Yoenis Cespedes is Not Winning the MVP Award

Yoenis Cespedes has played a huge role in the Mets' postseason run.

Yoenis Cespedes has made the National League look a lot more like the Oriental Division in Cuba for the past month and a half.

In 46 games, he’s hit 17 home runs. His Mets’ triple slash line of .286/.332/.634 has catapulted his team into cruise control to win the division for the first time since 2006. Cespedes has almost as many RBI (42) as he does strikeouts (46). We can even throw in four stolen bases with zero caught stealing attempts.

Basically, Cespedes has been the perfect savior for a franchise that has been in desperate need of a headline to distract the masses from the Matt Harvey innings limit fiasco.

With that said, Cespedes isn’t the only Met having a big postseason run.

Some of the biggest reasons why the Mets are having a huge stretch run are because of players who don’t sport a parakeet yellow sleeve. Here are just a few:

The revival of Curtis Granderson

Michael Comforto posting an OPS over .900 the last 6 weeks

The return of David Wright’s spine

The return of David Wright

The return of Travis D’Arnaud and finally living up to his top prospect hype

Consistent Starting Pitching

Terry Collins isn’t doing anything stupid

Cespedes hasn’t been the only reason why the Mets are winning. That much is obvious. But, doesn’t his production and arrival perfectly correspond with the Mets winning?

Since August 1, the Mets have gone 30-15, a full seven games better than the rival Nationals. The Mets have put the division away while simultaneous wiping away the memory of Jerry Manuel and the 2007 team’s collapse.

Are those two months, and Cespedes’ production during that span, enough to beat out any other NL candidate?

The answer is no.

In reality, Cespedes hasn’t even been the best player in his division.

Bryce Harper has finally become a superstar in 2015.

Check out his gaudy 2015 numbers:

41 HR 95 RBI 115 BB

.343 Batting Average (highest in NL)

.470 Slugging Percentage (highest in NL)

.674 Slugging Percentage (highest in NL)

1.143 OPS (highest in MLB)

10.2 Wins Above Replacement (highest in MLB)

There is no arguing Harper’s brilliance for the past five and a half months. His consistent play has outshined all of Major League Baseball. Harper has clearly been the main cog in a Nationals team that has sputtered all season. Without him, the Nationals may have also been in the cellar with the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins.

There is value in consistency.

Harper has a higher OPS over the entire season than Cespedes has had over the last six weeks. Cespedes’ recent performance is not entirely unbelievable given his talent, however, his numbers are much higher than his career norms.

Yoenis Cespedes isn't the only Met having a big second half.

What to expect for the future

Over his four-year career, Cespedes has had over two thousand at bats. Those at-bats have resulted in a more modest triple-slash of .270/.318/.487. His career OPS sits at an above average .805. Still, we see that Cespedes has been a terrific middle of the order hitter on playoff teams. His impact cannot be understated, with the coincidental collapse of Oakland after his departure and the rocket-like explosion the Mets have had since his arrival. The notion that Cespedes kept the Tigers afloat offensively this season without a fully healthy Miguel Cabrera or slightly useful Victor Martinez can also be argued.

Basically, “La Potencia” is good.

For Mets fans, there are a ton of reasons to be optimistic. While Cespedes may not be the most deserving MVP in the race, the Mets are in one of the most enviable positions leading up to the postseason. Their rotation is loaded with aces, and the lineup has blossomed at the perfect time.

At this point for the Mets, the focus is on winning games in the playoffs. The MVP Award can take a backseat until November.

I’m sure Cespedes would agree. 

Can the New York Yankees Trust Nathan Eovaldi Down The Stretch?

Nathan Eovaldi has recently been pitching on the edge. Can the New York Yankees depend on him? Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Eovaldi has recently been pitching on the edge. Can the New York Yankees depend on him?
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

After getting absolutely shellacked by his former team, Nathan Eovaldi has rebounded in many respects. First, he’s made it out of the first inning each time. That’s a start. 

Eovaldi has always been an enigma. Consistently one of the hardest throwers in MLB, Eovaldi doesn’t strike many hitters out, or get them out in general. Last season in Miami, Eovaldi lead the NL in hits allowed. It’s crazy to think that a pitcher who can touch 98 mph in the seventh and eighth innings of ball games would not have secondary pitches developed enough to at least become a better than league average pitcher.

Let’s take a look at some key changes of what he’s throwing:

Fastball %

2014: 62.9

2015: 48.4

Changeup %

2014: 3.1%

2015: 17.3%

Slider %

2014: 24.7

2015: 24.5

Eovaldi is clearly attempting to add a third pitch to his arsenal. In Miami, the main knock on his was that he didn’t have a reliable third pitch. Once he lost some control of his slider, Eovaldi would leave more pitches over the middle of the plate and get rocked. In 2015, he’s been trying to keep hitters off balance with a whopping 14% decrease in fastballs thrown and a 14% increase in changeups thrown.

Keeping hitters off-balance was something that Eovaldi was not able to do consistently in Miami. Even with these dramatic changes in his pitch selection, nothing much has changed.

Percentage of pitchers a batter swings at:

2014: 50.2%

2015: 47.1%

Total batter contact percentage:

2014: 82.9

2015: 82.5

Line Drive rate:

2014: 22.3%

2015: 21.4%

Strikeout rate:

2014: 16.6%

2015: 16.4%

Walk rate:

2014: 5.0%

2015: 6.5%

How can a pitcher change what he’s throwing by almost 30% and still see the exact same results? It’s almost impressive, but there have been a few key differences:

Groundball rate:

2014: 44.8%

2015: 51.8%

Flyball rate:

2014: 32.9%

2015: 26.8%

Home Run to Flyball ratio:

2014: 6.6%

2015: 9.1%

Yes, Eovaldi is inducing ground balls at a greater rate, and fly balls at a lesser one. However, by some weird fate, he’s actually allowing a greater rate of home runs. Perhaps this is just some wild bad luck, but it would be fitting for the pitcher who has one of the fastest average fastball velocities combined with a low strikeout rate.

What does this mean for the future? Since getting pummeled by Miami, Eovaldi has put together nine nice starts:

53.1 total innings pitched

2.87 ERA

1.22 WHIP

5.93 K/9

Eovaldi has rebounded after getting knocked out in less than one inning against Miami.

Those numbers have been pretty nice, especially for a Yankees team in desperate need of pitching to counteract the blistering hot Toronto Blue Jays’ offense led by Hercules’ children. However, Eovaldi has been one big hit away from having a few of those starts completely get away from him. While his command has been good his whole career, he doesn’t have enough in his arsenal that can save him if his command ever goes awry.

That may seem strange to say, given how hard he throws, but his fastball is flat and hittable. When hitters are sitting on his fastball and have already seen him more than once through the order, Eovaldi can be hit. That’s why you see a lot of his starts only go five to six innings with over 100 pitches.

Eovaldi will never be a consistent and reliable starter until he develops a real third pitch to save him from leaving too many balls over the middle of the plate. At this point, we can safely assume that he will never strike a lot of hitters out. This season, he still isn’t striking anyone out, but he is allowing less fly balls.

That’s good news for when he faces off against inter-division rivals like the Blue Jays and Orioles, but the fact that he isn’t generating any swings-and-misses still is a red flag. All it takes is one innings where Eovaldi walks a couple on a few bad changeups and sliders, then leaves a flat fastball over the heart of the plate to Chris Davis, and the game could be over. Yankee fans should still have hope that Eovaldi’s good luck can last through the end of the season. And yes, he still throws very hard and is still very young.

However, until he develops a true third pitch, Eovaldi won’t reach this frontline starter potential. For the rest of the season, hold your breath and hope that Eovaldi can blast his way through opponents’ lineups and help push the Yankees into the postseason.

New York Yankees Call Up 1B Prospect Greg Bird

The Yankees have recalled first-base prospect Greg Bird to provide an extra punch to their lineup.
The Yankees have recalled first-base prospect Greg Bird to provide an extra punch to their lineup.

The Yankees have recalled first base prospect Greg Bird Thursday morning, taking the roster spot of Garrett Jones. Bird, a former 2011 fifth round draft pick, has quietly put up nice numbers in his past three seasons in the Minors.

His consistent performance in the Minors lead to his inclusion in multiple big-name trade rumors throughout the season. A left handed hitter standing at 6 foot 3, 230 pounds, Bird has put up solid numbers at both Double A and Triple A in 2015. He has accumulated 12 home runs, 52 RBI’s with a .277 batting average. Bird’s triple slash line stands at .277/.356/.469.

The former 2010-2011 Colorado Gatorade High School Player of the Year has been touted as a hitter with an advanced approach at the plate. Even with his power potential and size, Bird has been known to take effectively take walks. Bird also has a low strikeout rate of 15.7%, much lower than other top first base prospects like Joey Gallo, who’s strikeout rate stood at 39.2% at the time of his call-up.

Bird will provide some extra punch to a lineup that has been struggling in recent weeks. With Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez perhaps starting to show signs of fatigue, Bird will have every opportunity to step in and give extra support to the Yankees core of veterans.