Takeaways from MLB Week 23
Perhaps no single player can be more valuable to a team’s success in the postseason than Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
While he had a disappointing outing on Friday in his first start after more than a two-month layoff due to a disc herniation, a healthy Kershaw can only positively affect the direction of the Dodgers’ season.
Which other MLB teams saw their road to the playoffs change course?
Clayton Kershaw Returns to the Mound
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound Friday, starting in a 4-1 loss to the Miami Marlins. It was the first time since June 26 that Kershaw had pitched.
He spent more than two months on the disabled list with a disc herniation.
When he was placed on the disabled list, Kershaw was unilaterally considered baseball’s best pitcher. At the time of his injury, Kershaw had a 1.79 ERA with a 0.727 WHIP and had only issued nine walks.
But on Friday, he looked nothing like the Kershaw of old, allowing two runs and five hits in only three innings of work. He only threw 66 pitches and, predictably, was on a pitch count as he works to get his arm stretched out for the playoffs.
The outing is in no way an indication that Kershaw can’t return to form. If there were more time remaining this season, he might have taken more time to stretch out his arm. But given that we’re in the final weeks of the season, he essentially needs to do that while simultaneously trying to impact the race.
The Dodgers are unquestionably a much more dangerous team with the pre-injury Kershaw on the mound. But in his absence, manager Dave Roberts has kept Los Angeles a World Series contender, making him the favorite to win NL Manager of the Year.
The Dodgers currently lead the NL West by four games at the time of this article.
Mets Sign Tim Tebow
During his college and professional football career, Tim Tebow was among the most polarizing in his sport. Some saw potential while others saw flaws.
He may very well play that same role as a professional baseball player.
The New York Mets signed Tebow to a minor league deal on Thursday. He was a talented outfielder in high school who left the sport after his junior year. Tebow, 29, will begin his career on Sept. 19 in the fall instructional league.
Given that Tebow has spent nearly a decade away from the sport, the signing will reasonably draw criticism as a publicity stunt. There aren’t many athletes who would be considered by MLB teams after such an extensive layoff from the sport.
Last week, Tebow held a showcase in Los Angeles, which was attended by 28 teams. The Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs were the two teams that did not attend the event, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Depending on his progress in Florida, Tebow could then move on to the Arizona Fall League or a winter league. The expectation is that prior to the 2017 season, Tebow will be assigned to a team within the Mets’ minor league system.
Corey Seager a 'New Girl' Fan
When Los Angeles Dodgers rookie shortstop Corey Seager knows a big game is on the horizon, he doesn’t take extra batting practice. Seager doesn’t pour over game tape either.
He watches episodes of New Girl.
In an interview with Doug Padilla of ESPN.com, Seager shared that he is an “avid fan” of the Fox show, which tells the story of a recently single girl who moves in with three single male roommates.
Seager told Padilla: “That’s my superstition. It gets me locked in.”
The routine has paid dividends for Seager, who should be the runaway NL Rookie of the Year given that he is hitting .318/.378/.534 with 24 homers and 66 RBI. Seager will likely get MVP consideration, but shouldn’t be expected to win.
So maybe we’ll see incoming prospects screen New Girl en masse.
Stephen Strasburg Goes Back to the Disabled List
Throughout much of this season, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg has looked much like the ace the team thought it was getting when it made him the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. After a start on August 3, he had a 2.63 ERA.
That prompted the Nationals to sign him to a $175 million contract extension earlier this season.
Unfortunately for both Strasburg and the organization, he hasn’t looked like the type of ace the team can count on. It was announced Thursday that Strasburg has a strain in the flexor mass of his elbow.
There is no timetable for his return, though the Nationals left open the possibility that he could return in time for the playoffs.
This is the third injury of the season for Strasburg. In June, he was placed on the disabled list with an upper-back strain and in late August with right elbow soreness. He returned from his latest stint on Sept. 7 when he started against the Atlanta Braves but was pulled after 2.1 innings of work.
Should Strasburg be unable to get healthy for the playoffs, the team will rely more heavily on Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark. Roark is having a career season with a 2.89 ERA in 28 starts.
Yankees Win Six Straight, Climb to ½ out of AL Wild Card
The New York Yankees are on the precipice of orchestrating one of the greatest second-half turnarounds in major league history.
Fighting to stay above .500 at the trade deadline, general manager Brian Cashman elected to make the unpopular decision of turning his organization into a seller in late July. The team shipped off its best offensive player at the time, Carlos Beltran. It also traded Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, two of the game’s best relievers, and starter Ivan Nova.
To his credit, by trading those players, Cashman brought the Yankees a haul of prospects that now gives the organization one of the best minor league systems in the game.
But slowly after those trades were made, the Yankees found themselves climbing back into the playoff picture. New York won its sixth straight game Friday, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-5.
Along with their crosstown rival New York Mets, the Yankees own the longest active winning streak in MLB. Over the six games, the Yankees have scored 31 runs. On Friday, catcher Gary Sanchez, the spark plug for this season’s renaissance, had two hits including a home run.
Sanchez is slashing .341/.417/.707 this season.