5 Biggest Takeaways from Week 5's MLB Action
Each week of baseball's regular season brings any number of fascinating news, noteworthy developments and/or curious behavior.
The week that is about to conclude, Week 5, has been no different—and there's still part of the weekend left for something else to happen.
In the meantime, here are a handful of the biggest takeaways from the goings-on of the past seven days.
The Red Sox Are Fed Up with How Bad Their Pitching Has Been
With a pitching staff that continues to struggle, the Boston Red Sox needed a scapegoat. Sorry, Juan Nieves.
The club announced Thursday that Nieves, who had served as the team's pitching coach since 2013, had been relieved of his duties. With a team ERA of 4.95—worse than every other squad save for the perennially pitching-poor Colorado Rockies (5.34 ERA)—it's understandable why Boston brass would want to make a move.
At the same time, Nieves doesn't deserve all of the blame. It wasn't exactly unexpected coming into the season that the Red Sox might need to do something about their arms, especially in the rotation, which lacks a No. 1-caliber starter—or even a No. 2 or No. 3.
Sure, general manager Ben Cherington addressed things by bringing in right-handers Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson and lefty Wade Miley in the offseason. But Porcello currently owns the lowest ERA of the five-man members—and it's an unsightly 4.38.
While the relievers have been a bit better (4.01 ERA), they also already have combined to throw 103.1 innings, which is the second-highest total by a bullpen entering Saturday.
"[We] simply got to the point where we felt that, in order to continue to push forward and make improvements, we needed to make a change and have a different voice in that particular position," Cherington said, per Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
Except that different voice isn't yet in place. Boston was willing to get rid of Nieves without naming a replacement, meaning manager (and former pitching coach) John Farrell will take over the duties for now.
Even Without Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals Remain the Class of the NL
Ever since Adam Wainwright—arguably the St. Louis Cardinals' biggest star—went down, the team has, surprisingly, gone up.
The Cardinals lost their ace right-hander to a season-ending torn Achilles on April 25, and after losing the first two games sans Wainwright, they have reeled off 10 wins in their last 11 games. Among those were three consecutive walk-off victories over the NL Central rival Pittsburgh Pirates last weekend.
As Paul Casella wrote for Sports on Earth prior to Wednesday's loss, which ended an eight-game winning streak: "[This 20-6 record is] the best 26-game start in franchise history. St. Louis' 20 wins are not only the most ever by the organization at this point in a season, but they're also the most by any team through its first 27 games since the 2003 Yankees started 21-6."
In the three games since, St. Louis has gone 2-1. Add it all up, and this is the squad with the best best record in baseball at 22-7, a full three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers (19-10).
With a solid core of stalwart veterans like Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn and Jhonny Peralta surrounded by a number of young talents like Kolten Wong, Matt Adams, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals have become the most consistently competitive club in the NL.
Now, if only they could share some of their secret sauce with newbie Jason Heyward. Their big offseason acquisition is hitting just .241/.299/.343, meaning the Cardinals could get even better.
This Is the Year Bryce Harper Becomes an MVP Candidate—For Real
Bryce Harper had himself a great month in the span of this week. Actually, it was more like two days.
The 22-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder, whose power binge appeared to be bubbling just below the surface, put together a three-homer game Thursday, making him the youngest to do so since 1969.
Not only that, but the way in which Harper hit 'em out—to all different parts of the park—showcased his impressive power the opposite way and flat-out stupid pop to the pull side. To wit, his three long balls Thursday measured at 393, 442 and 445, per Statcast, each one longer than the last.
"I was trying to be aggressive," Harper said in his on-field interview after his three-homer effort Wednesday. "I've been so patient lately. I was just trying to get some pitches in the zone and do some damage."
In fact, Harper leads the majors with 26 walks so far, which indicates he's seeing the ball well and focused on waiting for his pitch to drive.
"The last couple of games, [Harper has] been exceptional," skipper Matt Williams told reporters Friday.
The Nationals, who have battled through numerous injuries and dropped to six games below at 7-13 after an April 27 loss, are back to .500 after winning eight of their past 10. It's not a coincidence that Harper, the former No. 1 overall draft pick many have been expecting to develop into an MVP candidate, enters the weekend tied for the NL lead with 10 homers.
The Trend of Hiring Skippers Sans Prior Managerial Experience Isn't Going Away
By dismissing the recently extended Ron Roenicke after a 7-18 start and hiring Craig Counsell as their new skipper, the Milwaukee Brewers merely followed a path that many other teams have paved in recent years: choosing a bench boss with no prior managerial experience at any level.
Aside from Counsell, who worked in the Brewers front office since 2012 after playing 16 seasons as a utilityman in the majors, here's a list of other current managers who fit that mold: Robin Ventura (Chicago White Sox); Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals); Walt Weiss (Colorado Rockies); Brad Ausmus (Detroit Tigers); and Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay Rays).
In addition to that bunch, two other recent hires from this past offseason, Chip Hale (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Jeff Banister (Texas Rangers), only had spent time managing in the minors but never the majors.
In Counsell's case, although he didn't have any prior experience, he's going to have plenty of time to figure things out over the rest of what looks like a lost season for the Brewers, who enter Saturday as the only club yet to reach double digits in wins. That will give him something to fall back on when this club gets to turn the page in 2016.
"He's played 1,600 games as a player. I told him he was on the bench for about 800 games that he didn't play, and during those games, I know that he was managing in his mind," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. "That experience—the winning experience, the World Series rings, what he's done in the front office working with me over the last three years—is going to be a very big help to him on the field."
Eddie Rosario's Family Is All Kinds of Awesome
This was quite a week to be a member of the Rosario family. Eddie Rosario, one of the top prospects in the Minnesota Twins' system, made his big league debut Wednesday, May 6, and the Puerto Rico-native's family flew into Minneapolis in time to catch the momentous occasion.
Turns out, it went better than they could have imagined.
Rosario, 23, homered on the very first pitch he saw in the majors—just the 29th player ever to do so, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com—and while he was doing that, a handful of his family members were busy capturing the moment on video via their various portable devices.
Once Rosario made contact and the ball started flying out, though, the reality of the event set in, and they all started celebrating in the moment rather than watching it play out through a lens. Plenty of jumping, high-fiving and hugging ensued.
"Wow ... it's something special", Rosario's father, Eddie Sr., said on the broadcast. "I didn't imagine a home run his first at-bat—I just wanted a hit. I think I'm the happiest father in the world right now."
As for Mom? Well, she was there and all sorts of happy, too, because Rosario's debut came the week of Mother's Day.
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