7 Biggest Takeaways from Week 6's MLB Action
Another week, another bundle of Major League Baseball storylines to take in.
We're into Week 6 of the 2015 MLB season, and it's been just about as crowded with things happening as the five weeks that preceded it. But rather than touch on everything that happened, we're going to pick an odd number and focus our attention on the seven biggest takeaways from the week's action.
We'll go in order from least interesting to most interesting. Step into the box whenever you're ready.
Giancarlo Stanton Still Hits Baseballs Harder Than Anyone
If you're not up to date on the latest in Giancarlo Stanton Annihilating Baseballs, know that the Miami Marlins' slugging right fielder has hit three home runs in his last three games (Nos. 8, 9 and 10 on the season) and that the dinger pictured above was outrageous even by his standards.
Yup, Stanton hit that ball out of Dodger Stadium. Literally out of Dodger Stadium. In so doing, he fulfilled a childhood dream and joined an exclusive list that includes only three other players.
"When I was young, that's actually what I wanted to do," the Southern California native told Fox Sports Florida. "Whatever reason that was. It wasn't necessarily hit a home run. I wanted to hit it out. Not your average eight-year-old says he can do that."
In addition, that home run serves as a reminder that when it comes to tattooing baseballs, Stanton is still the man. According to Baseball Savant, that was his eighth batted ball of at least 114 miles per hour. As of the start of play on Friday, that was twice as many as any other player.
And to think we were worried he wasn't going to be able to bounce back from being hit by a pitch last year. Now we know: Baseballs still don't hit Stanton nearly as hard as he hits them.
Noah Syndergaard Debuted, and He Was Solid
It's been a bad week for the New York Mets (more on that in a moment), but not all bad. For the first time, they got to play with a powerful new toy.
Hard-throwing right-hander Noah Syndergaard (aka "Thor") made his major league debut Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and he pitched pretty well. Though his final line involved three earned runs in 5.1 innings, he cruised through his first five frames and ultimately struck out six.
In the process, Syndergaard showed off some of the reasons he's regarded as arguably the best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball. His fastball hovered around 97 miles per hour, and his curveball looked more than ready for the majors.
Really all that was missing was his fastball command, which Brooks Baseball can show was all over the place. But while that's something he needs to get squared away, that shouldn't be too much trouble. Syndergaard is supposed to have much better command than your typical power pitching prospect.
So though it wasn't a roaring success, Syndergaard's major league debut was at least a pretty good start. If he builds off it, major league teams will come to know the wrath of Thor's hammer.
Welcome Back to Earth, Mets
Hey, remember when the Mets were the best team in baseball?
Nobody can blame you if you don't. They've been sliding steadily downhill since opening their season with 13 wins (including 11 in a row) in their first 16 games, and they've hit bottom this week.
The Mets were 20-11 when they began a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs, and 20-15 when they left. Add in a loss to the lowly Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, and the Mets are dealing with a five-game losing streak and a manager who's huffing and puffing.
“It’s unbelievable, to be honest,” Terry Collins said Thursday, as reported by John Harper of the New York Daily News. “Where everything was going good, now everything is going bad. What we need to do is make sure we understand it’s part of the game, and go home and get ready to play: 'quit looking in the mirror and feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve gotta stop that.' "
Collins also said that it wasn't a "fluke" that the Mets started so hot, but the rest of us can say "Eh..." to that. The Mets played a super-easy schedule at the start of the year. And though they have outstanding starting pitching and a quality defense, things like that will only buy you so much consistency when your offense and bullpen are hit-or-miss.
The real Mets are more like the ones we've seen recently, not the ones we saw at the outset.
The Other Team in New York Has Also Hit the Skids
The Mets aren't the only New York team that started 2015 out hot. On a related note, they're also not the only New York team to hit the skids this week. It's been a rough one for the Yankees too.
The Yankees started the week off with a bang Monday, beating the Tampa Bay Rays by an 11-5 final to run their record to 21-12. But they've since lost four in a row, getting outscored 25-6 in the process.
It's the latter number there that really stands out, as it highlights how the previously hot Yankees offense has gone cold. A lack of hard contact has been the defining symptom, as the Yankees have collected only four extra-base hits in their last four games.
"It's just part of the game. Offense is going to come and go," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday, according to MLB.com. "Pitching is what sustains you over the course of a long season."
Girardi's not wrong, but things aren't exactly dandy on the pitching side either. Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova are already out with injuries, and Chase Whitley was added to the pile this week with a torn ulnar collateral ligament that may require season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Unlike the Mets in the NL East, the Yankees fortunately don't have to worry about a potential superpower being hot on their heels in the AL East race. But if nothing else, this week has been a reminder that a division title isn't going to come easy.
Kris Bryant's Power and, in a Way, the Cubs Have Both Arrived
At the start of the season, we could only imagine what the Chicago Cubs were going to look like once slugging third-base prospect Kris Bryant finally arrived. Surely, they would be a sight to see.
Well, we no longer have to imagine anymore.
Though Bryant has been in the majors for nearly a month, he didn't truly "arrive" until this week. After failing in his first 20 games to show off the power that had everyone drooling over his potential, he's now launched four home runs in his last seven games.
The latest of these was a three-run jack Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field that paced the Cubs to an 11-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. After sweeping a four-game series against the New York Mets, the Cubs have now won five in a row and are a season-best five games over .500 at 20-15.
The Cubs hitting their stride just as Bryant is discovering his power potential may not be a coincidence. He and Anthony Rizzo look like the middle-of-the-order nightmare many envisioned them as, and they're flanked by a cadre of solid hitters that includes fellow top prospects Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, and veterans Dexter Fowler, Starlin Castro and Miguel Montero. This is now a damn fine offense.
Whether it will stay that way is anyone's guess. But for now, it looks like the Cubs' future has arrived.
Here Come the Nationals
Bryce Harper has gotten all the attention over the last week or so, and he deserves it. With eight home runs since May 6, the young slugger has been absolutely on fire.
But hey, the rest of the Washington Nationals have also been pretty good.
There was a point in late April when the Nationals were 7-13, hardly a record befitting a team that came into the season marked as a potential super-team. But with their 10-0 win over the San Diego Padres Friday night, the Nationals are now 13-4 in their last 17 games and 20-17 overall.
Thanks in part to Stephen Strasburg's struggles, Washington's vaunted pitching staff has played only a modest role in the club's hot stretch. The real story has been the offense, which has gone from averaging 3.5 runs per game pre-hot stretch to averaging 6.5 runs per game during the hot stretch.
And that hasn't all been Harper's doing. Denard Span, Yunel Escobar and Wilson Ramos have been on fire over the last two weeks, and Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman have started to heat up as well.
The Nationals offense won't stay this hot forever, but this is certainly more like what many expected from it in 2015. And before long, it will get yet another weapon when star third baseman Anthony Rendon makes his return.
So, beware of the Nationals. They were laying low for a while there; now they're sounding the charge.
Corey Kluber's Demise Was Greatly Exaggerated
Through seven starts, Corey Kluber's follow-up to his Cy Young season in 2014 couldn't have been going much worse. He had a 5.04 ERA, and the Cleveland Indians had dropped all seven of his outings.
But then Wednesday happened.
Kluber took the ball against the St. Louis Cardinals at Progressive Field and struck out 18 in eight scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and no walks. Never mind just the best performance of 2015, it was one of the best performances in pitching history.
Though Kluber was denied a chance to go for the single-game record of 20, he did become only the second pitcher ever to strike out 18 in fewer than nine innings. And with a 98, he authored easily the highest Game Score ever for an eight-inning outing.
Now that this game is in the books, Kluber may start looking like his Cy Young-winning self. The signs were already there that he wasn't as bad as he looked in his first seven starts. Rather than needing a big fix, he seemed to be just a little nudge from getting back on track.
Since his showing Wednesday was a little more than a nudge, he should be good to go now.