Turning Two – June 1st (The Last Before the Impending Zombie Apocalypse)

It’s time for another Turning Two article on NASB, and unfortunately, it could be the last. Because the world is surely, definitely, and without a doubt going to come to an end due to the impending zombie apocalypse (henceforth shortened to the IZA), this might be the last time I get to share my thoughts on Major League Baseball. I must type this article quickly, since time is clearly running out.

The Injury Bug

Roy Halladay, Matt Kemp and Jered Weaver are all expected to miss time over the next few weeks, meaning that because of the IZA, they probably will not be able to play baseball ever again. Halladay left his start on Sunday because of a shoulder strain and is expected to miss at least a month. Similarly, Weaver failed to make it out of the first inning against the Yankees on Monday night, leaving with a lower back injury (no confirmation from the Angels as to whether the injury was sustained from carrying the team on his back the past seven weeks). Weaver was placed on the 15 day disabled list, meaning he will miss at least two starts as the Angels struggle to compete with the division leading Rangers. Matt Kemp, who was placed on the 15 day DL earlier in May, is expected to miss another four weeks with a hamstring injury.

Three of baseball’s brightest stars are on the disabled list, and all are needed by their team. That is especially the case for Halladay’s and Weaver’s teams. The Phillies, despite being two games above even, are in last place in the tightly contested NL East. While their pitching, led by Cole Hamels, has been great, their offense still has not coped well without the presence of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The Angels have improved since they fired their hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher two weeks ago, but as mentioned before, have to contend with the Texas Rangers, who might be the best team in baseball. And while the Dodgers still hold a solid lead out West, the Brewers swept a four game series in Los Angeles this week.

Strasburg Inning Limit

This was made public on May 10th, but due to my last issue being dedicated to division races, I failed to touch upon it. The Washington Nationals plan to limit Stephen Strasburg’s (5-1, 2.86 ERA, 70 K’s, 58 IP) innings pitched to 160, regardless of whether or not the Nats, who currently lead the NL East, are in playoff contention in September. I would rather have the IZA come about than seeing Strasburg shut down. My contempt for pitch counts and inning limits should be well known by now. The Texas Rangers have not babied any of their pitchers, and they have two American League pennants to show for it. Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, and Walter Johnson never had inning limits, and their careers ended up perfectly fine. As a Yankee fan, I can’t help but wonder if the innings limit placed on Phil Hughes in 2010 ended up costing the Yankees an AL East championship, if not the league championship and Hughes’ long term effectiveness. While I understand that pitching is the most expensive commodity in baseball and should be protected, my argument is that the protection is not doing its job.

I do not believe that the Nationals will shut down Strasburg in September, because they will need him to pitch big games, unless the Nationals end up running away with the division. In case you haven’t been following the National League East, that seems highly unlikely to happen.

Josh Hamilton

He is the most talented player in the game today. Hamilton had quite the impressive month of May. On May 8th, in Baltimore, he hit four home runs in a game to lead the Rangers to a win. This past Saturday, he hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the 13th to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays. Hamilton’s numbers are scary – .368 AVG, 21 HR, 57 RBI. We are just a little over the quarter-mark for the baseball season. Hamilton has once again placed himself in prime position to win the Triple Crown – which has not been done since 1968 – and just might be the one to be able to do it. Hamilton leads in home runs and RBI by a country mile, and is only .013 points behind Paul Konerko for the American League lead in batting average. He couldn’t have picked a better time to do it – Hamilton is a free agent at the end of the season. Although Hamilton’s history of alcohol and drug abuse might make teams leery of signing him, the statistics do not lie – Josh Hamilton has been one of baseball’s most dominant players over the past five years. It has been reported that the Yankees will not pursue Melky Cabrera or re-sign Nick Swisher when both become free agents at the end of this season. Are the Yankees thinking about Hamilton? What team with enough money to pay him isn’t? Does Hamilton stay in Texas, where he is grouped with Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz to form the most dominant lineup in baseball? Whoever ends up getting Hamilton will be getting a Hall of Fame player, assuming he stays healthy and sober. Although he had a minor relapse over the winter, I strongly believe in the will of Josh Hamilton.

The Wright Call

David Wright has seen a lot in nearly a decade with the New York Mets. Compared to Derek Jeter, he helped lead the Mets to within a base hit of the World Series in 2006, before the franchise was struck with some of the worst luck it had ever seen. After going through his own struggles – an increase in strikeouts and a decrease in power numbers since moving to Citi Field – the Mets third baseman is having the year of his life. Through two months, Wright is hitting .365, and has an OBP of .463. The Mets are surprising many, and if they were not playing in the NL East, might have a better place than third in the standings. Wright has had to deal with two September collapses, a fan base that is anxious for October glory, and ownership that had its budget slip because of negligence in money invested with Bernie Madoff. He has had to deal with grumblings from fans that he should be traded. Through it all, David Wright has endured, and without his former All-Star infield partner, Jose Reyes, Wright is finally becoming the player that Mets fans thought he would become after his breakout year in 2006. Wright has done this without ever losing faith in his organization, which would have been very easy to do given everything that has happened in the past five years. As a reward, Wright deserves respect from the Mets organization at the end of the year. The third baseman’s contract ends at the end of this season, but the Mets hold an option on him for the 2013 season. At the very least, Wright has earned another year with the Mets, and in my opinion, he deserves a long term contract. While Wright may not have shown himself to be able to handle Citi Field early on, the decision to move the fences in at his home park has done wonders. Wright’s slugging percentage this year is .484, which is well above his Citi Field SLG from 2009-11, which was .443.

Verlander’s Success

The night after I wrote my last entry for Turning Two, Justin Verlander carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, before allowing a single when he was two outs away from his third career no-hitter. Verlander’s dominance is perhaps the closest we have seen to Nolan Ryan, who holds the record for career no-hitters with seven of them. At this rate, Verlander may threaten that record. At age 29, Verlander still has plenty of more dominant years in him. Of course, it is unknown whether he will have the same baseball longevity that Ryan did, but with no history of injuries, let’s assume he will remain healthy. Verlander has the uncanny knack of throwing harder as the game progresses, a trait he shares with both Ryan, and Randy Johnson. He has an explosive fastball and deadly breaking pitch. The only hit that Verlander surrendered came off the bat of Josh Harrison, and it was on Verlander’s “worst” pitch – his change up. Justin Verlander has the stuff to make any team look foolish, and if he keeps up with his past two seasons, will be on the way to Cooperstown.

That will do it for this edition of Turning Two. I’m off to Mattituck on the East End of Long Island to arm up on shotguns, ammo and beef jerky for the Impending Zombie Apocalypse. It’s been nice knowing you all, and have a happy fall of civilization!

Follow me on Twitter @JustinCirillo. All allusions to an actual Zombie Apocalypse are made tongue-in-cheek and are not meant to incite fear or panic.

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