If the Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis situation has taught us anything, it’s that having good players is a good thing and teams should not be so quick to forfeit their depth just because they have a positional logjam. If you missed it last week, Middlebrooks has gone down with a broken wrist, forcing the Red Sox to turn to Twins castoff Danny Valencia to man the hot corner. While Middlebrooks has been struggling in the wake of the trade that sent Youkilis to Chicago for two relative non-entities, but he still represents an upgrade over anything that Valencia can offer, except for his ability to find something to whine about while sitting in first class on a plane over Twitter.
While a lot of us were quick to slag on the Diamondbacks for muddying up their outfield this past offseason (a point brought up by Matthew Pouliot last week), Arizona actually increased their depth by bringing in another quality, and undervalued, corner bat, freeing up Gerardo Parra to be the best (and most used) 4th outfielder in the game. Parra’s filled in for Kubel and Justin Upton at times and has taken over in CF when Chris Young was out for a month earlier this year. He also, now that Young is back and unable to hit a righty, would make a hell of a platoon partner out there for Young.
Similarly, all of us wondered what the Angels were going to do with all their outfielders, first basemen, and DHs, but that has largely sorted itself out thanks to Mark Trumbo’s willingness to move around, Bobby Abreu’s release, and the merciful decision to sit Vernon Wells. The club could have dealt Peter Bourjos when it was clear how good Mike Trout was going to be, but in keeping him they have a valuable and skilled backup who can be plugged into any outfield spot (despite his offensive struggles).
Far too often, we underrate depth and positional flexibility when we look at how teams are constructed, especially in this age of 12 and 13 man pitching staffs. Teams that can find the best 2nd string talent (like the Yankees did with Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones) to help carry them through stretches where their stars are out with the inevitable injuries wind up having a tremendous advantage over teams like the Red Sox, who are now forced to turn to a 27 year old who has hit .236/.278/.367 over the last two seasons, and who couldn’t even find a place on one of the worst teams in the American League, instead of the team leader who had spent nine seasons in Boston and has the 126 career OPS+.
Pitcher of the Night: Chris Capuano, 8 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 0 R
Capuano actually had a no-hitter into the 7th. Boy, if you'd made TCM guess which NL pitcher was going to win comeback player of the year, TCM would've picked about a dozen other candidates before he got around to Capuano, assuming he even remembered him. Assuming the Dodgers make the playoffs and can set up their rotation however they like, he's starting Game 2 (or Game 1 after they win that cock-a-mamie play in game).
Hitter of the Night: Neil Walker, 5-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB
Since June 1, Walker is now hitting .324/.388/.550 and Andrew McCutchen is hitting .384/.445/.657. The Common Man doesn't have too much insight on this point, just wants to admire that for a minute. This is Walker's second five-hit game of the year, and the third of his career.
Play of the Night: Rajai Davis
You have to see the play to appreciate just how crazy bananas Rajai Davis is right here. He's smart, careful, athletic, and precise and winds up with the most impressive play of the year so far. Plus, he went 2-5 with 2 doubles and 5 RBI, making it a pretty good night all around.
Big Little Hit of the Night: Juan Pierre
A grounder to mildly deep shortstop and Juan Pierre is a hero. What the hell is this world coming to? You know someone's going to sign him to a two-year deal this offseason.
Anti-Play of the Night: Oakland A's
The A's are obviously absolute morons here, forgetting to back up two bases on one play and getting so focused on their failure to stop Pierzynski from taking 3B they stopped actually paying attention to him a second time. But let's also take a moment to celebrate Pierzynski, one of the headiest players in the game, who also went 2-4 with his 23rd homer on the year. Pierzynski's hitting .299/.350/.560 in what has been, by far, the most impressive offensive season of his career. Everybody loves to hate AJ, but in the elder-statesman portion of his career here, let's just take a moment and appreciate that he's playing good baseball, the way we want to see it played.
Injuries of Note:
Denard Span, Shoulder
Span did an awkward somersault as he tried to catch a Jeff Keppinger line drive. He has a sore collarbone but x-rays were negative and he's listed as day-to-day. Knowing Twins doctors, we'll see Span again some time in 2013.
Kevin Youkilis, Sore knee, forearm
Yes, you say, this contradicts TCM's point above about Youkilis being available to spell Middlebrooks. But if Youkilis was in some kind of a swing role between 3B, 1B, and DH, there's a good chance regular rest would have allowed him to stay healthier and heal quicker.
Red Sox: Carl Crawford, 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 2B
A huge game for Crawford in a 15-1 romp by the Red Sox. That had to feel good, didn't it? Exercising a few demons? Wonder if they celebrated with beer in the clubhouse.
Yankees: Derek Jeter, 3-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
With a monster game, Jeter is now just a single hit behind Nap Lajoie for 12th on the All Time list. Has anybody noticed he's actually leading the AL in hits? At his current pace, he'll also leap past Eddie Murray and WIllie Mays by the end of the season, and be well in line to pass Eddie Collins, Paul Molitor, Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner next year.
Orioles: Lew Ford, 0-2, BB
Lost in the excitement of Manny Machado hitting his 3rd homer and the Orioles taking a half game lead over the Tigers and A's for the last wild card, is that Lew Ford has sadly not seen his fairy tail comeback have a happy ending. Ford is hitting .148/.207/.222, and while TCM would normally say "small sample size" alert, a guy like Ford pretty much has to get hot out of the gate to avoid the coming DFA and NRIs in Spring Training.
Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, 7.2 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 3 R
Gallardo has had three disastrous starts on the year, but in the other 21 has an ERA of 2.69, and has been one of the only bright spots in an increasingly depressing Brewers season.
White Sox: Chris Sale, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 11 K, 2 R
TCM is sorry to report that Chris Sale has been declared illegal in the 7 states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Rhode Island, and both North and South Dakota), as his existence makes people want to leave those states in search of something better.
Rays: Fernando Rodney, 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 R
Take just a moment, and contemplate Fernando Rodney being brought on with a four run lead in the 10th inning to get a single out, inducing a ground ball to first base, and then celebrating like he had just been named the fastest man alive. The stupid save rule ruins everything.
Reds: Johnny Cueto, 8 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K, 0 R
Nothing you say is going to make me believe that Johnny Cueto deserves the Cy Young Award this year over R.A. Dickey. But that's a huge blind spot on TCM's part, cuz Cueto is straight-up awesome.
Rangers: Josh Hamilton, 2-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, SB
Behold the power of obeying God, who doesn't like chewing tobacco or something. Since July 30, Hamilton has hit .345/.390/.655. Kids, let this be a lesson to you. Take up chewing tobacco and then give it up.
Mariners: Jason Vargas, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 R
TCM wishes he had something interesting to say about Vargas, but he frankly seems very boring. Suggestions: Change your first name to Chevy or your last name to Voorhies. Anyway, it's worth nothing that the value the M's got for Sean Green, JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Luis Valbuena keeps looking better, and better, and better.
Giants: Brandon Belt, 4-4, 2 2B, R, RBI
In the last seven Giants games, Belt has hit .500/.577/.636. He's expected to be held out of the lineup for the next several games for showing up the old people.
Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt, 2-4, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB
The stolen base is Goldschmidt's 11th on the season, which leads all Major League first basemen, which interests The Common Man for some reason...probably because TCM just blindly assumed he was a slugger only.
Braves: Ben Sheets, 6 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 5 R
Sheets has his first even marginally suspect start in six tries. The Common Man just can't stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, and feels like a terrible person while he's doing it.