Home Run Derby Odds Because There Isn’t Much Else Going On

Stanton
Stanton
Target Field requires big power and Giancarlo Stanton will be the guy tonight to provide it.

It wasn’t that long ago when all four major professional sports in America were active. Back in May we had the NBA and NHL Playoffs going, Major League Baseball was in its’ third month of play and the NFL Draft was happening in New York.

Now we have reached that odd moment in American sports where there is absolutely nothing going on. There is no hockey, no hoops, no football and no baseball as the we’ve reached the All-Star Break. Of course if you’re extremely hard up for the presence of athletes on your television, then you can tune in to the ESPY Awards hosted by Drake on Wednesday night.

When I think of the word ‘Drake’ I think of duck hunting but that’s just me… Anyway, coming up tonight is the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby and I’ve got the odds on who is favored to win in Minneapolis.

If you choose to watch the festivities this evening from Target Field then I highly suggest that you turn your television volume way down or just hit the mute button altogether. Just the thought of Chris Berman’s “back, back, back” calls turns my stomach. If you can ‘stomach’ it, then enjoy the Derby while laying some money on these home run hopefuls.

Giancarlo Stanton 3/1 – Stanton is tied for the National League lead in home runs with 21 and probably has more raw power than anyone else in the field. Because he is the favorite, does that add a little bit of pressure?

Yoenis Cespedes 9/2 – The young A’s superstar has just 14 homers a year after he hit 26 but there’s still time for him to catch that number. His quick bat could be an asset as hitting it down the lines in Target Field is crucial to getting the ball out.

Puig
Yasiel Puig is more than capable of launching numerous shots out of Target Field tonight.

Yasiel Puig 5/1 – Normally this field takes home run hitters and dismisses them with a wave of a flag but with BP pitching, a guy like Puig can thrive. He could provide some of the biggest blasts of the night.

Jose Bautista 11/2 – Joey Bats has 17 home runs which actually trails by nine, the leader on his team Edwin Encarnacion. Another guy with a quick bat, he could power some balls down the left-field line.

Troy Tulowitzki 8/1 – Tulo has 21 dingers but he of course has the asterisk that says he plays in Denver where the ball flies a little better than anywhere else. I’m not sure he has the overall power to hit enough bombs.

Josh Donaldson 10/1 – The Oakland youngster has 20 home runs which is a good number for playing in a big stadium like Oakland. I’m not sure it’s his time though.

Justin Morneau 10/1 – He will clearly be a sentimental favorite tonight as the long-time Twin comes home after spending time in Pittsburgh last season and in Colorado now. He has 13 home runs and is the only lefty in the competition.

Todd Frazier 12/1 – The Cincinnati third baseman enters with 19 home runs on the season but seven of those were considered ‘barely out.’

Adam Jones 14/1 – Baltimore’s Jones has 16 home runs and like Frazier, seven of those were considered ‘barely out’ which doesn’t bode well for this park.

Brian Dozier 14/1 – All due respect to Morneau, Dozier will be the fan favorite since he plays for the Twins and is having a very good years. Dozier has 18 home runs but his average distance of 379 feet could result in struggles for him.

Winner: Raw power is needed in this ball park where Twins’ Manager Ron Gardenhire says the ball gets out quicker to left than it does anywhere else. Therefore, I’ll take Stanton, but don’t be surprised if Puig makes a run.

 

Puig Becoming a Lightning Rod

Puig
Puig
Puig has created a lot of talk in just one month and it's both positive and negative.

It would be very easy at this point in the career of Yasiel Puig to say that he is an amazing talent who is doing things very few have ever done through their first month of pro baseball. It would also be very easy to say that the fame and attention that has come to Puig so quickly is turning him into an arrogant jerk. I think right now it’s a combination of both but let’s be fair for the time being.

Yasiel Puig is from Cuba. In case you don’t know much about our island neighbor to the South, they are a communist nation that struggles to provide for its’ people. Many over the last 50-60 years have attempted to defect to this country in an attempt to gain freedom and start a new life. Some Cubans are successful and many are not. Those that are not are returned to Cuba where they face punishment for trying to flee.

Puig attempted to flee on at least two known occasions. One was when he was with the Cuban National team in Rotterdam. He tried to defect but was caught and was punished by being banned from his Cienfuegos team for a year. That was in 2011.

A second attempt was recently documented by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. Puig was part of a group in a small boat that was intercepted by the US Coast Guard and after two weeks was returned to Cuba. I highly suggest reading the piece.

Before long, Puig was spotted playing baseball in Mexico. How he got there remains a mystery as much as does the question of who got him there does. He eventually signed witht he Los Angeles Dodgers and as they say, the rest is history.

Puig has now played in 38 major league baseball games. His average now stands at .397 and he has eight home runs and 19 RBIs. No rookie has had a first month of a career since Joe DiMaggio back in the 1930’s. His presence has been the driving force behind the Dodgers getting right back in the race for the National League West Division. The boys in blue are just 1.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks who they recently trailed by as much as seven games.

Papelbon
Papelbon is one of several players not overly enthused by Puig.

It has not been all hot dogs and apple pie for Puig though. Many have clamored for him to get put on the National League’s All-Star roster but a backlash ensued. Many, including ballplayers like the Phillies’ Jonathan Papelbon, believe Puig has not done enough to garner an invitation to the game. I happen to agree with Papelbon although I didn’t voice my concerns quite as harshly as he did.

As of this morning, it’s a moot point because Puig lost out to Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman for the one spot selected by the fans. Baseball insiders are citing the backlash against Puig for his defeat. This is not just because he has only played 38 MLB game either.

Puig recently snubbed Diamondbacks’ World Series hero Luis Gonzalez during a brief meeting instigated by Puig’s hitting coach Mark McGwire. Puig claims it was blwon out of proportion even though McGwire reportedly had to talk to the youngster about his conduct.

Several D-Backs including Ian Kennedy and Miguel Montero were quoted as saying that Puig’s style of play was “stupid” and “arrogant.”

Everything else I’ve heard about Puig says that he interacts with fans and is very friendly with the staff at Dodgers’ Stadium. He doesn’t decline autograph requests and is great with kids. Perhaps a lot of it relates to baseball’s ‘unwritten rules’ where up and coming players often need to check themselves or the established players will do it for them.

I have no problem with Puig not being in the All-Star Game. It’s a game for guys who have played well over the last year, not for the last month. If Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB want the All-Star Game to truly be about ratings and just an exhibition, then by all means, let him play to boost the ratings. That is not the case yet.

It will be interesting to see how Puig is received the rest of the year especially if he keeps up his torrid pace.

Bringing Baseball Back into Focus

Puig

 

Puig
Puig, shown here in Spring Training, has been excellent since joining the team 19 games ago.

If any professional sports league is like a roller coaster it has to be Major League Baseball. America’s Pastime (arguable I know) starts with such excitement and promise for every team in the league in late March or early April and then goes through ups and downs that only the folks at Disney World or Six Flags could relate.

Baseball immediately shares time with college basketball’s Final Four and then gets some attention. Eventually the playoffs in both the NHL and NBA begin and baseball gets pushed to the back burner but before too long, the seasons end and baseball becomes the only game in town until NFL training camps open in late July.

If you’ve been sleep-walking your way through the baseball season because of your attention paid to hockey, hoops or horse racing, then I’m here to catch you up on what’s going on in the Majors.

Blue Jays
The hot Blue Jays have made the AL East the tightest and best division in baseball.

Best Division – Without question the American League East is the most competitive top to bottom especially with Toronto on an eleven game winning streak heading into play last night. All five teams in the division are separated by five games with Boston on top of the Orioles by two games, the Yankees by 2.5, and the Jays and Rays by five.

I honestly don’t think you’ll see a lot of movement in this division through the summer and into September because each team has flaws that aren’t going to be cured by a trade or two at the deadline. New York could get a boost from Derek Jeter’s return but when that is is anyone’s guess. Despite losing three of four in Detroit, Boston may still be the team to beat in the East.

Worst Division – Coming in ahead of the AL Central is the National League East where only Atlanta is above the .500 mark as they lead second-place Washington by six games and Philadelphia by 7.5. The Braves don’t really do anything amazing but they pitch extremely well and seem to get big hits when they need them most.

The Nationals have to be the most disappointing team in baseball right now as they sit at 37-38 heading into last night’s action. I certainly don’t know everything going on there, but I would not be a bit surprised to see a significant change either in the clubhouse or on the field because there is too much talent for this team to be where it is.

Breakout Player so Far – Since joining the Dodgers 19 games ago, Yasiel Puig has set the Majors on fire. The 6’3″ 245lbs outfielder looks as athletic as any player I’ve seen come up in a long time and the results are validating that. Puig is hitting .425 with six home runs and 12 RBIs. His on-base percentage is also solid at .462.

Unexpected Cy Young Candidates – When you think the Detroit Tigers and pitching, you think of Justin Verlander but not this year. RHP Max Scherzer is 11-0 and has a WHIP of .91 for the Central-leading Tigers. While his 3.05 ERA is a little high, it’s actually below his career average of 3.76. Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox is a strong contender in the AL as well.

Over in the National League, 23-year old Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks is 9-0 with an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.00. While Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmerman¬†and Adam Wainwright are all at the 10-win plateau, should Corbin continue his unbeaten season he;ll be hard to beat at awards’ time.