Welcome to August 2018 http://www.giantsfanproshop.com/authentic-willie-mays-jersey , National League MVP candidate who's not named Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo.It's Javier Baez, whose reality has finally caught up with his hype.Through 112 games, the 25-year-old is hitting .298 with a .916 OPS, 25 home runs, 19 stolen bases and 88 runs batted in. All but the games played are career highs, and his RBI count is the highest of any National Leaguer.Not to be overlooked is Baez's defense. Per the defensive metrics, he's rating as an average or better defender at second base, shortstop and third base.Hence Baez's unsurprisingly strong showing in wins above replacement. He ranks at No. 7 in the National League with 4.9 rWAR at Baseball Reference. He's tied for sixth with 4.4 fWAR at FanGraphs.Granted, Baez is at the top of neither list.But the NL MVP race isn't like the American League MVP race, wherein it's clearly Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts and then everyone else. The NL MVP race isa wide-open affair that WAR alone can't determine. Even more than usual, careful consideration of exactly what a player can do and exactlyhow he's contributed to his team is advised.Well, the Cubs have the best record in the NL at 66-48. And for at least one Cub, it's quite simple."He's the most valuable player on our team, and we're in first place," Bryant said, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN. "Seems like he should be at top of the list [of NL MVP candidates]."David Banks/Associated PressBryant would know, as being the most valuable player on first-place Cubs teams used to be his job.The third baseman led a 103-win and eventual World Series champion squad in 2016 with a .939 OPS and 39 dingers Will Clark Jersey , for which he was named the NL MVP. He was back at it again in 2017 with a .946 OPS and 29 homers, helping the Cubs to 92 wins and a second straight National League Central title. His 13.5 rWAR across those two years placed just a hair behind Nolan Arenado for tops in the NL.Never far from Bryant in the spotlight was Rizzo. He had already established himself as one of the best first basemen in Major League Baseball with his work in 2014 and 2015. So it went in '16 and '17, as he averaged a .914 OPS with 64 homers and 9.8 rWAR.But in 2018, "Bryzzo" just hasn't been the same.Although he's come on like gangbustersin the second half, Rizzo is still on track for his worst season since 2013. For his part, Bryant has suffered a power loss that seemed mysterious at first, but which now makes sense in light of his left shoulder injury.The rest of Chicago's roster hasn't been without its own problems. Injuries and ineffectiveness have turned Yu Darvish into a bust in the first season of his six-year, $126 million contract. His starting rotation mates have largely struggled to the tune of a 4.08 ERA.And yet, there are the Cubs speeding toward their third straight NL Central title. And there's Baez, seemingly always in the middle of it all.Mind you, it's not like Baez was invisible before 2018. He was considered an elite prospect when he first arrived in 2014, and the sheer breadth of his skill set was oftenextremely visible.At times, Baez looked like the best sliderin MLB. At other times, he looked like the best tagger. At still other times, his arm and his range made him look like the best defender. At still more times, he looked like one of MLB's most powerful sluggers.But then there were the other times when Baez was practically invisible at the plate, where his free-swinging style led to too many bad at-bats and, thus, frequent slumps.There were also the times when he must have wished he could hide. His defensive miscues would undermine his defensive brilliance Barry Bonds Jersey , and his aggression on the basepaths sometimes resulted in avoidable outs.In short, Baez played like an unrestrained bundle of energy. And this act extended to, well, his act. He wasn't shy about having his fun when he wanted to, occasionally to the chagrin of the fun police.This next part should be a segue into how Baez has changed his ways to become a better player in 2018. But in reality, he's still the same Javier Baez. He's just...better.His 60.8 swing percentage is the highest of any qualified hitter, which explains his characteristically low walk rate of 3.8 percent. Buthe's mostly taking good swings, as an increasing rate of his hacks are taking place within the strike zone:His rate of contact on these swings isn't ideal, but it's acceptable. That helps explain how his strikeout rate is now well below its formerly catastrophic standing.Even better, Baez'squality of contact on his in-zone swings is beyond acceptable:2015:92.9 mph2016: 89.1 mph2017:88.5 mph2018:94.9 mphThus has Baez rarely not been a threat at the plate this season. He's posted an OPS north of .900 in every month except May, when he finished at a solid .769.Elsewhere, Baez is rating as one of the NL's top baserunners despite the fact he hasn't toned down his aggressiveness on the bases. And while he still boots the occasional ball, even the newest Cub can see that his ability and versatility are more than worth the trouble on defense."He's a naturally gifted infielder," veteran left-hander Cole Hamels said, per Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. "I think if you wanted to throw him at first base, I'm sure he could do that pretty well, too."Meanwhile, Baez's natural tendency to wear his emotions on his sleeve is going strong. That's led to spats with Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Cincinnati Reds lefty Amir Garrett, but his position is clear: He's going to keep doing him."I don't control what's out there http://www.giantsfanproshop.com/authentic-madison-bumgarner-jersey , what people say about me. I'm just going to keep playing my game," he said in April after running afoul of Hurdle, perMuskat.Heck, why not? Oakland Athletics outfielder Mark Canha's recent rescinding of an apologyfor a bat flip might be the ultimate sign that Major League Baseball is finally accepting a more outwardly emotional style, one which Baez and other Latin players have long since embraced.Beyond that, it's never a bad idea to stick with what's worked. That's how Baez has gotten to where he is now, and it has both him and the Cubs in an enviable spot.Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant. HOUSTON (AP) — With his team down one run going into the eighth inning, Houston manager AJ Hinch went to closer Roberto Osuna in hopes of keeping it that way.Things only got worse for the Astros in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. Osuna gave up a grand slam to Jackie Bradley Jr. after hitting consecutive pinch-hitters with two-strike pitches, and the Boston Red Sox won 8-2 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.“It’s a 3-2 ballgame until all hell broke loose in the eighth inning,” Hinch said. “A couple of hit by pitches and a huge swing by Bradley and there’s the game.”Hinch treats one-run deficits like a tie game in the postseason, figuring his team still has a good chance to win.“Trying to keep it at a one-run game with a really effective closer against the middle part of their order,” he said. “We get out of that 3-2, we’ve got plenty of outs left, and you never know what can happen.”In his first ALCS appearance for the Astros, Osuna came on with Houston trailing 3-2 and retired J.D. Martinez on a deep fly to start the eighth before an infield single by Xander Bogaerts.After a fielder’s choice grounder for the second out, Rafael Devers singled. Pinch-hitter Brock Holt was hit on the foot to load the bases before Mitch Moreland got plunked as well, forcing in a run.“Just a weird inning,” Osuna said. “I got Martinez on the first pitch and then I got after Bogaerts with two strikes early in the count Juan Marichal Jersey , and then I don’t know what happened.”Bradley’s slam to right field broke it open, giving Boston an 8-2 cushion.“No margin for error,” Hinch said. “It’s really a matter of he didn’t finish at-bats as well as he normally does, whether it’s going to pitches or executing the pitch. Execution was a little bit of a problem at the end of at-bats. And he lost a lot of those at-bats at a huge time in the game.”It was another postseason meltdown for a hard-throwing Astros closer, similar to Ken Giles last October. Giles was traded to Toronto in July as part of the deal that brought Osuna to the Astros.In Game 4 of the World Series last year, Giles came into a 1-1 tie in the ninth inning and was charged with three runs without getting an out in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was the sixth time in seven postseason appearances that he gave up a run.Osuna made two scoreless appearances for the Astros in the AL Division Series against Cleveland, getting the save in Game 2 after pitching the final 1 1/3 innings.The Astros will likely need more of that if the defending World Series champions are going to get a chance to win it all again this season.“You don’t want to do this to your team, especially in a situation like that,” Osuna said. “But I’m ready to bounce back tomorrow.”His teammates didn’t seem worried about one bad outing by Osuna.“He’s a pretty confident guy and he’s going to turn the page quick,” said Jose Altuve, who had two hits and scored both Houston runs.In his 23 regular-season games with the Astros after being acquired, Osuna was 2-2 with 12 saves and a 1.99 ERA. He had 19 strikeouts and three walks.“This guy, he’s been here before and he’s one of the best young pitchers in the game,” catcher Brian McCann said. “We were one pitch away at two outs, and a couple of pitches got away and hit them. … He’s got the temperament (for) closers that you strive to be. He’s going to be ready to go tomorrow.”Canadian prosecutors last month dropped a domestic assault charge against Osuna, who agreed to stay away from the alleged victim for one year and continue counseling.Osuna was still with the Blue Jays in May when he was suspended without pay for 75 games for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.“We have a very close-knit group in there and he’s absorbed some of that love and affection and he’ll get that tonight. He’ll be ready to go,” Hinch said.
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