Any poor souls caught working this lamest week of the year are to be pitied. Pitied and supported to the best of our collective abilities. While some spend the dwindling hours of 2012 lamenting our collective greed and wondering if all the new Christmas clothes still fit over our engorged bodies, others must return to whatever task keeps their lights on.
If you are the type of person who normally fritters away your work day on the internet memeing and comedy pyramiding, your need for fresh content cannot go unsated. Our interests are not dissimilar. In honor of those currently mailing in two days in December I offer a year-end baseball listicle which just might keep your attention for three or four minutes. Please to enjoy…
Honorable and/or Non-baseball mentions
Quick and dirty:
- The King’s Court and Felix’s perfect game
- Scott Synder and Greg Capullo’s Batman
- Matt Kemp and Chris Young go HAM on April
- Josh Hamilton‘s Four Homer Game
- The most recent effort from Baseball Prospectus writer and Productive Outs co-bro Ian Miller’s band Kowloon Walled City. Container Ships is a great record if you are into heavy music at all. Even just a little bit.
- Bryce Harper‘s sophomore slump, which lasted all of three weeks.
- Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Lucas Harrell, David Robertson, Adrian Beltre, Matt Harvey, Andrew Cashner and those who missed enough bats or made enough plays to make our hearts sing.
On to the top five.
Seeing Stephen Strasburg Pitch
Strasburg was as good as advertised in 2012, ranking first in K/9, K%, xFIP-, SIERA and seventh in K/BB among pitchers who threw at least 150 innings. He held hitters to just a .226 batting average, good for ninth in the league despite sporting .311 BABIP.
Stephen Strasburg was dominant – used in controlled busts by the Nationals who allowed their phenom to go over the 100 pitch threshold just ten times and never once pitching in the eighth inning. The inevitable shutdown came in September and hopefully, considering how their season ended, GM Mike Rizzo will never live it down.
Long before the shutdown talk reached its crescendo, Strasburg made an afternoon start mere blocks from Getting Blanked HQ in Toronto. The 23-year old ace blasted through the Blue Jays lineup, allowing a moon shot to Jose Bautista and a Rajai Davis triple but otherwise making a mockery of the free-falling Blue Jays lineup.
Strasburg lasted just six innings that day, taken out after 89 pitches because of a blister on his throwing hand. Strasburg struck out eight batters, coaxing 14 swinging strikes with any and all his overpowering offerings. Watching him fade his changeup to both lefties and righties was incredible, flummoxing the Jays over and again.
The former first overall pick was cruising when his day ended, allowing just a weak single and a walk over his final three innings of work. It was, honestly, exhilarating to watch him pitch this day. The dome was full of school-age kids, hopefully a few of whom remember the day one of the very best in the game came to town and put on a clinc – albeit a brief one.
Dawning of a Dynasty – The Cardinals Begin Their Assault on Reason
The St. Louis Cardinals are not a popular baseball team. I recognize a wide swath of middle America could well be considered Cardinals territory thanks to their status as the Yankees of the National League. No team outside the Bronx boasts the Cards record of
10 11 World Series titles.
After a mostly disappointing season, the Cardinals snuck into the playoffs via a disputed call in the National League Wild Card play-in game. Despite posting one of the best run differentials in baseball, the Cards weren’t “clicking” as they should under new manager Mike Matheny. Until the playoffs rolled around and the Cardinals put their incredible pool of talent on display.
Baseball fans nationwide caught a glimpse of the future of National League baseball and it features of a red bird on a bat. The Cardinals have all star talent up and down their big league roster, most of which is either homegrown and still under team control. They have their pick of superstar free agents, the lure of history and post-season baseball drawing in the eager and capable.
Their farm system is robust, despite graduating several players to the Cards everyday lineup in recent years. The teases of Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal in bullpen roles this fall should keep the Ryan Brauns of the world up at night. Power arms and sweeping curves, be ready NL Central world.
And they are not alone. Behind the incredible pitching depth stands one of the best offensive prospects in the game in Oscar Taveras. Behind him waits high-floor college bat Kolten Wong. The list goes on. And on. And on.
The Cardinals aren’t going to the win the World Series every year but I cannot think of a team more ready with waves of talent ready to dominate the league for years to come. The Cardinals are a factory and production is ramping up. Their status as an annual post-season lock does not appear threatened in the least.
Giancarlo Stanton Destroys the West Coast
There isn’t much left to say that hasn’t already been said many, many, many times on Getting Blanked. Giancarlo Stanton is the best power hitter in the game and possibly one of the best young hitters in the history of the game. Through his age 22 season, Stanton ranks sixth all time in home runs among similarly aged hitters.
He is the Getting Blanked spirit animal and the second-most exciting player in the game. After torching the National League during the month of May, Stanton went bananas during the Marlins final West Coast swing of the season. Stanton hit eight home runs in eleven games, nearly all mammoth shots straight out of a poorly-crafted video game.
His now-infamous series at Coors Field was just about the most ridiculous display of unbridled offense mine eyes have ever witnessed. The thin air and thin pitching corps in Denver created the perfect storm for NSFW baseball filth.
Stanton’s future remains in doubt but his present and recent past are the stuff of dreams. His 2012 season, injury shortened as it was, is not one soon forgotten.
All Mike Trout Everything
Remember when Giancarlo Stanton was described as the “second most exciting player in the game” about 150 words ago? Mike Trout is the reason why Stanton and everyone else play for second place. There are not many superlatives left.
It is rare that a Triple Crown gets overshadowed but, in this corner of the baseball world, Mike Trout’s five tool exploits did just that. One of the finest seasons in the history of the game, put together by a man who couldn’t legally buy a drink until August. The best player in the game this year. The most jaw-dropping player in the game this year.
Matt Cain and Cliff Lee Put On a Show
Matt Cain had a pretty good year in 2012. Just under 4 Wins, another 200+ innings over the requisite 32 or so starts. He also pitched a perfect game, started the All Star game and the deciding game of the World Series, where he picked up the win and his second championship ring. He also signed a long-term extension with his San Francisco Giants, making him richer than astronauts and basically assured he’ll be Giant for life.
All incredible feats in a year he surely will not forget. But my favorite memory involves Matt Cain and an innocuous start at home against the Phillies in April.
It was that night Matt Cain and Cliff Lee locked into an incredible pitching duel, one that ended 1-0 in extra innings. Matt Cain when nine shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a single walk against five strikeouts. It was vintage Cain, as 17 fly balls died in the cool spring San Francisco night air.
His opposition came in the form of Cliff Lee, who was somehow even better. Lee lasted TEN innings, throwing 102 pitches en route to a seven strikeout, no walk, seven hit masterclass. The Phillies turned four double plays behind Lee, aiding in his efficient dismissal of the eventual World Series champs.
Just an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Great defense, great pitching, a great night of baseball. Despite all the exploits of talented players and crazy gifs and improbable playoff comebacks, it is this game I remember most fondly. A terrific year of baseball no matter which team you root for (though Giants fans obviously had it best in 2012.) You have your work cut out for you, 2013. Hope you’re up to the task.