September is all about how you look at it. According to Baseball Reference, they have a 98% chance of making the playoffs, Fangraphs also has them at 97.1%.
By that, it’s safe to say they’ll probably make the playoffs but it’s also about how you perform in them.
They lead the first wild-card spot by 1.5 games, which is at least thought of as a big deal. It’s all about how you look at it.
As always, I’ll be back in two weeks and likely talking about how the team stacks up for the postseason.
Since the trade deadline, Jake Cave has been given 81 plate appearances, good for a platoon spot in the outfield against most right-handed pitchers.
Cave gave them one stretch of decent play, from August 8 to 23, he hit four home runs and looked like a viable option at the bottom of the lineup.
Since then (also a low sample), he’s 5 for 31, while having the platoon advantage most of the time.
Another potential option is Johan Rojas, who offers a little more speed and defense but has major questions offensively.
His surface-level stats look promising with a .280 average, which is perfectly fine with the game-changing defense.
However, there’s not enough evidence to believe his production can last. His Batting Average on Ball in Play (BABIP) is at .370 along with a chase rate of 39.8%, which is only a couple of percentage points lower than Nick Castellanos. In addition, he hasn’t recorded a single barrel in the majors.
The offense just isn’t sustainable enough, especially when Kyle Schwarber hits right in front of him who can do damage with runners on.
Bullpen Isn’t THE ISSUE
The bullpen hasn’t been squeaky clean as of late with Seranthony Domínguez leaking oil, the inconsistency of Matt Strahm’s velocity, and José Alvarado’s rust but the narrative has been overblown.
Starting with Alvarado, his ERA of 3.24 since coming off the Injured List isn’t outstanding for his standards but this has come with inconsistent cutter command.
He’s shown signs of brilliance with outings against the Brewers and Padres, getting four big strikeouts for key victories. But he’s also had nights against the aforementioned Brewers and Braves.
The Brewers never chased, leading to two walks, and he missed a bad 0-2 cutter for a huge second run against the Braves.
This is still coming off missing close to two months and seems like rust more than anything else.
Craig Kimbrel hasn’t allowed a run in September with some much-needed rest between outings. His worst appearance since the start of August came against the Angels where the team around him didn’t help things.
Stubbs didn’t block a curveball that recorded a strikeout, a slow rolling chopper somehow sneaked into right field, and the umpires didn’t help him against Drury.
Jeff Hoffman has looked like the best reliever on the roster and everything he does seems sustainable. His slider is one of the best swing-and-miss pitches in baseball, his fastball plays well off it (although gets hit around), and his splitter has been a big weapon against left-handed hitters.
A postseason setting where these three will get all of the leverage outings will make the bullpen look much stronger.
In two weeks, I’ll dive into more of what the postseason could look like. Hopefully, by then they’ve clinched a spot and have some idea of who they’re playing (a lot easier for me to talk about bullpens this way).