This week was another fun one in the baseball world. To cap off June, we saw remarkable moments, surging teams, and players reminding us just how great they are. It’s only appropriate to start this week with the biggest moment of the year, something that we didn’t see since 2012.
German’s Perfect Game Highlights the Week
The best way to sum up the night is that the most imperfect Yankee pitcher was perfect. Domingo German has had a rocky tenure with the New York Yankees which has included multiple suspensions for both on and off-the-field issues. German has at times looked like a pitcher more worthy of being sent down to the minors than remaining in the rotation. However, against the Oakland A’s, he was masterful.
It was his moment of glory and because of his perfect game, German will always be remembered for his great outing. Not many fans know much about Don Larsen, other than the fact that he threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Not many fans know a lot about Dallas Braden’s baseball career but a lot of casual fans know about his perfect game on Mother’s Day. German’s murky career suddenly isn’t as significant since he did the impossible, retiring all 27 batters he faced.
The on-the-field takeaway from his night is that if German’s curveball is clicking, he’s unhittable. He went to the curve for a majority of his 99 pitches on Wednesday and it allowed him to be dominant. He’s throwing it more this year, using the breaking pitch 41.7 percent of the time compared to only 37.3% in 2022 and only 34% in 2021. The hope for the Yankees, a team carried by their rotation, is that he can rely on that pitch to become a top-tier starter to help carry the team to the postseason.
Ohtani is the AL MVP & It’s Not Particularly Close
It’s become expected for Shohei Ohtani to have a remarkable week. He hit five home runs this week including a moonshot on Friday night that nearly traveled 500 feet. He started Tuesday night’s game and tossed 6.1 innings where he allowed only one run and struck out 10 batters. Ohtani’s numbers seem absurd at times and hard to fathom. The comparisons to Babe Ruth are used a lot but he’s in a category of his own.
Word is that Ohtani's home run is still in orbit.
— MLB (@MLB) July 1, 2023
What has become crazy about Ohtani’s otherworldly play is that he is dwarfing Mike Trout, who was the best player in the game. Trout is everything you want in a player with all five tools, consistent great play, and a demeanor that at times makes you feel bad for him (why did he deserve to suffer on a hapless team). Yet, Ohtani puts him in a separate tier, look at some hitting stats from the two.
Ohtani: .306/.391/.666 slash line, 31 home runs, and 217 total bases.
Trout: .260/.367/.486 slash line, 18 home runs, and 148 total bases.
Trout is putting together a strong season yet isn’t anywhere close to Ohtani. To be fair, nobody is. Ohtani has a 6.6 WAR, the next best player is Ronald Acuna Jr. at 4.8 WAR and the second-best player in the American League is Wander Franco at 4.2 WAR. Last year, it was a debate about who deserved to win the MVP, and this year, there is no debate. Now, there’s only one thing missing from Ohtani and Trout’s legacy and frankly, it’s not their fault that the Los Angeles Angels can’t reach the postseason or win a playoff game.
Braves Are Baseball’s New Best Team
The Miami Marlins are having a good season. They’ve established themselves as a wild card team and entered the weekend, with a great pitching staff leaving the way, hoping to prove they could compete in the division. They looked hapless against the Atlanta Braves who not only swept them but outscored them 29-7.
The Braves moved to 56-27 with eight wins in a row, nine wins in their last 10 games, and capping off June with a mindblowing 21-4 record. They have the best record in baseball and frankly, they look like the best team in the league. It’s hard to find a weakness in the roster and the lineup can beat any team at any point, setting them up for success this year and in the postseason.
The All-Star selections reflected the dominance the Braves have had in the National League. Eight players were voted for the game, six of which are everyday players. What I find wild is that Acuna Jr. is a gold glove centerfield and an elite talent in the outfield but with the Braves, he plays right field. He does in part to keep him healthy as he doesn’t need to run as often at the corner position but the other big reason is that Michael Harris, another gold glove fielder is patrolling centerfield. Long story short, the team is so good that their MVP-caliber player who is an elite fielder isn’t even the best fielder in his outfield.
The Braves are cruising to the best record in baseball. The question is where they can improve. Ideally, they add some bullpen help at the trade deadline but only to round out a roster not to cover up a need.
Padres Continued Embarrassment
It’s easy to forget what the perception of the San Diego Padres was before the season started. They were expected to compete for the best record in the National League. They looked hapless this week, losing seven of their last 10 including series defeats to the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds.
The Padres are 38-46 and have to be more worried about finishing in last place in the division than making the postseason. To say their season has been embarrassing is an understatement. Juan Soto has bounced back and is putting together a great season but the rest of the lineup has fallen apart. Michael Wacha and Blake Snell have stepped up in the rotation but the rest of the pitching staff has struggled. The Padres are a team that rely on their stars and so far, they’ve only received some production from their elite players.
The question is where the Padres go from here. What do they do with this lost season and what happens moving forward? Ideally, they trade away some of their players at the deadline but this is a team that invested in long-term contracts, making it difficult to move many if any of their players. The other option is to do nothing, keeping a crumbling roster in the same state. The trade deadline will be interesting for the Padres, largely because it’s unknown how they’ll approach it but the angle they take will determine their future for both this year and for years to come.
The 4th of July Week Is Another Checkpoint
Just like Memorial Day is a checkpoint, the Fourth of July is another point in the season where we can look back and see how teams are doing. Memorial Day is when sample sizes start to matter but Independence Day, along with the All-Star Break, are the halfway points.
So, what are some of the takeaways? Well, the Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers are the top teams in baseball and they look poised to contend for the World Series. The Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Baltimore Orioles have proven that their hot starts aren’t flukes and they can compete this year. The rule changes, while scoffed at initially, are a success. And Rob Manfred, well, he’s still got a lot to be desired.
Other Takeaways From This Week in Baseball
- The Toronto Blue Jays were swept this weekend at home against the Boston Red Sox. It’s a tough sweep for them since they could have made up significant ground in the wild card race if they took at least one game but instead, they are starting to slide again. So it goes with these hard-to-predict Blue Jays.
- The Milwaukee Brewers have won seven of their last 10 games and are tied with the Reds for first place in the National League Central Division. Maybe we’re in for a tight divisional race after all.
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