Baseball Report 2022
by Jon Daniels (email@example.com)
The baseball season for me was very productive but with challenges. The strike delayed spring training and the start of the season. But after a slow start in the spring, I was able to quickly make up for lost time
2022 SPRING TRAINING IN SARASOTA FLORIDA
In early March 2022, I spent 7 days on Florida’s Siesta Key south of Sarasota. Due to the MLB baseball strike, Major League players did not report to spring training during my stay. I was able to watch one Orioles minor league intersquad game The highlight of the game was seeing 2019 1st Round pick Adley Rutschman hit an inside the park HR.
I have been going to Sarasota for spring training almost every year since 1977 and endured strikes in the past. I know the area and am familiar with other local activities. The warm sunny weather provided ideal conditions to enjoy some rest and recreation plus a theatrical adventure.
In the past I have enjoyed Sarasota’s strong cultural presence with visits to the Ringling Museum for art and Van Wezel Hall for music. However, my favorite cultural event is going to the venerable Asolo Repertory Theatre which is one of Florida’s premiere professional theaters. The building interior has a storied history. In the 1930’s the theater, located in Asolo Italy, was dismantled and stored in anticipation of war. In 1952 the Ringling Museum purchased the theater and reassembled the parts on the Ringling grounds. The restored and renovated palace enhances the staging of any play with its architectural splendor.
This year I was most pleased to see Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning Our Town. The play is metatheatrical whereby much of the dialogue is told directly to the audience. The acting was as usual superb. Many actors have developed their skills at the Asolo. Hallmark leading lady and Tony Nominee Laura Osnes has deep roots at the theatre. She honed her skills at the Asolo back in 2010 in a Pre-Broadway production of Bonnie and Clyde. She came back for a concert of Broadway hits in 2021.
2022 SEASON RECAP
I am not the baseball pundit that predicts outcomes for the upcoming season. Instead, I like to reflect on the pastseason. Below are my observations of the 3 teams I saw play the most.
CUBS HOPE LIES IN THE TALE OF TWO SEASONS
Before the season started the Cubs appeared to be a team in limbo. The opening day lineup included placeholders (Rafael Ortega, Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom), WS remnants (Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks), a recurring starter (Ian Happ), and keystone prospects (Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner). The one new bright spot was Selya Suzucki, free agent, slugging outfield star from Japan. This team was still rebuilding and in need of prospects to shore up a shaky foundation. As expected, this motley crew finished the 1st half with a record of 35-57, spending time contending for last place with the Reds and Pirates.
The Cubs finished strong with a 2nd half record of 39-31. The comeback came from a surprise source, pitching prospects. Over the past 5 years, the lack of homegrown hurlers had become an all too familiar story. In the 2nd half of 2022, the ERA went from 4.58 to 3.30 with most of the improvement from starting pitching. The young pitchers that made the difference included Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Adrian Sampson, Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski. On the offensive side, Nico Hoerner and Selya Suzucki finished strong. Rookie Christopher Morel showed promise playing many positions but needs to improve his hitting. There are plenty of holes in the lineup. Signing free agents Ian Happ and Willson Contreras could provide some temporary filling. However, reinforcements by way of trades or prospects likely will be needed for the Cubs to show improvement in 2023.
Where does this leave the Cubs for 2023 and beyond? Baseball America (BA) ranks their talent at 17 out of 30 clubs as compared to 16 in 2021. Hopefully there are some surprising rising stars as the Cubs only have two (Outfielders Peter Crow-Armstrong and Brennan Davis) in the Top 100 MLB prospects. Another hope lies in the weak Central Division having two aging contenders (Brewers and Cardinals).
THE WHITE SOX – DISAPPOINTMENT IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT
The White Sox’s 2nd straight trip to the playoffs in 2021 left only postseason success as the goal for 2022. However, the dismal 2021 showing against the Astros was a portend of what was to come in 2022. Also, the pressure of the rebuilding window closing did not help the situation. The result was a team that could not escape .500 during the season with interim records of 20-20, 50-50, 66-66 and finally 81-81.
The problems of 2022 came on many fronts. Every team has injuries and the White Sox had more than their fair share. Position starters Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, and Eloy Jimenez missed considerable time. Other starters, such as Yasmani Grandl, struggled playing injured. Starters Lance Lynn and Michael Kopech also spent plenty of time on the sidelines.
The White Sox led the Majors in errors. Even SABR stats such as defense efficiency left them near the bottom in fielding. Being a veteran team, they were not built for speed and were station to station on the base paths. There were too many DH’s and 1st Basemen in their lineup. However, the most glaring weakness was offense. Their 3rd best AL batting average just shows how poor this stat is in measuring hitting. Due to significantly fewer walks and HR’s compared to 2021, run production was about average. The best example of this lower offensive production was Jose Abreu who increased his batting average from .261 to .304 while decreasing his RBI’s from 117 to 75.
One player that deserves special recognition is veteran pitcher, Johnny Cueto, who started 25 games and finished with a 3.35 ERA. Without “Johnny on the Spot” the Sox would not been in contention the last weeks of the season.
I have left mention of ex-manager Tony LaRussa to last. Does history indicate he was a 2021 bad hire, most likely yes? Was he a significant factor in the White Sox’s dismal season, probably not?
What is in store for the White Sox? The team will endure one more season of rebuild under the new manager Pedro Grifol. Hopefully he will bring the club some fire and get them off cruise control. However, the same cast is unlikely to get a different result in 2023. Perhaps the offseason will bring some developments more exciting that the past year.
CARDINALS PLAY A DREAM SEASON AND COME OUT DIVISION WINNERS
On March 28, 2022, the magic began with the signing of Albert Pujols. Without the introduction of the DH to the NL, this would have not happened. My reaction was that a valuable roster spot being used to host a season-long media event. Even the publicity got off to a rocky start when Albert divorced his wife of 22 years just a few days after she had successful brain surgery. But Albert was just one of three veterans who would be newsworthy. Yadier Molina announced 2022 would be his last year. His batterymate Adam Wainwright had a good start and embraced television and radio with interviews before, during, and after games. He did one interview while warming up before a start. So, these veterans formed a Three-Ring Tribute Circus
On the field, first half injuries to centerfielder Harrison Bader and catcher Yadier Molina were offset by the strong performances of rookies Brendan Donovan, Norman Gorman, and Juan Yepez. However, the Redbirds still needed to fill the void in starting pitching when Jack Flaherty was loss for the season. Fortunately, MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado supplied enough offense to give the Cardinals a 50-44 record, only 1 game behind the Brewers, at the All-Star break.
During the 2nd half, the Cardinals were able to get the needed starting pitching in trades for Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery. Both acquisitions paid sizable dividends. Albert Pujols’ good showing in the All-Star HR Derby seemed to jump start his hot hitting over the remainder of the season. Along with Goldschmidt and Arenado, they powered the Cards into a 6 ½ game division lead by the end of August. With his 100 MPH plus fastball, Ryan Helsley took over the closer role in July and recorded 11 saves and 6 wins. I was sure that Albert’s quest for 700 HR’s and the Pujols/Molina Farewell Tour would be a big distraction in September, but the Redbirds retained their lead throughout the month and won the division by 7 games.
The Postseason was disappointing. The Cardinals met the World Series-bound Fightin’ Phils in the Wild Card round. In the 1st game, the Phillies scored 6 runs in the 9th to win 6-3. The Cards never recovered and lost the 2nd game 2-0 and the series.
The Outlook for 2023 season is somewhat promising. Nolan Arenado decided not to opt out of his contract and will be back at 3B. In the Fall League, top prospect Jordan Walker continued his hot hitting and made a smooth transition from 3rd to RF. However, the retirement of both Pujols and Molina leaves some big shoes to fill, especially the critical position of catcher. In addition to Jordan Walker, top prospects catcher Ivan Herrera and SS/2B Masyn Winn are ready to be tested at the ML level. A lot of moving parts will need to come together for continued success.
During 2022, I attended 80 Major League games and 3 minor league games. With 80 games I reached a new personal record and attained my annual goal of seeing all 30 teams. My favorite moments and players from those games are as follows:
Cubs Games at Wrigley Field
4/10/22 against Brewers – The Brewers come back to beat Cubs 5-4. In 1st inning, Selya Suzuki hits 3-run HR (1st as Cub) but Brewers prevail on HRs by Willy Adames, Rowdy Tellez, and Mike Broussard.
4/23/22 against Pirates – The Cubs score 21 runs on 23 hits to shutout the Pirates. Kyle Hendricks goes 7 innings giving up 2 hits. The Pirates will win the other 2 series games and take the 3-game set.
5/7/22 against Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw blanks the Cubs over 7 innings in a 7-0 win against the Cubs. Austin Barnes singles, homers and drives in 3 runs for most of the offense.
5/20/22 against D-Backs – With a 25 MPH gale blowing out, the Cubs are gone with the wind, losing 10-6. The D-Backs win the HR Derby with 7 dingers vs Cubs 4. D-Back Josh Rojas leads the HR parade with three. In a pre-game ceremony, Ferguson Jenkins is inducted in the Cubs Hall of Fame.
6/3/22 against Cardinals – The Cards thrash the Cubs 14-5 with 5 HR’s (Cory Dickerson, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman, & Lars Nootbaar). Cubs starter Marcus Stroman has his worst ML outing giving up 9 runs.
6/13/22 against Padres – After a 85-minute delay due to a tornado warning, ex-Cub Yu Darvish pitches 8 innings of 1-run ball to beat the Cubs 4-1.
6/17/22 against Braves – In a game that featured only 5 hits, the Cubs edges the Braves 1-0. Cub rookie Keegan Thompson goes 6 innings and Braves veteran Charlie Morton lasts 7 frames with neither giving up a run. In the 8th inning the Cubs finally manufactures a run with a BB, stolen base, sacrifice, and sacrifice fly.
7/2/22 against Red Sox – After Jarren Duran hits the 1st pitch of the game for a HR, the Cubs comeback to win 6-5. The Cubs score most of their runs compliments of the Red Sox giving up 10 walks.
7/14/22 against Mets – Mets Starter Cookie Carrasco goes 6 innings and strikes out 4 as New York blanks the Cubs 8-0. Peter Alonso contributes to the offense with a 2-run HR.
7/16/22 against Mets – Mets win 2-1 in 11 innings. Peter Alonso drives in both runs with a double and sac fly.
7/26/22 against Pirates – The Cubs beat Pirates 4-2 behind the strong outing of Keegan Thompson who gives up 4 hits and 1 unearned run over 7 innings. Selya Suzuki provides an insurance run with a 9th inning HR.
8/5/22 against Marlins – The Cubs edge the Fish 2-1 on an 8th inning 2-run HR by Willson Contreras. Cubs do not have an assist until the last 2 outs of the game.
8/22/22 against Cardinals – Redbird starter Jordan Montgomery goes the distance and gives up 1 hit and no runs in 1-0 nail bitter. Albert Pujols hits solo shot for the only run.
9/6/22 against Reds – Pitcher Hayden Wesneski becomes the 15th Cub to make his ML debut in 2022 and does so in grand fashion. Over 5 innings of relief, he gives up 2 hits, no runs and 8 K’s to secure the win. Ian Happ and Selya Suzuki clout HR’s and drive in 4 runs to seal the victory.
9/9/22 against Giants – Drew Smyly of Cubs wins the duel of lefty’s against Carlos Rodon of the Giants 4-2. Rodon strikes out 11 but gives up 2 2-run HRs to Van Gomes and Nico Hoerner. Smyly surrenders 1 hit and an unearned run while striking out 8 over 7 innings.
9/16/22 against Rockies – Cub newcomer Zach McKinstry scores both runs on a double and HR. Marcus Stroman gives up 3 hits and 1 run over 7 innings in securing the 2-1 win.
9/30/22 against Reds – The Cubs crush the Reds 6-1 on the pitching of rookie Adrian Sampson who shuts out the Reds over 7 innings. Nico Hoerner drives in 3 runs with 2 hits.
10/1/22 against Reds – The Cubs 2-1 victory takes a back seat to the Farewell Tribute to Jason Heyward. The crowd loudly cheers his departure. The thankful Heyward can now look forward to making 22 million in 2023 and not having to report to the Cubs
White Sox Games at Guaranteed Rate Field
4/15/22 against Rays – The White Sox win over the Rays 3-2 behind the strong pitching of Dylan Cease (8 K’s)and power hitting of Jake Burger (HR and 2 RBI’s). Jake will play 51 games subbing for injured Yoan Moncada.
4/27/22 against Royals – The Sox defeat the Royals 7-3. Dylan Cease goes 6 innings and strikes out 9. Andrew Vaughn supplies the offense with a double, HR and 4 RBI’s.
4/29/22 against Angels – The Halos break early to win 5-1. Taylor Ward leads off game with HR and Shohei Ohtani follows with a dinger to provide all the runs needed. The Angels use 7 pitchers in this bullpen game.
5/2/22 against Angles – Dylan Cease goes 7 innings and strikes out 11 to whitewash the Halos 3-0. Four of the K’s are at the expense of Mike Trout who gets the Golden Sombrero for the 7th time in his career.
5/9/22 against Guardians – The White Sox blow a 6-run lead in the 9th inning as Cleveland comes back to win in 11 innings 12-9. Josh Naylor pounds out 8 RBI’s on 2 HR’s and a single, all after the 7th inning.
5/12/22 against Yankees – The Yankees dominate the White Sox 15-7 behind the bats of Giancarlo Stanton (2 HR’s & 6 RBI’s), Aaron Judge (HR & 4 RBI’s) and Josh Donaldson (HR & 3 RBI’s).
5/24 & 5/26/22 against Red Sox – The Red Sox demolish the White Sox in two games (16-3 and 16-7), hitting 7 HR’s. White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel is knocked out in the 2nd game and soon released.
6/26/22 against Orioles – The White Sox hold on to beat the O’s 4-3 behind the 13-strikeout performance of Dylan Cease. Gavin Sheets gets the Sox off to good start with a 2-run HR in the 2nd inning.
7/30/22 against A’s – In a pre-game ceremony, Sox honor late Minnie Minoso for his Hall of Fame induction. Gavin Sheets hits a 2-run HR and double in 9th for 3-2 WO win.
8/15/22 against Astros – Sox score 4 runs in 8th inning to pull out a 4-2 victory. Johnny Cueto gives up an earned run over 8 innings for the win.
9/14/22 against Rockies – The Rockies shutout the White Sox 3-0. Rocks southpaw Kyle Freeland pitches scoreless ball over 6 2/3 innings despite giving up 7 hits and 3 walks.
9/16/22 against Guardians – The Sox seal their fate with a frustrating 10-7 lost to Cleveland in 11 innings. The Guardians pull away with 7 runs in the extra 2 innings.
Orioles games at Camden Yards
In August, I attended the Society for American Baseball Research Conference in Baltimore. The highlights of the trip included the following games
8/18/22 against Cubs – The Cubs edge the O’s 3-2 on 3 solo shots by Willson Contreras (2) and Rafael Ortega. Cubs winning starter Adrian Sampson hurls shutout ball over 5 2/3 innings.
8/19/22 against Red Sox – The Orioles score all their runs early and trample the Red Sox 15-10.
Brewers’ games at American Family Field
In September, I went to Milwaukee twice. The baseball highlights of the trips included the following games:
9/21/22 against Mets – In a bullpen game featuring 6 Brewers pitchers, the Crew shuts out the Mets 6-0. The big hit is a PH GS HR by Mike Brosseau. The Mets break a dubious ML season record with their 106th HBP.
9/27/22 against Cardinals – The Cards clinch the NL Central Division championship with a 6-2 victory. Miles Mikolasgoes 6 innings striking out 9 while giving up 4 hits and 1 run. Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Knizner lead the offense effort with 2 RBI’s each.
Twins’ games at Target Field
In June, I went to the Minneapolis/St. Paul with best friends Vince and Sharry Lauter. The baseball highlights of the trip included the following games:
6/22/22 against Guardians – The Guardians edge the Twins in a slugfest 11-10 with 4 runs in the 9th inning. The hitting star for Cleveland is rookie Oscar Gonzalez who drives in 4 runs with a HR and single. On October 8, he will hit a WO HR in the 15th inning to eliminate the Rays in the Wild Card Series. Down to one strike away from elimination he will hit a WO single as the Guard defeat the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
6/23/22 against Guardians – The Twins edge the Guardians in a 1-0 pitcher’s duel in which both winner Devin Smeltzer and loser Zach Plesac go 6 innings and give up 3 hits. Nick Gordon hits HR for the game’s only run.
6/24/22 against Rockies – In another pitcher’s duel German Marquez bests Dylan Bundy in a 1-0 Rockies victory. The Rocks bunch 2 singles and a walk in the 6th inning to manufacture the game’s only run.
Oklahoma City Dodger games at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark
In July, I went to Oklahoma City (OKC) to see some minor league baseball with good friends Larry Roth and Mary Lynch. The baseball highlights of the trip included the following games against the Las Vegas Aviators
7/6/22 against Aviators – The Dodgers break an 8-game losing streak with a 10-7 win against the Aviators. RyanNoda hits 2 HR’s and a triple while driving in 7 runs.
7/7/22 against Aviators – Dodger Eddy Alvarez has a career minor league day with 2 HR’s, 2 singles, and 5 RBI’s. The Dodgers prevailed with a 11-2 win. Eddy is the only ML player to win a medal in the Winter Olympics (speed skating in 2016)
Arizona Fall League Trip – October 15-22, 2022
I attended 10 Arizona Fall League (AFL) games in 6 ball parks. I went with best friend Vince Lauter and wife Sharry from Monterey. For several games we were joined by good friends Punch Shaw/Julie Hedden from Fort Worth and Nate Perrizo from Mesa. My Arizona Fall League Report with my favorite prospects is included in a separate article in my blog.
Hopefully your 2022 baseball season had as many exciting moments as mine