Season of Crazy Bounces by Bob Ryan

It’s the season of crazy bounces…once Labor Day weekend arrives crazy bounces occur….MLB teams often bounce in different paths….contenders  play with emotion, strategize heavy during games, view each AB and each pitch as important….non contenders are experimenting for next year—some players are striving for individual achievements……then football comes onto the scene…college football opens up “real” games while NFL still plays their pretend, Pre-season, games.

…the crazy MLB bounces in late August have seen the Cardinals playing their best baseball of the season. As a result, they’ve jumped up the top spot of NL-Central. This “good” bounce has several  causes….not necessarily in this order…..Jack Flaherty & Dakota Hudson are the new #1-2 pitchers of the staff. The WW era (Wainwright & Wacha) has past. Hudson is 14-6 in 147 innings, 645 batters, 145 hits…under 1 hit/inn. Hudson is #3 in NL in WINS, #8 in games started, #6 in sacrifice bunts (keeps him in the game). He’s not a strikeout pitcher….but Flaherty IS! Flaherty holds a so-so 8-7 record for 2019 but digging deeper in the stats….he has 178 strikeouts in 152 innings. Flaherty  4th in NL in H/inn; 8th in games started in NL; 1st in Fielding %, 8th in NL in games started. He WILL BE ..or IS…the ace. He is a talented athlete…often used as a pinch runner (which he seems to screw up each time); can field.  Dexter Fowler has been a significant contributor. It seemed when he started a few games in CF (while Bader was in Memphis) that he “found” himself.  For the last 28 days he’s batting .284 with OPS of .890. Being moved late in the games to RF to allow Bader to excel in CF has seemed to bother him. I must admit…his nonchalant gait and attitude didn’t endure him to me….but he is performing now. Kolten Wong has really emerged …at least to me…as a significant player. His defense has ALWAYS been superb…..but how he’s pushed his average up to .284 (#1 on the team). He’s using his speed to bunt for hits on occasion; stealing bases (19)–#7 in league…..and…..can you believe it….he’s shortening his swing with 2 strikes and taking outside pitches to LF! Finally, Mike Shildt seems to have grown into a much better MLB manager. Let’s face it, in the minors, your primary job is player development not winning. In the MLB, it’s all about winning. Last year, he took the reins of the club to reinforce unity, team goals over individual goals, better fundamentals on bases & defense. Shildt has made the clubhouse..from what I read…more comfortable. The defense has improved dramatically. This further elevates the pitchers performance who don’t need to get 4 outs an inning as often. He has sorted out his bullpen and seems to have it under control with much less overuse (Gant & Brebbia early in the year). There are more definitive roles and better spacing of usage so as not to overwork any particular relief pitcher. Another big point…he’s removing starting pitchers with robust career numbers but currently only mediocre “stuff” (You know who I mean) when appropriate. He’s not letting them in the game just so they qualify for a win (5 innings). And….a very big point, Shildt has begun alternating Crap…oops… Carp somewhat @ 3B with Edman. Edman HAS been a spark…and can he run!  Harrison Bader’s sojourn to Memphis seems to have been the remedy. He’s taking pitches out of the strike zone, making contact an still playing an absolutely terrific CF. . I still do hear the “rah-rah” stuff coming from Shildt on most occasions(why some call him Fred Rogers)…but his actions ARE speaking louder than his words currently.

….the crazy bounce of NCAA-F hit Mizzou. Apparently expecting another rout of the Wyoming Cowboys like last year, the Tigers were shocked as they were upset 37-31. The Tigers offense DID SCORE 31 points but allowing 37 points shocks most everyone. Sure Mizzou had 423 passing yards and 114 rushing for total of 537 while Cowboys had 297 rushing and just 92 passing….but …as many say…stats are for losers. I do think that without the mega-arm of Drew Lock ,that could…at any time… gun one deep, the opponents secondary can play closer to LOS. That may take away some of those really long gainers on the ground for Mizzou. Kelly Bryant is definitely more athletic…code word…he can run faster and with ability to elude defenders but not necessarily have the strength or accuracy of other QB….but…he can’t keep the defensive secondary deep because his arm isn’t real strong. That’s why he lost the job @ Clemson to Trevor Lawrence .

….in the crazy world of MLB baseball…it’s now the Minnesota Maulers…not the soft little Twinkies.  In a crazy bounce…it’s not the Dodgers or Yankees leading the league in HR, it’s the Twins! Minnesota has bombed 268 home runs in 2019 as of Sunday. The Yanks are 2nd in league with 254 and LA Dodgers 3rd with 234. Now….the AL teams DO have an advantage….every 9 batters of the season, all of those teams have a real batter….oft someone who can hit but can’t play a lick of defense….did you say Nelson Cruz?  Shockingly the Twins got 38 home runs out of the platoon catching position-Mitch Carver-28 & Jason Castro 12!  WOW! The NL teams have ….almost…an obligatory out when the pitcher bats. However….to be honest in this era of 5 inning starts, most NL teams only see their pitcher in the batters box once a game so that argument has been dramatically weakened.

…still in MLB…..it seems ridiculous for Cards-Reds to play back-back doubleheaders. Why doesn’t the league set aside 1 or 2 Mondays(definitely one in September)  in the season when there are NO games. Let those dates be used for rain out games so as to avoid the 4 games in 2 days episode.

….week 1 ….generally, one of the biggest cupcake weeks of NCAA-F …this year we saw some games  between 2 talented major conferences teams.  I am strongly opposed to power 5 conference teams playing low level D-1 schools or even D-2 schools. Ugh! Any win over a D-2 schools SHOULD NOT COUNT towards the 6 win required win total to play in one of the thousands of post-season bowls. For example,  Maryland (Big 12) beat Howard 79-0…or  Penn State 79 Idaho 7 …really?   You have at least 80 players on your roster, when it was a blow-out at half, couldn’t’ you clear the bench?  Some other surprising results…..the teams that won don’t call them UPSETS, do they?…..Georgia State 38 Tennessee 30;  N.Carolina 24 S.Carolina 20 (Tar Heels scored 15 unanswered points in last quarter to win!);Nevada beat Purdue(not considered an upset by some experts) 34-31; Cincinnati throttled UCLA 24-14. One that wasn’t a surprise to me..Boise State upended Florida State 36-31 as they shutout Florida State 17-0 in 2nd half. When I watched Florida State last year, they looked like a very athletic team (hence, high preseason expectations) but seemed poorly coached. Memphis (who Mizzou crushed last year) beat Ol’ Miss

…..most of the Best Games of week 1 included two good teams that saw crazy bounces or crazy plays determine the winner

…..Miami-Florida game was loaded with great speed on both sides of the ball….a long time rivalry due to the winner gets the spoils of the recruiting wars in Florida…so there was plenty of passion…Miami’s new coach had a couple gaffs early in the game, Florida won it in the 4th quarter,  24-20

….S.Dakota State (a customary team in D-2 championships) played Minnesota. NOW…this was a logical matchup since SDS is so good for a D-2 program.  It was really an entertaining game. The Golden Gopher (Minn)  scored against the Jackrabbits (S.Dakota St) the only TD of the 4th quarter to win it 28-21. D-2 SDS seemed to surprise Minnesota by the level of their athletes. The Head Coach of SDS really has his stuff together…plays multiple kids …e.g. rotates 7 d-lineman to keep them fresh…AND …I’ve found they practice harder when they know that they’ll be in the game.

…the #11 Oregon-#16 Auburn game was terrific. I don’t usually see Oregon on TV often….don’t like watching those 9:00pm games….they really have unbelievable speed & skill…Auburn…using a Freshman QB…fell behind…then began powering the ball over the tackles with an occasional play action. On defense the read & react defense was abandoned mid-game. It became an aggressive attacking, blitzing defensive….it was very, very entertaining game. I do think that Auburn’s Head Coach-Gus Malzohn, who’s gone back to calling the offensive plays, has a special talent for that…..I think this team will be much better due to his skill this year.

…speaking of crazy bounces…how about Liberty Coach Hugh Freesz? Recovering from back surgery for a herniated disk on Aug 16, he was still in a hospital bed in a coaches booth. Now….is that extreme dedication or stupidity?  His Liberty team was shutout by Syracuse 24-0. However, I must add…it seems to me that Liberty really “stepped up” the schedule (Playing Syracuse) and their commitment to football by hiring Freeze.

…so…..following my own suggestion…ratings should be based on strictly on which teams have the best “quality” wins thus far in the season…I don’t want to vote for a team # 1 that mauled a cupcake… I’m rewarding the teams that played  quality opponents and won…..my week 1 ballot would be:

 #1) Auburn   2)  Florida  3) Boise State  4) Oklahoma (beat an up-coming 8 win Houston team) btw…Jalen Hurts was absolutely terrific in his OU debut. We’ll have to hold judgment until OU plays some better competition.

….no more crazy bounces for me….I hoping for a no-bounce BBQ in the backyard.  YOUR  thoughts are sincerely invited. They don’t HAVE to be in response to the entire blog…pick a topic and run with it. If you don’t care to do so….that’s fine…FB readers, if you don’t respond,  pls click “like” so that I can get a better measure of the readers on that platform. 

Comments

  1. The Cardinals surge has been exciting!
    I attribute this turnaround as a result of the following:
    – Schildt is more comfortable making moves… isn’t concerned if starting pitchers get the “W”.
    – Wong is beating the shift, by hitting to the opposite field ( combined with his defense, this offensive spurt should earn him “ The Gold Glove”)
    – Tommy Edman’s speed, hustle and defense has lifted his veteran teammates!
    – Bullpen leads the NL in ERA, and more contribution from left handlers
    – Realization that Carpenter simply is out of sync & is costing team both at the plate & on defense.
    ( Fowler had a similar season in 2018 and has bounced back. Hopefully, Carp can find it in 2020)
    – Fowler batting lead off and Wong hitting 2nd
    ( I’m not worried if Fowler doesn’t want to yield to Bader in CF. Net…Bader is a better CF!)
    – Better starting pitching with Waino & Wacha performing better
    -Plus….Cubs have struggled and outside of Hendricks & Quintana, the pitching staff is ineffective.
    Their bullpen is a disaster! Mizzou: Scheduling “ assumed” easy wins to start season continues to backfire. They look past these “ cupcakes “. Odom got an extension. He better put his def skill to work!! JP1

  2. Three comments says:

    . Good job ! KK
    —————————————————————————————
    Bob,
    It sure is easier to write about a team headed in the ‘right direction’ than not. Nice to see the Redbirds playing better and up to their capability.
    Meanwhile, Rockies are headed ‘south’…rapidly. Cardinals won more games in two days (3 vs Reds) than Rockies have won in 10 days! St. Louis visit to Coors Field figures to be good timing for the visitors. (We’ll be there Sept. 12.)
    Regarding Mizzou-Wyoming, did you know ‘Pokes coach earned a 100K bonus with the ‘W’? His contract offers that for every win vs a Power 5 Conference! Nice incentive!
    Hope your Labor Day was a dandy EMc (lives in Colorado)
    ————————————————————————————
    Yes I agree-the Hudson River keeps flowing and you know what they say-Flaherty will get you somewhere And don’t forget the WWE-there are some crazy BOUNCES all the time!Very interesting insight-thanks for sending. I also pass it on to my son and Lynn and I discuss often. Like I said before Bob Ryan should be the commissioner of major league baseball -you have my vote and I’ll get everybody else on the bandwagon -believe me!!⚾️JB

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