Tag Archives: andrew mccutchen

Handicapping the Oscar Races For Baseball Fans

With the Oscars taking place in just a few short days, we do what comes naturally: make comparisons between nominees and MLB players that may or may not make sense. Everyone does it. If not, everyone will do it.  They put the start of spring training and the Oscars in the same week for a reason…Right?  You’re welcome, internet.

...and you're welcome, Amurrrica.

…and you’re welcome, Amurrrica.

The Actors

 Hugh Jackman

 Oh, Hugh again. Jackman’s Jean Valjean searches for security, for liberation from Javert’s merciless pursuit in Les Miserables (the second word is silent, or at least the pronunciations are trending that way). Jackman has cemented himself as a bankable action entertainer and awards show host, but he is still seeking to earn his place among the finest actors (see the elder three in this category). Perhaps this performance has pushed Jackman from action star to layered big screen performer, but for now he is…Mike Piazza. The ladies love him. Everyone knows who he is. He performs at the highest level of anyone in his position (catcher for Piazza, film actor/host/stage actor for Jackman) and does so with a prominent geniality.

this is not recommended athletic attire.

Bradley Cooper

Baseball-appropriate facial hair? Yes.
Oscars-appropriate facial hair? Maybe.

I cannot argue with Daniel Day-Lewis taking home the award on Sunday night (the essentially unanimous prediction), but Cooper’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook is one worthy of the award in most years and worthy of our praise right now. His real, raw, riveting portrayal of a man struggling to find himself amidst psychological chaos has, for this viewer at least, pushed Cooper into that same group that Jackman hovers around the edges of. Having made his mark in comedies like The Hangover, look for Cooper to reach superstar status as an Oscar-level performer in the next few years, perhaps beginning with the promising work The Place Beyond the Pines, coming this year starring Cooper and Ryan Gosling. Having showed off his versatility and ready to establish himself as a consistent, superstar performer, Bradley Cooper is…Andrew McCutchen, the standout who is primed for another elite season.

Denzel Washington

Not Jay Pharoah

This is Washington’s 6th Oscar nomination. Wow. One of the most likable and consistent actors in the world for the past two-plus decades, Washington probably won’t take home the trophy this year, but he has long since established himself as more than just a pioneer for minority actors. Washington will go down in history as one of the greatest actors of this or any generation. With 2 Oscars, 2 Golden Globes, and numerous other memorable performances, Coach Boone/Frank Lucas/Det. Alonzo Harris/Mr. Shuttleworth is a surefire “Hall of Famer” for our purposes. He is… Derek Jeter. Sometimes you want to hate him (or his characters), but you just can’t because he is so doggone consistent and effective. Knows how to win on the big stage and constantly delivers, even as he gets older and older and should be breaking down.

Main difference? Denzel does not have a scent.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Oscar-producing machine.

This is Day-Lewis’ fifth Oscar nomination, and he will likely be taking home his third trophy. Having won for his stimulating performance in There Will Be Blood in 2008, a victory this weekend would give Day-Lewis two wins in six years, a remarkable stretch in this field. He will never be the most bankable star in Hollywood, but Day-Lewis has proven over the past two decades that his ability to disappear wholly and beautifully into a character is second to none. He brought Lincoln to life just as he did for Daniel Plainview, Bill “The Butcher,” and many other figures over the course of his career. He’s got a little to a lot of craziness in him, and we can’t always understand him, but his overwhelming talent cannot be denied. Daniel Day-Lewis is… Albert Pujols – the machine pumping out award-winning roles, homers, what have you. We can’t always understand what he’s saying, but he quietly goes about his business and constantly exceeds high expectations.

Run-producing machine.

Joaquin Phoenix

crazy, exhibit (a)

With his role in The Master, Phoenix reminded moviegoers that he is more than a certifiably crazy person. Don’t get me wrong; he is still seemingly absolutely loony. That being said, this role was perfect for him: An unstable man in an unstable world trying to find meaning. This is Phoenix’s third nomination. His performances in Gladiator and as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line were worthy performances but could not overcome more worthy nominees in Benicio Del Toro and Philip Seymour Hoffman doing an uncanny Capote, respectively. A man with a wealth of talent and a impressive body of work, Phoenix’s actual identity has often taken the forefront over his incredible performances. He is…Manny Ramirez. Heck, he’s probably peed in weirder places than the Green Monster. Their offstage, off-field actions often overshadow their Oscar, HOF-worthy work on the screen or field. Eccentric and inane without question, and always entertaining.

crazy, exhibit (2)

The Actresses

Jessica Chastain

Oscar nominations back to back years? She aight. Zero Dark Thirty is a relevant and well-timed work, and the same can be said for its budding star. Seemingly in every movie out there since The Help, Chastain, like Mr. Cooper above, is on her way to reaching superstar status. She’s already taken home a Golden Globe for her role, and she and Lawrence seem to be the frontrunners in this category. A late bloomer who has loudly announced their sticking around, Jessica Chastain is…R.A. Dickey, another performer whose story and work could not have come at a better time. Chastain’s work comes in a film as relevant to American livelihood as any out there. Dickey’s work was a wonderful respite from the talk of steroids and suspensions.

Jennifer Lawrence

I would like to kiss her on the mouth.

Confession: I may be a bit biased here, as I would like to maybe marry Jennifer Lawrence. Moving on. She won’t be going away for some time with The Hunger Games continuing as well as what is sure to be a full offer sheet for at least a decade. Jennifer Lawrence is only 22 (within range for me!). Already a nominee in 2011 for the delightfully titled Winter’s Bone, Lawrence absolutely came alive as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. She and Cooper lit up the screen, and without Day-Lewis, a sweep for Playbook would seem likely. Nevertheless, I am excited for Lawrence not just because she is my future wife, but also because she has decades before her filled with stunning performances like the ones she has turned in for the past few years. With undeniable talent, youth, and a wonderful passion, Jennifer Lawrence is…BRYCE HARPER. Is she a great interview? That’s a clown question, bro. Would I marry him? See last answer.

Yikes.  Still might kiss him on the mouth.

Naomi Watts

 

Nominated in 2004 for 21 Grams, this is Watts’ second Oscar nomination. In all likelihood, she won’t win this year, and she shouldn’t, but her performance as a desperate survivor in The Impossible is worth the OnDemand fee. A solid Hollywood star who isn’t quite among the elite performers of her time, Watts is still a respected veteran. She is… Aramis Ramirez. Yes, the resemblance is uncanny. And yes, they are both boringly effective, producing solid work that may not be remembered years from now without some prompting.

I wish we could provide context for this.

Quvenzhané Wallis 

Wallis is electrifying in Beasts of the Southern Wild, as you have probably heard. You probably also know that she was only 6 during filming…I was starring in critically panned home movies at that age…I haven’t made much progress since. Still only 9, who knows what’s in store for Wallis, and who cares to be honest. For her sake, I hope she lives a normal childhood and goes about life as she pleases…naaaahhhhhht gunna happen. I’m not too worried about her though. With an infectious spirit on and off the screen, I think Wallis will be a Hollywood force somewhere along the road. Given her age, innocence, and unknown future, Quvenzhane Wallis is… Aroldis Chapman, still blissfully immature but brimming with talent and energy. We don’t know what the future holds for them, but we know their work will be done with a room-filling smile.

Emmanuelle Riva

Riva is really old. Sorry, but it is the truth. Having the oldest nominee ever and the youngest in Wallis in the same group is something special that will surely produce laughs or even tears on Sunday night. Riva has been in about a million French films, most of which I haven’t heard of, but her performance in Amour is heartfelt and beautiful, and I’m glad to see her recognized in this talented group. She’s old as balls but dammit she’s got talent. Emmanuelle Riva is…Torii Hunter. She’s done a lot of work we may not remember, but it’s all been pretty good. Little known fact, she also robbed Barry Bonds of a homer in 2002. She loved playing Triple Play, the greatest video game of all time. Also, maybe Torii is a French name or something. Thankfully, she’s far less active on Twitter.

Keep your opinions to yourself. Just rob homers.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: Pedro Alvarez

RUFIO! RUFIO! RUFIO!

Baseball is as guilty as any sport or form of entertainment when it comes to out-of-control hype machines.  It is nearly impossible to predict with complete accuracy how a young player will handle the jump to the big leagues or how they will pan out in the long run.  We as baseball fans, and more importantly fantasybaseball fans, have impossibly short memories.  Prospects are here today, gone tomorrow.  We overdraft a hyped young’n only to have him flounder in the big show, then we forget about him.  The process is very frustrating.  However, it also leads to the delightful subset of players known as the post-hype sleeper.  Post-hype sleepers are a greatly valuable fantasy commodity.  They’re the change found in the couch.  The beer in the very back of the fridge.  You know they’re there, but they’ve been pushed to the back of your mind, only to be stumbled upon later when you least expect it- and probably need it.  But not for you, clever fantasy baseball-person, you.  You’re getting ahead of the curve.  You haven’t forgotten.  You lie in wait, mock drafting, plotting, scheming.  You know there is value to be had with these gently used former shiny prospects.  Where these players were reached for last year, they’ll slide to the later rounds in 2012.  So dust off your 2011 Baseball America preview, get your notepads ready, I’m going to squeeze some knowledge juice from my mind grapes.

Don’t You Forget About: Pedro Alvarez

Oh, Pedro.  Pedro, Pedro, Pedro.  What have you done to yourself.  Our poor Pirates fan friend Trevon had the misfortune of drafting the big fella last year and, well, he’s still reeling.  Could it be so simple that he was out of shape?

the 'before' picture - baby face

Looking at Alvarez’s 2010 debut season compared to his horrendous 2011, it is odd how many peripherals were so similar, or maybe that makes sense – his rookie season was supposed to be a stepping stone, not the norm.  2010 was a good season, for a rookie.  He was supposed to jump off from there, not roll over and eat it in 2011.  His BABIP dropped almost 70 points, so that helps explain his atrocious average.  His power, both on sight test and the ISO stat, dropped almost in half.  Both of these probably had something to do with the increased GB rate Alvarez experienced.  His GB% jumped almost 10% and his FB rate dropped 14%, which clearly affected his power numbers.  These are the things you can see in the numbers, but more can be seen in watching Alvarez with your own two eyes. He got lazy.  You could see it both in the weight he put on and the swings he took.

I watched many of Alvarez’s regrettable at-bats, so I assumed this was the case.  The internet, in all its wisdom, backed me up on the research side (thank you, fangraphs).  Thanks to the fascination with stats, we now have documentation of the actual swings a batter takes and where the balls they swung at were.  In 2011, the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone Alvarez swung at jumped to 29.9%.  In addition, the rate of CONTACT with those pitches outside the strike zone jumped up to 56.3%.  Overall, he just swung at a lot more pitches.  I’m not smart enough to solve whethere or not all the dips and spike are statistically relevant in an actual math sense, I haven’t done a math problem like that in a long time.  Given the similarities of other peripheral stats and his overall atrociousness (not to mention plain common sense of seeing he got fat and lazy) gives credibility to the idea that maybe all Pedro needs to make a step up – not the BIG step up, mind you- and be productive is a healthy-living offseason and a better eye at the plate (stop swinging at the low outside changeup you goof!  It’s like he’s playing wiffle ball!).

Are we left with a .250-2.260 hitter capable of hitting 20 homers?  His minor league trajectory and overall pedigree led us to believe he was going to be in a higher tier, hitting .280 with 30 homers and 100 RBI once the Pirates became legitimized.  Part of the problem is the unproven nature of the Pirates lineup, sure, but Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, even Jose Tabata and Garret Jones, are solid players.  And all of them have made considerable steps forward as major league hitters.  Pedro Alvarez needs to get his act together – there will be no sleeper posts next year if he doesn’t improve.  But 2012 is a new season, a new slate (hopefully a more fit slate, too).

So for 2012, don’t you forget about Pedro Alvarez.

-w

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