Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, September 6, 2023 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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Reds 7, Mariners 6

               AB  R  H  BI
De La Cruz SS   4  1  2   0 SB

The Reds may not be good, but boy, they’re a good show. For the third time in five nights, the Reds walked off a game in the bottom of the ninth that they never led until the winning run scored. They’re hanging on in the NL wild-card race by the skin of their teeth, but they are hanging on.

Elly De La Cruz just about won the game last night. With the game tied at six, De La Cruz beat out an infield single to start the ninth, stole second, and charged home on Christian Encarnacion-Strand’s scratch single to right to end the contest. This is the seductive thing about speed in baseball; it’s a less important skill than hitting or hitting for power or, for a pitcher, missing bats. When it’s applied, though, it can so visibly be the reason for a run, in this case a game-winning run, that it can seem a strategy all to itself. 

Like the Reds themselves, speed is fun.

With the Diamondbacks’ loss, the Reds moved into the final wild-card slot. This slot is going to change hands most days, so we’ll probably spare the daily updates until we get to two weeks out.

               AB  R  H  BI
Rodriguez CF    5  2  2   4 2 HR

For 99% of this contest, Julio Rodriguez was the story, with a three-run homer and a solo shot that seemed to set the Mariners up for a win. He’s not carrying the Mariners -- damn near every Mariner is an above-average hitter in the second half -- but he’s elevated to a superstar level. After last night’s performance, he’s at .352/.405/.653 with 14 steals and 14 homers since the break.

Rodriguez, across the full season, has been one of the very best players in baseball. He’ll deserve top-five MVP consideration, maybe top three after Shohei Ohtani and Corey Seager. He’s improved his strikeout rate and defense in his sophomore year, and he hits the ball as hard as any player in baseball. 

Elly De La Cruz and Julio Rodriguez. All I want is more battles between these two guys for a long time to come.