This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever


This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever

The Major League Pinball Championships resumes Tuesday in Los Angeles, with its slick baseballs and plutonium bats and shape-shifting strike zones and death of the slider and bullpen rubble and look-the-other-way racism.

You know. The baseball of the future.

Except that it probably isn’t. This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever, and while people are riveted by every bizarre whack-a-mole moment, it doesn’t actually translate to the baseball that leads to this kind of baseball.

In other words, the Giants can’t do this. The A’s probably can’t. Most teams can’t. And even allowing for the fact that this is the most homer-happy time in the history of the game, Sunday's game, which Houston won 13-12 over Los Angeles, was a Planet 9-level outlier. And if you fell in love with the game based on Sunday night, your disappointment will be palpable.

In fact, that disappointment may be felt as quickly as Tuesday, when Justin Verlander gets the start for Houston.

But the notion that the World Series should be this different than the rest of the season is a fascinating one. Not necessarily a bad one – this is not the Old Fud Hour, and change is irresistible – but a fascinating one.

If Houston and Los Angeles are really that different than everyone else, then good on them for building their teams to reflect that fact. But if the game itself is this much of a car crash throughout an entire season, is it actually sustainable by the sport’s current standards, and if not, can the sport change quickly enough to reflect it?

Yes, this is small-sample-size stuff, but a big rating World Series is going to help arrest what is perceived to be baseball’s demographic rot, and imitation is the sincerest form of cashing in. And unlike Bud Selig, who changed much about the game without either intending to or always enjoying it, Rob Manfred is more comfortable with life outside the box. If the slider dies on his watch, and the response is more home runs and eyeballs (on all your available devices, of course), he’ll take that in a heartbeat.

And not just him, but the entire hierarchy of the sport. It’s too easy to say, “Manfred this,” and “Manfred that,” just as it is cheap shorthand to substitute the names Goodell, Silver, Bettman and Garber. No, this is baseball at a new crossroads, the extreme of a clear shift toward a strikeout-or-homer sport whose nuances are under subtle but noticeable attack.

And the questions to be asked are “Can this be replicated across the sport?” “Should this be replicated across the sport?” and finally, “If it can’t be, what happens to the longterm artistic and financial vitality of the sport?”

Put another way, if Justin Verlander is truly Verlander-esque Tuesday and the final score is 3-1, how many people will be bummed out that it wasn’t enough like Sunday? I shudder to think.

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park


Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down. 

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'


Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

Former A's left fielder/DH and Bay Area native, Jonny Gomes, last played Major League Baseball in 2015. The next year, Gomes looked to continue his career in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. 

Gomes struggled in Japan, batting just .169 in 18 games. While in Japan though, Gomes saw firsthand the two-way talent of Shohei Ohtani. 

"The dude throws 100 miles per hour consistently," Gomes said Tuesday to MLB Network Radio. "That plays."

With MLB, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreeing to a new posting system, Ohtani should soon be available as a free agent to MLB teams. Gomes was adamant that Ohtani will live up to the hype. 

"If you have the arm speed to throw 100 miles per hour, guess what your slider's gonna do -- yikes. And he also has a split, which is yikes with that arm speed. And he also has a changeup, and he also has a curveball. You're talking about five plus, plus, plus pitches.

"If he was in the draft, I think it would be a no-brainer right now that he'd be No. 1 overall," Gomes said. 

Since turning pro as an 18-year-old, Ohtani has been a dominant force on the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 42-15 career record with a 2.52 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. 

What makes Ohtani, 23, so intriguing is that he's not only the best pitcher in Japan, he may be the best hitter too. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs in 65 games. The left fielder/DH owns a .286/.358/.500 career slash line with 48 home runs. 

"Now hitting wise, is it gonna transfer, is it not? I've seen the dude hit a fly ball that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome," Gomes remembers. "So, what does that tell you? That bat speed's there, that power's there, that he's generating a lot out front.

"To be able to hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome is way more impressive than hitting any other roof in the states. It would be like hitting the roof in Seattle when it was closed, it's way up there."

Everyone knows about Ohtani off-the-charts talent. The stats are there. What we don't know as much about is his personality. Gomes does and he believes his leadership will make him be a star in the states. 

"I'm a big fan of the dude," Gomes says. "I saw his work ethic, I saw how players treated him, I saw how respectful he was. Over there it's all about seniority. Granted he was the biggest star on the field at any given moment, but still gave the utmost respect to seniority guys on his ball club."