BOB’S “READY FOR BASEBALL’S STRETCH RUN” REPORT...
ASTROS EDGE RED SOX FOR TOP TEAM...CHRIS DAVIS WORST PLAYER
Major League Baseball is nearing the stretch run for the 2018 season. One more week for trades without waivers. It will be fun to see which teams make bold moves in all-out efforts to win now and which younger teams will focus on the future by standing pat.
The Best Team – The defending champion Houston Astros edge Boston. Red Sox fans are invited to grumble.
The Astros are 66-36 including an amazing 34-15 on the road. They have a MLB-best +188 run differential and by far the best pitching in MLB (2.89 ERA and .209 batting average against; the pitching staff has the most strikeouts and the third-fewest walks. That’s impressive).
The Red Sox have MLB’s best record (70-31) but I’m still not sold on the team’s middle relief pitching and soft spots in the lineup at catcher and center field.
Worst Team – Kansas City. How did the Royals get so lousy so quickly? 30-68 with a MLB-worst minus-188 run differential. Last in the American League in runs (347) and ERA (5.36).
Dishonorable mention – Baltimore Orioles. Maybe I’m being too kind ranking them slightly above Kansas City for being horrible. They’re 28-72, including 16-33 at home and 12-39 away. They figure to be bad for a long time. Trading Manny Machado and having to keep Chris Davis are two more reasons for more fans to stop going to Camden Yards.
Most Disappointing Team – Washington Nationals. They looked like a powerhouse on paper on Opening Day. Injuries have taken a toll are too many players have underperformed. They’re 49-49 and spinning their wheels. Dumping manager Dusty Baker hasn’t worked out very well.
Best Player – Mookie Betts (Boston). He’s the total package offensively: .352 batting average; .670 slugging percentage; 1.100 OPS. And a Gold Glove in right field to boot.
Honorable mention: J.D. Martinez (Boston): .322; 29 HRs; MLB-most 81 RBI...Mike Trout (LA Angels). Baseball’s perfect player has a MLB-6.9 WAR (wins above replacement).
Best Rookie – Gleyber Torres (Yankees). They’re not the same team without him. I think he has a chance to become the team’s all-time best second baseman. I know that’s saying a lot but he looks like he could become a super player.
Worst Player – Chris Davis (Baltimore). Not close. He’s suffering through one of the worst seasons in baseball history: .157 batting average (47-for-300; 10 HRs; 30 RBI; 121 strikeouts; .512 OPS. Worst of all, he has four years left on a contract worth $24 million per season – all guaranteed. That’s not his fault.
Best Pitcher – Chris Sale (Boston). His overpowering numbers: 11-4 record; 2.13 ERA; 135 innings pitched; 85 hits allowed; 31 walks; 197 strikeouts; o.87 WHIP (walks + hits per inning); .180 batting average against).
Honorable mention – Luis Severino (Yankees)...Max Scherzer (Washington)...Jacob DeGrom (Mets)...Aaron Nola (Philadelphia).
Best Manager -- Bob Melvin (Oakland). No manager gets more out of his players. 57-43 with the third-lowest payroll in MLB ($74.92 million); Tampa Bay ($74.9 million); Chicago White Sox ($73.78 million). 31-21 on the road.
Honorable mention – Scott Servais (Seattle). The Mariners, outscoring opponents by one whole run this season, have a 60-40 record, including 26-12 in one-run games and 8-0 in extra innings. They have a good chance to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, the longest playoff drought in the four major team sports.
Best Bets to Win Pennants – In order, AL Central Cleveland (very fortunate -- no competition; and the bullpen is on the upgrade)...AL West Houston (significant talent advantage over resourceful Seattle)...AL East Boston (the Yankees miss rookie whiz Gleyber Torres, who is expected to return this week, and the bottom of the starting rotation remains suspect)...NL West Los Angeles Dodgers (the addition of Manny Machado and the return of Clayton Kershaw give them the edge)...NL Central Cubs (they’re loaded with talent and should open up daylight soon)...NL East Phillies (toss-up with Atlanta – will one of these young teams make a bold trade to gain the edge?...Has Washington spotted them both too much ground?.
ANOTHER WARNING REGARDING THE BUFFALO BILLS
Many Buffalo Bills fans believe ending the 17-year playoff drought last year was not the least bit a fluke and that winning at least one playoff game is a reasonable goal for this season’s Bills.
There’s nothing wrong with being hopeful and optimistic. But a dose of reality can’t hurt and there is plenty of it out there.
The latest cautionary analysis comes from ESPN Insider, projecting the Future Power Rankings for the 32 NFL teams for the next three seasons. The three-man panel (Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates) ranked the teams in five categories: roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent).
Grades in each category 100: A+ (elite)...90: A (great)...80: B (very good)...70: C (average)...60: D (very bad)...50: F (disastrous)...40: F- (worst thing imaginable).
The result is “a comprehensive ranking based on how well each team is positioned for the future.”
Buffalo is ranked 30th overall; final score 71.0: roster 65.7 (32nd), quarterback 67.7 (30th), coaching 78.3 (14th), draft 72.3 (30th), front office 74.7 (19th).
Comments: “It’s a talent issue – for now. GM Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott have an unquestioned vision and a unique ability to maximize the pieces in place, but perhaps no other roster lacks talent on offense the way the Bills do...Josh Allen will take over as starting QB at some point, but the Bills will need to work hard to build a nucleus of playmakers around him...If Allen isn’t what the Bills think he is, and if they do not put the right pieces around him --which I have major concerns about -- this organization will be undergoing another reset in the next two to four years...The outlook improves sharply if Allen outperforms our expectations for him.”
The rankings by division (the lower the total the better):
NFC South – Saints 85.3 (3rd)...Falcons 83.4 (6th)...Panthers 79.3 (12th)...Buccaneers 74.9 (21st): 42 total ranking points
NFC North – Vikings 84.7 (4th)...Packers 80.7 (8th; Aaron Rodgers No. 1 QB)...Lions 76.4 (18th)...Bears 72.9 (25th): 55 total points
NFC West – Rams 81.9 (7th)...Seahawks 80.0 (10th)...49ers 78.6 (13th)...Cardinals 72.9 (26th): 56 total points
AFC South – Jaguars 79.9 (11th)...Texans 78.1 (15th)...Texans 78.0 (16th)...Colts 74.9 (22nd): 64 total points
AFC West – Chargers 80.2 (9th)...Chiefs 78.2 (14th)...Broncos 74.9 (20th)...Raiders 74.8 (23rd); 66 total points
NFC East – Eagles 88.7 (1st)...Cowboys 77.8 (17th)...Redskins 73.6 (24th)...Giants 72.7 (27th): 69 total points
AFC North – Steelers 83.9 (5th)...Ravens 75.0 (19th)......Bengals 71.9 (29th)...Browns 70.8 (31st)): 84 points
AFC East – Patriots 86.7 (2nd)...Jets 72.6 (28th)...Bills 71.0 (30th)...Dolphins 69.5 (32nd): 92 total points.
BREAKING DOWN A DISAPPOINTING RED WINGS SEASON (SO FAR)...
The Rochester Red Wings are 44-53 and have lost seven straight games. They’re a very respectable 28-22 (+6) on the road but a woeful 16-31 at Frontier Field.
Poor hitting is the main reason the team’s International League-best active streak of five straight winning seasons is very much in jeopardy.
Rochester has shut out 11 times and scored one run in seven other games (0-7 record).
Runs scored and record in those games:
0 runs – 11 games; 0-11
1 run – 7 games; 0-7
2 runs – 30 games; 13-17...that’s 13-35 in games they score two runs or less.
3 runs – 17 games; 6-11
4 runs – 4 games; 4-0
5 runs – 7 games; 4-3
6 runs – 9 games; 6-3
7 runs – 4 games; 4-0
8 runs – 3 games; 2-1
9 runs – 2 games; 2-0
11 runs – 1 game; 1-0
13 runs – 2 games; 2-0
Records by months: April 9-10...May 18-13...June 11-17...July 6-13.
The Red Wings have used a whopping 38 different position players but a majority of them have performed below expectations.
SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS
The hot-and-cold Pittsburgh Pirates have won nine straight games. They outscored Cincinnati 27-5 vin a three-game weekend sweep.....Baltimore is 5-20 in its last 25 games and a ridiculous 28-72 overall...The Red Sox are 19-4 in their last 23 games, frustrating the Yankees and Yankee fans...Mike Trout drove in his first Angels teammate in almost a month on Sunday (he had a few solo HRs over that span)...Kansas City swept their first series – three games versus Minnesota -- since last July 24-26...Texas beat Cleveland 5-0 Sunday in a game the field temperature reached 108 degrees...Seattle is considering playing Robinson Cano some games at first base when his suspension ends next month. Ryan Healy, one of the current first basemen, hit two three-run HRs Sunday in an 8-2 home win over the White Sox.
Washington beat Atlanta 6-2 Sunday to reach .500 (49-49)...Milwaukee is in a 1-8 slump. The Brewers lost 11-2 Sunday as Matt Kemp hit two HRs for the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers...St. Louis slugger Matt Carpenter’s home-run streak ended at six games as his Cardinals lost 7-2 Sunday to the host Cubs...Former Mets closer Jeurys Familia got credit for the victory in his debut with Oakland Sunday in a 6-5 home win over San Francisco...Zack Greinke had 13 strikeouts in eight innings for Arizona in a 6-1 home win over Colorado...Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is on the DL with foot, hand and mouth disease. He’s lucky he isn’t a horse.
UPDATING OUR FORMER TEAMS
The Dallas Rattlers, in their first season since moving from Rochester, are a Major League Lacrosse-best 10-2 and clinched a home playoff berth with a 13-12 home win Sunday over the Denver Outlaws. Rookie star Ben Reeves (Palmyra-Macedon/Yale) scored the game-winning goal with 10 seconds remaining and goalie Blaze Riorden (Fairport/Albany University) had a big game in goal. It was the seventh straight win for Dallas.
The North Carolina Courage, formerly the WNY Flash, are 14 wins, 1 loss, 4 draws in the National Women’s Soccer League after a 0-0 draw Saturday at the Utah Royals FC before 8,529 fans.
Former Rochester Rhinos coach Bob Lilley’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds lost 1-0 Saturday night at the Charleston Battery in a USL showdown before 3,371 fans. Pittsburgh is 9 wins, 2 losses, 7 draws and Charleston is 9 wins, 3 losses, 8 draws.
The United Soccer League announced last week that the seventh and final expansion team for the 2019 season will be Loudoun County, Va. It will be an affiliate of the MLS D.C. United and play in a new 5,000-seat stadium. That makes 40 teams for the USL in 2019. Rochester, taking this season off, would be No. 41. Maybe.
The Red Wings drew a total of 21,847 fans Friday and Saturday nights. The team isn’t playing well but the front office is having another fine season. The promotions continue to be top shelf. What can beat the RPO or a western concert, a baseball game (win or lose) and fireworks for a family night out?...Sunday’s crowd of 8,449 boosted the three-game weekend home attendance to 30,296.
Tough break for Tim Tebow with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies. He suffered a hand injury during an at-bat last Friday night and is sidelined indefinitely. He was hitting .340 with a .798 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) in July and had raised his batting average to .273 with 6 HRs and 36 RBI in 84 games. A promotion to the Mets September 1 appeared likely and still could happen.
Former Syracuse U. point guard Tyler Ennis, who left for the NBA after his freshman season, will play pro basketball with a top team in the Turkish Super Basketball League this season. He spent the last four seasons with four teams in the NBA (Phoenix, Milwaukee, Houston and the Lakers. He averaged 4.1 points and 1.9 assists in 12.6 minutes in 186 games and made around $6.5 million. He’ll turn 24 next month.
Early odds on the PGA Championship (August 9-12) from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook: Co-favorites Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson each 12-to-1; followed by Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas each at 16-to-1. British Open champion Francesco Molinari is 25-to-1.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach June Jones recently praised quarterback Johnny Manziel’s work ethic and said he had the talent to be a Canadian Football League star. On Sunday, Jones traded Manziel to the Montreal Alouettes, the CFL’s worst team (1-4 and outscored 148-69). Montreal’s coach is Mike Sherman, who coached Manziel at Texas A&M. Hamilton is 2-3 and Manziel had yet to see action backing up veteran Jeremiah Masoli.
Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza suffered a broken vertebra in his neck in a training spill Sunday at Del Mar in California. The horse he was working out collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack. Espinoza, 46, who rode American Pharoah to the Triple Crown in 2015, was not paralyzed, had no other broken bones and is expected to make a full recovery. He’s 46 years old.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Monday, July 23
Gerald Wallace (36)...Shawn Thornton (41)...Matt Birk (42)...Terry Glenn (44)...Nomar Garciaparra (45)...Andrew Cassels (49)...Gary Payton (50)...Elden Campbell (50)...Antoine Carr (57). Pee Wee Reese was born on this date 100 years ago (1918) and died in 1999 at age 81.
Tuesday, July 24
Joe Mixon (21)...Kyle Kuzma (23)...Maurkice/Mike Pouncey (29)...Brian Cushing (31)...Scott Van Slyke (32)...Donte Whitner (33)...Patrice Bergeron (33)...Jose Valverde (39)...Jamie Langenbrunner (43)...Kevin Hardy (45)...Rick Fox (49)...Brian Blades (53)...Karl Malone (55)...Julie Krone (55)...Joe Barry Carroll (60)...Ray Maluta (64)...Steve Grogan (65)...Bob Lilly (79).
ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...
93 years ago (1925), Lou Gehrig hit his first of 23 grand slam HRs...42 years ago (1976), the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the College All-Stars 24-0 in Chicago...24 years ago (1994), Don Mattingly became the sixth New York Yankee with 2,000 hits...23 years ago (1995), John Daley won the 124th British Open at St. Andrewes, Scotland...18 years ago (2000), Tiger Woods won the 129th British Open at Royal Latham.
72 years ago (1946), nine players on the Spokane (Western League) baseball team were killed in a bus crash...60 years ago (1958), Ted Williams was fined $250 for spitting again at Boston Red Sox fans...57 years ago (1961), Roger Maris hit 4 HRs in a doubleheader...53 years ago (1965), Casey Stengel resigned as manager of the New York Mets...41 years ago (1977), Pete Rose passed Frankie Frisch fot the most hits – 2,881 – by a switch-hitter...35 years ago (1983), George Brett hit his “pine tar” home run off Goose Gossage...13 years ago (2005), Lance Armstrong retired after winning his then-record seventh consecutive Tour de France – later rescinded.