One loss from elimination, it’s fair to say the Houston Astros‘ 2020 run hasn’t done much for baseball.
Houston validated concerns about the new playoff format by sneaking in with a losing record, dispatched two likeable teams looking to break playoff slumps, and has laid an egg so far in the ALCS. Throughout all of that, no one outside the 281 area code cared to see them succeed — or see them at all. Despite all that, their journey to this point has been an enormous positive for one person in particular: Carlos Correa.
Correa turned 26 less than a month ago, but his career has already taken a remarkable winding trajectory. Since he was drafted first overall in 2012, there have been a number of moments when it seemed clear what he was going to be, but eight years later he’s a player whose career could still veer in countless directions.
Watch Game 4 of Rays vs. Astros in the ALCS on Sportsnet, Sportsnet One & SN Now at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT.
Because you could fill a book with the twists and turns of Correa’s MLB career, it’s not worth a full rehashing, but here’s a little year-by-year recap, starting with his arrival in 2015:
2015: At 20 years old, Correa exploded. He shot to No. 3 on the MLB Pipeline pre-season Top 100 prospect list and breezed through double-A and triple-A in just 57 games. The shortstop won Rookie of the Year despite debuting on June 8 and hit .279/.345/.510, racking up 3.4 WAR. The annual FanGraphs Trade Value column came out on July 17 and pegged him as the fifth most valuable asset in baseball, despite the fact he’d played in the majors for less than a month.
2016: Correa showed his rookie season was no fluke with a full campaign where his offence remained steady, but his defence and baserunning improved. He put up 5.2 WAR — which is his career high to this day, despite feeling like a launching pad to bigger things at the time. FanGraphs had him up to second on the trade value list.
2017: Although he missed significant time with a torn ligament in his thumb, this season is the shortstop’s magnum opus. In 109 games, his offence reached a new level, and he slashed .315/.391/.550. Considering his age (he turns 23 during the season) it seemed inevitable that there were further levels to reach. Correa dethroned Mike Trout for first in the trade value rankings (although Trout’s contract plays a role) and helped drive the Astros’ World Series run.
2018: This is where things took a turn. Correa hit just .239/.305/.432, which was just about league-average at the time. He missed some time with a back injury, and finished the season with 1.6 WAR. FanGraphs wasn’t concerned, and had him at number five on the trade value list between Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.
2019: Correa bounced back offensively, but in only 75 games because of a neck injury and a rib fracture. He started to have the “injury-prone” label attached to him. The shortstop tumbled to 45th on the trade value list.
2020: At this point, Correa hadn’t played a full season since 2016, and the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal brought literally all of his accomplishments to date into question. Everyone knows he’s always been a great talent, but it’s hard to say how much he was helped. Correa didn’t help his case during the regular season. For the first time in his career, his offensive output was below average, as he hit 264/.326/.383. His Statcast numbers don’t suggest his production was underselling the way he hit the ball.
Suffice it to say, he’s not one of the top-50 trade assets in the game.
That’s a lot to catch up on, but the context is important with Correa. Without it, we’d understand what he’s doing right now as a talented, well-known, player having a hot October. What we’re actually seeing is one of the fallen stars of the sport re-ascend.
It’s not hyperbole to say Correa has been the most dangerous hitter in these playoffs. The shortstop has a ridiculous .400/.526/.900 line and — unsurprisingly — the highest OPS of any player remaining. In nine games he’s matched his home run total from the entire regular season with five. He’s also walked eight times against just five strikeouts following a season where his BB/K sat at a career-worst 0.33.
For his long-term prospects, more important than his small-sample stats is the fact he’s crushing the ball once again. Correa has put 25 balls in play in the playoffs and averaged an exit velocity of 94.7 mph — a number he never touched in any 25-BIP stretch during the regular season.
Even more impressively, he’s managed an Expected Batting Average of .520 on the balls he has hit — which works out to a total EBA of .433 when you include his strikeouts. Not many guys can say they’ve hit .400 over a nine-game span and been unlucky — but it’s hard to know how else to describe being robbed by Kevin Kiermaier like Correa was in Game 3.
Similarly, Correa never managed these heights during the regular season. His highest Expected Batting Average over a 25-plate-appearance span was .380.
He hasn’t matched what he’s doing now since late April in 2018. The version of Correa we’re currently seeing would’ve ranked third in the majors in average exit velocity and second in hard-hit rate during the regular season.
Correa has also done an impressive job handling the velocity that’s come his way in the playoffs. In his regular-season career, only one of his 107 home runs has come on a fastball 96 m.p.h. or faster. In these playoffs alone he’s hit two, including an impressive shot off a well-located 98-m.p.h. Pete Fairbanks heater at the top of the zone.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 12, 2020
While it’s always worth questioning what we see in a nine-game sample, what Correa is doing shows us the heights he’s still capable of reaching — against the best pitching in the world, no less. Coming into these playoffs, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to say that injuries had sapped Correa of his superstar qualities, and some of the gaudy numbers he’d produced in the past deserved a heaping grain of salt thanks to the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
It’s too early to say that he’s back to being the kind of player who can be a franchise centrepiece again. Predicting what he will do in 2021 is a tall task, but in recent days he’s shown us what he can do. There’s no two ways about it, Correa still has the capacity to be one of the best players in the sport.
That’s a statement that would’ve sounded like a hot take a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s a fact.
Prediction: New York Jets vs Buffalo Bills NFL Picks 10/25/20 Odds – Sports Chat Place
Buffalo Bills (4-2) at New York Jets (0-6)
NFL Football: Sunday, October 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm (MetLife Stadium)
The Line: New York Jets +10 — Over/Under: 48
Click Here for the Latest Odds
The Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets meet in a week 7 AFC East division matchup in NFL action from MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Buffalo Bills will try to rebound from back-to-back losses after a 26-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night football. In the loss to Kansas City, Josh Allen threw for 122 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception on 14 of 27 passing, by far his least productive passing game of the year as it was Allen’s first game without at least 24 pass completions. Allen also led the Bills with 42 rushing yards while Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for 42 rushing yards as well. Stefon Diggs led Buffalo’s receiving group with 6 grabs for 46 yards and a touchdown while Cole Beasley had 4 receptions for 45 yards and a score. On defense, Tremaine Edmunds led the Bills with 12 total tackles while Jordan Poyer had 10 total tackles with a team-high 9 solo tackles.
The New York Jets will look to pick up their first win of the season after falling to the Miami Dolphins by a final score of 24-0 last time out, stepping back to 0-6. Sam Darnold has thrown for 792 yards, 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions but is currently dealing with an injury, leaving Joe Flacco to throw for 397 yards, a touchdown and a pick on 51.9% passing. Frank Gore leads the Jets in rushing with 250 rushing yards while Jamison Crowder has a team-high 29 grabs on 48 targets for 383 yards and a pair of TDs. Braxton Berrios has 141 receiving yards with a. pair of TDs as well and Chris Hogan and Jeff Smith each have 100+ receiving yards for the Jets this season. Defensively, Neville Hewitt leads New York with 46 total tackles including 26 solo tackles while Avery Williamson has 27 solo tackles. Marcus Maye and Quinnen Williams each have a pair of sacks while Pierre Desir has 26 solo tackles with a team-high 3 interceptions and Brian Poole has a team-high 28 solo tackles with a pair of picks.
Buffalo is 1-3-1 Against the Spread in their last 5 road games and 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games as a favorite while the under is 4-0 in their last 4 games following a loss. New York is 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games overall and 1-5 ATS in their last 6 division games while the under is 4-1 in their last 5 games against a team with a winning record. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings between these two teams.
I get that the Bills are playing on a short week, but the New York Jets have been an absolute joke of a football team so far this season. I mean the majority of their losses have come by double-digits and the Jets aren’t just 0-6 SU, they’re 0-6 against the number as well this year. I just think things will get worse for the Jets before they get better, so I’ll lay the points with Buffalo on the road here by default.
Bills' Knox tests positive for COVID-19 – TSN
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss Sunday’s road game against the New York Jets.
The team said Saturday he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list along with three players in close contact with Knox — Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney (on the PUP list) and Nate Becker (on the practice squad). They, too, will miss the game.
This is the first positive coronavirus test for a Bills player since the season began. Each of Buffalo’s previous two games were moved from their initial dates because of the the outbreak in the Tennessee Titans organization.
The Bills will travel as scheduled Saturday afternoon and continue preparations for the Jets.
Buffalo has two remaining tight ends on its roster — Tyler Kroft and Reggie Gilliam.
Four players were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster — wide receiver Duke Williams, offensive lineman Jordan Devey, linebacker Andre Smith and cornerback Dane Jackson.
The team said backup linebacker Tyrel Dodson (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve.
The Bills were previously affected by a string of false positive tests in late August. They sent their rookies home in late July to work remotely after five players tested positive.
Kershaw shines against Rays to put Dodgers back on course toward World Series glory – CBC.ca
Clayton Kershaw’s glittering career lacked two of the most satisfying accomplishments: a win deep in the World Series and a championship ring.
He took the mound Sunday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers shaken, and Kershaw steadied his team with a gritty performance, plus one particular delivery home that will long be remembered.
Now with one more victory, the Dodgers would claim their first title since 1988.
Kershaw beat the Tampa Bay Rays for the second time in six days, escaping a fourth-inning jam with a quick reaction throw to cut down Manuel Margot trying for a rare steal of home, and the Dodgers held on for a 4-2 win and a 3-2 Series lead.
He’s stealing home and they ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ see him! 😳<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldSeries?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WorldSeries</a> <a href=”https://t.co/VfJ62CJWsa”>pic.twitter.com/VfJ62CJWsa</a>
“Well, it’s happened to me before, at least one other time that I can remember,” Kershaw said. “Carlos Gomez tried it against me in Houston one time. You know, I work on that with the first basemen.”
Max Muncy, looking on from first, was ready.
“I was fortunate enough to see one or two guys break hard, so I knew what to expect when he broke,” Muncy said. “I sprinted toward Kersh and said, `Home! Home! Home!'”
Mookie Betts and Corey Seager sparked a two-run first inning, and Joc Pederson and Muncy homered off long-ball prone Tyler Glasnow, whose 100 mph heat got burned.
His scraggly dark brown hair dangling with sweat, Kershaw was cruising when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed the 32-year-old left-hander in favour of Dustin May after getting two outs on two pitches in the sixth inning.
The mostly pro-Dodgers fans in the pandemic-reduced crowd of 11,437 booed when Roberts walked to the mound, well aware of what happened with the bullpen the previous night, when closer Kenley Jansen wasted a ninth-inning lead in a stunning 8-7 loss.
Those boos quickly turned to cheers as the LA rooters saluted Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, as he walked to the dugout. Kershaw improved to 13-12 in post-season play, including 4-1 this year.
May, Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen combined for two-hit scoreless relief. May got five outs, Gonzalez stranded a pair of runners in the eighth by retiring Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe on flyouts, and Treinen got three outs to become the fourth Dodgers pitcher with a post-season save.
“Kersh, a lot of credit goes to him for what we’ve been able to do in this World Series,” Treinen said. “There’s a tough narrative on him. He’s a phenomenal pitcher on the biggest stage.”
Margot singled leading off the ninth, but Austin Meadows struck out, Joey Wendle flied out and Willy Adames struck out.
Thirty of the previous 46 teams to win Game 5 for a 3-2 lead have won the title, but just six of the last 14. Teams that wasted 3-2 leads include last year’s Houston Astros.
Los Angeles did not have an obvious candidate to start Game 6 on Tuesday, when Game 2 winner Blake Snell starts for Tampa Bay,
Walker Buehler, the 26-year-old right-hander who has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace, is waiting in the wings for a a Game 7, like a Hollywood understudy ready for a leading role.
With a 175-76 regular-season record, five ERA titles and an MVP, Kershaw ranks alongside Dodgers greats Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser. He won World Series openers in 2017 and again this year, but he faltered in Game 5 in both 2017 and 2018 and has never won a title.
A Dallas native pitching near his offseason home, Kershaw shut down the Rays on two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. He is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 15 2/3 innings over two starts in this Series with 14 strikeouts and three walks. Kershaw also set a career post-season record with 207 strikeouts, two more than Justin Verlander’s previous mark.
Provided a 3-0 lead, Kershaw allowed Tampa Bay to pull within a run in the third when Kevin Kiermaier singled, Yandy Diaz tripled on a ball down the right-field line that skipped past Betts and Arozarena’s single. The 25-year-old Cuban rookie asked for the ball after his record 27th post-season hit, one more than San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval in 2014.
“I didn’t have my stuff like I did in Game 1,” Kershaw said. “My slider wasn’t there as good as it was, so fortunate to get through there.”
Kershaw escaped a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the fourth after Margot walked leading off, stole second and continued to third when the ball got away from second baseman Chris Taylor for his second big error in two games. Hunter Renfroe also walked, but Wendle popped out and Adames struck out.
With Kiermaier at the plate, Margot bolted for home as Kershaw raised both hands over his head in his instantly recognizable stretch position. While many pitchers might have panicked and perhaps balked, Kershaw coolly and quickly stepped off the rubber and calmly threw to catcher Austin Barnes.
Barnes grabbed the ball and got his mitt down on the Margot’s outstretched hand while the runner’s helmet tumbled off and cut his own lip.
Margot went on his own, manager Kevin Cash said, and became the first runner caught stealing home in the Series since Minnesota’s Shane Mack in Game 4 in 2001.
Globe Life Field’s roof was closed on the cool, rainy night, as it was for Game 3, and the visiting Dodgers broke on top within 10 pitches against Glasnow, a lanky 6-foot-8 right-hander who appeared to be overthrowing.
Glasnow allowed four runs and six hits in five innings, leaving him 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in the Series. The two home runs raised his total to a record nine in a single post-season.
Betts doubled on a 99 mph fastball leading off and scored two pitches later when Seager pulled a curveball into right field for a single and his 19th post-season RBI. This Series joined 1932 as the only years with runs in four straight top of the first innings.
Seager advanced on a wild pitch, Muncy drew his 20th walk of the post-season and after a two-out wild pitch, Cody Bellinger hit a grounder that was stopped with no play by Lowe, the second baseman positioned on the right field grass. Seager scored the Dodgers’ 58th run with two outs this post-season and became the first player to cross the plate in each of the first five Series games since the Yankees’ Derek Jeter in 2000.
Glasnow tied a Series record with two wild pitches in the 34-pitch inning and set the mark with three in the game.
Pederson hit a 428-foot opposite-field drive to left on a fastball at the letters for a 3-0 lead in the second.
Glasnow retired eight straight before Muncy homered in the fifth to make it 4-2. He became the record ninth Dodgers player to homer in the post-season, one more than the 1989 Oakland Athletics of Bash Brothers fame.
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