I'm not really going to talk about Lebron even though by rights he probably deserves a spot in WHO WAS AWESOME because let's face it he was in the last two games. If he plays like that against OKC Kevin Durant will have to raise his game to match, and that's going to make for a hell of a finals. Really, this may be the most excited I've been for an NBA Finals match-up since the Lakers/Bulls back the first time Jordan made it. Of course, Magic and Byron Scott were hurt throughout that match-up, something nobody ever bothers to bring up when they're slobbering over Jordan, so it actually really sucked to watch. Also if Lebron and Jordan decided to go with dueling pistols at 50 paces I'd strongly hope they both won. Or lost.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Scott Diamond. Is it time to buy in? Am I already too late? I know Snacks is already considering buying a Diamond shirt so maybe I'm being to cautious, but I think it might be time to stop being such a pussy and hop on that bandwagon. After yet another stellar outing, this time against the hapless Cubs but still, he's now gone at least six innings in six of his seven starts, has given up zero earned runs in four of them, and is currently rocking a 28-4 K-to-BB ratio. Looking at all pitchers with at least 40 ips, Diamond ranks first in the majors in ERA. He also ranks fifth in xFIP, which is a way of evaluating pitchers based solely on what a pitcher can control, which means it looks at Ks, BBs, and what kind of ball is hit off the pitcher (groundballs, flyballs, line drives). He ranks fifth. He's behind only Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez. He's been better than Cole Hamels, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw. I mean. Whoa.
And we aren't talking about ERA or even WHIP. We're talking xFIP, which takes luck out of everything. Diamond's 7/1 K-to-BB ERA is not only the best in the league this year (among pitchers with at least 40 ips), it would have led the majors last year and is in the Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay's best years type of range. His BABIP against is .308, which means if anything he's actually gotten a tiny bit unlucky so far this year. Honestly he probably deserves his own post at this point, but I'm just so scared to start believing in this guy because I'm so convinced he's less a diamond than iron pyrite, but that's just me. I tend to not believe in cast-offs from other teams suddenly becoming studs, but then again I'm a moron. As Snacks told me like 10 times when we were watching Diamond at the bar, a pitcher can suddenly get it by making a small change in delivery, approach, or adding a new pitch. Let's not forget another lefty the Twins grabbed in the Rule 5 draft was your boy Johan Santana, so it's not unprecedented. I'm just not ready to buy in yet. Although I'm not sure what it'll take. I am, however, pretty excited.
2. Jarrod Parker. Sometimes I motivate players or teams when I write about them. I can't help it. I'm just so big time that sometimes I light a fire under certain dudes and they come out and dominate, and that's what Jarrod Parker did after I wrote that I didn't understand what the Oakland A's were doing by trading Trevor Cahill. Of course, the only legitimate answer to that question is "they had a chance to get a guy like Jarrod Parker" and he rewarded them with an 8-inning 1-hitter last Monday, and not against some chump either but against the best team in ball, the Texas Rangers. Coming into the season Parker was ranked as the #1 prospect in Oakland's system and #26 in all the minors, and after dominating triple A (and the PCL, no lest) in four starts he got his call. He's now sporting an ERA of X.XX with a WHIP of X.XX and looking like an absolute ace (he got kind of pounded by Arizona on Saturday but whatevs). The question is can Oakland build a team around him? The answer, as always, is don't ever fucking question Brad Pitt.
3. OKC Thunder. Well I certainly didn't see that coming. I mean you had to figure OKC was going to be right there with San Antonio, but after the Spurs won the first two of the series to run their winning streak to 20 straight it didn't look good. Media was starting to talk about the Spurs as a possible all-time great team and giving out verbal handies to tony Paker. Then Kevin Durant was all like F this garbage and boom, the Thunder are in the Finals. By beating Dallas, LA, and now San Antonio all the Thunder did was beat the last 13 Western Conference Champions. Crazy. And Durant is just so effortless out there. He spends a lot of time letting everybody else play and then will just be like ok guess what fools and score 10 straight. This team is so incredibly well constructed they could end up winning the next five titles and it wouldn't surprise me. I mean, it would totally surprise me, but it would be less surprising than any other team besides the Kevin Love/Ricky Rubio led Timberwolves. Oh, and I'll be rooting for OKC very, very hard to beat the stupid Heat.
4. Rajon Rondo. God I love watching this guy. He's like, completely unique and yes I understand for the true definition of unique you don't need a qualifier like "completely" but you get my point. Sure he makes some awful passes and he probably got a few more shots blocked than you'd like in game 7 but he also was the biggest factor in two of Boston's wins so you take the good with the bad. It's just crazy. Have you ever seen somebody dominate at a guard spot who completely can't shoot? And I don't mean like, Magic Johnson has a mediocre jumper or Jason Kidd is a pretty bad three-point shooter, I mean he's so bad the defense plays him like a college center and just dares him to shoot anything outside of 18 feet. And he won't, because he knows he's just going to be chucking bricks. And despite all that, he somehow averaged 12-12-5 in the regular season, and then, when defenses are known to clamp down tighter, he upped that to 16-12-6, 14-13-7, and 21-11-7 in the three playoff series. Not only are the numbers incredible, but he plays with this unshakeable confidence and swagger, like he's completely in charge of the ball when he's on the court. In Game 6 LeBron slapped his hand at some point in the third like trying to say "hey great game so far" and Rondo looked at him like he was an alien or something, and then in Game 7 Wade started some shit and Rondo didn't even come close to backing down. I love this crazy guy. Even if I could probably beat him at 18 feet and deeper HORSE.
5. Brandon Morrow. This guy is the kind of pitcher who you should root for, because he's a throwback who was always like, here's my fastball good luck hitting this suckas, to the point where he had the 7th fastest average heater speed last year (93.9mph) out of starters and threw a one-hitter in 2010 with 17 Ks in one of the more impressive starting efforts of the last few years. Well, this year he's made the proverbial leap from "thrower" to "pitcher" that announcers like to slobber over, and although I hate to repeat anything announcers continually harp on because they're morons, in this case it's true. Morrow is still throwing his fastball as often as ever, but he's dropped a full MPH in speed, sacrificing velocity for command (bb/9 and hr/9 both down from last year), started using his change-up more often, and he's having a great year with three shutouts already and a WHIP under one. Now when he's been bad he's been brutal, like when he didn't get out of the first against Texas, but he's gone from fun to watch because he just freaking chucks it to he's fun to watch because he's a real pitcher with killer stuff. You know, exactly what the Twins tend to avoid whenever possible. Basically this is the guy I hope Kyle Gibson becomes.
1. Ron Gardenhire. Do we really have to keep doing this? And now that the Twins have won nine of their last twelve I suppose that rules out him getting fired, assuming they keep beating up on the shit teams. I'm going to leave pinch-running for Morneau alone because even though I'm pretty sure that was stupid I'm going to more focus on pinch-running for Trevor Plouffe with Alexi Casilla when he was on first base even though Chris Parmelee was on second. So first, let's pretend instead of Alexi Casilla the Twins had Usain Bolt available to run. It doesn't really matter how fast Bolt is, because I read up on it and it is illegal to pass another runner on the bases, so he can only move up as far as Parmelee. Why not pinch-run for Parmelee since, you know, he's the tying run and all? Is it because Parmelee is so fast he doesn't need to be run for? Well, let's see. Plouffe has three career steals in four attempts. Parmelee has zero steals in zero attempts. So this tells me they're both slow a-holes, but I'd give a small nod to Plouffe in a race just because he's at least tried to steal. In Parmelee's minor league career he's gone 20-37 stealing with a season high of 8. Ploufee was 46-78 with a high of 12. Again, advantage Plouffe. They both have one major league triple, while Plouffe has 26 in the minors compared to 21 for Parmelee. So basically they are of similar speed but Plouffe is probably slightly faster, while Plouffe is a better hitter and was 2-3 with a double and a homer that night. And position means nothing because Plouffe can just swing over to first. It's yet another inexplicable move by a guy who is clueless with in game management. He's playing checkers while (most of) the rest of the league has moved on to chess. I'm just so sick of it. Between getting out-maneuvered on a constant basis, not understanding basic probability or strategy, and continually running out of the dugout to yell at an umpire despite not being able to catch his breath and all red-faced like a fat little doughboy child whose angry at his birthday party because he got the wrong color Power Ranger I'm just so tired of it. Isn't it time to move on?
2. Rickie Weeks. I know nobody really gives a crap about Rickie Weeks since he plays in the National League, but holy crap has he been a giant pile of hell. He's hitting .159 and leads the NL with 71 strikeouts. He's one of only four players who qualifies for the batting who is hitting under .200. He's behind Jamey Carroll in slugging percentage. According to some metric that attempts to assign a proper salary to a player's season based on the stats he's put up, Weeks has been worth a NEGATIVE $2.9 million this year. His hitting ability has actually cost Milwaukee 8 runs so far this year (based on Runs above Replacement), and his fielding has cost them 7 runs. He makes contact just 73% of the time when he swings, 11th worst in the majors, worse than human fans Chris Davis, Drew Stubbs, and Pedro Alvarez. All-in-all he's been the sixth worst player in the majors this year according to Wins above Replacement. And yes, he's Snake and I's fantasy second baseman. Great.
3. Kansas City Royals. I'm beginning to fear I was duped. The Royals were just swept by the freaking Pirates to drop them to 24-34, almost as bad as the Twins, and it's looking like another lost year in KC, which makes like, 30 in a row and at this point aren't we at make or break time? Shit or get off the pot? Throw the bag of cats in the river or let them go? When is this thing finally going to come together? Hosmer looks lost out there, and Eric Gordon and Jeff Francoeur are apparently still figuring in their long-term plans even though they're completely terrible. Chris Getz has one of the highest batting averages on the team, and their ace pitcher is still Bruce Chen, and they still refuse to let go of Luke Hochevar. This is a crappy team. How long can you hear about a team's potential and then watch that potential never develop before you bail? I'm not there yet, but the Royals need to be above .500 next season or it's just straight up over. Seriously, the one good player on the team right now is Billy Butler, who apparently doesn't figure into their future plans. Which, I suppose, is a pretty good summation of the situation right there.
4. Jason Marquis. It's probably not really necessary to point out how Jason Marquis sucks since I did it last week and the Twins, with the worst rotation in the majors, released him and also anybody who has ever watched baseball knows he's one of the worst pitchers in the history of pitching. But I feel the need to point out that the Padres signed him and forced him to pitch, only to watch him get rocked by San Francisco for 9 hits over 6 innings and 4 runs. Actually now that I look at it he wasn't all that terrible in that game but he was terrible all year and I like pointing out that the Twins gave $3 million to a guy who's given up nearly 2,000 hits in his career with a 1.5 K-to-BB ratio. Thank god for Scott Diamond, amiright?
5. Fringe Sports. I could put these both in one place but I don't really have a spot to so here goes. First, how much did it such that I'll Have Another got scratched? And then you hear about some controversy about doping or scamming or something I'm not really sure because I didn't read up on it at all so I don't really know what it was all about but it certainly sounds bad and I'm all pissed we didn't get the chance to watch I'll Have Another not win the Triple Crown. I hope for NBC's sake they sold all their ad space before he got scratched. Then you have the Pacquiao/Bradley fight and I watched the first half or so but then got bored or distracted and stopped watching but it was pretty clear Pacquiao had that fight in hand. But then I get in the car Sunday morning and I hear Barreiro talking about how Bradley won a decision. So I look this up and every single person in the world who watched the fight had Pacquiao winning, and how bad this looks in a "Mayweather isn't going to be ready for the scheduled December fight vs. Pacquiao so we better let Bradley win so we can set up the rematch and make more money" way. Not good for a sport that's always been shady as hell and is now on its last legs. Seriously, unless that Mayweather/Pacquiao fight is like one of the Ali/Frazier type bouts I'm pretty sure boxing is as dead as Family Feud.