Tag: New York

New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks Live Blog: Instant Analysis and Reaction

The New York Mets roll out several young superheroes in their pitching staff and Friday night was Thor’s turn to wow the Citi Field crowd.

Rookie Noah Syndergaard didn’t disappoint as he pitched a gem against an impressive Diamondbacks lineup, propelling the Mets to a 4-1 victory.  

Syndergaard, in his first career start against Arizona, was absolutely brilliant after getting tagged for an early run in the first inning.

He blanked them from that point on and finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts over eight innings. He also threw a career-high 116 pitches, a benefit of having extra rest due to the Mets’ six-man rotation of late. With the third double-digit strikeout performance of his young career, the 22-year-old Syndergaard lowered his season ERA to 3.11.

The Mets supported him with back-to-back home runs by Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer in the bottom half of the first to jump ahead 4-1 against Chase Anderson, who lasted only 4.1 innings. Those four first-inning runs were all the Mets would need and the hibernation of their bats over the remainder of the game went seemingly unnoticed during Syndergaard’s masterful display.

All three of Syndergaard’s pitches were working on Friday night. He fanned six batters on his electric fastball, five on his sharp diving curveball and two on his 88 mph changeup.

With their victory, the Mets moved to within two games of the first place Washington Nationals in the East. The Diamondbacks fell back under .500 and will have to face Matt Harvey on Saturday afternoon. 

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Yankees-Mets Subway Series Begins New-Age Battle for NY Baseball Throne

The Yankees and Mets may share the landscape, but it’s right there on Page 1 of “New York for Dummies” that the Big Apple is a Yankees town by default. Only in times of great upheaval does the city change its pinstripes.

It’s been a while since such a phenomenon has taken place. But it is on that note that we can say this: You might want to stay tuned.

This weekend, the Yankees and Mets will gather at Yankee Stadium for the first of two three-game sets in the annual Subway Series. And though the series has traditionally served as a show of force for the Yankees, it’s looking a little different this year.

If you’ve so much as glanced in the direction of Queens recently, you’ve seen the Mets piling up the wins. They wrapped up a perfect 10-0 homestand with a 6-3 win against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday and have won 11 in a row to push their record to an MLB-best 13-3.

So after making it six straight sub-.500 seasons in 2014, the Mets are movin‘ on up. And as ESPN notes here, there’s already a faint hint of 1986 in the air:

Where the Subway Series is concerned, the 1986 vibes are all too appropriate.

That was smack in the middle of the last great New York upheaval. The Mets averaged 95 wins and won a World Series between 1984 and 1990, while the Yankees averaged just 84 wins and didn’t make it to October once. New York’s baseball crown rested squarely on the head of the Metropolitans.

But the Yankees won it back in the mid-1990s and have worn it ever since, posting winning seasons every year since 1993 and upping their franchise World Series count from 22 to 27. And from the looks of things, they aren’t too interested in giving it up now.

While the Mets have won 11 games in a row, the Yankees just won three out of four in Detroit against a dangerous Tigers team and have won six of seven to push their record to a respectable 9-7.

So behold! It’s a rare Subway Series with an actual narrative. On one side is the aggressive new regime that means business, and on the other is the old guard that’s not ready to bend the knee.

That’s where we are now. And darn it, you can’t help but wonder where things will go next.

If there’s one thing the Yankees are accustomed to, it’s putting the Mets in their place.

Since the arrival of interleague play in 1997, the Yankees are 56-42 in 98 games against the Mets and have failed to win the two clubs’ annual showdowns only twice (2004 and 2013). This isn‘t including the Yankees’ win over the Mets in the 2000 World Series, which is also kind of a big deal.

And now, there’s a decent chance the Yankees will do their thing to the Mets once again.

Though the Mets are coming in hot, they’re going to be playing in a hostile environment for the first time since April 12. One can also argue the Yankees are the first legitimate challenge they’ve faced. The Mets caught a sluggish Washington Nationals team out of the gate and have since feasted on the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Yankees also have some good pitching lined up for the Mets. Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi easily have the best stuff in the Yankees rotation and will pitch the first and third games of the series, respectively. CC Sabathia is going in the middle game, and he’s arguably pitched better than his 4.35 ERA indicates.

If these three help lead the Yankees to a series victory, the Mets will have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in no time at all. There would still be a lot of season left, not to mention a second three-game set in September, but the message will have been sent: No, the Mets aren’t ready for the Yankees’ throne just yet. Like a little brother who just can’t beat his big brother’s high score, they’ll have more work to do.

It’s in the opposite direction, however, where the really fascinating stuff lies. 

It’s not by accident that the Mets have been winning games. With a 2.81 ERA that ranks second in the majors, they’ve been getting some great pitching. Two guys largely responsible for that are reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and The Dark Knight himself, Matt Harvey, who will both be going against the Yankees.

The Mets have also been hitting a bit. As of this writing, they’re one of only eight teams with at least 73 runs. Nobody can get Lucas Duda out, and Michael Cuddyer has been just the kind of veteran bat the Mets were hoping for when they signed him.

If the Mets do, in fact, make a statement against the Yankees, you can count on one thing: They’re not likely to make a big deal out of it.

Veteran third baseman David Wright hinted as much to Mike Puma of the New York Post:

It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that most of Wright’s teammates feel the same way he does. For them, measuring the quality of their play against that of the Yankees is pointless. As long as the two remain in separate leagues, it doesn’t matter how they stack up against each other.

So, let there be no doubt that this discussion is for fans only. But if the Mets do take this weekend’s series from the Yankees in their own backyard, what they’ll have told fans is that they are indeed ready to take back New York.

The odds of all New Yorkers being on board with that are about as slim as those of the Knicks winning the NBA Finals next season. But you better believe the majority could be on board in the near future.

You already get the sense that New York is ready for a Mets coup. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post posed the possibility of such a takeover in spring training, and the idea seemingly hasn’t lost any steam since.

“The fanbase is absolutely starving for baseball that isn’t a punch line,” said WFAN radio host Steve Somers to Kirk Semple of The New York Times. “After the opening day you could feel the tide turning and the tone being set that the New York Metropolitans were about to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.”

This is where we grant that talk is cheap and that a newspaper columnist and a guy on the radio don’t necessarily speak for all New Yorkers.

But who says New Yorkers need anybody to do the talking for them?

They can do that on their own by telling us who they like to watch, and the answer is increasingly becoming the Mets. While attendance at Yankee Stadium is down slightly, attendance at Citi Field is way up. And according to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, the Mets are now nearly as big a draw on SNY as the Yankees are on YES.

Sandomir‘s observation that this is because winning is more fun than losing is a tad unfair, given how the Yankees haven’t exactly been slouching of late. But if you want to look at that reasoning in light of where these two teams are headed, well, that’s a different story.

With Derek Jeter gone, the Yankees are now entirely without links to their glory days in the 1990s and early 2000s. They also don’t look headed for new glory days any time soon. Their roster is loaded with old, over-the-hill players like Sabathia (34), Alex Rodriguez (39), Mark Teixeira (35), Carlos Beltran (38) and Brian McCann (31). And both at the major league level and down on the farm, the Yankees are short on future building blocks.

The Mets aren’t quite the polar opposite, but they definitely reside on the other side of the spectrum.

Veterans like Wright, Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon are flanked by talented youths like Duda (29), Travis d’Arnaud (26) and Juan Lagares (26), and deGrom (26) and Harvey (26) lead a pitching staff that should also include flame-throwing right-hander Noah Syndergaard (22) before long. Their roster is not only legitimately good now, but it should stay that way for a few more years.

New York’s baseball crown isn‘t up for grabs yet. It belongs to the Yankees until they show they’re no longer worthy of it, and their recent play says that day may not be imminent. If the Mets want it, they’ll have to earn it.

But for the first time in a long time, the Mets have the goods to do just that. And if they put the crown on their head this weekend, it may be staying there for a while.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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Handicapping the Yankees’ Hotly Contested Spring Training Position Battles

Spring training is almost here, and that means two things.

The first is that, thankfully, baseball is almost back.

The second is that there will be plenty of positional battles throughout major league camps as players try to cement their roles on big league rosters. Like every other team, that will be true with the New York Yankees as they prepare for Opening Day in Tampa, Florida.

The Yankees have a few questions surrounding their team, namely when it comes to backing up the backstop, plugging the middle part of the infield and filling out the rotation. With spring training less than a month away, let’s find out who is going to be fightingand winningthe battles this spring.

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Biggest Winners and Losers from the Yankees’ Offseason

Major League Baseball’s offseason is undeniably the most exciting in sports.

Once the winter meetings get going in early December, players begin signing contracts and switching uniforms at a rapid pace. Teams are making trades, bringing in free agents and bidding against one another in the name of improving their own ballclub.

That holds true for the New York Yankees, as it does for any organization. After missing the playoffs for the second straight year with one of MLB‘s oldest rosters in 2014, the Yanks decided they wanted get younger. With this in mind, the Yankees have made several moves that have drastically changed the look of their roster.

As the dynamic of this team begins to change, some Yankees will find themselves benefiting more than others.

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New Year’s Resolutions for the Yankees in 2015

The new year is almost upon us, which means so are New Year’s resolutions.

It is a tradition for people to come up with changes they want to make in their lives, whether it be eating healthier, going to the gym more or quitting a bad habit like smoking. We all have areas in which we would love to improve.

So do the New York Yankees.

After not making the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Bronx Bombers need to make some resolutions of their own in 2015. If they do, perhaps this coming year will be better than the last.

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Reassessing the Yankees’ Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What’s Next

It has been two years since the New York Yankees made the postseason, so naturally there were going to be some changes and transactions this winter.

So far we have seen the Yankees take a slow and careful approach.

They have yet to land a big-name free agent, and with Jon Lester, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez already signing elsewhere, there are few left. They were also absent from trade talks at the winter meetings when players like Matt Kemp, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Mat Latos, Yoenis Cespedes and Jeff Samardzija were dealt.

The Yankees have lost some key players as well. Gone are Brandon McCarthy and David Robertson. McCarthy, who had a downright stellar stint in his half-season with New York in 2014, signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for four years and $48 million. Robertson, a homegrown closer, decided to take a deal in The Windy City, signing a four-year, $46 million pact with the Chicago White Sox.

However, the Yanks have not been entirely silent this winter. They re-signed Chris Young early on, giving them a fourth outfielder to replace Ichiro Suzuki. They also traded catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates for lefty reliever Justin Wilson.

Speaking of relievers, the Yankees signed the best one on the market in Andrew Miller, who agreed to a four-year, $36 million deal. With Robertson having departed and Miller now around to shut down the eight inning, the Yankees will promote Dellin Betances to the closer’s role, a job he seems more than capable of handling after his breakout rookie season in 2014.

The Yankees also found Derek Jeter’s successor in Sir Didi Gregorius (he was officially knighted). New York acquired the defensive stud in a three-team deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers that saw the Yanks send Shane Greene to Detroit.

Perhaps their biggest move came on Monday, when they re-signed Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million deal.

With Headley back, everywhere-man Martin Prado can stick to second base, where he proved to be most comfortable. That means prospect Rob Refsnyder will have trouble winning a starting spot on this year’s roster.

It also means that Alex Rodriguez, who is coming off a yearlong suspension and two hip surgeries at age 39, could be relegated to nothing more than bench duties. He will not play third base with Headley around, and with aging players and injury risks like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury on hand, the Yanks cannot afford to have one permanent designated hitter.

That, of course, is assuming that Rodriguez is even on the Yankees’ roster come Opening Day.

So it has not been the biggest offseason, especially by the Yankees’ standards, but the Bronx Bombers have certainly gotten better.

With a strong bullpen and a lineup that should be improved both offensively and defensively, what is next for the Yankees?

Well, the rotation could really use another front-line starter, or just a starter in general for that matter.

While Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda were dominant last year, CC Sabathia could presumably return to the pitcher he once was and Ivan Nova has shown flashes of brilliance, all four are injury risks. That is only four starters, too: With Greene and McCarthy gone, the Yankees still need a fifth, and the only on-roster options are David Phelps, Adam Warren and Manny Banuelos.

While the Yankees could do worse, they could most certainly do better.

The big fish still in the pond is Max Scherzer. With him and Tanaka as a one-two punch and Pineda pitching as well as he did in 2014, the Yankees could go far. All it would take is one guy…and seven years…and, give or take, $180 million.

Scherzer will not be cheap, but with him the Yankees would have arguably the best pitching staff in an American League East Division currently dominated by hitting.

Does it have to be Scherzer? Of course not, but another top-of-the-rotation pitcher could do wonders for this team. At the very least, they need to consider someone to fill that fifth spot.

The rotation is the Yankees’ biggest weakness. Sure, they could use another bat if they could move some pieces around, but going forward their focus should be on obtaining one more talented arm.


All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.com.

Question or comments? Feel free to follow me on Twitter @GPhillips2727 to talk New York Yankees and Major League Baseball.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Yankees’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 17

With Week 17 here, it is time to once again examine the stocks of the New York Yankees‘ top 10 prospects.

Last week’s list went as such:

  1. Gary Sanchez, C: Down
  2. Luis Severino, RHP: Up
  3. Rob Refsnyder, 2B/OF: Up
  4. Eric Jagielo, 3B: Down
  5. Tyler Austin, 1B/3B/OF: Down
  6. Peter O’Brien, C/1B/3B/OF: Even
  7. Aaron Judge, OF: Up
  8. Ian Clarkin, LHP: Up
  9. Jose Pirela, 2B/SS/OF: Up
  10. Greg Bird, 1B: Down

With a week having gone by and the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline right around the corner on July 31, let’s see where the stocks of these players have gone.


Note: While other sources were taken into consideration, this set of rankings is based on my own opinion.

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Derek Jeter: Stay 2 More Years, and Finish Top 3 in Hits?

Derek Jeter continues to break career records, and at this age, it’s no surprise. Earlier in the season. he eclipsed Lou Gehrig’s doubles record of 534, and most recently he passed Carl Yastrzemski for seventh on the all-time hits list. The hit was a quintessential Jeter base hit through the right side gap on a well executed hit-and-run. With this latest accomplishment, fans have to wonder how high he will move up on the hit list.

Jeter is currently only 10 hits behind fellow shortstop Honus Wagner, who ranks sixth all time with 3,430 career hits. But the thought is prevalent amongst fans: how much more the 40-year-old shortstop could accomplish if he didn’t retire at the end of this season.

Jeter will pass Wagner in the immediate future, and he will likely also pass Cap Anson shortly after that, who, by some accounts, has 3,435 hits, while others have him listed at 3,011 hits. But despite the controversy, the Yankee legend will realistically finish either fifth or sixth all time. Although it will be close, he does have the potential to finish fifth all time by passing Tris Speaker, who has an outstanding 3,514 career hits.

Regardless, Jeter will go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time, but it’s enticing for fans to think about him finishing within the top three.

If Jeter were to play another two years, let’s say, then he would certainly achieve that, or at least come close. And it seems like he could continue on, at least physically, if he wanted to.

Jeter looks healthy after a season plagued with injuries. He is ranked fifth in the league for average from a shortstop with a .278 clip. Albeit, his average is down from what he has hit for his career, which is .311, but his current average is pretty impressive when you take all things into consideration.

At the moment, the Yankee captain has 104 hits on the season and could conceivably pick up around 180 to 185 total by the end of the year. In 2010, he had a similar year when he batted .270 and collected 179 hits total for the season. Most critics thought that season would be the demise of Jeter, but he proved them wrong with a bounce-back year in 2011 with a .297 batting average, then again in 2012 when he hit .316 and led the league in hits with 216.

Even in this subpar year by Jeter’s standards, he has proven he can still play. Pete Rose said a couple of years ago that Jeter wouldn’t be able to break his all-time hits record of 4,256. According to ESPN New York in 2012, Rose had this to say:

I don’t think he can get 200 more hits at 41, but let’s say he does. OK, now he’s 42. He’s gonna get 200 more hits then? At 42? Let me tell you, I’ve been there; the body locks up. Jeter’s a great hitter … but he’s gonna get 200 hits when he’s 42? I don’t think he will. And even if he does all that, he’s still 150 hits short.

We won’t get to find out what would happen with Jeter at 41, or 42, but it does make us think about Rose’s hypothetical. If Jeter were to play an extra two years, he might not catch Rose or Ty Cobb, but surely he’d pass (if he were able to stay healthy) Stan “The Man” Musial and possibly the great Hank Aaron, who have 3,630 and 3,771 hits, respectively.

If he were able to accomplish that feat, that would mean he’d rank third all time in hits, but it would just be icing on the cake in what has been a marvelous career. And for Jeter, he’s never been one to fret over individual stats, but rather his focus has always been on team accomplishments.

His All-Star Game performance showed shades of his youth, when he made a diving stab to almost rob Andrew McCutchen of a base hit, followed up by his leadoff double in the bottom of the inning.  And if his All-Star Game performance was indicative of anything, it’s that the man can still play.

However, it’s understandable that Jeter wants to hang it up now, when he’s still on top. Yes, he may be fading a bit, but he’s still one of the better players in the game. Some players overstay their welcome, and in turn, they don’t get to retire in the fashion they want and with the team they began with.

For Jeter, who has lived a near-flawless legacy, now is the right time. But for fans, the thought of him staying longer seems tempting, knowing that he can accomplish even more than he already has.

Follow Evan on Twitter @Emoneyball22

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Video and Analysis of New York Mets Sleeper Prospect Champ Stuart

The New York Mets have a plethora of pitching prospects but only a few exciting hitting prospects. Fans know about guys like Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki, but there is one name that they might not know yet but will soon: Champ Stuart.

I scheduled a trip to see the Low-A Savannah Sand Gnats play in June with the hopes of seeing their talent-laden roster, but the day prior to my arrival, the New York Mets promoted prospects like Gavin Cecchini and L.J. Mazzilli.

I was disappointed, to say the least, but I was still excited to see 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith, who was impressive in his own right. However, it was Champ Stuart who stood out the most relative to my expectations, impressing in all aspects of the game.

The Mets drafted Stuart in 2013 in the sixth round out of Brevard College. He is a Bahamas native who was very raw when he was drafted but an incredible athlete worth taking a chance on in the sixth round. Since he has entered the Mets system, he has refined his tools immensely, and he has the potential to become an impact major leaguer if he continues to improve at such a rate.

Stuart’s speed is undeniable—according to Baseball America, he ran a 60-yard dash in a blazing 6.3 seconds prior to being drafted—but he’s a great all-around athlete as well, boasting a lean, strong frame.

In batting practice, he displayed a clean stroke with above-average bat speed. The ball jumped off his bat as he banged balls off the fence consistently while occasionally turning on pitches and sending them out of the ballpark.

There isn’t much to dislike about Stuart’s swing. He is a little long to the ball—which explains his high strikeout rate—but his hands travel through the zone quickly. He drove the ball to all fields throughout his batting-practice sessions, and while it was hard to evaluate his hit tool based on what he did during games, he exhibited very impressive plate discipline (more on that later).

Stuart doesn’t have a wild stroke like many raw hitters, but he still lunges and ends up out in front of the ball far too often. MetsMinorLeagueBlog.com’s Toby Hyde looked at this in the below video from last season, in which Stuart stayed back during batting practice but was caught off-balance during games.

The below chart indicates that this is a trend for Stuart rather than a small sample. It displays how he naturally uses the whole field well—as I saw during his batting-practice session—but that a large portion of his outs on batted balls come from grounders to the left side.

From this we can see that pitchers still get him lunging out in front on off-speed pitches. This is notable while trying to evaluate his hitting ability, but considering his lack of experience, it is an understandable and fixable issue.

Stuart doesn’t project as a power hitter at the major league level, but he has some pop. If he continues to progress, I would project 12 to 15 home runs per year optimistically with the potential for more, but more likely around eight to 10.

While the pop in his bat was a nice surprise, it is Stuart’s speed that gives him the opportunity to become an impact prospect in the future.

Billy Hamilton, now with the Cincinnati Reds, has comparable speed and was a top prospect because of his ability to change the game with his legs. The difference between the two is that Hamilton was able to utilize his speed much more, breaking stolen base records in the minors, while Stuart still needs to develop the aggressiveness and baserunning acumen necessary to become an elite base stealer.

Stuart has begun to use his speed in games, however, as evidenced by the below video.

In the video, he lays down a bunt and reaches base in 3.67 seconds. That kind of speed translates to the highest level, as not even David Wright could get somebody out running that fast as long as the bunt is halfway decent.

Stuart’s speed also puts pressure on the defense and forces it into mistakes. In the video below at the 7:17-8:21 mark, you can see the kind of pressure he puts on the defense. The shortstop is rushed into making a poor throw because of how fast Stuart gets down the line.

Stuart needs to improve his ability to create havoc on the basepaths, but he is no slouch as a base stealer. He stole two bases on June 21, which you can see in the below video.

His speed also gives him the potential to become a defensive force in the outfield.

His lack of experience was evident at moments, like when he dove for a ball that he had no chance at that ended up becoming a triple, but that same speed and aggressiveness also allowed him to make a sensational diving catch. Along with his speed, he has plus arm strength.

With his athletic package, he has the gifts to become an exciting defensive outfielder. His athleticism also gives him a high floor defensively, as his speed will allow him to make up for poor routes to the ball.

Stuart is an intriguing prospect because of everything I’ve discussed above, but the aspect of his game that impressed me the most was his plate discipline.

In the two games I attended, he had just one hit, but he walked five times in 10 plate appearances.

Of those five walks, two were especially impressive, which you can see for yourself below.

In the first at-bat, Stuart fell behind 0-2 against 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball but battled and ended up drawing a walk. In the second at-bat, he fell behind 1-2 and did the same.

Throughout the weekend, he refused to chase out of the zone and demonstrated a very advanced knowledge of the strike zone. This approach at the plate is supported by his numbers throughout his brief minor league career. He walked 18.1 percent of the time in 43 games for the Kingsport Mets last season and is walking 15.8 percent of the time through 37 games this year with a .414 on-base percentage.

In my conversations with scouts, many believe that the most important trait to look for beyond bat speed is plate discipline. It’s something that is hard to teach to advanced hitters, and players who have a better understanding of the strike zone attack better pitches to hit, letting their hit tool play up.

Stuart has the athletic ability to make him a noteworthy prospect even if he didn’t have a clue at the plate, but he already has impressive plate discipline, which changes him from a moderately interesting prospect to a potential impact player.

The only thing holding him back is whether or not he develops a playable hit tool. It appears that is starting to happen in Savannah since I saw him in June.

When I saw Stuart on June 21, he was hitting .247 for the season with just one extra-base hit despite his plate discipline. Since then, he has a slash line of .400/.500/.560 with two doubles, a triple and a home run in 12 games. I was planning on writing about my trip to see Stuart prior to his recent performance, but his numbers only reinforce my belief that he has what it takes to become a major prospect.

He hasn’t played since being pulled in the middle of the game on Saturday, but no injury has been reported. Hopefully, he is just getting rest or is being taught a lesson for not running out a pop-out.

Stuart has an intriguing set of tools, and if he starts hitting consistently in games and cutting down on his strikeout rate, he should shoot up prospect lists.

Based on what I saw, he has the ability to be an elite table-setter at the major league level, with the speed and on-base ability to ignite an offense and create havoc at the top of a lineup. He is still raw, and there is a good chance he never develops the hitting ability to reach the major leagues, but he is definitely a player whom Mets fans should keep tabs on as he rises through the minors.


All statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.

Follow Sean on Twitter: @SCunninghamPG.

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Sal "The Barber" Maglie Finished Just a Little off the Top in 1956

Ninth in an 11-part series examining the vagaries of awards voting.

Sal Maglie’s 1956 season combines the “Elston Howard factor” of collecting more MVP votes than worthier candidates largely because his team inched out theirs at the finish line with the “‘Indian Bob’ Johnson factor” of a hot stretch drive that stayed fresh in the memory of writers come ballot time.

Maglie enjoyed the double-whammy of earning lots of votes this way in two award races: the National League MVP and the very first Cy Young honor.

Not to paint a picture that Maglie reaped undue reward for a marginal season. On the contrary, he was a key starter who contributed mightily to a pennant winner—but in my opinion, his runner-up finishes for the MVP and Cy Young Award came at the expense of more-deserving candidates.

Sal Maglie’s story is well known: Struggling for several pre-war years in the mid-minors, he went home to work in a defense plant as America mobilized, until finally making his debut with the New York Giants just as the war drew to an end. Three of his five wins came by shutout, including one against the World Series–bound Chicago Cubs.

But nearing his 29th birthday as Opening Day of 1946 approached, Maglie, along with Max Lanier, Mickey Owen, Giants teammate Danny Gardella and more than a dozen other major leaguers, jumped to the Pasquale Brothers’ outlaw Mexican League, nearly aborting his career before it started.

Maglie pitched in Mexico for two seasons under the tutelage of hotheaded Cuban fireballer Dolf Luque, who had enjoyed a successful 20-year NL career, including a 27-win season in 1923.

Luque taught Maglie to be a more aggressive pitcher, soon transforming Maglie into one of the most feared moundsmen in the National League for his eagerness to throw high and inside, resulting in his sobriquet, “The Barber.” (Despite his nasty reputation, however, Maglie hit only 44 batters in his 10-year major league career.)

Temporarily banned from the majors for his outlaw days, Maglie pitched in Canada before returning to the Giants in 1950. Now a well-traveled 33-year-old, he unleashed his talent and temper on National League batters to the tune of an 18-4 record, pacing the NL in ERA, shutouts and winning percentage.

In the Giants’ legendary 1951 campaign, Maglie reached his apex, tying with teammate Larry Jansen for the major league lead in victories, with 23.

His 2.93 ERA claimed second best, and he finished third in strikeouts. In the Shot Heard ‘Round the World game, Maglie surrendered four runs in eight innings but took a no-decision when Ralph Branca spared him the goat’s horns.

Maglie followed 1951 with several more strong seasons, helping New York to a World Series championship in 1954 and remaining one of the hated nemeses of the Brooklyn Dodgers—and their fans—during his tenure in the Polo Grounds. While donning a Giants jersey, Maglie tortured the powerful Bums by taking 23 of 34 decisions.

In 1955, despite ringing up nine victories through July, the defending champs put Maglie on waivers. Quickly claimed by the Cleveland Indians, he hurled a mere 25.2 innings the rest of the season and looked to be near the end of the line.

Five innings into the 1956 campaign, the borough of Brooklyn did a collective double take as their defending champions, slow out of the gate, purchased the reviled Maglie from the Tribe.

During his first two months in Dodger blue, Maglie, used as both a spot starter and a reliever, did little to help Brooklyn’s fortunes, going 2-3 and carrying an ERA above 4.00.

Then, on July 28, The Barber found his groove. (He won his start previous to July 28 but did not pitch well and claimed victory thanks to Brooklyn’s 10-run assault.) Through the end of August, Maglie won four of five decisions, pitched three no-decisions in which he surrendered a total of two earned runs and dropped his ERA from 4.20 to 3.34

As Brooklyn slowly cut into the Milwaukee Braves’ summer-long lead—simultaneously rumbling with the revived Cincinnati Redlegs—Maglie maintained his magic.

On September 11, he went the distance to beat Milwaukee, 4-2, bringing Brooklyn into a tie for first. And in his next start, Maglie gutted out a narrow victory at Crosley Field to raise the Dodgers into the lead for the first time since April.

As Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Cincinnati played tug-of-war for the pennant, Maglie no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies on September 25. Although Milwaukee’s easy victory in Cincinnati that day kept Brooklyn from gaining ground, Maglie’s headline-making feat so close to the end of the season surely carried a lot of weight come awards time.

Four days later, his complete-game victory in the opener of a double-header against the Pittsburgh Pirates put Brooklyn one game in the lead for good. (After winning the back end of the double-header, Brooklyn clinched the pennant with a series sweep of Pittsburgh the next afternoon, despite Milwaukee also winning its final game.)

At season’s end, Maglie stood at 13-5, with a 2.87 ERA for Brooklyn—a fantastic ERA while hurling two-thirds of his innings in a home park among the toughest in which to pitch.

There is no doubt that Brooklyn—which edged Milwaukee by a single game and Cincinnati by two—won the pennant largely on the arm of Sal Maglie. From late July onward, Maglie was money—especially during the three-team race of September, when he went 6-1, with a 1.77 ERA.

For his heroics, Maglie finished second to teammate Don Newcombe in both the MVP race and the brand-new Cy Young Award, as Newcombe authored one of the monster seasons of the post-war era: 27-7, 3.06 ERA and a 0.989 WHIP—by far, baseball’s best.

Not to minimize in any way Maglie’s huge contribution to a pennant winner, but of the 11 NL pitchers who received MVP votes, only reliever Clem Labine collected fewer wins. Maglie also pitched the fewest innings of any vote-getting starter.

Especially considering that Don Newcombe and his 27 victories were the true anchor of Brooklyn’s staff—and rightfully rewarded as such—a Dodger who played every day deserved more recognition than Maglie for keeping the Bums churning through a daily dogfight.

How Duke Snider finished a distant tenth in the MVP is a real head-scratcher. Garnering a single first-place vote, the Duke’s vote share lagged well behind not only Maglie, but teammates Jim Gilliam and Pee Wee Reese—a part-time keystone combo having an excellent fielding season, with Gilliam cracking an even .300 and drawing 95 walks.

But Duke carried the biggest stick on an aging team suddenly replaced by Cincinnati as the most potent offense in the league.

Snider paced the Senior Circuit in home runs, walks and OPS, tying with Junior Gilliam for the lead in on-base percentage, all while chasing down fly balls to center field at his usual reliable rate. He also crossed the plate 112 times, second most in the league.

And as Newcombe struggled to clinch the pennant on the schedule’s final day—surrendering six earned runs on 11 Pirates’ hits—it was the Duke who saved Brooklyn’s season, slamming a pair of home runs and driving in four RBI.

Sandy Amoros also clubbed two homers, but Duke’s three-run blast in the bottom of the first set the tone and put Pittsburgh in a hole from which it could not fully emerge before Don Bessent relieved the fatigued Newcome and sealed the pennant.

Of course, no one knew from WAR at the time, but the Duke tied Willie Mays for the NL lead at 7.6. Having topped 130 RBI in the previous two seasons yet driving home “only” 101 in 1956, perhaps voters turned their pens elsewhere based on Duke’s “drop-off” in that coveted stat.

Already a potent lineup, the long-lost Redlegs—who hadn’t seen .500 since 1944—slugged their way from 75 to 91 wins largely on the addition of Frank Robinson.

Enjoying one of the greatest freshman campaigns ever—and copping a unanimous Rookie of the Year honor for it—the gritty Robinson smashed 38 home runs, a record that would stand for 31 seasons.

In doing so, Robinson also helped Cincinnati clout a record-tying 221 home runs. Exhibiting impressive bat discipline for a 20-year-old slugger, Robinson drew 64 walks to go with his solid .290 batting average, which, combined with a league-high 20 hit-by-pitches for the rookie who defiantly dug in against veteran hurlers, led to an NL-best 122 runs scored.

Robinson also tied teammate Ed Bailey for second in OPS, with .936. Considering Cincinnati’s dearth of starting pitching—only Brooks Lawrence chalked up more than 13 victories, and only Joe Nuxhall logged an ERA better than league average—Robinson, in my opinion, had more to do with Cincinnati’s sudden resurgence than any other Redleg.

One can argue that a seventh-place finish on the MVP ballot was amply complemented by the Rookie of the Year honor, but Robinson, a natural-born leader and the highest-scoring player on the highest-scoring team, should have finished higher in the vote.

Interestingly, both Snider and Robinson batted their best against each other as Brooklyn and Cincinnati jockeyed all summer for the inside track. Duke lit up Redlegs hurlers for an even .400 and slugged a monstrous .787, while driving in 18 runs and scoring 23 times in 22 contests.

Nearly matching Duke’s mastery of Cincinnati pitching, the rookie Robinson still bruised Brooklyn for nine homers and .716 slugging, resulting in 13 RBI and 20 runs scored in the same 22 games.

Neither fared well against Milwaukee’s deep and stingy rotation.

Warren Spahn also probably should have ranked higher than Maglie. Arguably the best pitcher on what was, far and away, the best pitching staff in the NL (team ERA of 3.11nearly half a run better than runner-up Brooklyn), Spahn enjoyed a typical Warren Spahn season: 20-11, 2.78 ERA. He led the league in nothing but hurled 90 more innings than Maglie.

Over the course of an entire season, during which Spahn’s Braves spent 83 percent of its schedule within two games, either way, of first place, 90 high-quality innings is a huge difference to overlook.

Milwaukee’s strength on the mound may have actually worked against Spahn at voting time. Lew Burdette spun a season very similar to Spahn statistically (19-10, 2.70 ERA, in 256.1 innings), yet although voters barely took notice of Burdette or 18-game winner Bob Buhl at awards time, Spahn’s 20 wins might have lost some impact among his big-winning teammates.

Of course, had Milwaukee finished a game ahead of Brooklyn, Spahn likely would have received many of the votes that instead went to Maglie.

Unfortunately for Spahn, who went 7-1 and saved one game in September (including a 12-inning complete-game victory on September 13), he took a truly hard-luck loss in Milwaukee’s penultimate game of the season, which dropped the Braves a game behind Brooklyn and allowed the Dodgers to claim the pennant the following afternoon despite Burdette’s 4-2 win in St. Louis.

Tied with Brooklyn with two games to play, Spahn spun a masterful 11 innings, yielding only three hits and one earned run. But Cardinal Herm Wehmeier, an oft-wild thrower with a career mark of 80-100 going into the game, matched Spahn inning for inning.

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 12th, Spahn yielded a double to Stan Musial. Intentionally walking Ken Boyer to get to Rip Repulski, Repulski ripped a double to left, scoring Musial and giving Brooklyn—busy winning the second game of a double-header against Pittsburgh after Maglie won the opener—a one-game edge going into the season’s final day.

As for the Cy Young Award—which, in 1956, was issued to a single pitcher selected from both leagues—Maglie again placed second to Newcombe. The same argument for Spahn (and Burdette) in the MVP race becomes stronger for this vote. With Newcombe deservedly running away with the inaugural award, Maglie earned four of the remaining six votes, outpacing both Spahn and Whitey Ford.

The ace of the eventual world-champion New York Yankees, Ford went 19-6, with a Major League–topping 2.47 ERA. But the Bronx Bombers peeled away from the rest of the AL in July and coasted to the pennant, so Ford enjoyed none of the hero-making drama of a close race, as did Maglie.

Yet a pitcher superior that season both to Spahn and Ford, let alone Maglie, was completely ignored. Herb Score, coming off a Rookie of the Year effort in 1955, took another step toward the superstardom he’d sadly never reach (see his entry, No. 2, in my series for a fuller explanation).

Flame throwing his way to a 20-9 season, garnished with an AL-high five shutouts and 263 strikeouts—best in the Majors and 71 more than anyone else—Score unfairly went missing at ballot time thanks to an 88-win Cleveland Indians squad made irrelevant by the machine-like Yankees.

As good as was Maglie down Brooklyn’s stretch drive, Score, with his adjusted ERA of 166, pitched at the highest caliber virtually all season.

Pitching in his third—and final—World Series, in 1956, Maglie went the distance in the opener, whiffing 10 Yankees in a 6-3 victory at Ebbets Field. In Game 5, he had the misfortune of pitching against history, as his gutsy eight innings were no match for Don Larsen’s perfection. (Along with the Shot Heard ‘Round the World game, this made Maglie a starting pitcher in perhaps the two most famous contests in baseball annals.)

New York, of course, went on to reclaim the crown Brooklyn had usurped the previous year.

Maglie pitched one more season in Brooklyn, but now 40 years old, the Barber’s days were numbered. He bounced to the Yankees—becoming one of only 14 players who made the stop at all three New York boroughs—before concluding his short but eventful career with the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1958.

Etching a most impressive 119-62 record, with a career ERA 27 percent better than league average, Sal Maglie enjoyed one helluva ride for a guy who didn’t stick in the Majors until age 33.

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