Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly temperature reading that tells us which players are owning the baseball conversation right now. While one's presence on this list is often a positive, it's not necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you're capturing the baseball world's attention for one reason or another. The players listed are in no particular order. Thanks to Brad Botkin and our NBA compadres for letting us borrow the concept.
Look at that headshot! Veteran right-hander Zack Greinke cracks this list in large measure because he was the biggest name moved at the recent trade deadline. Adding to the intrigue of that blockbuster swap that landed him in Houston is that news of it broke after the deadline has passed and some had declared said deadline to be objectively lame-wad. Greinke and the Astros (with a necessary assist from the consenting Diamondbacks) beat the buzzer even though the buzzer had already sounded. And with that the 2019 Trade Deadline was saved.
Themakes the Astros favorites to win the World Series. In particular, the pairing of Greinke and Verlander is notable. Together, the two have combined for 31 seasons in the bigs, 415 wins, and 71 years on this mortal coil. Given those numbers, you might expect each moundsman to be in his decline phase. That, however, is very much not the case.
As pitchers age, it's more about skills retention than the calendar, and even though Greinke and Verlander at various points looked like they were headed for forced retirement, each has staved that off and then some. From 2014 through 2015, Verlander authored results far below his established standards and dealt with arm trouble for the first time in his career. He was 32. Since then, he's put up anof 146 across 124 starts. Back yonder in 2016, Greinke had a season-long ERA of 4.37 and missed more than a month with an oblique strain. He was 32. Since then, Greinke's got an ERA+ of 142 in 88 starts.
In the current season, this duo still has it going. At this writing, Verlander ranks fifth among pitchers with a WAR of 5.0, and Greinke is tied for 10th with a WAR of 4.1. That puts both on pace to top 6.0 WAR for the season. Throw Charlie Morton of the Rays into the mix, and that's three pitchers of age 35 or older on pace to get to 6.0 WAR. Only one other time have we had three 35-or-older hurlers achieve such excellence in the same season. That was back in 1974, when Jim Kaat, Gaylord Perry and Phil Niekro pulled it off. Just once have two such pitchers toiled in the same rotation -- Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson for the 2002 Diamondbacks. If paces hold, then Verlander and Greinke will join that most exclusive list.
That, of course, is all thanks to Wednesday's deadline maneuverings. The largely unseen 2003 film "Secondhand Lions" was about just this sort of thing, presumably.
No doubt, your ears were recently hollowed out by the blare of the Sports Violence Civil Defense Siren. This is thanks in large measure to Reds moundsman Amir Garrett and . Watch as he deputizes himself, rushes pecs-first into the fray, and trades soupbones with a large percentage of Western Pennsylvania in the name of operations security:
This is obviously not a case of "Amir Garrett vs. Everybody," but it factually is a case of "Amir Garrett vs. All Who Do Not Lay Their Head in the Greater Cincinnati Tri-County Area." By the looks of things, it was at worst a draw for Deputy Garrett and his implied mirrored aviators. Adjust for level of difficulty, and it's a win. The remix:
Mr. Jenkins earned fame for appraising the consequences and finding them dumb and stinky. So it is with Amir Garrett, who is self-evidently there for those with nowhere left to turn.
Mind your manners when in Cincy, suckas.
Look at that headshot! Yasiel Puig was also prominently involved in that aforementioned wrangle, and it's the second time this season that one Red and the truth took on all available Pirates. Back to April we go:
As for the more recent hostilities, MLB used 485 words in its official press release to communicate all the disciplinary measures that were taken in response to the Battle of the Ohio River. Here are 27 of those words:
"Cleveland Indians outfielder Yasiel Puig, who was then a member of the Reds, has received a three-game suspension for his aggressive actions during the ninth inning incident."
The less important thing that is "three-game" is being counted as one word, which makes the total 27. The more important thing is this: Lo and also behold, Cleveland Indians outfielder Yasiel Puig has been suspended for his business decisions made while under the employ of another team. That team would the 2019 Ohio state runner-up Cincinnati Reds.
Puig, suspension in tow, will soon begin clouting homers for the contending Indians. Since the end of a terrible April and a middling May, Puig's batted .290/.340/.568, so the Tribe is surely hoping for more of that. Not hoping for more of that, in which "that" is the pique and displeasure of Mr. Puig? Rhetorical, don't answer.
The biggest name not traded at the recent deadline? That would be Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. That's understandable. The Giants have punched their way back into fringe contention, and MadBum remains a popular franchise icon. As well, it wouldn't play well for the first-year front office honcho -- president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidhi -- to trade away his ace while the team is within range of playoff position in manager Bruce Bochy's last season. So Bumgarner remains in orange and black.
Bumgarner's eligible for free agency this coming offseason, and he's almost certainly bound elsewhere. If he could helm one last San Fran playoff run, then that would be the ideal send-off. It would also have the benefit of validating Zaidi's very difficult decision to keep him. Speaking of which, at the moment the Giants are one game above .500 and just 2.5 games out of second wild-card position in the NL. However, they're also behind three teams in the chase for the last playoff berth. That in tandem with the reality that the Giants, with their minus-51 run differential -- don't project well moving forward means they don't have strong playoff odds. Specifically, the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) gives the Giants an 11.6 percent of making the playoffs. That's essentially an 11.6 percent chance of making the Wild Card Game, since SportsLine affords San Fran zero chance of catching the Dodgers in the NL West (an eminently reasonable stance).
Those aren't great odds, which means the Giants' efforts are probably going to come to grief. If they can somehow hit that number, though, and have Bumgarner do the heavy lifting, then it was only add to his legend in San Francisco. A trade would've been interesting, yes, but keeping Mad Bum in the fold makes the Giants a much more compelling watch the rest of the way.