Mr. Stats Notes: The Rock of Cleveland

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It’s rare when a stadium corporate name hits just the right note, but in Cleveland, Progressive Field sounds—just right. It’s home to the Guardians, a first-year nickname for the Cleveland franchise, and one that has grown on me.

On Sunday morning, available on Peacock to stream, is the Athletics at the Guardians (or, if you prefer, the A’s against the G’s) at Progressive Field. A guardian by definition is “a defender, protector, or keeper.”  I love it. I admit that I didn’t at first. I wanted a nickname that was either rooted in history (the Cleveland Spiders) or one that would allow them to keep a certain superstar in the prime of his career (the Cleveland Lindors).

RELATED: 2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Cleveland hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, but they came as close as a team could come in 2016 without winning, losing Game 7 of the World Series. In 2017, Cleveland won 102 games.

The Opening Day payroll for Cleveland was $124 million dollars in 2017, $134 million in 2018; and $119 in 2019. But the last three years, the team has operated on a shoestring budget.

In 2020, Cleveland’s Opening Day payroll was 24th highest in MLB. In 2021, the $49.6 million dollar Opening Day payroll was 29th highest (or second lowest). This year, the $68.2 million dollar payroll is 24th highest in the sport.

And yet, manager Terry Francona and the front office have kept the team competitive. The last three seasons, Cleveland has won more games than they’ve lost.

Let’s look at how they’ve done that.

Jose Ramirez is one of the best players in baseball. He signed a club-friendly 7-year, $141 million dollar contract that runs from 2022-28.

Ramirez is among the major league leaders in OPS, SLG, RBI, and extra-base hits. As of Thursday morning, his 54 RBI is tied with Pete Alonso for the major league lead.

And the 29-year old has been one of the top performers since first appearing on the scene in 2014.

And he’s been consistent…except when he wasn’t.

In 2019, Jose Ramirez was healthy, and coming off a terrific season. But when the season started, he couldn’t buy a hit in April. Or May.  Or June.

RELATED: Roger Angell and Enduring Words

In 2018, Ramirez played 157 games, and put up 81 extra-base hits (38 doubles, 4 triples, 39 HR).  He scored 110 times, and drove in 105. His OPS was .939, and his OPS+ was 151. It was a natural progression, as his OPS in 2017 was .957 and his OPS+ was 145. He actually had 91 extra-base hits in 2017.

But in 2019, this is what Ramirez produced through June 12 (66 games played).

279 Plate Appearances

.198/.294/.292

OPS:  .586

4 HR

21 RBI

Oh, sure, Ramirez fouled a pitch off his knee in spring training just before the start of 2019. But he was cleared to play. And that wouldn’t explain that Ramirez’ slump actually began in the second half of the 2018 season.

Jose Ramirez batted just .218 after the 2018 All Star Game, and slashed just .174/.315/.322 in 25 September games.

That means, around the middle of June in 2019, there was real questions as to whether Ramirez was an everyday player, much less a superstar. (By the way, Ramirez and his declining production was a rarity in 2019, when offense was booming).

And just as quick as he declined, he rebounded. Ramirez became one of the top sluggers in baseball. From July 1-August 24 of 2019, Ramirez batted .320 (57-178 AB), 35 extra-base hits in 46 games with 15 HR, 45 RBI. And then he broke his right hamate bone swinging at a pitch in Kansas City. He had surgery to remove the hook of the hamate in his right hand on August 26 with an expected rehab time of about six weeks. He was activated from the Injured List on September 24, just 30 days following surgery.

RELATED: José Ramírez, Guardians agree to 5-year, $124M deal

Even with that extended, unexplained slump, Ramirez has been one of the very best hitters in baseball for a long time. Beginning with the 2020 season, there are only three qualifiers with a higher wRC+. Those players are Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, and Juan Soto. Ramirez is ahead of MVPs like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

You can use counting stats (Ramirez leads all major leaguers in RBI since the start of the 2020 season) or advanced stats. Jose Ramirez is just a beast.  Since the start of 2020, Ramirez leads all major leaguers with 12.8 WAR.

He always wanted to play for the organization.  And the organization didn’t turn their back on him when he slumped in 2019, or when it came time to step up to the plate and offer Ramirez some real cash. The ownership acted as Guardians, protecting the best interests of the organization and fanbase. And Jose gets to remain a Guardian, living and thriving in the city he has been with since signing as an international free agent with Cleveland in November, 2009.

What happened to the 2016 Cleveland team?

Terry Francona had an excellent pitching staff. The 3.84 ERA doesn’t look so great, until you remember it was 2nd in the A.L. and the ERA+ was 118. The staff gave up the fewest number of hits and struck out the most batters among the 15 A.L. teams that year.

Corey Kluber is still an effective starter at 36 years old, now pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. Kluber won a pair of Cy Young awards for Cleveland, but his final gift to the team was being traded to the Rangers for a young Emmanuel Clase, now the team’s closer. Don’t be blasé about Clase (clas-AY).  The 24-year-old has saved 10 games (in 12 save opps), with an ERA of 1.93 and a WHIP of 0.857.

Carlos Carrasco is still an effective starter, now pitching for the New York Mets. Cookie is 7-1 this year. In 2019, he overcame an in-season leukemia diagnosis and found the spirit to get back to a major league mound. In January 2021, he was traded along with Francisco Lindor to the Mets for four young players, including second baseman Andres Gimenez. Gimenez has been a godsend to the Guardians. In 24 Cleveland victories this year, he is batting .410 (34-78 AB) with an OPS of 1.171.

Mike Clevenger made his return from the Injured List last Sunday (right triceps strain) and looked real sharp for the Padres. That was his first outing since May 17. And that was only his third appearance following a long recovery from 2020 Tommy John surgery. Cleveland traded Clevenger to the Padres at the end of August, 2020, acquiring (among others) Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill. Naylor has played well at first base. And since Quantrill became a regular member of the rotation in the middle of June, 2021, he is 11-4, 3.06 ERA in 30 starts.

For Cleveland’s 2016 staff, Trevor Bauer also played a major role. Bauer was traded to Cincinnati in the middle of 2019, a trade that brought back Franmil Reyes. Reyes hit 30 homers for Cleveland a year ago and is currently on the Injured List with right hamstring tightness. Bauer is currently suspended from baseball for two seasons under MLB’s domestic violence policy, a suspension which he is appealing.

Oh yes, there’s one reliever from that squad that is still on Terry Francona’s team. Bryan Shaw, who left for three years to pitch for Colorado and Seattle, but then signed back with Cleveland as a free agent before the 2021 season. That’s right, the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series is still with the Guardians. (Flashback:  Shaw came into Game 7 in the top of the ninth, a 6-6 game, with two runners on base.  He got two huge outs, and stood to be the winning pitcher if Cleveland could have scored a run off Aroldis Chapman. They couldn’t do it. And in the top of the 10th, Ben Zobrist had a run scoring double off Shaw).

Now, Shaw’s walk-up music is “I’m Still Standing.” Not the Elton John version, the Taron Egerton rendition.

It’s perfect. Bryan Shaw is a Guardian. Like the lyrics of the song says, “And did you think this fool could never win?  Well look at me, I’m a-coming back again…”

You can strip away the best players on the team. You can cut the payroll down to the bottom of the league. The Guardians are still standing.

RELATED: How to watch Oakland Athletics vs Cleveland Guardians on Peacock

Elvis has more hits than Elvis

The Oakland Athletics don’t have many bright spots in 2022, but the play of shortstop Elvis Andrus has to be among them. Andrus, in his 14th season, and second in Oakland, came into 2022 off two bad seasons (OPS of .582, .614). This year, Andrus has an OPS of .675, and an OPS+ of 100. Not bad for a player whose career OPS+ is 86.

If you look at the bright side of things, Andrus is approaching 2,000 career hits (1,906) and 1,000 career runs scored (974). In fact, the only active players with more hits are 42-years old Albert Pujols, 39-years old Miguel Cabrera, 39-years old Yadier Molina, 38-years old Joey Votto, and 41-years old Nelson Cruz. Andrus is only 33.

If you look at the negative, only Pujols, Cabrera, and Molina have made more outs among active players.

I like to look at the positive, so I will say Elvis has more hits than any other Elvis, including Presley and Costello. Elvis Presley’s first hit was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Elvis Andrus’ first hit was a double in 2009 off Cliff Lee, then the reigning Cy Young award winner.

Early in his career, Andrus was asked if he was named after Elvis Presley. The answer is he probably wasn’t. Andrus’ father was named Emilio, and his mother was named Elvia. And all three of Elvis’ siblings have first names beginning with the letter E. His older brothers are Erikson and Erold and his sister is Emily. Andrus said once of his first name that, “I think it was the coolest name starting with an E.”

I beg to differ.

How to Watch Oakland Athletics vs Cleveland Guardians on Peacock

All-star Third baseman Jose Ramirez and the Cleveland Guardians host infielder Jed Lowrie and the Oakland Athletics from Progressive Field on MLB Sunday Leadoff live this Sunday, June 12 at 11:30 a.m. ET on Peacock. This week’s MLB Sunday Leadoff coverage begins with the pregame show at 11 a.m. ET on Peacock. NBC Sports’ Ahmed Fareed is the pre- and postgame host of MLB Sunday Leadoff and also serves as the in-game reporter.

How to Watch:

Date Show Time (ET) Platform
Sun., June 12 MLB Sunday Leadoff Pregame 11 a.m. Peacock
Sun., June 12 Athletics vs. Guardians 11:30 a.m. Peacock

Mr. Stats’ Notes: Playoff picture starts to take focus

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This is the time of year that baseball turns from a marathon to a sprint. The Toronto Blue Jays are steps ahead of other teams for a spot in the postseason. Toronto finished one game out of the playoffs a year ago. Will this year be different?

On Sunday, in a game streamed on Peacock beginning at 12 pm eastern, the Blue Jays will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2021, the Jays finished one game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card; and 39 games better than the division rival Orioles. Can Baltimore pass Toronto in the final weeks to nab the third and final Wild Card?

It’s time to sharpen up the predictions to pick out some potential October matchups and storylines.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series?

Well, not the 2022 Pirates.  But several former Pirates.

The 2017 Pirates team had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. By 2018, Cole was gone but Clay Holmes was in the Bucs pen.  If the New York Yankees win the 2022 World Series, it will almost certainly be with heavy lifting being done by Cole, Taillon, and Holmes. Jameson (12-4, 3.97) leads the Yankees in wins. Cole is their ace. Holmes should be the closer.

And if the New York Mets win the World Series this year, they will lean heavily on two other Pirates from those Clint Hurdle-managed teams. The Mets don’t hurdle through the National League without Starling Marte and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Williams.  Marte is slashing .309/.359/.511 with 41 extra-base hits in 93 games since May 1, and for the season his bWAR is 3.7. Williams, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in a career-high 24.0 straight innings. Trevor has a 0.88 WHIP, a .190 opponent’s average and a .483 opponent’s OPS during that span.

Pittsburgh fans can find someone to root for even if the San Diego Padres win the World Series (Joe Musgrove), or the Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton) repeat.

2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Mets in the postseason (with Adam Wainwright getting the final outs)?

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games. The Cardinals won 83 games. But the two teams met in the NLCS, and in Game 7, the Cards had a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Rookie Adam Wainwright closed it out, slamming the door and eliminating the Mets by striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wouldn’t it be something if all these years later, the Cardinals once again eliminated the heavily-favored Mets in the deciding game with Wainwright (9-9, 3.09) on the mound!

And if that happened…

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series (with Jordan Montgomery eliminating his former team)?

Jordan Montgomery was traded from the Yankees to the Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery, in his first five starts for St. Louis, is 4-0, with 1.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.815. How great would it be for Monty, who started the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, eliminates New York.

Of course, October is a long way away. Perhaps Harrison Bader will run down a long blast by Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt to save a game for the Yankees.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if the Cardinals make the World Series, the Yankees may fall in the ALCS to the Astros. And if that were the case…

RELATED: Does Pujols deserve more respect?

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals and Astros meet in the World Series, a rematch of the 2004 NLCS (when St. Louis won) and the 2005 NLCS (when Houston won)?

Albert Pujols was the MVP of the 2004 NLCS versus the Houston Astros. Albert batted .500 (14-28 AB) with 1.000 SLG, 1.563 OPS, and 4 HR in the series! Imagine if he has a surge in the very late stages of his career. In the 2005 series, he hit a ninth-inning blast off Brad Lidge that’s a signature highlight in a career full of them.

I know, the Cardinals are a long shot. The Mets have a much better chance of reaching the World Series. So:

Wouldn’t it be something if…Buck Showalter finally makes the World Series in his 21st year as a Major League manager…and loses the Series when the Yankees bring in a reliever named (check notes…) Zack Britton to slam the door on Buck’s Mets?

Well before Timmy Trumpet, Showalter once had an elite reliever in his stint with the Orioles, Zack Britton. In 2016, Britton saved 47 games in 47 save opportunities. The Orioles won 89 games in 2016, and played in the one-game Wild Card in Toronto. The elimination game was tied 2-2 after five innings. And six innings. And seven innings. And eight innings. And nine innings. And ten innings. Buck kept waiting for his Birds to score a run, to bring in the great Britton to close out the Jays. Trouble is, he never did get Zack into the game, and eventually Ubaldo Jimenez lost the game for Buck in the 11th.

Just a thought. If there’s an opportunity to get Edwin Diaz late in a tie game on the road, do it. If you go down, go down with your best.

RELATED: Rogers: Mets are ‘built for postseason’

Wouldn’t it be something if Buck Showalter finally makes it to the World Series against the Astros and Dusty Baker? One of them has to win, right? Please tell me someone has to win.

Is it even remotely possible that Dusty’s team blows another series lead? Baker shouldn’t have lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, or the 2021 World Series to the Braves. He shouldn’t have blown a 2-0 series lead to the Giants in a 2012 best-of-five series. He shouldn’t have blown a three-run lead with five outs to go in Game 7 of a 2003 series to the Marlins. And only Dusty — poor Dusty — can have a lead after four innings of a winner-take-all game, bring in Max Scherzer — and still lose the game and series, as Dusty’s Nats did against the Cubs in 2017.

Wouldn’t it be something if the 2022 World Series were a rematch of the 2017 World Series? Only this time, Clayton Kershaw pitches on a level playing field, if you know what I mean. Man, it would be great to see Clayton start a game in Houston.

Remember what happened when Kershaw started Game 5 of the ’17 series in Houston? Clayton was unhittable in Game 1 of that series at Dodger Stadium; but in Game 5, Kershaw blew a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

I know Kershaw found redemption in the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas against Tampa Bay. But I want more. I want Clayton to shut down Altuve, Bregman, and Gurriel in Houston. In a World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?

And if the Astros defeated the Dodgers, I would feel so glad for Dusty Baker, who would have a World Series championship as a player for the Dodgers (in 1981) and as a manager against the Dodgers (41 years later, in 2022).

RELATED: Astros ace Justin Verlander placed on IL with calf injury

Wouldn’t it be something if someone other than the Astros or Yankees made the World Series?  Wouldn’t it be something if the Mariners defeated the Yankees?

Time for a little history lesson. In 2001, the Mariners had a historic regular season, winning 116 games. But they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. In Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees blowing out Seattle 9-0 and eventually eliminating them 12-3, the Bronx crowd chanted “Over-rated” at the Mariners.

Classy, I know. But wouldn’t it be something if the tides were reversed a generation later, and the heavily-favored Yankees fell in Seattle, with the Pacific Northwest crowd serenading the Yankees with the “over-rated” chant?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Rays manager Kevin Cash refuses to take out a starting pitcher that is on his game?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Bryce Harper finally was part of a winning playoff series? Harper appeared been in four Division Series as a member of the Nationals, and lost all four. 

Wouldn’t it be something if…Francisco Lindor makes the World Series against his former Cleveland team and manager Terry Francona?

As the rock group Green Day sang, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

MLB schedule 2022: Every Sunday morning baseball game on Peacock, matchups, what to know

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Sunday baseball is officially coming to Peacock this May! 18 MLB games will be featured on the streaming service starting with the Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET. See below for the full Sunday baseball on Peacock schedule.

Sunday Baseball on Peacock schedule

Date Time Matchup
May 8 11:30 a.m. ET Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox
May 15 11:30 a.m. ET San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves
May 22 11:30 a.m. ET St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
May 29 11:30 a.m. ET San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds
June 5 11:30 a.m. ET Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
June 12 11:30 a.m. ET Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Guardians
June 19 Noon ET Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals
June 26 Noon ET New York Mets at Miami Marlins
July 3 Noon ET Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
July 10 Noon ET Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles
July 17 Noon ET Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays
July 24 Noon ET Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
July 31 Noon ET Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
August 7 Noon ET Houston Astros at Cleveland Guardians
August 14 Noon ET San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals
August 21 Noon ET Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Guardians
August 28 Noon ET Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins
September 4 Noon ET Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates

How to watch the MLB on Peacock                              

Baseball is back and for the first time ever MLB games are coming to Peacock this May, featuring a total of 18 Sunday match ups. Click here to sign up for Peacock and watch MLB games live on Sunday mornings!

The first MLB game on Peacock will take place on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 a.m. ET as the Chicago White Sox battle it out with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The game will also be available on the NBC broadcast network.

In addition to MLB games, Peacock will also feature a new MLB hub which will include access to highlight packages and award-winning documentaries from the MLB Film & Video Archive.

Opening Day for the 2022 MLB season takes place on Thursday, April 7 and the league will stick to its original slate of 162 games despite a 99-day-lockout. For more on the 2022 MLB season click here.

See below for additional information on how to watch MLB on Peacock.

How can I watch baseball on Peacock and what devices are compatible?

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Amazon FireTV and Fire tablets; Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android™, Android TV™ devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices;  Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; Samsung Smart TVs; VIZIO SmartCast™ TVs; LG Smart TVs; Comcast’s entertainment platforms including Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, and XClass TV; and Cox’s Contour and Contour Stream Player devices. To learn more about Peacock and how to sign up, visit PeacockTV.com.