongs over 3.1 innings. This is now the 5th start since the beginning of 2020 where Keller has allowed 4+ runs. Somehow he has only 1 start where he’s allowed 1-3 runs over that span. Keller has become a feast of famine starter. In other words, Keller belongs on no standard size fantasy roster. He’s someone else’s problem, move on.
Byron Buxton hit his AL leading 4th homer of the season today, taking Marco Gonzales deep in the 5th. Coming into today, he was hitting .367/.438/1.143 with 4 runs scored, 2 doubles and 3 homers along with 2 walks and a stolen base. This is now the 7th season where fantasy managers across the globe have convinced themselves “this is Buxton’s year”. This is also the first year they will be right. Buxton is only 27, and hitting his prime in 2020 makes boatloads of sense. Byron’s defense has always kept him on the field, yet 2021 will have managers finally recognize him for his bat. Buxton finally will have the start analysts thought he would be back in 2015. If you don’t own any shares of him, change that.
Sean Murphy is still hitless after going 0 for 4 today. In addition to being unable to hit ’em where they ain’t, he’s missed 3 games due to injury. Fantasy catchers aren’t expected to do much, but they’re expected to do something. Murphy entered the season as a consensus top 10 catcher both in re-draft and dynasty. Over the first week, he’s been absolutely dreadful. It’s so difficult to cut a catcher with expectations because whoever you add definitely didn’t have any to enter the year. As we said yesterday, it’s only been one week, so having a leash on a player by default isn’t a bad idea. The only problem is they have to do something. If Murphy can’t fix it soon, it might be hot hand time for his managers.
The Emilio Bonifacio Award
The Twins keep finding a way to win this award, as yet another Minnesota native takes home the award today. Mitch Garver had one of the worst seasons imaginable in 2020, .167/.247/.264 with 3 extra base hits over 81 plate appearances is about as bad of a season as one can imagine, especially when you’re coming off a season where you hit a homer every 3 games [and you played in 93 of them]. Garver simply went 2 for 4 with a 3-run homer in the 3rd and later scored after doubling in the 5th. That’s just a solid overall line, but on a night like tonight that means he tied for the lead in runs scored, homers and RBIs. If Garver can recapture some of his 2019 glory, we will see a whole lot more of these games from Mitch.
The James Shields Award
After yesterday’s 10 spot, today we only have Jon Gray & Lance Lynn. Gray had the typical good Jon Gray start. He went 6.2 innings allowing only 2 hits with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts. Gray only allowed a run to score on a Pavin Smith RBI single in 7th on his third time through the order. While this start was great, Lance Lynn had the first complete game of the season. 9.0 innings, 5 hits, 0 walks with 11, yes 11, strikeouts. This was an absolute gem, but perhaps more shockingly, this was only the second career complete game shutout for Lynn. The White Sox are going to be in contention all year, which means Lynn and his depth will be in contention for wins all year. Not surprisingly, Lynn was an extremely unsexy pick but will pay dividends for owners investing in winning their league over looking sexy.
The Brad Lidge Award
Anthony Bass is the first pitcher of the year to get tagged with the dreaded “still the closer” label from his manager. As with the overall theme in this article, Conforto decided to lean into a strike and stole a win. The problem is Bass had already allowed a solo dong hit to the upper deck by Jeff McNeil and then loaded the bases. Everyone who has played this game long enough knows if you have to re-confirm a closer’s status, they are only an outing or two away from no longer being the closer. Yimi Garcia looked excellent in the 8th and absolutely should get added by any manager looking for saves. Bass was never a closer prior to the shortened season last year, and he doesn’t look long for it.
The MLB Game Day Recap is all about baseball. The purpose of sport is to operate in a good faith competition between two sides where one comes out victorious. Things don’t always end that way, but if one side isn’t operating in good faith, what’s the point? Sure some might say “what’s the big deal, it’s an April 8th game”. The big deal is if players don’t get called out when they lean into it, they’re going to lean into it. Enforce the rules, don’t allow loopholes to exist. I don’t want to invest my time into a game that is a farce, and new fans certainly feel the same. Fix your mistakes MLB, make sure this doesn’t happen again.