Monthly Archives: September 2011

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Interview with Deck McGuire: Toronto Blue Jays Prospect and 2010 1st Round Pick

Wednesday  September 28, 2011

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  Recently I had the honor to interview Deck McGuire, top MLB pitching prospect.   Speaking to McGuire, I had the sense that he has the same goal as many other baseball players:  working to prove that he the real deal.  McGuire is a great guy and it was a pleasure interviewing him. 

Firstly, I would like to relay some information on Deck, courtesy of Wikipedia:

William Deck McGuire (born June 23, 1989 in Greensboro, North Carolina) is a professional baseball pitcher currently in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.  McGuire who spent three years at Georgia Tech was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft and is currently assigned to the Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.”

Considering that he was a first round selection, Deck is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet in baseball.   Plus he has one of the best baseball names in the game.  Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Deck McGuire:

 

Jeff P:  Hey, Deck.  First of all, I want to thank you for being with us today, it really is an honor to have you with us.  I’m sure you have a busy schedule so, let’s get this started.  First off, what was your reactions to being drafted, your thoughts, and the party post-phone call?

Deck McGuire:   I actually didn’t get the true draft experience.  We were playing against Alabama in the Regional Championship game, so I was actually in the dugout while we were playing to go to the Super Regionals.  I found out in about the 5th inning but I was way more concerned with the game at that moment.  Definitely the most bittersweet moment of my life because we lost, ending our season, and my time with the Jackets.

 

Jeff P:  You recently had minor struggles going into Double-A, was it a difficult adjustment?

Deck McGuire:  I don’t think it was really the adjustment but more that I never let myself get into a rhythm.  I got away from some of the stuff that got me there and then I got a little banged up.  I take it as a great experience and a chance to get better heading into next year.

 

Jeff P:  Can you give us some information on your daily rituals?  What do you do in the clubhouse, and what are your hobbies off the field?

Deck McGuire:  I seem to get there pretty early and I love to play cards, I have a slight competitive streak!  I love video games and golf off the field, probably the competitiveness again!

 

Jeff P:  How does your height of 6’6″ affect your play on the baseball field?

Deck McGuire:  Besides being really intimidating!?  Just kidding!  It really helps when I’m on top of the mound because I can get the ball going down hill, so it is tougher for the hitter to pick up.

 

Jeff P:  What do you find is the most special about playing for the different Blue Jays affiliates?

Deck McGuire:  The diversity of locations!  I got to play in Florida in the cold months and New Hampshire during most of the hot ones!

 

Jeff P:  What kind of music can you find on your iPod?

Deck McGuire:  Lots of country, a little rock, and even less rap.

 

Jeff P:  Who was the most difficult hitter you have faced so far in professional, or college baseball?

Deck McGuire:  Gordon Beckham.  I faced him when he was at UGA and I was at Georgia Tech.  His approach is unbelievable.  In pro-ball it was Matt den Dekker from the Mets, same reason really, his approach changes pitch to pitch so he is really difficult to fool.

 

Jeff P:  What baseball player would you most like to be compared to once you get to the big leagues?

Deck McGuire: I’d love to be compared to John Smoltz.  He was one of my heroes growing up because he is really the player who can define a winner and a team guy wrapped into one.  Starting or closing, he always got it done and did what his team needed to win.

 

Jeff P:  As a minor leaguer, you already have several different pitches that you throw.  Do you feel that your pitching arsenal will help you in your path to the big leagues?

Deck McGuire:  Without a doubt!  Something I have always prided myself on is my ability to throw a fastball, curveball, slider, and a change-up for strikes to any hitter and in any count.

 

Jeff P:  I read recently that you have been compared to Jonathan Papelbon.  Do you agree with this comparison?

Deck McGuire:  Well the guy is a winner so that’s good, other than that I don’t think I see it.  I mean he is a closer and throws fuel.  I am a starter and rely more on my array of pitches to get the job done.

 

Jeff P:  Do you think it’s fair to say that sometime next year, we will see you up in the MLB?

Deck McGuire:  That would be awesome, but my goal is just to keep getting better.  Whenever the Jays think I’m ready to help the big club win, then I am happy to give it my best shot.

 

Jeff P:  You are proud to be a former Yellow Jacket.  What were the big adjustments that you’ve gone through from college baseball to adjusting to professional baseball?

Deck McGuire:  The 5-day rotation vs. having a week off in college.

 

Jeff P:  I’m going to end off with this last thought.  If you weren’t a baseball player, where do you think you would be right now in your life?

Deck McGuire: Gosh I’d like to think I would be in baseball somehow, but I might have played football at a smaller school or maybe gone to med school to try to be an orthopedic surgeon.  I really don’t know.  I know it is cliché, but being a pro baseball player has pretty much been my dream my whole life!

 

Jeff P:  Thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule for us today Deck.  Much appreciated!

Deck McGuire:  Thanks y’all!

 

Thank you again to Deck McGuire for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Deck.  As well, please follow Deck on Twitter (@DeckMcGuire).

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Jeff on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Baseball Book Review: The Fastest 30 Ballgames

Tuesday September 27, 2011

 

THE FASTEST 30 BALLGAMES – A BALLPARK CHASERS WORLD RECORD STORY; BY:  DOUGLAS ‘CHUCK’ BOOTH, CRAIG B. LANDGREN & KENNETH A. LEE

(AuthorHouse:  2011)

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  As you have probably guessed from my previous reviews, I have a great love for baseball books.  I have read hundreds of them over the years and will read hundreds more before my time is done.  As baseball seasons have gone by, it seems that the market has become more and more saturated with baseball reading material.  With so many options and so little spare time, many baseball readers have a difficult time choosing which books to add to their collections.  I can completely relate to this dilemma.  Speaking from experience, when I select my next baseball book- I always look for an original and fresh concept.  I look to learn, laugh and get lost in time.  Let’s face it: with our hectic schedules, reading is supposed to be our time to unwind, relax and have an escape.  I recently uncovered a baseball book that provided all of the above and more.  A book that will become a must-own for every serious baseball fan.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” is the title and is the subject of today’s book review.

Every baseball fan that I know has either just come back from a baseball trip, is going on a baseball trip or is planning to one day take a baseball trip.  The bottom line is that baseball fans love their baseball outings.  Fans from all corners are discussing as we speak their dream of visiting Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field…and so on.  We read about all of the major league stadiums.  We listen to different teams play on the radio and watch their games on television.  The next logical step is to visit those same parks in person.  For most, if not all baseball fans, the dream of visiting new major league parks represents the ultimate dream vacation.  In his book, The Fastest 30 Ballgames, author Doug Booth takes his readers through his tour of every single MLB stadium.  What fans dream of experiencing, Booth has lived it.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” provides readers with a journey through a baseball odyssey that has never been seen before.  We get to live vicariously through Doug Booth.  If a great book is to be an escape for its readers, then this book is just that.  A really great book.  When you finally complete this book, you will not only feel like you know every baseball park, but you will also have the sense of having been there.  I got completely lost in the world of Doug Booth and the wonderful universe that is baseball.

I have never read a baseball book that is as expansive as “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”.  This book works on so many levels.  The first part walks us through Doug Booth’s attempts to set the Guinness World Record of watching games at all 30 major league parks in the fewest amount of days.  Think baseball’s version of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” meets “The Amazing Race”.  Sometimes an exercise in frustration, while other times an exhilarating ride.  Booth does it all and sees it all, in setting out to fulfil his goal.  What I most enjoyed about Booth’s writing style is his honesty, passion and heart.  To me, the first part of  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” is a raw diary of the life of Doug Booth.  From picking his mode of transportation, tickets, accommodations and route to each city and ballpark, Booth recounts in great detail his life and experiences in hopping from one baseball park to another.  Booth does not hold back from sharing the personal details of his life, which make his legend and tale that much more real and rewarding to read.  I felt that I was with Booth every step of the way.  Booth’s use of imagery was so vivid that I could literally picture his words in my mind, creating a sense that I was along for the ride.  A sign of a talented author and one that believes in his work.

Did Doug Booth set the world record you ask?  Yes he did.  After narrating in detail his near record-setting attempt in 2008, Booth went on to set the Guinness record the following year by watching baseball games in all 30 parks in only 24 days.  If you do the math and take a look at a map, that is a very impressive feat.  With weather, traffic, plane delays and countless other factors always lurking, Booth’s feat is mind-blowing.  This book is worth reading just to find out how he was able to accomplish such an impossible feat.  The reality is that very few of us, if any, will ever attempt what Doug Booth accomplished.  When I completed “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”, I have to admit though that I felt the urge to continue my own baseball journeys.  I started to calculate in my head all the baseball parks that I had already visited in my lifetime, and the ones that I still had left on my list.  I started to visualize geographically where each stadium was located and how many I could visit per trip.  From there, I calculated the number of trips and period of time I realistically thought it would take to complete the mission.  As I was doing this, I realized that I was beginning to channel Doug Booth.  I had the itch… and the only known cure was ordering tickets and getting on the road.  Doug Booth had inspired me.  I would assume that this was one of Booth’s goals in writing this book.  By stirring the baseball excitement within me, I appreciated Booth’s own baseball travels and wanted to further trips of my own.  Not only did I enjoy the book as a relaxing escape, but I was inspired and motivated.  Another sign of a successful writer.

It is one thing to say that a person wants to achieve a goal.  It is another thing to actually do it.  Armed with my the drive to see every major league park, part 2 of the book lays out how to make it happen.  Co-author Craig Landgren prepared a detailed listing and ranking of all 30 MLB parks.  From where to park, sit, buy tickets, food, best months of the year to attend, nearest attractions and closest stadiums, Landgren provides the perfect “AAA” type guide to visiting baseball stadiums.  A book within a book, Landgren provides the ideal cheat sheet for every stadium in the “Ballpark Chaser Guides” section, as it is referred to in the book.  For those that are interested (and if you are a baseball fan, you will be), be sure to visit Landgren’s site:  http://Ballparkchasers.com.    Ballpark Chasers is an on-line community of baseball die-hard fans, sharing information, stories and pictures on baseball travelling.  For “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”, Landgren lays out beautifully the information and images of all 30 MLB parks.  In essence, Booth sets you up by inspiring you to follow his baseball trips, while Landgren teaches you how to make it happen.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” is part autobiography and part baseball travel guide.  But fully 100% baseball.  Just the way we like it.

The last part of the book is real life stories of “Ballpark Chasers”, real people like you and I, telling the story of their stadium trips.  Reading each of their stories, I started to think and plot in my head what story I would be telling one day on the Ballpark Chasers website.  I could identify with all of the individuals, as they were the same as me.  Baseball fans who loved the sport passionately and enjoying watching the games immensely.  I could identify with each of these Chasers and felt that I could one day be one of them.  That at the end of the day was likely the reason for including their tales.  Now I was inspired by Booth, had the guide to travel from Landgren and the reinforcement from other Chasers that my planned travels could one day come true.  Like Booth, it was extremely enjoyable to read each and every one of these baseball tales.  This part added to the authenticity of the book that its authors strived towards.  I was glad to read all of the Chasers’ tales and look forward to one day writing a baseball travel story of my own.

I have a deep dark secret I need to share.  Most baseball books take me several days to complete.  With professional and family commitments, I will usually take 1-2 weeks to complete a book.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” took me several weeks to complete.  This was the longest amount of time I have ever taken to complete a baseball book.  This is a compliment though to how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” travelled with me everywhere this summer.  From my bedside, to doctor’s offices, the cottage and even my trip to Cooperstown, it followed me each and every step of the way.  When I picked this book up, I could literally not put it down.  I found myself going back to certain chapters and sections, reading and re-reading certain portions.  When I was watching ballgames on television, I would pull out the book and compare its descriptions to what was seeing before me in real-time.  It takes a lot to get me excited and gushing.  Booth and his co-authors were able to accomplish that in their baseball masterpiece.

With the playoffs around the corner, the MLB 2012 schedule was recently released this month.  Perfect timing to pick up “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and start planning your next baseball trip.  After reading all the tips and insights into each major league city and park, I would not dare to plan a meal, hotel reservation or purchase ball tickets without consulting this book.  The book is an enjoyable read and provides hours of fantastic baseball tales.  But at the end of the day it is not just a storybook, it is also a key reference tool.  With so much baseball information and knowledge available in this book, I am certainly glad that I read it.  If you are a seasoned veteran or someone just introduced to the game:  do yourself a favour and pick this book up.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” will be one of the most enjoyable baseball experiences that you ever experience.  Until you get to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums yourself one day!

 

**The photographs in today’s feature are courtesy of Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth**

 

*** To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Javier Vazquez Behind the Numbers: The Fantasy Value of Pitchers

Monday September 26, 2011

 

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  After a historically bad start to the regular season, Javier Vazquez has finished the 2011 campaign on a hot streak to the delight of many fantasy owners who found the 35-year-old right-hander available on the waiver wire. He is ending his season and career with a bang, not allowing a run in his last 25 innings pitched and winning five consecutive starts. His 7 wins, 2.16 ERA, and 87 strikeouts in 87 innings make him one of the strongest starting pitching assets in all of baseball post all-star break.

Going into the season I actually grossly overpaid for Vazquez and ultimately traded him away. I continued to monitor the pitcher because I knew what he was capable of doing on the mound. However, sitting at 5-8 with a 5.23 ERA at the all-star break, Javy lived up to the criticisms that he has endured throughout his entire career. On paper, Vazquez appears to be one of the most consistent pitchers of the past decade, earning double-digit victories in each of the past twelve seasons. Returning to the NL East, many people, myself included, had high expectations for Vazquez in 2011. After all, he is just two years removed his finest season as a professional with 15 wins and 2.87 ERA for the Atlanta Braves. But the guy is far from consistent. Season to season, month to month, and from start to start you never knew which Javy Vazquez you were going to get – just ask one of his former managers, Ozzie Guillen. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3602173

New York Yankee fans are also all too familiar with Vazquez as well, as his stints in the Bronx in both 2004 and 2009 are reminiscent of A.J. Burnett’s 2011 campaign.  There is no question that Vazquez is streaky and frustrating to own, for both real and fantasy managers.

However, Vazquez finished 2011, and he says his career, with one of the strongest stretches of his career – conveniently down the stretch for savvy fantasy owners.

So what took Vazquez so long to get his act together in 2011? The answer is actually very clear and it has everything to do with his velocity. To start the season, his average fastball velocity started around 86 miles per hour but steadily increased and finally reached the 92-93 miles per hour range for the second half of the season. http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=801&position=P&pitch=FA

As his fastball velocity increased, so did the frequency in which Vazquez used it. While it’s rare that a 35-year-old regains velocity, it is evident that it was the key to his success. The gain in velocity, coupled with a low-pressure situation in Florida in the NL East, allowed Vazquez to morph back into the pitcher he was in 2009. Although some players rely on velocity more than others, it certainly is a major factor in a pitcher’s success. Just look at Ubaldo Jimenez. With an average fastball velocity of 96mph in 2010, he put together a 19-8 season with a 2.88 ERA. In 2011, his velocity dipped to 93.9 mph and Ublado had trouble getting hitters out, compiling a 10-12 record with an ugly 4.47 ERA. Unless Ubaldo can have a Javy-like resurgence in velocity, he will be forced to improve his secondary pitches and will probably never again be a Cy Young contender.

This gets me to the point of the article. Many fantasy owners tend to ride players who are on hot streaks. But how can you predict these hot streaks when luck plays such a big factor? There needs to be an identifier for success, because all too many times we see players burst onto the scene with a few good starts but soon fizzle away. Sample size is very important, and Vazquez has demonstrated that he is capable of success. It was the gain in velocity and Vazquez’s placement in the NL East that made him a second half commodity. Therefore, before you trust a guy who is “hot”, be sure you do your research and find out why. Otherwise, you are simply gambling. With starting pitchers look for the factors that might contribute to a pitcher’s success: velocity, pitch selection, league and division, and ballpark.

Next week I will take this even further and discuss FIP and XFIP. If you play fantasy baseball and don’t know about www.fangraphs.com, do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the site and sabermetrics. This will give you a more accurate depiction of how a pitcher is throwing the ball and better indicators for future success, thereby eliminating the guessing games and searching for “hot streaks.”

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

How Far Will the Yankees Go in the 2011 Playoffs? Prediction Time

Sunday September 25, 2011

 

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The Yankees entered the season with a troubled rotation, some great bullpen signings from the offseason, and a star-studded lineup.

As the season commenced, the Yankees had immediate troubles in the rotation. The troubles in the rotation started with their former number two starter Phil Hughes, who seemed to be dominant going into the year, yet wasn’t able to play due to a “Dead arm”. The rotation ended up being filled by a rookie (Ivan Nova), C.C. Sabathia, a struggling A.J. Burnett, and two veterans who weren’t very successful in the past few seasons (Colon and Garcia).

The Yankees were up for the challenge, as they not only beat out the  nearly untouchable Red Sox in the AL East division race, but also had a season full of historical baseball moments. Derek Jeter, became the first player in Yankee history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, as for Mariano Rivera, who is now the all-time leader in saves in Major League Baseball history.

Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia unexpectedly became huge parts in lifting Yankees until the day they clinched the division spot. As for Ivan Nova, he won 16 games for the Yankees in the “Journey to the playoffs”. Now the Yankees are finished with that chapter and are now on a new journey: the “Journey to the World Series”.

The playoffs are about to start soon, as the Yankees are in the process of last-minute preparations. Unnamed sources have leaked out that Ivan Nova will start game two, and A.J. Burnett will not appear as a starter in the playoffs. The Yankees’ playoff rotation is looking more favorable for Freddy Garcia to be the number three starter, as Bartolo Colon is going through a horrific slump. Colon’s ERA (earned run average) in September is well over a 6.50, resulting in his ERA surpassing 4.00 on the season. Therefore it is probable that Freddy Garcia will be named to start for the Yankees in the 2011 MLB playoffs.

There have been multiple questions concerning Jesus Montero’s spot in the Yankees playoff roster. To date, it seems likely Yankees will proceed to place him on the roster in place of Francisco Cervelli, as he is expected to come back later in the playoffs due to concussion symptoms.

Besides the rotation, bullpen, and the Yankees lineup, backups also take on a big role in the “Key to success”. The Yankees backups are looking extraordinary as the season is nearing an end. The backups will include a trio of Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Andruw Jones, and either Jesus Montero or Jorge Posada as of now. The backups are looking promising, and can take a big part in the “Journey to the World Series”.

The Yankees have a team full of playoff greats, such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and others such as Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. There is a debate as to whether the veterans can lift the Yankees this year to championship Number 28. The answer is that the Yankees veterans have the promise playoff strength. Veterans such as Derek Jeter (also known as Mr. November), and Mariano Rivera, among others who have experience and the strength to lift the Yankees in the postseason. However, the Yankees veterans are aging, and as they age, they get less and less reliable. This leaves the backups with a huge role to fill.

The Yankees teams consists of youth, veterans, and a great deal of confidence. The confidence was within the clubhouse on Thursday, as C.C. Sabathia stated in an interview with MLB.com, that if he plays correctly he will win. With the attitude and the strength to do so, the Yankees could go far into the playoff race this year.

The Yankees will most likely play the Texas Rangers, or the Detroit Tigers. There is uncertainty which team as of yet, though each team has their ups and downs, and certain distractions they will have to face.  Let’s take a look at the potential matchups:

Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers have an outstanding rotation coming into the playoffs. Max Scherzer, is a strikeout master, while Justin Verlander is just about a master of everything. Verlander has produced great success this year, as he is seeking to win the AL Cy Young, and possibly become the first pitcher to win the AL MVP award in the last 20 years.

Doug Fister will be a huge part of the Tigers playoff plans, as his ERA dropped below 3.00 recently. His September stats consist of four wins and a 0.69 ERA. Fister’s streak is looking unstoppable, and will be a hard match for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching isn’t looking very promising as of late, and the Tigers clearly win that category. If the Yankees can’t produce runs against the hard throwing Tigers’ pitching staff, it may be hard to get by them. The Tigers key hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez. With the Yankees pitching rotation banged up, the Tigers could prove to be a very difficult opponent.

Prediction: Yankees in five

Texas Rangers:  All eyes are on the Rangers banged-up rotation now. C.J. Wilson, who has been having substantial success this year for the Rangers, is facing a problem to think about. As the offseason approaches, so does free agency. Free agency can affect not only the thoughts of players, but how they are playing. Thoughts are a very powerful thing, as on different occasions it can be hard to think about free agency when playing.  The pressure is immense.  Although in Wilson’s case, the pressure could prove to be a motivator to pitch well.

Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis are among the other probable starters. All of them are decent pitchers, though they occasionally rely on help from their offense for run support, which will prove to be the main problem for the Yankees rotation.

The Rangers lineup includes Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler in the heart of their lineup. This will be an extremely difficult problem for the Yankees rotation, as Rangers seem to possibly have the best lineup in the majors. The Rangers offense may possibly even be better than the Yankees lineup. If the strength of the Rangers rotation and lineup continue to consume strength, the Yankees could be outmatched.

Prediction: Rangers in five

Assuming the Yankees play the Tigers, and proceed to the second round, with either the Red Sox/Rays (depending on who wins the wild card), or the Rangers, both series will be a close call and consist of exciting games to watch. The Red Sox are in a similar situation as the Yankees, as their pitching staff has averaged a 6.60 ERA in the last ten games played.  If we have a Yankees and Red Sox matchup in the ALDS, it will likely go the full seven games- where anything is possible.

The Yankees have made history this year and accomplished feats over the years that no team has ever matched. Most importantly, the team wants to succeed. Success is a big thing for the Yankees organization. The Yankees are survivors, never give up, and always look to come back when down. This year has already been one big accomplishment, as the Yankees surpassed the Red Sox in the standings and possibly in making the playoffs.  Now the team is looking for championship rings in the year of 2011.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Jeff on Twitter.***

 

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J.P. Arencibia vs. Travis d’Arnaud: Who is the Jays Catcher of the Future?

Saturday September 24, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  Two weeks ago, I posted that the toughest question Blue Jays’ fans are dealing with right now is figuring out whose comeback, whether that of Dustin McGowan or Adam Loewen, is more impressive. Today I pose a question that some would say is equally hard to answer: who is the Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher of the future – J.P. Arencibia or Travis d’Arnaud?

What they have in common:

Interesting, while many people do not realize this, both catchers share their origin in common – the 2007 MLB first-year player draft. In fact, Arencibia was drafted 21st overall by the Blue Jays out of the University of Tennessee. As the 37th pick overall, the Philadelphia Phillies went with Travis d’Arnaud, out of Lakewood High School. At the time it was believed that the Jays were interested in d’Arnaud’s potential and would pick him with the 38th pick and move Arencibia to first base. Yet the Phillies chose the young star from Florida one slot before, forcing the Jays to choose left-handed pitcher, Brett Cecil. That said, a persistent GM, Alex Anthopoulos, would get his player; as the Blue Jays acquired Travis d’Arnaud two years later in the well-known Roy Halladay trade.

How they differ:

Defense

It is difficult to compare these players, as Arencibia has already made the jump to the majors while d’Arnaud just finished his season in AA New Hampshire. Arencibia has more professional experience having been drafted out of college, while d’Arnaud came out of high school. Here is a graph to compare how each player performed during their time at AA New Hampshire:

JP received the promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire half-way through the season; his stats have been doubled to receive a more accurate comparison.

Both players are pretty evenly matched. Nevertheless, d’Arnaud has the slight advantage on errors committed, fielding percentage, and passed balls. Meanwhile, Arencibia has a higher caught-stealing percentage.

Despite one player being in the majors and the other in the minors in 2011, an interesting comparison can be depicted if we compare both catchers’ stats for this season:

With each player in their fourth year of professional baseball, these stats show how close their defensive game truly is. Having committed the same amount of errors, the same fielding percentage and only one passed ball being the difference between them, the biggest distinction is that d’Arnaud has the slight advantage throwing out base runners.

Don Wakamatsu, a former catcher himself, and now the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach has admitted that he has seen a drastic improvement in Arencibia’s defensive abilities. Wakamatsu credits the improvement to a significant amount of practice and hard work. He stated: “Arencibia has done a phenomenal job trying to understand how to get the most out of our pitching staff.”

Defensively, Arencibia has a good arm, but he struggles at times with blocking pitches in the dirt. In his minor league career, Arencibia threw out close to 30% of base stealers, though charged with 60 passed balls in 357 lifetime games.

In regards to his defense, Arencibia stated, “Defense is obviously first, and I know that, and whatever comes with the bat is secondary.” He continued:I feel like my biggest thing is getting that pitcher through that game and I feel like I’m starting to get a real good understanding of my staff and giving us opportunities to win.” Since making these comments, Arencibia has improved his defense considerably in the second half of the season. For example, in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay, JP was able to throw out Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.

Comparatively, Travis d’Arnaud’s defensive skills are stronger. He has a great game-calling abilities and he has a strong arm. While his career caught-stealing rates have suffered due to inexperience, he has also improved his game by working on his footwork behind the plate. At 22 years old, d’Arnaud is already one of the better defensive catchers in the minors and he has plenty of time to develop into a premier defender in the big leagues. This was proven when he was named the Catcher’s Captain Award recipient for 2011 by Baseball America. The award is given to the catcher who displays strong defensive qualities, including leadership and dedication.

Offense

There is no denying that both players are also solid offensively. In 409 games in the minors, JP hit .275 with 121 doubles, 83 HR and 290 RBI. That said, he has also proven what he can do at the plate at the major league level as well. There is not a Blue Jays fan who does not remember J.P. Arencibia’s major league debut last year against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he launched the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a home run. He later singled and doubled and capped the day with a home run to right field. That game showcased Arencebia’s talents and his ability to hit the ball for power.

Offense is where Arencibia and d’Arnaud differ most. Essentially, while JP hits for power but not average, d’Arnaud is a more complete player at the plate, as he hits for average and power. This year with the Fisher Cats, d’Arnaud was named the Eastern League MVP after hitting .313 with 20 homers and 77 RBIs. Here is how their 2011 numbers compare:

Prior to the 2011 campaign, many fans and analysts alike were not sold on d’Arnaud as anything more than a defense-first catcher. However, as his numbers this season have indicated, Travis experienced a bit of a learning curve early on in his career, as he made the jump from high school to the minor leagues. With his bat coming around this season, the offensive edge at this stage goes to d’Arnaud. It is evident that both players (as can be seen from the table above) need to work on the amount of times they strikeout, but other than that, both look solid at the plate and behind it.

Overall

Although both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud came from the same draft class in 2007, it appears that d’Arnaud has the greater upside. In essence, Arencibia has received the call to the majors quicker because he was able to develop in college before jumping to the professional ranks. As displayed through various charts, d’Arnaud appears to be more efficient both with his glove and bat. His numbers indicate that he could make the jump to the MLB as early as next year.  In a recent interview with Fisher Cats beat reporter, Dave Gershman, d’Arnaud showed that he has the confidence to make it to the big leagues, as he stated: “Hopefully one day I can get up to Toronto, and play like I’m playing now. And who knows what will happen? Maybe I’ll be a good player.”

At the same time one cannot discredit J.P. Arencibia, as despite his quick progression to the MLB, he is still learning at the age of 25.   Arencibia recently stated as much when he admitted, “On both sides of the plate I’ve been maturing and making adjustments in different things,” Arencibia says. “But it’s still a work in progress. You’re always trying to get better.” With catchers requiring the most seasoning from all the positions, Arencebia can still be considered to be at this stage ahead of the curve.

Whoever is chosen as the lead catcher, one thing is certain: the Blue Jays are blessed with two young catchers – both at the plate – and behind it!  If the team’s worst problem is having two number one catchers on its roster within the next two years, then that is a great dilemma to have.  It is very possible that one of the above (likely Arencibia) will be moved when both catchers have proven themselves at the major league level.  Until then, with injuries and slumps being a reality of the game, the Jays will enjoy their abundance of talent behind the dish and lets the cards play themselves out.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

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Oakland Athletics: What Went Wrong in 2011 and Looking to 2012

Friday September 23, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Going into this season, the Oakland Athletics were perceived by some as a dark horse AL West contender.   They had one of the best starting pitching rotations in the American League and a lineup filled with role players.  At the end of May, the A’s record sat at 27-29 and only 3.5 games out of first place.  However, the team proceeded to go 9-17 in June and their season was pretty much over.

Confirmation for A’s fans that their team likely wouldn’t have a shot at the playoffs was when they learned Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden were going to be out for the year.  These two lefties were key parts of the A’s rotation.  To have them out for the year was a big blow to the team.   To add insult to injury (literally), there is a chance that Anderson will not recover from his Tommy John surgery by the end of next year.

The A’s five starters next year most likely will be Gio Gonzalez, the aforementioned Braden, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Rich Harden or Guillermo Moscoso.  This is depending on what happens in free agency during the coming offseason, but I think Billy Beane will be aggressive in trying to keep his pitchers in Oakland.  McCarthy and Gonzalez have had breakout years, and Cahill has been mediocre.  Even with the injuries, the rotation is definitely far from the team’s biggest worry.  Pitching at the Oakland Coliseum for half of the schedule unquestionably makes these pitchers look better than they are, but regardless at the end of the day, the A’s still have one of the best rotations in the American League.

The A’s bullpen is solid and reality is that  major league bullpens are often easy built with minor league arms.  Fautino De Los Santos has stood out to me as a great future cornerstone for their ‘pen.  He is a hard-throwing righty, who missed parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons due to Tommy John surgery.  De Los Santos came from a mediocre Oakland minor league system.  The A’s farm system is headed by Grant Green (1st round pick in 2009, shortstop), Chris Carter (huge power bat, first base), and Michael Choice (1st round pick in 2010, athletic outfielder).

The A’s infield situation is very complex.  Since being called up, Jemile Weeks has hit .303 with 21 stolen bases to earn their second base job for next year (and likely next decade).  Although, his power stroke hasn’t quite developed like his brother Rickie’s, he has been hitting the ball hard to all fields.  Cliff Pennington has had the year everyone expected him to have.  He is hitting .264 with 8 home runs, however he is .304 since the all-star break.  My opinion though is that Pennington is a slightly below-average ML starting shortstop.  If the A’s decide to keep Grant Green at shortstop, which they should, Green could be their starter as early as July.  Even if they’re not sure if Green can play shortstop, the A’s should at least give him a chance.

Since coming over from the Tigers on May 27th, former top prospect Scott Sizemore has been a pleasant surprise for the A’s.  He has hit 10 home runs, which is more than any of his seasons in the minors or majors.  Despite a low batting average and a shaky glove, it’s not like the A’s have anywhere else to go for a new third baseman.  Holding down first base (or trying to at least), is Brandon Allen.  Chris Carter though will be battling Allen in spring training in an attempt to take over the job for next year.  Hideki Matsui turned out to be an average signing at best for the A’s.  They needed offense and he provided decent numbers at the cost of $4.25 million for the year.  My guess is that Godzilla will probably return next year at a fraction of the cost.

In the outfield, the A’s got a career high 27 homers from Josh Willingham.  What is even more impressive is that The Hammer did it with such a weak lineup around him, that he likely did not see many strikes during the season as in past years.  Willingham will be a free agent this offseason and the A’s will have to decide if they are willing to pay to retain him.  Willingham will likely qualify as a type “A” free agent as one of the best outfielders on the market.  Coco Crisp as well had a pretty productive year, hitting .270 with 42 stolen bases.  He also will be a free agent this offseason, but I believe that he is very likely to stay in Oakland.  As for right field, David DeJesus, 32, will be a free agent this offseason as well.  He had a pretty rough year, and I’d be surprised if the A’s still wanted him on their roster.  Next year, Michael Taylor and Ryan Sweeney will probably come into camp to compete for a spot in the outfield.  Overall, the A’s clearly have a lot of decisions to make regarding their outfield this offseason.

I think the A’s are going to make a huge splash this winter. I’d be surprised if they didn’t try to ship out some of their excess arms for bats.  If they don’t make significant improves to their offense, the A’s will likely be the worst team in the AL West next year.  What do the A’s have looking up for them, you might ask?  Well, they have one of the best general managers in baseball and when need to improve a team quickly, that’s not a bad place to start.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

 

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The Curious Case of Carl Crawford

Thursday September 23, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When the 2010 season concluded, many people looked at the trio of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth as easily the most sought after players.  Lee has not disappointed in Philadelphia, where he will garner serious attention for the NL Cy Young Award.  Werth and Crawford, however, have been pretty big disappointments after signing extremely lucrative contracts over 7 years.  Werth received $126M, while Crawford made the biggest splash, inking a deal worth $142M.  While Werth has been lucky to play in front of smaller crowds playing in Washington DC, Crawford has had to endure the masses of critics in Boston.  This is on top of playing in the AL East, battling for the division title, while the team is in a free-fall where the Tampa Bay Rays are gaining ground in the AL Wild Card race.

Crawford came to the Red Sox with HUGE expectations.  Fans of the Red Sox expected him to not only repeat his career season from 2010, but exceed his statistics.  In 2010 with the Rays, Crawford surpassed most of his best seasons in almost every statistical category.  He hit .307 with 19 home runs and 90 RBI, while scoring 110 runs and stealing 47 bases.  His on-base percentage was .356 and he slugged at a .495 clip, giving him an OPS of .851.  In 2011, surrounded by all-star and MVP caliber players, he has struggled to gain any kind of consistency.  He has limped into the end of September with a .255/.292/.401 slash line.

Crawford has only been able to steal 18 bases, which is by far his worst full season total in the MLB.  On June 17th, Crawford sustained a grade 1 strain of his hamstring, and did not return to the lineup until July 18th.  At the time, Crawford’s OBP of .275 and slugging percentage of .384 were near the bottom of the league.  If Crawford had been hot until the injury, and simply fizzled out after he came back, we would have a simple answer.

Crawford has actually fared better since the injury, but I believe he has lost a step.  Crawford relies on speed, and hamstrings often take a very long time to heal.  His game is based on slapping balls through the infield and driving balls to the gaps, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.  Many people thought that the Green Monster would be peppered with line drives off Crawford’s bat, as well as triples going into the deep right-center field gap.  With Crawford’s hamstring issues, he doesn’t seem to be able to drive the ball as well as in recent years.

Another issue with Crawford seems to be that he has been slightly unlucky compared to other years.  His BABIP over the course of his career is .329, while 2009 and 2010 it had been .342.  This year, the stat sits at .300.  Often, when seeing a dip in BABIP, you can look at a player’s line drive rate and see that the player is not hitting as many line drives.  Crawford’s line drive rate is 17.8%, which is actually up from last year’s 16.5%.  His fly ball and ground ball rates have also mostly gone unchanged.  One thing I did notice was that his percentage of bunts for base hits is 0.  Early in his career, Crawford would attempt to bunt upwards of 15 to 18 times per season.  This year, Crawford has only attempted three bunts.  This could be due to his hamstring not being 100% also.

Crawford’s dWAR, (or defensive Wins Above Replacement), which is a defensive stat that shows how a player is able to field balls inside and outside the zone of his position, has always been one of his strong points.  For outfielders, he has been near the top of the league regularly over the last five years.  This season, however, his dWAR is at -0.5, which negates entirely his limited offensive production.

With such close similarities in his batted ball rates, one would expect a slight drop in production due to his lower BABIP.  However, with such a large gap in last year’s production to this year’s, despite a better overall line-up batting around him, one has to really think about what has happened to Crawford.

Crawford may be a multi, multi-millionaire that most of us would give up anything to be, but what most of us forget is that these MLB superstars are human.  Hitting in front of 40,000 screaming, raving Red Sox lunatic fans surely cannot be an easy task.  When playing in Tampa for the first 6 years of his career, he rarely faced hostility or scrutiny at home.  The media has scrutinized every little move he has made this season, because he is under a microscope now.  All this pressure and expectations after signing such a huge contract can take a toll on a player both psychologically and physically.

Here is a radical thought: Fenway’s odd dimensions have actually hurt Crawford offensively.  Left fielders play shallower in Boston than in any other park, due to the Green Monster.  This means that shallow flares, bloop pop ups and even live drive singles are taken out of the equation.  While you can argue that this would then alter every other hitter’s stats, I think that the style of offense that Crawford plays, combined with bad luck, and a slight drop off in actual performance have been the main contributors to his poor statistics. 

Look for Crawford to settle into the Boston atmosphere and return to his career averages in statistics in 2012.  If he doesn’t, there will be many Sox fans clamouring to get rid of him at any cost.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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Drew Taylor Interview: The Story of an Intercounty League Pitcher

Wednesday  September 21, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Drew Taylor, former Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays prospect pitcher, currently playing in the Intercounty Baseball League.  Based in Ontario, Canada, the Intercounty League has produced several major league players including Rob Butler, Rich Butler and current Brewers closer, John Axford.  Drew’s baseball blood lines run deep, as his father Ron Taylor is former MLB pitcher himself.  Part of the 1969 Miracle Mets during his playing career, Dr. Taylor is a long time team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Did I mention that Drew is also dating Miss Universe Canada 2010?    From getting signed by the Jays, having a World Series champion pitcher as a father, recovering from injuries and life in the Intercounty League and working towards becoming a doctor, we covered many topics with Drew.  For a great baseball tale from a different part of the game, we present our recent interview with Drew Taylor:    

  

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Drew.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule for this interview.  First question we always like to ask: who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Drew Taylor:  I always loved to watch David Wells pitch when I was younger. As a lefty I learned a lot about setting up hitters and how to use a curveball effectively against left- and right-handed batters. I also loved his approach. He went right after hitters no matter who they were and rarely fell behind in the count. A true lefty – he was a character on and off the mound. I had the chance to get to know him a little when he was playing in Toronto. When I was in high school, I threw a bullpen in Spring Training for the Jays. I didn’t know I would be throwing that day so I only had my first baseman mitt with me. He gave me a glove to use and watched me throw giving me some pointers after the pen, very generous; he is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back. I also learned a great deal from watching him that day in the way he treated people and engaged with fans asking for his autograph. Down to earth.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Drew Taylor:  I would have to say Travis Snider. I played with Travis our first year in the Blue Jays minor leagues and actually lived with him for the first part of the season. He came into the Jays straight out of high school and was thrust into a system that was known for drafting mostly college athletes. Here he was living with Jeff Gilmore, who graduated early from Stanford and had already begun a Masters in History and myself, already with Undergraduate and Masters degrees from the University of Michigan. But in truth, Travis was probably the most mature of the group of us. As I got to know Snider I found out why. He had faced a great deal for a kid of his age. There have been a number of articles written him since he broke into a big leagues focusing on what he and his family went through while he was in high school.  If you haven’t read them, I suggest you look them up.  I won’t go into all the details here, but in short when his mother was dealing with serious health issues, he was placed in a difficult situation at a very young age. As the only son, he stepped up to be a rock for his family. There are a lot of talented athletes that get drafted and Snider is definitely one of them.  Sometimes though it is experiences like these that separate the men from the boys and dictate who will have the resolve and discipline to make the jump to the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Drew Taylor: I transferred for my sophomore year to the University of Michigan from Georgia Tech in 2003. I came into a program that had a great history but had struggled in the past few seasons, finishing only 21-32 the previous year. Rich Maloney had moved from Ball State to the Michigan to take the helm as head coach. He called each player in one by one before the season, sat us down and laid out what he expected of us. It was the first time a coach had talked to me that way. He demanded excellence and explained how each one of us as individuals could contribute to the team’s success. I owe a great deal to Rich and would not have had the success I had that year without his ability to inspire his athletes and instil confidence in them. He turned that program around and we ended up 30-27 that year, climbing to 43-21 and winning the Big Ten by the time I graduated. “Those who stay will be champions.” I personally ended up 9-1 in 2003, making the All-Big Ten and All-Region Teams and was given the Geoff Zahn award for Michigan’s top pitcher. After pitching only 9.1 innings the previous year, this was a big turnaround for me. Rich knows how to get the most out of his players and I hope he remains a college coach so I can send my kids his way one day.

 

MLB reports:  You were signed in 2006 by the Toronto Blue Jays after the draft. Were you scouted by certain teams before the draft and were you expecting to be drafted?

Drew Taylor:  The most amount of attention I received was probably in 2001. My velocity shot up during my final year of high school and while pitching for the Ontario Blue Jays the summer before starting university. I had a number of clubs call and make offers, including the Rockies, Blue Jays, and Braves, to see if I would forgo school to sign professionally. But I was dead set on getting my education. While at Michigan, I had a great sophomore year going 9-1 and followed it up with a good showing in the Cape League which drew some attention again. Then during my draft eligible Junior year I ended up injuring my shoulder in my first start of the year. I tried to come back and pitch a couple of times, but ended up having to shut it down for the season. That effectively ended any chance I had of getting picked up in the draft, so I focused on my rehab, knowing that I would be back at Michigan the next year and would have to prove I could compete all over again. In 2006, the Blue Jays called right after my final game and signed me to a free-agent contract. I reported to camp two days later.

 

MLB reports:   Being signed by your hometown Jays must have been very special.  What were your feelings after the draft and what was the process like up until the time you were signed?

Drew Taylor:  Being signed by your hometown team is always special, but there were so many things on the go I didn’t get much of a chance to sit down and enjoy the feeling. When I got the call I was in Michigan right after we got back from the NCAA Regionals in Atlanta. It was a little bit of a whirlwind because I had just got back to my apartment when I was told I was leaving again in two days. In those two days, I quickly packed up my apartment and hit the road for Toronto. Kevin Briand and Sean McCann were the scouts that signed me and I went down to the then named SkyDome to meet them and sign my contract. With the papers in, Kevin walked me down onto the field and it finally sunk in.

 

MLB reports;  As a 6′ 5″ left-handed pitcher and being the son of an ex-major league hurler, what were the expectations you set for yourself once you joined the Jays system?  Did you envision yourself in the major leagues one day and what was your plan to get there?

Drew Taylor:  Everyone who signs a contract, or for that matter who has played baseball at any level has thought about what it would be like to play in the majors. For me, I had a father who had done it for 11 years, and because of that I had the opportunity to be exposed to the game at a high level from an early age. I fully expected to make the majors and as soon as I signed professionally, I set out to realize that goal. Competition increases as you move up in the system and ultimately I never reached my goal of reaching the majors. There are a lot of talented players in professional baseball, many of the guys in the minors have the talent and ability to play in the majors, but lack consistency. At the major league level you have to be able to make adjustments within the same game or within the same at-bat. Realizing how to make these adjustments takes time and experience, which is one of the reasons athletes in baseball require time to mature and develop above other sports. The mental side of baseball is much more important than the physical… as Yogi Berra said “Ninety percent of baseball is mental, the other half is physical.”

 

MLB reports:  For all the fans that have never experienced minor league baseball before, give us an idea as to what life is like in the minor leagues as compared to what people see in major league stadiums.  The level of competition, amenities and support from the major league team for its minor league system- what is it like?

Drew Taylor:  Night and day. Have you ever watched Bull Durham? Its bang on. The minors consist of a lot of long bus trips, fast food, and tiny locker rooms. The other big difference that people do not realize is how little money players are paid in the minors. Bonus Babies get a big cheque at the beginning, but the weekly salary is barely enough to live on. I would love to see the Major League Baseball Players Union fight for better pay in the minors, but once you make it to the majors I assume those guys try not to even think about the minors again. I don’t see it happening. Another problem is that players in the US and Canada are entered into the draft, while international players are all free agent signs. This means that home-grown talent can only negotiate with the team that drafted them, while international players have the ability to shop around different teams and drive up their signing bonuses. We need to move to a world-wide draft. One thing I will say is that players who make it to the big leagues know what it is like in the minors because they came up through it. Many guys are very good to the guys at lower levels. Especially if they are back down in the minors for rehab starts. One guy that sticks out in my mind that always looked after the guys at the lower levels was Brandon League. He was down for rehab for a while in Dunedin one year and went out of his way for us.

 
MLB reports:  Injuries unfortunately played a huge part in your career, as it affects many young hurlers.  Please tell us what happened to you health wise and your path through injuries, surgeries and how health affected your career.

Drew Taylor:  I only threw twice in my junior year at Michigan before it was painfully evident that something was not right. I ended up having a small tear in my rotator cuff and a strained bicep. I rehabbed and came back strong enough to get picked up by the Jays. My velocity had never returned fully after my arm injury in University, so I had to find other ways of getting hitters out than just blowing it by them. Additionally, I moved primarily to the bullpen after being a starter my whole life. My mental approach to baseball improved greatly, learning how to set up hitters and get them out not just by beating them with a pitch, but beating them with a pitch they didn’t expect. Instead of facing the same hitters many times in one game as a starter, I was now coming in relief and mostly only had to face batters once. I had to develop the ability to strike out a batter when I came on with runners on base and I focused on improving out pitches. My first year was in Pulaski Virginia in the Appalachian league facing a lot of young free-swingers. I used this to my advantage and ended up striking out 37 in 27 innings. As you move up through the system, hitters have a much better approach and wait for you to throw a pitch they are looking for or for you to make a mistake. You have to improve with them, or you will get left behind.

 

MLB reports:  For those fans that aren’t aware, your father is Dr. Ron Taylor. A team doctor for the Jays, your dad was a star pitcher in the big leagues and played on World Championship teams.  What influence did your dad have on your career?  What was your relationship like growing up?

Drew Taylor:  My dad was a huge influence on me. He never pushed me into baseball, or medicine for that matter, they were both my choices.  Once I made the decisions to pursue being a professional pitcher and then a doctor, his support and guidance was bar none. He had a great career in the majors for 11 seasons, winning two World Series with the Cardinals in 1964 and the Amazin’ Mets in 1969. I had a big leaguer at my disposal and he taught me things about playing at a level that very few have made it to. Even when we would sit down and watch a game on TV, we would be talking about setting up hitters and he would always ask me what pitch I would throw next.  The biggest thing he taught me is how to deal with pressure and maintain focus and confidence – something I can take with me in all aspects of life. In 6 appearances in Major League post season games he threw over 10 innings without giving up a run. In 1964 he threw 4 innings in the World Series without giving up a hit, allowing only one base runner on a walk to none other than Mickey Mantle. There definitely were some expectations, and it was very tough to deal with when I had my arm injury and my future in baseball was in question. When I was released by the Phillies in 2008, I came home and he said something that will always stick with me. He told me if he “could only choose one career between baseball and medicine, it would have been medicine.” He has been able to help countless more people as a physician than as a pitcher. If I had kept playing baseball, my window to return to school might have closed. My brother Matthew, has also been a great guy to have around. What he lacked in talent he made up for in knowledge. I still talk shop with him when we watch games and he often comes out to watch me throw, giving me some pointers after the game, whether I want to hear them or not. He works in film, but I always thought he would be great in the front office or as a GM. He knows baseball, better than me.

 

MLB reports:  To go along with the Jays connection, you mentioned to me that you know Pat Gillick well.  Please tell us your relationship with Pat and the Phillies organization.

Drew Taylor:  After my second season with the Blue Jays, they let me go and I immediately got a call from the Phillies asking me to attend spring training in Clearwater next year. Pat is one of the greatest minds in baseball and has been a mastermind behind winning teams and franchises since he started as a General Manager. He is always at ground level watching his players from rookie ball up to the majors and has a huge presence at camp. When he was with the Blue Jays, he became great friends with our family and recently invited us down to watch the induction ceremony at Cooperstown. It was my first time there and a tremendous experience to see the rich history the sport has and its influence and presence in North America and around the world. Bobby Cox, who was also formerly with the Blue Jays was down at the induction as well and they told me the story of how I ended up being named Drew. My parents were deciding between Forrest or Andrew and Bobby suggested they just call me Drew. I am glad he did. Forrest Gump came out when I was 11… that would have been a rough year…

 

MLB reports: You currently play for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, Canada.  Many famous players came through the IBL, most notably John Axford of the Brewers.  For fans that are not familiar with the league, please tell us more about playing baseball in the IBL and the Leafs’ organization.

Drew Taylor:  The Intercounty Baseball League started in 1919 and was founded as a minor baseball league feeding the majors. Now it remains as an independent league. It has a great deal of variety in players and level of experience. Many of the players have had professional experience in affiliated ball and are at the end stages of their career. The rest of the players are comprised of current or former university and college athletes trying to get signed to professional contracts or who want to maintain playing baseball at a high level of competition. Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Spoljaric, Jesse Orosco, John Axford, Pete Orr, Rob Ducey, Rich Butler and Rob Butler are some of the major leaguers that have played in the league either before their major league career or afterwards. I have actually had the chance to pitch head-to-head against Spoljaric on a few occasions and it is always exciting to face off against a former big leaguer. The league has a shorter schedule and we don’t play every day, so it allows guys to maintain full-time jobs while playing, which is rather unique. I have been playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past three years while being a full-time student at the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital.

 

MLB reports:   I have read that you have been involved with a number of charity groups surrounding baseball and sports, with your girlfriend Elena Semikina, Miss Universe Canada 2010. Tell us more about it and what type of effect Elena has had on you.

Drew Taylor:  Yes, she is defiantly a good influence. Elena and I have been getting involved in some charities that are doing great work in Toronto and across Canada. We recently participated in Strike Out Cancer in support of Mount Sinai Hospital with an all-star list of actors and hall of famers including Kurt Russell, Roberto Alomar, David Justice, Gary Carter, Gary Sheffield,  Bret Saberhagen, Devon White, and others. This past year the event raised over 1.4 million for research and treatment of women’s cancers. We also participated alongside local athletes, actors, musicians, and personalities in the Bulletproof campaign which sells apparel in support of the Special Olympics. Another fun group of people, Jays Days, get together when the Jays are on the road to watch the game together at Opera Bobs. Proceeds from sales of ball-park hotdogs, popcorn, and refreshments go to Horizons for Youth, a 35 bed youth-shelter dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk youth in Toronto.

 

MLB reports:  Having attended Michigan and with your father a doctor, a little birdy told me that you were looking at a career in medicine yourself. True or False?

Drew Taylor:  True. I ended up passing on professional baseball out of high school to attend university as I wanted to become a doctor. After finishing my undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Michigan, I was signed by the Blue Jays. At the same time I signed I had sent in my application to medical school. I was accepted and had to make a tough decision. I decided that I would have the chance to go to medical school after playing, but only had one opportunity to play professional baseball.  Thus I continued to play ball. I didn’t want to lose any momentum in medicine, so I applied to the University of Toronto and continued graduate school in the off-seasons. While with the Phillies and now playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Intercounty League, I have been completing my PhD. I will finish this year and will be applying to medical school again.

 

MLB reports:  How many more years to you see yourself playing baseball?  When your playing career is done, do you see yourself staying in the game and in what capacity?

Drew Taylor:  I will continue to play as long as I enjoy the game and my arm holds up. I broke my elbow this past year and it was a long season of rehab before I was back pitching again. I finished the year strong so it rejuvenated my desire to keep pitching. Once it is over for good I would like to stay involved with baseball and sports in general. My PhD is in Biomedical Engineering and ultimately I want to pursue a career in Orthopedic Surgery, possibly even specialize in upper extremity to compliment my experience dealing my own injuries. My dad is the team Physician for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I would love to follow in his footsteps and serve a professional team.

 

 

Thank you again to Drew Taylor for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Drew.  As well, please follow Drew on Twitter (@DrewWTaylor).

**Some of the photographs in today’s feature are from the private collection of our guest, Drew Taylor. **

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

There He ‘Gose’ Again: The Future of Base-Stealing Blue Jays’ Prospect, Anthony Gose

Tuesday September 20, 2011

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  A native of Paramount, California, outfielder Anthony Gose was the Philadelphia Phillies second round selection in the 2008 Draft. Although a top prospect with the Phillies organization, Gose found himself in Toronto by the end of the 2010 season after a three team deal also including the Houston Astros.

PRE-BLUE JAYS

Glancing at his numbers from 2009, Anthony Gose led all minor league players with 76 stolen bases while hitting .259 with 20 doubles, 13 triples, seven home runs and 27 RBI. His walk-to-strikeout ratio was a bit cumbersome, however, as he walked 45 times, but struck out 132 times. After the season, MLB prospect writer John Sickels rated Gose’s performance, stating the following: “[I] Love [his] speed, youth, and the athleticism. Don’t like the high strikeout rate for a guy without much power. Most advanced of the uber-tools players collected in this system in recent drafts.”

In 2010, at 19 years old, Gose appeared in 103 games with Clearwater and 27 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays (A+). The 6-1, 190 lb., left-handed hitter collected 20 doubles, 13 triples, and seven home runs with 27 RBI while adding 45 stolen bases. While 45 steals sounds impressive, it should be noted that he was thrown out 32 times that season. That’s only a 58% success rate.

BLUE JAYS

Joining the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2011, his first full season with the Blue Jays organization, Gose worked to improve his greatest asset – speed. This year he successfully stole 70 bases, only getting caught 15 times, going 23-for-24 in his last 24 attempts and increasing his stealing percentage to 82%. He then started to learn about when to steal, having the majority of his failed attempts coming at third base.

What’s more, along with base stealing, Gose saw improvement in the batters box, as he increased his power totals for the third straight year hitting 16 home runs, 20 doubles and seven triples. Unfortunately, his average has remained around the .250 mark (.253), comparable to the rest of his career in the minor leagues.

Another improvement for Anthony Gose this season was his patience at the plate. While only taking 41 walks in 2010, Gose took 62 walks in 2011 in a similar number of at-bats. He also saw though an increase in his strikeouts this season, as he had 154. Nevertheless when Gose doesn’t strike out and he does put the ball in play, he is batting .339, nearly 80 points higher than his regular average.

Not only has he improved at the plate, but Gose has also seen a rise in his game in the field.  His fielding was phenomenal in 2011, committing only three errors, giving him a .992 fielding percentage. Discussing his play in the field, Sal Fasano, the manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, stated: “Gose has enough arm to play right or left in the majors. He caught a ball on the warning track in the right-centre, near the 375 sign, and threw out a guy at third — in the air.” Looking at the numbers, Gose had 15 outfield assists in 2010 and 14 assists this season. That can all be attributed due to his phenomenal range, as thanks to his speed, Gose is able to cover ground smoothly and regularly, making continual exciting plays in the field.

IN THE FUTURE

In late July of this year, 24-year-old center fielder, Colby Rasmus was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays from the St. Louis Cardinals in a blockbuster deal that also involved the Chicago White Sox. The trade left many wondering if Gose still had a future with the Jays. Fasano’s response: [Gose is] arrogant enough to think they will move players to make room for him.”  However, many baseball analysts were not as optimistic and still wondered where he would fit.

There is no doubt that the Blue Jays have a deep farm system. Most would agree that the team has key players that they would be willing to move if the price was right.  If nothing else, the Jays’ GM has shown a willingness to be aggressive in the trade market. With the addition of a strong and powerful first baseman, a dominating starting pitcher, and/or a ‘lights-out’ closer, the Blue Jays are likely to contend by 2013, the year that Gose will likely make the majors.

With Colby Rasmus at centre, Jose Bautista in right, and any one of Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Adam Loewen, and Rajai Davis to play left and/or be the fourth outfielder, it is anticipated that a trade will be coming during this off-season.

With the Blue Jays’ need for a first baseman, the Jays could consider a trade with the Cincinnati Reds who are in dire need of an outfielder. Could Yonder Alonso be the future first baseman for the team in blue and the speedy Gose the future Reds’ centerfielder? With the Astros also needing outfield depth, would it not be ironic if the Jays traded Gose for Brett Wallace? (While this is a very unlikely scenario, it would fill the needs for both teams). The Pittsburgh Pirates are another team in need of a solid outfielder. Thanks in part to a deep farm system, a trade with the Pirates could work. The Jays are also in need of a top starting pitcher and a closer, so any future trade could package off other prospects as well, including, but not limited to, Travis Snider and/or Eric Thames.

The future for Anthony Gose will surely become clear this off–season by recognizing what trades Alex Anthopoulos, deemed as the ‘Silent Assassin’, will make. Along with teammates Yan Gomez and Adeiny Hechavarria, Gose is also heading to the Arizona Fall League to work even more on his skills. Until a trade is consumated, it is evident with Gose, that the Blue Jays have a solid prospect that has a rare combination of top-notch speed, excellent fielding ability and top tools at the plate.

 As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Fantasy Baseball Report: Value of Elite Setup Men: Romo, Alburquerque, Adams and More

Monday September 19, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We welcome the newest member of the MLB reports team, Peter Stein.  For all you fantasy baseball fanatics, Peter will be featuring weekly reports for you!  In his debut, Peter discusses the value of elite setup men and how they can benefit your fantasy team:

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Playing in a standard 15-team, daily league, auction, 5 X 5 Roto league this year, I learned many valuable lessons in fantasy baseball. However, one strategy and way of thinking in particular proved to be the most valuable and has had my team in cruise control and on the way to first place since the middle of July. (Disclaimer: Although this article is most applicable to daily roto leagues, the basic concept can be extended to all formats of fantasy baseball).

While most relievers who do not contribute saves largely go unnoticed, the game’s top setup men can provide the highest of quality innings (ERA, WHIP, and K) and as a result are extremely undervalued by fantasy players across all boards.

It is common for owners to spend half of their budget on two or three top of the line starting pitchers with the idea that they can rely on these aces to carry their team in the pitching categories. However, said owner will still have over 50% of their innings to relegate –often to a variety of run of the mill starters or high-risk high reward types of players. If you play your matchups right, it is true that there are many starters who can provide quality innings for you. For example, on my team, outside of Felix Hernandez, for starting pitchers, I relied heavily on starting pitchers ranked outside of the first tier, such as Colby Lewis (95 innings), Derek Lowe (63 innings), John Danks (54 innings), Javier Vazquez (61 innings), Gavin Floyd (41 innings) Erik Bedard (39 innings), and Ryan Dempster (37 innings) in my effort to reach the 1,250 innings limit.

I managed to get tremendous value out of these players based on matchups (a whole different discussion), but you have to be careful with guys like this. Each of these guy’s season totals are very unimpressive, and if used incorrectly can ruin your team. Danks, Lowe, Floyd and especially Vazquez and Dempster each had epically bad stretches this year.  Personally, I have only used Vazquez for 61 innings, but it has come with a 1.45 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. If I threw Javy out there for every inning this year I would have to swallow an unimpressive 3.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.

But back to the topic at hand (Vazquez will actually be the focus of next week’s article), the point is that you simply cannot receive 200 quality innings from these guys. You need to look elsewhere and this is where the game’s elite setup men become so valuable. Three or four setup men, used in conjunction with each other, can contribute the same value as one ace – without having to deal with the stress of matchups!

To prove my examples, and draw from my team, lets take a look at Sergio Romo and Al Alburquerque, Mike Adams, three players who cost me $1 each. For frame of reference, the game’s elite pitchers, such as Felix Hernandez and Tin Lincecum, went for $45 and $43 respectively.

In 40 innings pitched, Sergio Romo contributed an ERA of 1.40 a WHIP of 0.64, a whopping 62 strikeouts, and a useful 3 wins and 1 save. Although, he pitches approximately twenty percent of the innings of Felix or Lincecum, he provides value that is actually significantly better than both of these starters. Now lets add Alburquerque’s 39.2 innings, which come with a league best 14.1 k/9 ratio, a 2.04 ERA and 6 wins. Talk about some quality innings and a sure way to boost strikeouts. A guy like Al can allow you to use a low strikeout starter who contributes to ERA and WHIP – perhaps a Mark Buehrle. Albuquerque is owned in just 1.0% of ESPN fantasy leagues, but if started all year he provides 6 absurd starts that are really uncharacteristic of ANY starter in the league.

Do you see what I’m on to?

Mike Adams, perhaps the most well-known of the trio entering 2011 (for save potential), in 68.2 innings has contributed 4 wins, 2 saves, and ridiculously low ERA (1.44) and WHIP (0.70 totals).

I morphed these three players into one. This three-headed monster (costing me $3 dollars), contributed 192 strikeouts in 150 innings, a WHIP of 0.87, an ERA of 1.63, 13 wins and 3 saves. Lets see how this imaginary player, lets call him Sergal Adamquerque, stands up to next to King Felix:

Felix Hernandez       Romo/Alburquerque/Adams

IP                         230                                     150

W                         14                                        12

K’S                       220                                     192

ERA                     3.32                                    1.63

WHIP                 1.19                                    0.87

Saves                 0                                          3

Do you see the point here? The combination of these relievers, for $3, provides more value than Felix Hernandez who cost $45! I use Felix as an example is because is one of the elite pitcher’s in the game, and I myself spent $45 on him in my draft. However, this was not $45 poorly spent. It is impossible to rely solely on relievers to fill your league’s innings limits. You must have an anchor on your staff, such as King Felix. I also received great support from two other aces, Zack Greinke (88 innings) and Cliff Lee(45 innings), but was able to trade them for help in the hitting department. However, the point is, not even Felix, Lee, or Greinke can give you the value in strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA as these elite setup men. Used in combination with one another, these guys can create your very own “ace,” one that is inexpensive and allows you to budget your dollars to bolster your offense.

With that said, it is true that it is difficult to predict wins with reliever, but remember Felix Hernandez will likely end up with a total of 15 wins in 200 innings. These relievers only need three or four wins in 50 innings to provide similar value in that department. However, you could also get surplus value here. In 2010 Tyler Clippard won 11 games in 90 innings. There is always the chance that these studly setup men take the reign as closer. I drafted my Sergio Santos for $1, partly due to my lack of faith in Matt Thornton, but also because in 2010 he averaged over a strikeout per inning with good ERA and WHIP. Now as a closer in 2011, with a 12.86 k/9 ration, he figures to be a hot commodity in 2012 drafts.

You might think I am drawing form a small samples size. Although I have focused on a few players, the list truly goes on: David Robertson, Koji Uehara, Jonny Venters, Greg Holland, Chris Sale, Glen Perkins, Aaron Crow, Daniel Bard, Tyler Clippard, and Antonio Bastardo are all examples of players who provide just as much value (or more) per inning as the game’s elite starting pitchers.

It is true that the list of the very elite reliever sis short, but there a long list of players who are still extremely useful. To really prove my point, lets look at a reliever who is the third or fourth option on his own team, only owned in 1.5% of leagues, yet still provides tremendous value: Jesse Crain. The little known and used Crain could have provided your team (to date) with 63 strikeouts in 67 innings, 8 wins, and a stellar WHIP (1.19) and ERA (2.29). You really don’t need to dig that deep to find value from relief pitchers.

The Takeaways:

Relievers do not need to get saves to provide value and as such do not overpay for closers who don’t contribute positively to the ERA, WHIP, and K categories. If you are going to splurge on a closer, it better be someone like Craig Kimbrel, but there is still risk when you pay big bucks for a top closer. Joakim Soria, usually a given to contribute in ERA and WHIP, actually provided negative value for fantasy owners this year in these categories. His 28 saves are not worth the $20 dollars I spent expecting his usual elite numbers.

Next year go ahead and spend the money on the elite pitcher or two to anchor your staff. However, do not waste the dollars and overpay for innings from unproven or middle of the road starting pitchers. These innings can be much more effectively filled with a plethora of setup men from around the league. Draft a sure closer or two, and if you invest wisely in the elite setup men, you will be sure to own another closer or two down the road. Investing in these types of relievers in the draft and on the waivers will save you money – money that can be used on your offense and s on elite starting pitching. You can now dedicate your bench spots to these relievers, shuffling them in and out of your lineup along side an ace or two, and you will get value per inning on the same scale as Felix, Lincecum and other elite starting pitchers. It will require you to not only to target such players in the draft, but you will also have to be a hawk on the waiver wire. Just think of a combination of three of four of these players as one Felix Hernandez, but for 10% of the price.

Clearly, this strategy is most effective in larger leagues and league that allow you to make daily roster changes. However, I hope this article demonstrates how setup relievers have potential to add value in all fantasy leagues, although they are largely ignored or overshadowed by closers.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Albert Cartwright Interview: Phillies Prospect Returns to Baseball

Sunday  September 18, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Albert Cartwright, Philadelphia Phillies prospect.  Albert was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2007 MLB draft.  After four seasons playing in the Astros organization, Albert was traded in January of this year to the Phillies for reliever Sergio Escalona.  2011 tuned out to be a difficult season for Albert, as he was injured during spring training and unable to return to action.  Fresh off his season-long rehabilitation, Albert is now heading to the instructional league and to resume baseball activity.  Before his return, we had a chance to catch up with Albert and discuss many topics, including the trade, injury, growing up in the Bahamas and his career thus far in the world of professional baseball.  Here is our interview with the second base prospect from the Philadelphia Phillies, Albert Cartwright:    

  

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Albert.  It is a pleasure to have you on today.  First question:  growing up, who was your favorite baseball player, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?
 
Cartwright:  Without a doubt Rafael Furcal. Growing up in the Bahamas, we never had the MLB network broadcasted and so watching baseball was limited to the few games that were shown on major networks.  Of those games, I saw the Atlanta Braves the most.  So I grew up watching Furcal and just loved the energy he brought to every game.  He incorporated his speed into the game and I idolized his style as a young boy.


 
MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
 
Cartwright:  Jimmy Rollins.  The excitement and spark that he brings every night to the Phillies is definitely worth admiration.  Hopefully I will get the opportunity to meet  and play with the great shortstop in the near future.

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?
 
Cartwright:  Being able to play this great game of baseball every day as a career is an accomplishment on its own.  I’m just blessed to be given the opportunity.  But if I had to single out one proud accomplishment, I would have to say that I will never forget the night that I hit three triples in a single game.


 
MLB reports:  What were your goals going into the 2011 season?  You missed the 2011 season due to injuries.  What happened to you after getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason and the extent of your injuries that led to your lost season in 2011?
 
Cartwright:  The goal for the big picture is always to make it to the top.  Coming into each season though, my goal is to win a championship, regardless which league I’m playing in.  I believe that with a winning mindset, your numbers will always be where you want them to be at the end of the year.
 
Getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason was shocking; it definitely was a wonderful surprise.  After I calmed down from the excitement, I knew that I had a job to do and so I tried to prepare myself for the season even harder than ever before.  A week into spring training, I tore my Achilles.  As I pivoted into a turn during a conditioning exercise, I felt a pop and my ankle gave out.  I went into surgery a day later and have been rehabbing ever since.  I’ve never had any complications with my legs before, so the injury was definitely unexpected.  But everything happens for a reason.  So I just have to stay positive and keep on pushing.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Mets in 2006 and not signing with either team?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Astros in 2007?
 
Cartwright:  Getting drafted by the Mets was exhilarating because I felt that my hard work was finally paying off and that someone was seeing something special in me.  My reaction though was not hugely different a year later when I was picked up by the Astros, although I must admit it was slightly more rewarding since the Mets told me they were not going to sign me after the draft-and-follow.  I didn’t think that I was going to be drafted that following year but thankfully the Astros took me.
 
Deciding to sign with Houston was fairly easy since they presented me with a fantastic offer and I saw it as a great opportunity for me.

 
MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?
 
Cartwright:  Speed.  Speed.  Speed.


 
MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?
 
Cartwright:  Definitely defense.  There’s always room for improvement when it comes to playing defensively.

 

MLB reports:   How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Cartwright:  Strikeouts and walks play a major role in my game. If I strikeout too much, then I am pretty much rendered useless because I can’t use my speed.  If I’m walking and getting on base, I can take advantage of my speed and the manager can have some fun shuffling around plays that would work best with me.

I feel that as time progresses and the more experience I get as a player, the number of walks I have should increase and strikeouts decrease.  I should be able to see the ball better and in turn, make better decisions as a hitter.

 

MLB reports:   Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?  With Chase Utley entrenched at second, any plans to change positions?
 
Cartwright:  Hopefully I’ll stay at second but with Chase Utley there, as you mentioned, breaking out may be a little harder.  That said, I’m open to anything that comes my way that can land me into the big leagues.   I’m a converted infielder and so going back to the outfield isn’t anything major.  Anything I can do to help the team win is fine by me.

Teams that are good defensively, who can catch and throw the ball, are usually the ones in first place because they can minimize the other team’s scoring opportunity.  Defense is equally important to my game as being great at the plate.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?
 
Cartwright:  I would say 2012.  Once I show that I can handle the stick, bunting, completing hit-and-runs, moving runners, stealing bases and going from first to third, I think that can get me there.  I Just have to play the game the right way.  I am anxious to get back into the game.

 

MLB reports:   Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  What are some of the highs and lows you have experienced?

Cartwright:  Pro ball has been everything I was expecting: long bus rides, always eating late, living out of a suitcase and always being on the move.  But I love it.  Getting back to the hotel room to find a freshly made bed is always nice too.
 
My first career walk-off hit was definitely one of the highs.  I always dreamt of getting a walk-off hit.  Low moments would include sustaining injuries including tearing my Achilles which led to missing the entire 2011 season.  Also, breaking my wrist in 2009.  Basically anytime that I wasn’t playing could be regarded as a low moment.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Cartwright:  When I’m not playing baseball, I like to go to the beach, play video games, and hang around with friends. I guess you can say I’m a little boring in the offseason, but I welcome the relaxation after a season full of hard work.
 
In the locker room, you can really get to know your teammates and so far, everyone has been really cool.  Since we spend so many hours of the day together, everyone kind of hangs out with everyone else.  I can name though a few teammates who I still talk to on a regular basis, like Jay Austin, Marques Williams, Kody Hinze, Edwin Walker, and Chris Turner.  We are all jokesters so most of the time we’re clowning around and making fun of each other.  Other times we will get back to the hotel and play video games, usually MLB or Madden (although I have to admit that I can’t play Call of Duty to save my life).
 

MLB reports:  Have your visited Philadelphia the city yet?  How have you found the city thus far?
 
Cartwright:  Unfortunately not.  I would’ve definitely visited had I went to Reading at the start of the season.  I am looking forward to exploring the city though next year.

 
MLB reports:  Were you surprised to be traded from the Astros in the offseason?  What was your reaction and feelings moving from the Astros to the Phillies?  How has it been thus far being a member of the Phillies organization?
 
Cartwright:  I was overwhelmed and excited yet very nervous because I knew that it meant new people and a new system to get familiar with.  The trade came as a shock to me; I didn’t know what to expect.  But it has been smooth sailing so far, minus the injury.  We have a great facility and everyone I’ve met so far has been extremely welcoming.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send one message to the Philadelphia Phillies fans, what would it be?
 
Cartwright:  See you soon.

 

MLB reports:  Born in Winter Haven, Bahamas, at what age did you come to North America and start playing baseball?  What is the state of baseball in the Bahamas and can we expect to see many prospects come from there in the future?
 
Cartwright:  I’m glad you asked.  This has been a mistake on my profile from the day I started playing pro ball.  I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas and moved to Delray Beach, FL in my sophomore year of high school to play baseball at American Heritage.  From there, I went to Polk Community College in Winter Haven, FL.  Now that I think about it, I’m not sure you can find any town by the name of ‘Winter’ in The Bahamas.
 
Baseball in The Bahamas is on the rise.  There are a lot of young talents and I think we will have some more guys in the near future playing minor and major league baseball.  As a matter of fact, a close friend from my hometown just made his breakthrough in the majors, Antoan Richardson with the Braves.  He sets a great example, both for me and for all the young players back home: if you keep pushing, you will make it to the top someday.  I am very happy for him!

 

 

 

Thank you again to Albert Cartwright for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Albert.  As well, please feel free to contact Albert directly by Twitter (@acartwright12).  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Albert Cartwright**

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Yu Darvish – 2012 MLB Savior?

Saturday September 17, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): This offseason, there could be only two elite pitchers available for teams to bid on.  While C.J. Wilson looks to sign a deal close to $100M, CC Sabathia may be looking at opting out of his current contract with the Yankees.  Before the 2009 season, Sabathia signed a 7 year, $161M contract in which he makes $23M annually from 2010-2015.  Add in the fact that there will be at least five teams fighting for the services of two pitchers, an alternative must be found.

Yu Darvish, a Japanese right-handed pitcher could be the answer.  Although it has not been confirmed that Darvish will even make the trek to North America to play in the MLB, teams are lining up to watch him pitch.  Darvish’s ERA in the Japanese Pacific League for the Nippon Ham Fighters sits at 1.47.  He also has 223 strikeouts.  His 4-seam fastball sits in the 91-94 mph range with a great 2-seamer (or shuuto) with a lot of movement at 89-91 mph.  He has a slurve, as well as a split-finger, which seems to be his choice for an out pitch.

Many teams will be interested in Darvish, but how many really have the financial ability to bid for him in the posting process.  The process is basically a silent auction, with all teams that are interested putting a bid in, and the highest bid wins.  The winning team then has 30 days to agree to a contract with the player.  If an agreement is not reached, the posting fee is then returned back to the MLB team.

A player of Darvish’s magnitude rarely comes up in the posting process, so estimating a potential price is difficult.  Really, the only comparison is Daisuke Matsuzaka.  In 2006, the Boston Red Sox bid of $51,111,111 earned the rights to negotiate with the right-handed pitcher.  Matsuzaka then agreed to a 6 year, $52M contract, that could be worth as much as $60M with incentives.  Matsuzaka has been dominant at times, as witnessed by his 2008 season, where he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA.  He was 4th in Cy Young Award voting after keeping hitters to a .211 average.  He has also been below average, as this year, before going on the disabled list, he walked 5.5 batters per 9 innings.

There are very few teams with the financial flexibility to pull off such a move, while the other teams will pass Darvish up.

New York Yankees
With a payroll over $200M annually, the Yankees can always be in on any free agent, especially a high profile one.  Behind CC Sabathia, who may opt out of his current contract, the Yankees have a lot of question marks in the rotation.  Ivan Nova has had a solid season, but AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes had extremely disappointing campaigns.  If the Yankees want to continue their success in the AL East, Darvish may be the key.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox, like the Yankees, have a lot of question marks in the rotation.  Behind Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, who were extremely solid this year, the rotation has been a mess.  Matsuzaka struggled, Lackey has been pretty bad, and Tim Wakefield is nearing the end of his career.  They don’t NEED Darvish like the Yankees do.

Toronto Blue Jays
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has recently said that he was in Japan scouting Darvish.  The Blue Jays also have question marks beyond ace Ricky RomeroBrandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil underperformed this year, while 21 year old Henderson Alvarez has really impressed in the second half.  The Blue Jays have stated they could take on a payroll of $140-150M when the team is ready to contend.

Texas Rangers
GM Jon Daniels was in Japan in the summer to watch Darvish pitch, and could be a frontrunner for his services.  With CJ Wilson ready to hit the free agent market, the Rangers will have a lot of quality innings to replace. Derek Holland is developing into a solid starter, to go along with Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando.

LA Dodgers
If the Dodgers ownership issues ever get solved, with the young core of players they have, they could put in a very serious bid.  With the franchise struggling, and Hiroki Kuroda’s $12M coming off the books, expect the Dodgers to be aggressive this offseason if a new owner is put in place.  One of the most storied franchises in baseball could get a huge boost in having Darvish come to town.  Clayton Kershaw and Darvish could create a very formidable duo on the mound.

While other teams such as the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners have shown interest, I feel as though these five teams are the best possible fit.  They have the money, and they have the willingness to shell it out to the right player.

I believe a posting fee near $65,000,000 will gain the negotiating rights to Yu Darvish.  While the Yankees and Red Sox are always dangerous, I think that CJ Wilson is the biggest wildcard in the situation.  If he walks from the Rangers, look for them to be very aggressive with Darvish.  The winning team will likely have to cough up around 6 years and $75M in a contract, meaning the total amount spent by the team would be around $130M over 6 years.  For that kind of money, these teams better be sure they are getting the ace they are looking for to take them over the top.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Ichiro Suzuki: What Happened in 2011 to the Mariners Superstar and Looking to 2013

Friday September 16, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  When Ichiro Suzuki came into the league in 2001, people did not know what to expect from him.  He exceeded any and all expectations, becoming the second MLB player all-time to win rookie of the year and MVP in the same season.  The next eight years seemed easy for Ichiro; the highlight moment coming when he set the all-time hits record in a single season record in 2004 with 262.  Not to mention, he became the first player in MLB history to have 200 hits in ten straight years.

Going into 2011, few analysts considered Ichiro’s production tailing off drastically.  Sure, he was 37 years old, but he might be in better shape than any other player in the majors.  In April of this year, Ichiro batted .328 and stole ten bases.  However, in May and June he batted .210 and .282 respectively.  This season has turned out to be Ichiro’s worst year in the majors by a large margin.  From 2001 to 2010, he never hit below .303.  In 2011, he’s hitting .272 with 5 HR and 72 RBI.

Ichiro’s production relies on his ability to get on base and create havoc on the base paths.  Last year Ichiro had 53 infield hits, while this year he only has 32. Even though Ichiro’s 32 infield hits currently leads the majors, it is still the lowest total Ichiro has ever had in his career.  It is not like these are cheap hits either, as former Detroit Third Basemen Brandon Inge commented to the New York Times on August 22,2009, “I wish you could put a camera at third base to see how he hits the ball and see the way it deceives you. You can call some guys’ infield hits cheap, but not his.  He has an amazing technique.”

One of the arguments that has been set out in attempting to explain Ichiro’s decline this year has been that he is getting slower and slower.  I disagree with this statement.  He is on pace to steal 43 bases, which is right around his career average.  In the field, Ichiro may have gotten a tad slower, but I think that is due to his taking bad angles to the ball, rather than a decline in his abilities.  However, while not attempting to insult Ichiro as a player, it is apparent though that his intensity is a definitely a lot lower this year.  This leads to the following conclusion in my opinion; Ichiro Suzuki is a human being.  He is playing for a Mariners team that has not reached the playoffs since 2001.  He has consistently been playing about 150 games a year, not including spring training.  It seems like no matter how good of a season Ichiro has, the players and team around him are disappointing.  After all, we are talking about the Mariners.  A player can only take so much losing at a certain point, even the great Ichiro.

One factor explaining Ichiro’s off-year is bad luck.  This is his first year with a BABIP under .300 (Ichiro’s career average is .352), and according to Baseball Info Solutions, he has lost more hits than any other big leaguer on “good fielding plays.”  No matter how you read the stats, the bottom line is that Ichiro has had a pretty bad year by his standards.   He has played below-average defense, and at times looked lazy in the field.  His On-Base-Percentage is at a career low .312, and he would  need an incredible 30 hits in his last 13 games to reach 200 again.  To make everything worse, Ichiro turns 38 in October.

Next year, will be interesting one for Ichiro Suzuki.  It is his contract year and the Mariners are starting to acquire some legitimate pieces around him.  A playoff year is probably out of the question, but a .500 year is very possible.  Personally, I think he will bounce back and hit over .300 with another 200 hit season.  With a better surrounding cast, I see glimpses of the old Ichiro returning.  I don’t think he’ll ever return to the level he was on in 2004, but as long as he stays interested in the game, I think he will be an above-average right fielder for the next five years.

Without a doubt, Ichiro is a first ballot Hall-of-famer.  He is the only player to have ten straight seasons of 200 or more hits.  He also holds the all time record for hits in a single season with 262.  Ichiro’s contract runs out at the end of 2012.  The main question I believe is whether he will want to keep playing in North America.  His friends and family are back in Japan, where he is a fashion icon.  If Ichiro does continue to play baseball, I would be shocked if it were for a team outside of Seattle.  When his career is finally over, most people will remember Ichiro for helping break the barrier between professional baseball in Japan and MLB.  Overall, I expect most will remember Ichiro as being the greatest Japanese baseball player of all time.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Adam Loewen and Dustin McGowan: Which Blue Jays Comeback is More Impressive?

Thursday September 15, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer- MLB reports):  Toronto Blue Jays fans have been asked a plethora of difficult questions this season, but none have been as tough as the following: Whose recent comeback is more impressive – Dustin McGowan’s or that of Adam Loewen?

When I was first tasked with writing this article, it was a question that I asked myself continually.  Every time I responded, my answer would change. Comparable to many fans I spoke to, September 5th was a day in Blue Jays history that I will never forget.  Dustin McGowan, after having three surgeries, and spending over three years away from the majors, got the call-up to return to the big leagues.  I was excited for him that day and can only imagine how he must have been feeling on his return.

The same excitement McGowan felt playing in the majors, must have been shared by Adam Loewen.  A former high draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, Loewen was forced to change positions from pitcher to the outfield.  Loewen could have quit baseball all together; however he didn’t, as he changed positions, and chose to sign with the Blue Jays as an outfielder.  Although the Orioles tried to re-sign their once star pitching prospect, Loewen chose to sign with the Jays and begin his three-year journey back to the majors.  Canadian born, Loewen chose to sign with the Jays as the team he grew up cheering for.  As luck would have it, two days after Dustin McGowan’s return to the big leagues, Adam Loewen would be called up to the Blue Jays to make his triumphant return as well.

PRIOR TO INJURY

Prior to their injuries and subsequent recoveries, both players left the majors on a high.  Dustin McGowan made 19 starts in 2008, accumulating a record of 6-7 with 4.37 ERA. Comparatively, in 2006, reaching the major league level at the age of 22, Loewen also made 19 starts, recording a 6-6 record with a 5.37 ERA.  Injuries, however, soon took their toll.  Dustin McGowan would endure a torn rotator cuff, a torn labrum, and torn cartilage in his left knee.  Loewen, on the other hand, experienced a stress fracture to his pitching elbow.

MINOR LEAGUE JOURNEY

Dustin McGowan began his journey back to the majors July 2011, when he was back pitching in the minor leagues with the Dunedin Blue Jays.  In seven games, he recorded a 0-2 record with a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched, holding opponents to a 228 batting average.  After a great performance with Dunedin, he was next sent to double-A.  Through five starts with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, McGowan saw both an increase in workload and results, including a record of 0-2 and a 2.47 ERA in 19.2 innings.

Loewen started out in high-A Dunedin in 2009 and hit .236 with 4 HR and 31RBI with .695 OPS in 335 at-bats.  Last year, in AA New Hampshire he had a .246 average, but the power numbers improved, as the former Oriole belted 13 homers and drove in 70 runs, while posting an OPS of .763.  After the Fisher Cats were eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs, he also worked on his plate discipline and power in the Arizona Fall League. This year, Loewen has proven that all of his hard work as part of his journey has been worth it.  In the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, Loewen hit .308, with 17 home runs and picked up 84 RBIs.  Most impressive was his .888 OPS.

SINCE MLB CALL-UP

On September sixth, against the Boston Red Sox, McGowan threw four innings, surrendering three runs on five hits.  While he surrendered three walks, he also struck out five, the majority of them coming off his fastball, which was consistently hitting the mid 90s.  During his first start in the MLB since 2008, on September 11th against the Baltimore Orioles, McGowan’s plate consistency wavered.  He pitched three innings, allowing four earned runs, on three hits and five walks.  He is presently sporting a 9.00 ERA in two games played.

BC native Adam Loewen made his first appearance with the Blue Jays the day after McGowan, on September 7th.  In his first big league appearance as an outfielder Loewen went 1-3 with a run scored.  His best game came September 11th, (also a McGowan Start) versus Baltimore, where he went 2-3, with a home run, which he belted to centerfield.  However, many presume that Tuesday’s game against Boston, where Loewen went 0-4 with two strikeouts was his worst game thus far in a Blue Jays uniform.  Yet, I would like to point out, Loewen made a stupendous catch over the centerfield wall during that game to rob a home run away from the Red Sox, which in my eyes made up for the poor day at the plate.  The young Canadian is presently sporting a .300 average with three hits, two runs and a home run, with no walks and four strikeouts.

OVERALL

Both Adam Loewen and Dustin McGowan have come a long way since their respective career threatening injuries during the middle part of the decade. Each player symbolizes the heart and hustle motto that the Toronto Blue Jays have been preaching this year, as neither ever thought of quitting the game despite adversity.  The determination Loewen and McGowan have each shown in wanting to come back to Major League Baseball has also been extremely impressive.  Despite the small sample of success each has shown this month, I would suggest that both could be integral parts to a Blue Jays playoff run in the non-too-distant future.  Thus, returning back to the central question of whose return was more impressive…  I would have to say – - both.

 

What’s your opinion on the returns of Loewen and McGowan?  You can comment below, reach us by email at MLBreports@gmail.com and you can add me on twitter at @Alleycat17.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

The Hunt for Red Sox October

September 14, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Red Sox Nation is panicking. On September 1, the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Today, on September 13, they sit only 3 games ahead.  Since then, the Red Sox have gone 2-9, while Tampa has gone 8-3.  Many people believe that Tampa Bay has the pitching to get the job done.  Led by “Big Game” James Shields and David Price, they have a rotation that has been one of the top in the league all season.  As a team, they have given up the least amount of hits by 80 in the American League.  Their team ERA is also tops in the American League at 3.56.

Boston is limping into the end of the season, with 3 of their 5 opening week starters injured in some fashion in the last month.  Jon Lester has been every bit of the ace the Red Sox need him to be, with a 15-7 record and 3.07 ERA.  However, when the Sox leaned on him on September 11 against Tampa, he lasted only 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks.  John Lackey has been awful this year.  I cringe when I look at his stats.  6.30 ERA, 180 hits in 144 innings, and 18 hit batsmen to lead the league.  How has he won 12 games?  Buchholz was solid before going on the disable list, giving up only 76 hits in 82 2/3 innings, but hasn’t pitched since June 16.  It is believed he could be back as soon as next week, but in a limited bullpen role at best, so his impact won’t be felt much.  Josh Beckett has been great this year as well, but rolled his ankle in the 4th inning of his last start. At one point, after throwing a complete game, 1 hit shutout on June 15, his ERA sat at 1.86.  He is currently 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.985.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was a bust this year and required Tommy John Surgery in June.  In his place is knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who currently sits at 200 wins on his career.  Wakefield hasn’t made it look pretty this year, but has put in 139 2/3 valuable innings to date.

Tampa Bay boasts one of the top rotations in baseball, with Opening Day starter David Price pitching very solid, without much run support.  He has a 12-12 record but his ERA is 3.40 and has reached the 200 strikeout plateau for the first time in his young career.  Big Game James doesn’t need much of an introduction, as his 11 complete games and 4 shutouts lead the MLB.  He has already thrown 226 innings, a career high, with 210 strikeouts, also a career high.  Wade Davis has thrown 165 solid innings as a follow-up to being 4th in Rookie of the Year balloting last season.  Jeff Niemann is really blossoming into a dependable middle of the rotation pitcher, going 10-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 129 innings.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but doesn’t walk many either, shown by his 3 K/BB ratio.  One of the frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year is Jeremy Hellickson, who has been pretty much lights out all year.  With a 2.96 ERA and only giving up 135 hits in 170 innings, he will surely garner some votes.  The one wild card that the Rays hold, however, is Matt Moore.  Moore was just called up to fill a role similar to David Price in 2008.  He will be electric out of the bullpen after a minor league season that will rank him in the top 5 of all prospects going into next season.

Boston’s offense is abound with potential MVP’s and great hitters.  1 through 9, the Red Sox boast one of the best lineups I can remember.  Jacoby Ellsbury may win the MVP, but he will have to go through Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez first.  Also, David Ortiz is again proving the naysayers wrong, as he is hitting .313 with 29 home runs and 92 RBI.  When a player of JD Drew’s caliber can go on the disabled list and be replaced with Josh Reddick, who is hitting .298 and slugging .491 in 250 plate appearances, it gives a lot of confidence to a pitching staff.  Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally seems like the player who the Atlanta Braves envisioned when they drafted him in the 1st round in 2003.  Jason Varitek is also enjoying a fine season as a backup to Saltalamacchia, hitting 11 home runs in only 234 plate appearances.  This offense is one that no team will want to face in the final weeks of the season or the playoffs if they reach that far.

Tampa Bay may not have the “sexy” offensive players that the Red Sox do, but they have some players having mighty fine seasons.  Ben Zobrist has overlooked his mediocre 2010 season, and has put up numbers closer to his breakout 2009.  Although he probably won’t ever match that season, his 45 doubles lead the American League, and has a very good OPS of .820.  Casey Kotchman is still an on-base machine with little pop from first base.  He has hit at a .313 clip with a .382 on-base percentage, setting the table for the big run producers.  Evan Longoria may be having a down year by his standards, but most teams would be happy with a third baseman hitting 25 home runs and slugging .818.  Through May, Matt Joyce was an early favorite for AL MVP, but really tapered off in June and July, before turning it back up in the last month.  His .843 OPS leads the team, and he also has 12 stolen bases.  BJ Upton continues to be a low average, high power type of hitter, with 20 home runs and 27 stolen bases while hitting just .234.  The worst position in terms of offensive production has been shortstop, where Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez have handled most of the duties.  The Rays’ high-tempo style of offense has wreaked havoc on opposing batteries, as they have stolen 130 bases, good for third in the American League.

Both teams have completely different styles and techniques, but are successful in their own ways.  With the Rays aggressive style, and the Red Sox more reliant on taking pitches and making pitchers work, getting deep into bullpens early, this could be a battle to the bitter end.  The schedules they play the rest of the way will also dictate who is more likely to win the race for the Wild Card.

Boston:
1 vs Toronto
4 vs Tampa Bay
7 vs Baltimore
3 vs New York

Tampa Bay:
1 vs Baltimore
4 vs Boston
7 vs New York
3 vs Toronto

It is quite evident that Boston has a much easier schedule, and should win a fair number of them.  The Red Sox have gone 11-4 against the Yankees this year also.  Tampa has gone 5-6 against the Yankees, whom they see 7 more times.  Boston gets Baltimore 7 more times, and have beaten them 8 out of 11 games so far.  The pivotal series of all will be this weekend when the two teams square off against one another.  The game of the weekend may be on Friday September 16, where James Shields faces off against Josh Beckett.

I believe that Tampa Bay will come within a game or two, but the schedule differences give Boston a HUGE advantage.  The Red Sox 18-6 drubbing of the Blue Jays on Tuesday will be a catalyst for the team over the next two weeks, where they will produce runs and pitch just well enough to get into the postseason.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Bob Kendrick Interview: President Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Tuesday September 13, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick.  It was an honor and privilege to get to know one of the finest and most important executives in the world of baseball.  The Negro Leagues represents a key time period in baseball history.  The NLBM is essentially the Cooperstown of the Negro Leagues, in Kansas City.  Mr. Kendrick is responsible for overseeing the entire NLBM and has one of the most demanding and rewarding jobs that we have ever seen.  His story is a fascinating one and we were glad to have Mr. Kendrick with us today to share it.  For all fans of baseball and American history, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a vital institution to visit.  We present today our interview with the President of the NLBM, Mr. Bob Kendrick: 

 

MLB reports:  Hello Mr. Kendrick.  It is a pleasure to have you on the Reports.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speaking with us.
 
You are President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.  Please give our readers an idea as to what your job entails and the responsibilities of the President of such a fine baseball institute.

Bob Kendrick:  My primary responsibilities are to provide effective leadership, management and operations of the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum and the development of the future John “Buck” O’Neil Education and Research Center. This includes managing a staff of seven; planning strategies to advance the mission and financial stability of the organization and develop and communicate goals and planning strategies with a local board and a national governing board for implementation. In addition, I’m also responsible for developing and managing community and corporate partnerships, programs, marketing, special events along with media, public and community relations.

 
MLB reports:  What is the significance of having the museum in Kansas City?  Was there ever a thought to build it beside Cooperstown?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Kansas City is the birthplace of the Negro Leagues and thus the rightful home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM). In 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in a meeting that took place in at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City. Today, the NLBM operates two blocks from the historic Paseo YMCA and has designated the building as the future home of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. There were never any intentions to build or move the NLBM to Cooperstown.

 
MLB reports:  What does Buck O’Neil mean to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  How did the museum fare when he was alive and what has been the state of the museum since his passing?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Buck, along with the late Horace Peterson, were the co-founders of the NLBM in 1990. He served as the museum’s chairman for 16 years until his death in 2006 at age 94. Buck was the face of the NLBM and the museum’s inspirational leader and the person that is single-most responsible for its rise to prominence.
 
Buck’s death coupled with a down economy have definitely had an impact on the growth of the NLBM. To use a bad baseball analogy, Buck was our power hitter. When you take your power hitter out of the lineup you can’t expect that your offense is going to be as potent as it was with him in the lineup. The NLBM, like a lot of museums and particularly cultural institutions, have had its challenges but I feel strongly that we are poised to carry out Buck’s dream to sustain and grow this great institution.

 
MLB reports:  Do you feel that there is pressure in your role to meet the expectations set by Buck O’Neil? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  No. There will never be another Buck O’Neil! What I’ve tried to do is embrace Buck’s legacy and use it as additional motivation to see that his museum continues to be successful. If there is any pressure, it comes from the understanding that you are responsible for an institution that we want to see stand the test of time. Ultimately, no one will have greater expectations of me than I have of myself.

 
MLB reports:  What are your favorite exhibits at the museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  The Field of Legends is an amazing and awe-inspiring display. It is the centerpiece of the NLBM and features 10 life-size bronze statues of Negro League greats cast in position as if they were playing a game. The players were chosen because they represent 10 of the first group of Negro Leaguers to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
 
A 1952 photo of a young Hank Aaron standing at the train station in mobile getting ready to leave to join the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues is one of my favorites. I believe that photo is the validating point in the exhibit that visitors start to grasp how special the Negro Leagues were and the incredible level of talent the leagues featured. All of sudden, the stories that we’ve shared about the exploits of Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, and the other legends become more real because Hank is a name that everyone knows and understands how impactful his career was.

 
MLB reports:  Are there new exhibits this year that are in place? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’re developing a new exhibit on the life and times of Buck O’Neil in recognition of his 100th birthday (Nov. 13). The exhibit, entitled “Right on Time” is adapted from Buck’s critically acclaimed biography “I Was Right On Time,” and will be a chronology of his life featuring rare family and baseball photos, videos and works of art from a team of professional artists that interpret the meaning and impact of Buck’s illustrious life. The exhibit is scheduled to open at the NLBM on Oct. 6 which would mark the fifth anniversary of Buck’s death. It will be on display until January 2012. The NLBM is developing plans for a national tour of the exhibit.

 
MLB reports:  Why should a baseball fan take the trip to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  I often said that there is no greater example of “love of the game” than there is when you bear witness to what the courageous athletes of the Negro Leagues endured to play baseball in America. Love of the game is something that every fan shares.
 
In some respect, as baseball fans, we’ve all been cheated by not having an opportunity to learn about America’s unsung baseball heroes prior to the rise of the NLBM. When you visit you going to meet some of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game. But more importantly, you are going to gain a perspective on how their determination, courage, passion and perseverance not only changed the game but America too.

 
MLB reports:  You have rejoined the museum after a leave of absence.  How did you find out you were offered the position of President and what was your decision-making process in deciding to accept the role?
 
Bob Kendrick:  I left the NLBM in February of 2010 to accept the post as Executive Director of the KC office of the National Sports Center for the Disabled after being a part of the NLBM team for 12 years departing as VP of Marketing. I began having serious discussions with the museum’s board in March of this year. Betty Brown, chair of the museum’s board of directors, called on behalf of the board to offer me the job. On April 11, 2011 I began my tenure as President of the NLBM.
 
Like any major life-changing decision, I did a lot of soul-searching and had many discussions with my wife, Vanessa, and other members of my family. This was with the realization that sometimes the most difficult thing you can do is go back home. The NLBM had been home for me for 12 wonderful years and I was tremendously proud of what we had accomplished, but I honestly thought that chapter of my life was over. When this opportunity came about I didn’t want to make a decision with my heart and not my head, but I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t lead me back to the NLBM. It’s a tremendous honor to work with a great team and serve as leader of what I believe is one of the most important cultural institutions in the world.

 
MLB reports:  It has been less than a year at the helm of the museum.  What changes have you instituted since taking over?  
 
Bob Kendrick:  My familiarity with the organization, staff and board has made for a pretty smooth transition. The staff, especially, have been great. For all of us, working at the NLBM is a labor of love and I’ve got a great team that has allowed me to move rather seamlessly into this new role.
 
My first few months on the job hasn’t been as much about implementing change as it has been about assessing all aspects of museum operations and the development of a tactical strategy to energize and generate operating revenue. We have a goal of balancing the budget by the end of this fiscal year which ends June 30 of 2012. I have every belief that we’ll be successful in attaining that goal.
 
Any initial change has come from a programmatic standpoint. In June, we brought back our popular Legends Luncheon series. In October, we will introduce the Rube Foster luncheon and will honor former Kansas City Chiefs football great Deron Cherry for his career and leadership on-and-off the field. The Legacy Awards will return on January 14, 2012. The event honors the best Major League Baseball players, managers and executives with awards named for Negro League legends.
 
 
MLB reports:  I read that C.C. Sabathia recently visited the museum.  Who are some other current and former players that have visited the museum?  Any stories?
 
Bob Kendrick:  CC has been a friend of the museum going back to his days with the Cleveland Indians. He always makes a point to visit when the Yankees are in town to play the Royals. While a member of the Indians, CC brought Cliff Lee to the museum. List of current current players includes: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, Derrek Lee, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre and Jerry Hairston to name a few. Former Major Leaguers include: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Joe Morgan, Dave Winfield, Lou Brock, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Minnie Minoso, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Ken Griffey, Sr., Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph, John Smoltz, Buck Showalter, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Bob Watson, Dusty Baker, Ozzie Guillen, Don Newcombe, Robin Roberts, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Cecil Fielder, Rick Sutcliffe, Harold Reynolds, Frank White, John Mayberry, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Bo Jackson, Amos Otis and others.
 
Ryan Howard started visiting the NLBM before we knew who he was. At that time, Ryan was still in the Phillies’ minor league system. He’s never stopped visiting. He’s often said that he would visit as part of his ritual to prepare for Spring Training. He said he drew inspiration from their strength and dedication to the game that helped him deal with the difficulties he would encounter in the game.

 
MLB reports:  What role do current and former players play in building and maintaining the museum?  I personally think that current African-American players need to play a big part in attracting attention to the museum and inviting fans to learn and respect the past of the negro leagues.  How has the process been to get players involved?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’ve made great strides in cultivating relationships with both current and former Major Leaguers. This takes on an even greater level of importance for the NLBM since the passing of Buck O’Neil. We’d like all baseball players to take more ownership in the NLBM and help us preserve this once forgotten chapter of baseball and American history. It obviously takes on an even great magnitude when we talk about the African-American and Hispanic baseball player. This is their story. Simply put, they would not have the opportunity to play the game they love had it not been for the sacrifice of those who played in the Negro Leagues.

 
MLB reports:  Major League Baseball has teams play games yearly in Negro Leagues jerseys, which is a great way for fans to learn about the Negro Leagues.  What other initiatives has MLB taken to assist in the education of the Negro Leagues?  Does MLB and/or Cooperstown support the museum?  If Major League Baseball sat down with you and asked what they could do to assist the museum, what would your answer be?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Major League Baseball and its teams have played an important role in the success of the NLBM and helping educate fans about the history of the Negro Leagues. From the in-stadium salutes held by a number of teams, to celebrating Jackie Robinson, it’s all part of baseball’s embracing of the heritage of the game.
 
The museum has had (and continues to have) a meaningful and valued relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
 
In addition to funding, I asked MLB to create a national day of recognition for the Negro Leagues; partner with the NLBM on a national promotional campaign and provide leadership to serve on the museum’s board.

 
MLB reports:  I have read many articles discussing the lack of interest in African-American boys in playing baseball, particular in inner-cities.  With the lack of fields and the attraction of other sports, including football and baseball, it seems that baseball is having a hard time attracting African-American youth to the game.  MLB is trying to encourage more participation through its programs.  Is enough being done to get African-American children to play baseball?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We want kids of all colors to play and enjoy the great game of baseball. The NLBM believes it has a social responsibility to make sure urban kids have the opportunity to play baseball.We want to use the history of the Negro Leagues as a tool to inspire kids to play. Progress is being made, but it is going to take a long and sustain collective effort. Major League Baseball has done a wonderful job, through its creation and support of initiatives like RBI and the various Urban Youth Baseball Academies, of creating opportunities for African-American kids to play the sport. But this is not Major League Baseball’s responsibility solely. If we are to reverse the trend, then baseball has to become important again to the African-American community.

 

MLB reports:  Do you think that there is a correlation between the interest of today’s African-American youth in baseball and the interest in learning about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
 
Bob Kendrick:  We certainly believe the NLBM can serve not only as a resource to educate young people about the history of this country, but also inspire them by introducing them to men and women who overcame tremendous social adversity to play the game they loved. Urban kids who experience the NLBM can see people who looked just like them who were extremely successful playing, managing and owning baseball teams. The messages that stem from this powerful story transcends time, age, gender and race. Essentially, what the Negro Leagues teaches us is if you believe in yourself and you dare to dream then you can achieve anything you set your heart and mind to. That’s a universal message.

 

MLB reports:  With the All-Star game coming to Kansas City, what events does the museum have planned as part of the festivities?
 
Bob Kendrick:  First, I can tell you that no one is more excited about the All-Star game coming to Kansas City! There’s no doubt that the Kansas City Royals our great city will host one of the most memorable All-Star games ever. I’m confident that the NLBM will play a great role in helping make the event special.
 
We’ve already had great conversations with Major League Baseball and their event planning team about partnership opportunities for the 2012 All-Star game. Look for activities ranging from parties to player appearances to take place at the NLBM. Also, expect to see a new exhibition that will open in June of 2012 that will celebrate the players from the Negro Leagues who became Major League All-Stars. A planning committee is being developed to make sure we maximize the opportunities associated with the 2012 All-Star Game.

 
MLB reports:  In five to ten years from now, what will be the future of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  What is your vision?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Collectively, we are working to ensure the long-term sustainability of the NLBM. As we begin the next two decades of operation, we are dedicated to building a thriving, vibrant, cutting-edge institution that will not only celebrate and educate the public to the rich history of the Negro Leagues, but will continually challenge itself to make history relevant to an ever-changing society. Much of this will be solidified by the completion of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center which will provide an international headquarters for Negro Leagues history and social commentary on issues relative to race and sports.

 
MLB reports:  If people would like to learn more about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and to visit, how do they go about getting more information?  Also how can fans contact you with questions and comments?

Bob Kendrick:  You can get more information about the museum at http://nlbm.com. Or, call the museum at (816) 221-1920. I can be contacted at bkendrick@nlbm.com or please follow me on Twitter @nlbmprez.

 

BUCK O’NEIL CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: As part of our revenue generation plan, we’ve just launched a national individual fundraising campaign in remembrance of Buck O’Neil’s 100th birthday through the introduction of the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM campaign. The effort is asking fans and friends to donate at least $100 in memory of Buck and in support of his museum. Every person who makes the $100 gift (or more) between now and Nov. 13, will have their name, family name or person they designate permanently recognized at the NLBM as part of a new display created to mark Buck’s milestone anniversary.
 
To sign-up for the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM, visit http://nlbm.com or call the NLBM at (816) 221-1920.

 
 

 

Thank you again to Bob Kendrick for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to joining us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you have on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  As well, please feel free to contact Mr. Kendrick directly by e-mail or Twitter.  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Bob Kendrick**

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Contenders for AL Rookie of the Year Award: Who Will Win?

Monday September 12, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern Candidate- MLB reports):  With the regular season coming to an end, it’s time to start looking at baseball’s awards. The American League Rookie of the Year will definitely not be an easy choice for BBWAA voters. Even though the top candidates are pretty clear, there is still about 20 games left for most teams. This last month is important for candidates to solidify their numbers and argument for the award. Here is my opinion on who should win the award.

Three of the five last winners of the AL ROY award have been pitchers. When choosing who I think deserves the award one of my key requirements is playing time. In my opinion, a mediocre pitcher who pitched the whole season is more impressive than a position player who was only in the majors for half of the season. Also, I don’t think the team of the players record is important enough to be a consideration for voters. This award should be chosen for a player’s impact in the majors, not how hyped up of a prospect he is. So I’ll try to look past the shock value and breakdown some of the candidates.

 

        Eric Hosmer: Kansas City Royals

Hosmer  made his Royals debut on May 6th and has been the Royals starting first basemen ever since. For the year, Hosmer has batted .286/.334/.462 with 17 HR and 69 RBI’s. He has been the consistent middle of the order bat that the Royals have lacked ever since Carlos Beltran got traded.

 

        Michael Pineda: Seattle Mariners

When Pineda was named the Mariners fifth starter right before the season started, most Mariners fans didn’t know what to expect. Michael was an American League All-star and has slid into the Mariners #2 starter spot. His numbers have tailed off a little as the season has gone on, but the Mariners still haven’t made the decision to shut him down. He has a 3.72 ERA in 167 innings with 171 strikeouts. That’s more than Jon Lester and Matt Cain. Also as his 3.42 FIP suggests he has actually been better than his ERA suggests. However, he has pitched in a pitcher’s park this year which have probably helped his numbers.

 

         Ivan Nova: New York Yankees

Nova just barely has eligibility, but he has had a surprisingly solid season as one of the Yankees backend starters. He is 15-4 with a 3.94 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 144 innings. Obviously, the number that stands out is the fifteen wins, which is impressive for any pitcher. Still, with the Yankees offense wins aren’t a great stat to judge performance.  Speaking for myself, I just don’t think his numbers are impressive enough to be the 2011 AL Rookie of the year.

 

        Jeremy Hellickson: Tampa Bay Rays

Going into the season, there were pretty high expectations set for Hellickson. ESPN fantasy baseball teams were drafting him at an average of 163rd. He definitely has lived up to those assumptions and maybe even exceeded them. He is 12-10 with a 2.96 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 170 IP. Not to mention, he has done this while pitching in the toughest in baseball. He has had a lot of luck this season, as his 4.30 FIP and 4.57 xFIP suggest (courtesy of fangraphs.com). Also, he has the highest LOB% among all pitchers that have thrown over 100 innings.

 

Mark Trumbo: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

After the Angels received the news that Kendry Morales would start the year on the disabled list, the Angels first base options looked bleak. Trumbo was the favorite to win the job but wasn’t a very heralded prospect. Baseball America had him as the Angels 9th best prospect. Trumbo not only won the job, but he ran with it. On the season, he is hitting .256 with 26 HR and 80 RBI’s. He leads all rookies in homers, RBI’s, and SLG%( for rookies with more than 300 plate appearances). Not to mention, he has provided an above-average glove at first base. His batting average is not great, and his OBP% is under .300(.295), so he hasn’t been perfect this year. In the end, he has made contributions to his team unlike any other candidate.

 

         Honorable Mentions: Dustin Ackley, Desmond Jennings,   Jordan Walden.

I think Ackley and Jennings didn’t play enough games to deserve the award, and Walden has been too inconsistent. However, if Jennings were to lead the Rays to an improbable playoff spot, I think he should win the award or receive strong consideration by the voters.

 

If I had a vote at the end of the day, I would vote for Trumbo- with Pineda, and Hellickson following. There is still plenty of time left, but in my mind Mark Trumbo deserves the 2011 American League Rookie of the year award.

 

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by one of our intern candidates, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Ian Kadish MLB Guest Blog: My Baseball Journey

Sunday September 11, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We welcome today on the Reports, Blue Jays prospect Ian Kadish.  The right-handed pitcher pitched for the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Rookie Appalachian League in 2011.  With a 2-3 record, 2.67 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 11/35 BB/K, the 23-year-old Kadish showed some very strong numbers pitching in the pen in his first professional season.  With a bright baseball future ahead, we invited Ian to prepare a MLB Guest Blog describing his baseball journey for our readers.  In his own words, we proudly present the story of Ian Kadish- pitching prospect, Toronto Blue Jays:

  

Ian Kadish (Guest MLB Blogger):  I was recently approached by MLB Reports to be featured on their website.  We got together to come up with an idea of what to do and we decided on a blog post about the path I took to get to professional baseball.  Most of you guys that are close to me probably know the story already, but here it is again for the ones who don’t…

I went to a small high school just North of Cincinnati, Wyoming High School.  My graduating class was only 160 kids and football is the big thing there (Football is the big high school sport in Ohio).  I actually thought I was going to play college football as a kicker.  I thought I had a better chance at football than I did at baseball even though my childhood dream was to be a big league pitcher.  I was not highly recruited for baseball and if it wasn’t for the summer program I played for, I would not have had the chance to play college baseball.  I played for Midland Baseball and that is where I met one of the most influential coaches of my life, Mike Maundrell.  Coach Maundrell taught me everything I know about pitching and taught me exactly what I needed to do to be successful.  Midland is the best summer baseball program in the country and attracts kids from all over the country.  There is a great number of major leaguers that have played for them and it was an unbelievable experience to be able to play for them.  I learned more about baseball in those three years than I did at any point up until then.  I committed to play baseball at Marshall University.

I spent four years at Marshall, earning my degree in Business Management with minors in marketing and entrepreneurship.  In those four years, I learned a tremendous amount about baseball and life.  I really think those four years prepared me for professional baseball because I lived on my own and learned how to deal with factors outside of baseball.  I never really had great success in college baseball and at one point, I was ready to transfer out.  My mom and dad are the only ones that know how many break downs I had because I was so frustrated.  I was working harder than everybody and I was still not getting the results I wanted.

After my sophomore year, I went back home to play summer baseball in the Great Lakes League for the Cincinnati Steam.  I went home because I needed to decide if I wanted to go back to Marshall or transfer somewhere else.  That summer was the deciding factor because I got to spend time with my family and play with some very close friends that I had played with growing up.  I went back to Marshall as a Junior and there was a new pitching coach.  Joe Renner was a coach at Midland so I kind of knew him even though he was a new coach.  I was very excited to work with him and after the summer I had, I was newly energized and ready to get back to work.  I continued to work hard and ended up earning the Friday night starter role.  This was a big jump for me because I had never started and the previous 2 years, I was pitching out of the bullpen.  I struggled in the starter role and had again, another frustrating season.

After my Junior year, I went to play with the Rochester Honkers in the Northwoods League.  Playing there was truly the best experience for me since playing for Midland.  All the guys on the team were great guys and we all became pretty close.  The guys on the team taught me how to have fun with baseball again and relax.  I was taking the game way too seriously and was not playing up to how I thought I should be playing because I was too uptight.  Going into my senior season, the coaches wanted to put me in the closer’s role and I couldn’t have been happier.  I embraced the role and told myself I was going to have more fun that year.  Senior year turned out to be much more fun than the previous three years because I was more laid back.  After my senior season, I went home to wait and see what would happen with the draft.

I won’t lie, I was hoping I was going to get drafted, but as day three approached, I was slowly beginning to think that I was not going to get a chance to play professional baseball and keep my dream alive.  My dad and I went golfing on day three of the draft just to try to get my mind off of things, but I was still thinking about it.  I was on my phone all day and when I learned that it was late in the draft and I still had not gotten picked yet, I began to talk with my dad about where I go from there.  I did not know if I wanted to go to grad school or try to get a job in the real world.  As soon as the draft was over, we were just finishing golfing and that’s when I got the call.  Nick Manno, the area scout for the Blue Jays, called me and explained the situation to me.  He said he knew that money did not matter to me and he knew that all I ever wanted was a chance to prove myself and play.  He offered me a free agent contract and I gladly accepted!  My dream was still alive, and I couldn’t have been happier!

From there, I was off to Florida for a mini-camp and to keep my dream alive, just like every other little 12-year-old, to be a big league pitcher…

   

 

Thank you to Ian Kadish for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to contact Ian on Twitter (@BearJew36)  or through his website (http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com) for comments and questions.   We also thank Ian for sharing the photographs used in today’s feature from his own private collection. 

  

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Jobless in 2012 – MLB Managers on the Hot Seat from 2011

Saturday September 10, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When a team has a disappointing season, the most likely candidate to lose his job is the manager.  So far in the 2011 season, there has already been three managers who have either resigned or been fired.  The Oakland Athletics fired Bob Geren on June 9th and replaced him with Bob Melvin.  A week and a half later, Edwin Rodriguez resigned from his post as manager of the Florida Marlins.  Jack McKeon became the oldest manager since Connie Mack at 80 years old.  Yet another week later on June 26th, Jim Riggleman of the Washington Nationals resigned and was replaced by Davey Johnson two days later.  With only a few weeks left in the regular season, who are the frontrunners to be replaced after the World Series?

With eight managers being new to their respective teams to start the 2011 season, one would think there can’t be too many jobs to lose.  The first criteria I look at in order to predict who will not be returning his club is if the team was expected to contend for the playoffs, and fell short.  Another thing I look at is the perception of the clubhouse, ie. if players get along, or if the manager is able to manage egos.  Of course, the manager’s ability to create a lineup and manage a bullpen is taken into consideration.  Other factors such as injuries and expectations of players are measured as well.  The list that follows are my top 3 managers who could be canned after this season.

Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs

It is not often that I would think a first year manager would be fired like this, but there are so many circumstances that make me believe he will be gone.  First, there has been grumbling since day one in Chicago that Quade was hired over franchise icon Ryne Sandberg.  The Cubs have been packed with talented players such as Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol.  Add in Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, and you would think they could at least come close in the terrible NL Central.  They are 22 games behind the streaking Milwaukee Brewers, and 21.5 behind Atlanta for the Wild Card.  Their record is 62-81 with a 35-40 record at Wrigley Field.

Bud Black, San Diego Padres

With 2011 being Black’s 5th season with the Padres, a 62-82 record and already 21 games behind Arizona for the NL West title, he could be on the way out.  The Padres have yet to reach the postseason under Black, however they were involved in a 1-game playoff with Colorado for the Wild Card title in 2007 that many of us will never forget as one of the most exciting games we have ever witnessed.  In 2010, the Padres held a 6.5 game lead over eventual World Series Champs San Francisco Giants on August 25th.  After a 10 game losing streak, the Padres were still in contention, and were not officially eliminated from the playoffs until the final day of the regular season with a 90-72 record.  Those were the only winnings seasons in Black’s tenure and his time in San Diego may be up.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

Is it really fair to say Gardenhire’s job is in jeopardy?  Probably not, but it definitely is possible.  Over his 10 year career with the Twins, he has amassed an 861-740 record and they have been in the playoffs 6 times.  However, they have only won 6 games, 4 of which were in one series, in Gardenhire’s first season; 2002.  The Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004, being swept in 2006, 2009 and 2010 in the American League Division Series.  This year, Gardenhire has had to deal with crippling injuries of former AL MVP’s Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.  Statistically, the best hitter has been Michael Cuddyer, hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI.  The best pitcher has been Scott Baker who is 8-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 131 2/3 innings.  Francisco Liriano has not been the same as he was before undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, and aside from his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3, he has been downright awful and is now on the 15-day disabled list.  When the best players don’t perform, or are hurt, the manager is forced to do the best he can with what he is given.  However a 59-84 record may just be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for Gardenhire.

This year, with 3 mid-season changes already, and eight new managers at the beginning of the season, shouldn’t see too much activity.  I do believe that with the Cubs’ search for a new general manager under way, Quade’s days are numbered in Chicago.  I also believe that Black’s inability to get the always promising Padres to the next level will leave him without a job by November.  Gardenhire has not proven to me that he can bring the Twins to the World Series, and that is what the job description entails.  Has it ever happened where both Managers of the Year from their respective leagues gets fired the following year? It could happen if Black and Gardenhire are let go.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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Casey Bond Interview: Moneyball Movie Star

Friday September 9, 2011

 

MLB reports:  In part two of our series on Casey Bond, we feature today our interview with the “Moneyball” star.  Casey portrays former Oakland A’s pitcher Chad Bradford in Moneyball and will be promoting the movie this week in Toronto as part of the Toronto International Film Festival.  Tonight is Casey’s big premiere at TIFF.  Before the release of the movie, we had a chance to talk with Casey about his baseball and acting careers.  From playing minor league baseball with the San Francisco Giants, Casey moved to acting and appeared on the Gene Simmons reality show “Family Jewels”.  With the launch of his upcoming movie, MLB reports is proud to present our interview with Casey Bond:

 

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Casey.  It is a pleasure to be speaking with you and thank you for taking the time for us.  From baseball player to movie star.  You were originally drafted by the Giants in the 25th round of the 2007 draft.  You made it all the way to AAA in your 2nd season.  Tell us what it was like to be drafted by a major league team and play professional ball.  What was the process like for you from the time you were drafted to joining your first team?

Casey Bond:  Have the opportunity to play professional baseball for the Giants was a childhood dream come true.  All I ever wanted to do as a kid was play professional baseball (like most kids).  I worked hard, and took my talents and abilities to the professional level.  A life long goal accomplished. 

The process for me after I was drafted was just like most other guys that get drafted.  The Giants called me and congratulated me, and then eventually gave me dates that I would be reporting to spring training.  I continued to practice and prepare myself for spring training until I had to leave.  Once I left, I joined everyone else with the organization, and we began to practice and train until we were told which team we would be on after we broke from spring training.  It was very exciting getting to display my baseball skills on the highest level.

 

MLB reports:  Your playing career ended in 2008.  Why the decision to end your career so soon after getting drafted?  Were injuries a factor?

Casey Bond:  I was released by the Giants, after coming off a fairly productive season as an everyday starter, and had a decision to make.  I had offers from other teams to play, but the acting world was starting to pull me in its direction, so I decided to consider baseball a goal accomplished, and moved on to another goal in my life.

 

MLB reports:  After baseball, you jumped into the acting ring.  Were you always planning to be an actor?  How did you get started in the business?

Casey Bond:  Honestly, I can’t say that I always had plan on being an actor.  It was something that I always had an interest in, but I never really pursued it until I started to take classes in Nashville during the off-season. 

 

MLB reports:  Before Moneyball, you were in the Gene Simmons’ show “Family Jewels”.  Tell us a little more about the show and your role.

Casey Bond:  My role on Gene Simmons Family Jewels was as the “Handsome Handyman.”  I was hired to come in and help fix things around their beautiful home.  It was a reality show, and I was able to put my craftsman skills to work on the show.  They were a wonderful family, and I really enjoyed being a part of the show.
 
 

MLB reports:  Interestingly, you were an outfielder for the Giants back in your playing days.  Yet you are playing Chad Bradford in the movie.  How did you get picked for the role?

Casey Bond:  It is a very strange coincidence that I am portraying an Oakland A’s player for the film.  I always tell people I made it to the Big Leagues with the Oakland A’s it seems.  I had to audition for the role, reading with the casting director and director first before displaying any of my baseball talents.  I really had to bring my “A-game” acting in the room before I was able to show my skills as well.  For whatever reason, when the baseball came along, I was able to teach myself to mimic Chad Bradford’s very unique submarine form.  It just worked for me, and I almost wish I had pitched like that.  Maybe I would have been set apart even more from the rest of the crowd.  I was actually very accurate and effective against batters.  After I displayed the acting and the baseball skills, I had a personal meeting with Brad Pitt, where we read the script and basically hung out for a while just talking about life, baseball, etc.  It was basically a meet and greet.  After this, I found out I was offered the role.

 

MLB reports:  Did you get to meet the “real” Chad Bradford in preparing for the role?  Tell us about the process you experienced from getting the part to preparing for the role of being Chad Bradford.

Casey Bond:  I haven’t met Chad yet, but I talked to him on the phone for quite some time, gathering information that I could use toward playing the character.  I asked him everything from his mental approach pitching, to the way he acted on the team and his time with the A’s.


 
MLB reports:  Can you give us some background on your director Bennett Miller?  How did you find the experience working with him?

Casey Bond:  Steven Soderbergh did not direct the film, even though he was originally slated to direct it a few years ago.  Bennett Miller directed the film, and he was a pleasure to work with.  His most well-known work before this film was the movie “Capote.”  It was very well received, and he was highly acclaimed for the work.


 
MLB reports:  Which cast members did you work the most with during the filming of Moneyball?  Who did you become closest with during and after the filming?

Casey Bond:  I worked with a very large number of cast members.  Brad Pitt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, and Chris Pratt were among those.  All of which were wonderful to work with, and a pleasure to be around.  Brad really was a mentor on set, and through advice and sheerly through working with him, I was able to step up my acting game even further.  I developed a lot of great relationships on set, as I was on the film for most of the duration of filming.  I’m not sure if I could honestly say who I was closest with because it was such a great group of people, of which I was around everyone and interacted with every day.


 
MLB reports:  Can you share one or two good stories from the set of the movie that readers would otherwise not hear about? 

Casey Bond:  There were some great times had on set.  Plenty of practical jokes, especially since there were baseball players involved.  Brad and Jonah pulled pranks such as altering each others golf carts on the Sony lot to “embarrass” the other person while they drove their cart to the set.  Things such as putting the picture of their faces on the other persons cart, or altering the cart to make it stand out in the crowd.

Brad being a mentor to myself is another great story.  A person in his position doesn’t necessarily have to reach out and help the other person with their advice or opinions as that can be left to the director, but he very openly did.  He is obviously a legend, and any and all advice from him was wonderful, and I was so thankful for his kindness and thoughtfulness.  Truly a very down to earth person who is there to work hard every day and put his best foot forward, which is how I feel a handle my business as well.

 

MLB reports:  Mr. Brad Pitt.  One of the last people I imagined becoming Billy Beane.  Fans are interested as to how he did in the role.  Tell us about Brad the baseball general manager?  Is there an Oscar in his future?

Casey Bond:  This role  played by Brad could be one for the ages in my opinion.  He made some fantastic choices, and I think they will come across very well on the big screen.  He truly has so many talents and abilities.  If you just look at all of the different roles he has played, and played so well, those alone are a true testament to his versatility.  All of the components are there for this film to be a huge success, and the way he plays Billy Beane shows his ability to be funny, serious, heart-felt, and compassionate.  I’m excited to see the response to his performance, along with all of the other cast members on this film.
 

 

MLB reports:  I am a huge fan of baseball movies.  The fine line is maintaining an authentic feel.  Having real players in the roles helps a great deal, including yourself and Royce Clayton.  What did movie producers do to keep the feel and flow of the movie from a baseball perspective as being “real” rather than looking like a movie? 

Casey Bond:  I don’t say this lightly…this film has the potential to be the most authentic baseball movie of all time.  The individuals involved with this film were top-notch baseball players.  I was fortunate to be an actor who had the professional baseball ability in my back pocket.  The guys brought on this film even as extras all had experience from college to professional, and it will show on the big screen.  Obviously, Royce had the most experience with around 10 years in the big leagues.  I’ll put it this way…if we were to field a team from the people on set, we could most definitely compete with a lot of people.  Truly some great talents in this film, which was so important.  We have all seen the baseball movies which just don’t cut it as far as believability goes.  This will be the one to outshine them all in the authentic department.

What was great was the fact that Bennett Miller, Brad, and everyone else wanted to make sure they got the baseball part right.  They wanted to hear our opinions, and stuck with them.  I was more than happy to add any and all of my baseball knowledge to this film, especially due to the fact that they listened intently and respected all of the intricacies of the game.

 

MLB reports:  Was the real Billy Beane a part of this movie?  Did he visit the set and have input into the movie?  What about author Michael Lewis, was he a part of the movie as well?

Casey Bond:  Billy Beane was on set multiple times.  I’m sure he had plenty of input in the sense that he was the man they could go to if there was a question.  After all, his character is what the film is centered around.  Michael Lewis was on set too, and I had a wonderful conversation with me.  He noticed me right away and knew who I was playing (Bradford).

 

MLB reports:  I don’t recall a baseball movie that was more anticipated than Moneyball (I personally cannot wait to see it).  Where will this movie rank about the greatest baseball movies of all time?  What is your favorite baseball movie of all time?

Casey Bond:  This movie has a lot of hype, and all for good reason.  It has an all start cast, and a wonderful story to back it up.  Moneyball was a best-selling book, and it brings baseball, business, and life all together into one.  Something everyone can relate to.

All baseball movies are different, and this one, for myself, will be the most authentic of all time.  My favorite baseball movie of all time (at this point) is Bull Durham.  It depicted the minor leagues perfectly, which is obviously something I am very familiar with.  The language, interaction, and relationships were done so well.  It’s just an amazing movie, especially if you have played baseball at that kind of level.  It all makes sense.

 

MLB reports:  You are in Toronto this week for the Toronto International Film Festival promoting Moneyball.  How has the promotion circuit treated you thus far?  Where are you off to after Toronto and what are the promotional plans for Moneyball?

Casey Bond:  The promotional circuit for Moneyball has been wonderful.  I have been doing red carpets, radio shows and interviews, interviews with all kinds of media, and am now off to Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival, where I will be walking the Red Carpet as well. 

After Toronto, I head back to L.A. for  few days before going to Oakland, CA for the U.S. Premiere to walk the Red Carpet, as well is doing other promotional events in Oakland centered around the film.  Its been a very exciting and busy time, and I love every minute of it, and can’t wait to do this with other projects in the future.

 

MLB reports:  What is the future of Casey Bond?  Do you have any projects currently in the works?  What are your plans following the movie? 

Casey Bond:  The future for myself is to continue to work hard, and apply myself to the acting world (as I have been) just like I applied myself to being a professional athlete.  Passion and hard work will translate into success.  That is how it has always worked for me, and that is how life tends to work.  If you work hard, and are passionate about what you do, you will be successful.  I plan on never doing anything but that.

Lately, I have been doing quite a bit of print work for different companies like A.D.I.D.A.S., Muscletech, and others, along with doing commercials and constantly having other auditions.  Lately I have also been working with legendary acting coach Larry Moss.  Always have to be working on the craft.  I have also started a small production company with a few friends out here, which has been a fun process.  I love being a part of all sides of the entertainment industry.  It has been busy since finishing up Moneyball, and once the film drops, I hope to gain even more attention and go work hard on other projects.

 

   

Thank you to Casey Bond for joining MLB reports today.  Please feel free to contact Casey Bond on Twitter (@caseybond)  or through his website (http://thecaseybond.com) and Facebook Fan Page  for comments and questions.  Casey will be CONSTANTLY providing personal behinds the scenes photos, videos, etc. of upcoming events that he will be a part of such as Red Carpets and premieres, as well as Moneyball media when the film comes closer to the release!  Stay tuned for part two of our Casey Bond feature, with our interview coming up on MLB reports. 

 

**Some of the photographs in today’s feature are courtesy of Peter Hurley**

Part one of our feature on Casey Bond:  http://mlbreports.com/2011/09/07/bond/

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

MLB Expansion or Realignment: Should Canada get Another Baseball Team?

Thursday September 8, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer- MLB reports):  Should Canada get another Major League Team? It’s been a question that has been discussed ever since the Montreal Expos got relocated to Washington at the end of the 2004 season.  However, with the increased popularity of the Toronto Blue Jays nation-wide and the success of sports in large Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Montreal, it is a debate that is getting considerable attention. Here are my thoughts on the possibility of either MLB adding a new team to Canada or on having one relocated north.

 

VANCOUVER

 Let’s start with the possibility of whether Vancouver could support a Major League Baseball team. To begin, it should be considered that baseball interest has increased significantly in the city ever since the Vancouver Canadians became a Low-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Vancouver discussion has since shifted venue with the newly-renovated B.C Place Stadium. With over $600 million in upgrades and retrofitting, it is presently one of the most impressive structures in North America.

Let’s also take into account the size of Vancouver; with a surrounding area population of nearly three million, it is one of the biggest cities in the USA or Canada not to have a team.  Not only that, but there is history of baseball in Vancouver. In fact, BC Place Stadium hosted annual exhibition games for the Seattle Mariners back in the nineties when the Pacific Northwest Club had not yet moved into Safeco Field, and attendance was very acceptable. In fact, the exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays drew approximately 40,000 fans per game. 

Prior to being relocated to Sacramento, Vancouver also had an AAA-affiliate team that played out of Nat Bailey Stadium for Major League teams including the then California Angels, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Once again, Vancouver residents proved that baseball was important to them by having very good attendance at the games.

While I am still optimistic regarding the fact that a team in Vancouver would work, Andrew Forsyth, the Vancouver Canadians’ Beat Writer for JaysProspects.com, discussed a realistic angle, stating: “An MLB Team in Vancouver? That’s a tough sell. Vancouver is a dedicated hockey town, and baseball, be it the Blue Jays, Mariners or Canadians, rarely gets coverage in the local media. Thus, they will have a hard time drawing a crowd as long as the Canucks are on the ice. Plus, with Scotia Bank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium only holding a crowd of 5,100, the team would have to go to the retro-fitted BC Place which is already home to the BC Lions and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Although Vancouver is a city that does well hosting multiple sports teams, they are a fair-weather fan base with a minority of dedicated Baseball fans. Thus, the hardest sell of all is that Vancouver fans don’t react well to teams that don’t make the playoffs, so if a team were to come, they’d need to be immediately strong.”

Thus, taking all of this into consideration, the question is asked again – Is there a future for MLB in Vancouver? As Forsyth states, it is definitely a tough sell. But, I believe that due to the increased publicity of Vancouver as a land of sports (thanks in part to the 2010 Winter Olympics), it is evident that fans in Vancouver would love a MLB team in their city… they’d just need to win!

 

MONTREAL

On a personal note, I should admit that the only time I have seen my father cry was during the Montreal Expos final home game. While I was only 17 at the time, I remember it perfectly like it was yesterday. It was September 29, 2004, and the Expos lost 9-1 to the Florida Marlins – definitely not the way the wanted to end their career in Canada. 31,395 fans were in the stands, including myself, and of course, my weeping father. While they lost their last home game, the Expos finished their season with a win, defeating the New York Mets by a score of 8-1 on October 3rd. That was it, after 36 seasons, 2,753 wins, 2,942 losses, 2,786 home games, 2 inadequate ball parks, and 108,858,412 fans who saw only one single postseason appearance. The Montreal Expos were no more.

Still people ask:  could they come back?

This question is asked even more on a regular basis now that the NHL has brought back the Winnipeg Jets and that their fan base has doubled. But could the same occur for the Montreal Expos? Personally, I think that it is a harder sell for Montreal than Vancouver, as there are many improvements they would need in order for this unlikely dream to become a reality.

For starters, the reincarnated Expos franchise would absolutely need a new stadium. While I loved the park as a kid, Olympic Stadium is simply not a good place to play baseball. This new stadium should also need a retractable roof. While Montreal has always been against having a retractable roof, they need it due to the weather in the early and late parts of baseball season. And by having it retractable, the new team could play outdoor baseball – and still not have any weather-related postponements at home, just like its Canadian counterpart, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Similar to Vancouver, another aspect that must occur is that the team will need to be successful. Montreal is tired of having losing teams and if the Blue Jays are any indication, fans only go to the games if there are top-tier players (Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, etc) playing. Lastly, if Montreal does receive a team, there is one final thing that must occur – the team needs to be called the Montreal Expos. As comparable to the  new Winnipeg Jets, fans need the history behind the franchise. Keeping the name is the only way this can be done. (Of course, signing Montreal native and current New York Yankee catcher Russell Martin could also be a great addition to the team).

Many blame the downfall of the Expos on the fans and on the fact that most of the population is French, resulting in a barrier between the players and fans. However, I still place most of the responsibility on the 1994 strike-suspended season which stopped the Expos season, which was on pace to win 105 games that year. This disenchanted the fan base, and within two years the team parted with Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Delino DeShields and John Wetteland, and the foundation began to crumble. Thus, I do not think the fans are to blame, but rather the lost season which ended up being the team’s downfall. As in Winnipeg, I believe  that only the fans would be able to bring baseball back to the city.

Another issue, however, is the competition that would arise between the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays. No, I am not referring to the rivalry that used to occur every Canada Day (July 1st) between the two teams, but instead, to the competition that would occur on network television and within the media. There is no doubt that competing television interests put the Expos in direct competition with the Jays in the 80s and 90s and set Montreal on a downhill slide. With Rogers Sportsnet already taking precedence of the Blue Jays and growing a larger fan base by the minute, my guess that media and broadcasting would definitely be a slippery slope if the Expos were to return as well.

While Forsyth gave me his thoughts on the addition of an MLB team in Vancouver, I was also curious to hear his thoughts regarding Montreal as well. To this, he stated, “Montreal is even more of a hockey town than Vancouver, so once again, if a pro team were to re-enter the province, my guess is that priority would be placed on getting the Nordiques to return to Quebec. It’s tough. Canadians love their hockey.”

While Quebec does love its hockey, it is apparent that many miss the peanuts and crackerjacks in their province. They have since tried to fill the void in their lives with a successful independent Can-Am league ballclub that is only a few hours away (in Quebec City) from Olympic Stadium. Despite the team’s success, I still agree with Gilles Taillon, Baseball Quebec’s administration director, as he stated: “For MLB to come back to Montreal, it would have to go through the Minor League route first.” As opposed to Vancouver, Montreal presently does not have a minor-league team to gauge MLB interest in the province. With strong rumors that Ottawa could be receiving an AAA team in the near future, Montreal should make bids and efforts to gain a team as well. If that team is successful and fans prove there is dedication, there is always possibility that Major League Baseball could arrive in Montreal in the future.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are many questions that arise if in fact a team did move north to Canada; the first of which, is deciding which league it would join. Many speculate that the new team would join the National League, where the Expos once reigned.  Despite the fact that the first Canadian team played in the NL and has historical rivalries there, the American League might be a better fit. The NL already has two extra teams, thus, by adding a team to the AL, it would represent one more step in leveling the playing field. Specifically, and certainly if a team were to move to Vancouver, I would move the team to the AL West. This would not only enable strong competition with the Seattle Mariners (only about 150 miles from Vancouver), but would bring in a perfect rivalry with the Toronto Blue Jays, as they have British Columbia native, Brett Lawrie.

Another option, however, is to relocate a team to a Canadian city. The first team that comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Rays, as both their field, and their fan base are diminishing despite productive seasons and exciting players. In the case of such a relocation, I would not keep the newly moved team in the AL East, but rather I would move the team to the AL West for the reasons explained above. If a team needs to be re-added to the AL East, my thoughts would be to add the Detroit Tigers to the division (who should have never left the east in the first place in my opinion, based on its rivalries with the Jays, Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox).

 

Overall, these are just my personal thoughts, which only touch the surface of whether Canada should get another Major League team. That being said, I would love to hear your opinions! So be sure to email your comments to MLBreports@gmail.com or to post them at the bottom of this article and add me to Twitter at @Alleycat17. Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Casey Bond Guest Blog: From Giants Prospect to Moneyball Star

Wednesday September 7, 2011

 

MLB reports:  Baseball movies have been part of the culture of the game for as long as most of us can remember.  Classic films include The Natural, Bull Durham and Major League, among countless others.  When baseball fans are not watching games at the ballpark or on television, they can often be found at the theatre or popping in a disc at home to watch a baseball movie.  Fans also enjoy baseball documentaries, including the Ken Burns series.  If not watching baseball in some capacity, a good baseball book is not usually far behind for a diehard baseball fan.  Lovers of the game cannot get enough of their favorite sport and enjoy the game in many different capacities.

At MLB reports, we are big supporters of baseball books.  We try to read as many new ones as we can to review on our site to encourage readership.  Those books that we enjoy can sometimes also end up on the big screen and come to life.  One of the most popular and talked about baseball books of all time, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, has in fact been made into a Hollywood movie.  Starring Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane, Moneyball has all the makings of being the next all-time classic baseball movie.  Due out in theatres on September 23, 2011, Moneyball is a movie that everyone must see!

We are very fortunate today to have Casey Bond, one of the stars of Moneyball the movie, on MLB reports today.  Casey in part one of a two-part feature, prepared a guest blog sharing his journey from outfielder in the San Francisco Giants organization to starring in Moneyball with Brad Pitt.  In part two coming this week, we will be publishing our interview with Casey Bond.  We appreciate Casey taking the time out of his schedule in preparing this feature.  Casey portrays former Oakland A’s pitcher Chad Bradford in Moneyball and will be promoting the movie this week in Toronto as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, starting September 8th.  For the very first Hollywood star on MLB reports, we proudly present actor Casey Bond, with his journey from San Francisco Giants prospect to Moneyball star:      

 

  

Casey Bond (Guest MLB Blogger):  For a little history on myself, I grew up in the south in the town of Peachtree City, GA, which is a golfing community about 30 minutes south of Atlanta.  As a kid, all I ever wanted to do was play baseball and other sports, and to someday play professionally.  Although I always had an interest in movies, I kind of put that interest to the side to concentrate on my athletic abilities.  I was a multi-sport athlete in high school, and went on to play Division 1 baseball for both Birmingham Southern College (Birmingham,AL), and Lipscomb University (Nashville,TN).  My first dream eventually came true, and I was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 25th round as an outfielder from Lipscomb University in 2007.  I played for the Giants Organization for two seasons.

At the end of my time with the Giants, a very unique opportunity arose for me in the acting world.  I began to take acting classes in Nashville, TN, as this was always something that I had an interest in, and felt like I had to at least pursue it to some degree.  I told my great-aunt, who lives in Santa Monica, CA, that I had begun to dive into acting a little bit.  The reason I told her was purely for conversation because she used to be an actress back in the day.  She was in some things here and there, and I thought she would appreciate my effort.  Well, she told her friend, who told his agent, about myself.  I knew she was going to do this, but thought nothing of it because after all, I was still living in Nashville.  For whatever reason, this agent decided he would call me up and tell me that he had an audition he could get me in.  Being as fresh and naive about this entire acting and auditioning process, I didn’t realize that there were thousands of auditions happening every day in L.A.  

So, I asked him what I needed to do to audition for this role in a national commercial.  He told me that I had to be inL.A.tomorrow, and that he would get me into the audition.  I took that as a great opportunity, and because I was so naive, I actually flew out toL.A.and went to the audition, and then flew back the same day.  A week after this, the agent calls me again and tells me that they want to have me back to a callback, and that I had to be there the next day.  So, I hopped on another plane to go to this audition, thinking how lucky I was to have an opportunity to even have an audition inL.A. I met with the casting director and producers, did the audition, and then literally flew home again the same day.  Needless to say, my friends thought this was pretty cool stuff, and so did I because I really had no idea that this was happening constantly every single day inL.A. However, thanks to my foolishness, and perhaps drive to succeed when given a chance to do something special, I ended up booking the commercial, and flew out about a week later to film it.

This commercial was a national commercial.  It got me into SAG immediately, which is such a hurdle to many actors in itself, and it basically gave me the opportunity to have this agent take me on full-time, move toL.A., and pursue acting with a full passion and pursuit.  Long and crazy story, I know, but it is entirely the truth.

The inspiration to act was within me from the time I was little, but it wouldn’t reveal itself to me fully until I was done pursuing my first dream of playing professional baseball.  Once I moved to L.A., I very quickly learned about the in’s and out’s of industry, and through my love of meeting new people and building relationships, I have so far been able to surround myself with some wonderful people who I have gotten to work with and learn from.  

Now, I am working with the legendary acting coach Larry Moss, which in itself is an inspiring thing to be a part of.  I am fully committed and involved in everything I can do to continue to be the best actor I can be, and I know that my past with professional sports and athletics has directly related to the carry over into the entertainment industry.  Hard work and passion has paid off, and will continue to.

All of this led to Moneyball.  First off, I auditioned at Sony a few times with the director (Bennett Miller) and the casting director.  They liked me read both times, so they decided to have me go out to a baseball field to see if I could actually perform there as well.  My character, Chad Bradford, was a submarine pitcher for the Oakland Athletics from Jackson, Mississippi who was a big Christian.  You may already know, but if not, a submarine pitcher is one who nearly scrapes his knuckles on the ground when he is delivering the ball to home plate from the mound.  I played outfield, so this was not something that I regularly did by any means.  I had to go out to a field and work on this for hours before perfecting it.  Needless to say, I went out and performed for Bennett Miller, and others who were there to help determine if I was the guy. 

I passed the “baseball test”, which I was hoping to considering that was such a large part of my past.  Bennett then wanted me to come over to Sony for one last meeting.  That meeting was a personal meeting with Brad Pitt.  When I arrived, Brad immediately came up to me and shook my hand, and we went into conversation that lasted a long while.  We didn’t even read through the script but once.  We just needed to get together and hang out, make sure we were a good fit, which was no problem at all since he is such a stand up guy.  He was truly a wonderful person to be around, and an absolute mentor on set while we filmed our scenes with one another.

Brad gave me advice during our scene, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from him, given the position he is in.  However, he was truly a mentor, and I very much learned from him.  He is a master of his craft.  To work with guys like Brad, Jonah, Philip, and Chris Pratt was definitely a game changer for myself as far as knowing that I could act on their level, and continue to develop and hone my skills as an actor.

First and foremost, be on the lookout for the film, which is going to be released September 23rd.  The world premiere is at the Toronto Film Festival on September 8th.  As for myself lately, I have been studying with Larry Moss, and have been doing quite a bit of print work lately for companies like A.D.I.D.A.S. and Muscletech.  There are also some other things in the works right now, which I hope I can divulge in the near future.

 

 

   

Thank you Casey for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to contact Casey Bond on Twitter (@caseybond)  or through his website (http://thecaseybond.com) and Facebook Fan Page  for comments and questions.  Casey will be CONSTANTLY providing personal behinds the scenes photos, videos, etc. of upcoming events that he will be a part of such as Red Carpets and premieres, as well as Moneyball media when the film comes closer to the release!  Stay tuned for part two of our Casey Bond feature, with our interview coming up on MLB reports.

 

**Some of the photographs in today’s feature are courtesy of Peter Hurley**

Part two of our feature on Casey Bond:  http://mlbreports.com/2011/09/09/bond-interview/

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Strasburg-mania Back With a Vengeance

September 6, 2011


 

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer- MLB reports):  The day so many people (namely the entire Washington Nationals organization) have been waiting for is finally upon us.  Stephen Strasburg, ultra phenom, who I covered his rehab here last week at the Reports, started against the LA Dodgers.  The hype that was produced was incredible, with every major US sporting website having a headline dedicated to Strasburg-mania. The twitter hashtag #MerryStrasmus has been coined and millions of people are tuning in to watch his first start since Tommy John Surgery.

Strasburg is a big, strong kid who is known for his tremendous work ethic.  It comes as no surprise that he was able to begin pitching less than a year after getting the surgery.

The weather today in Washington DC was wet and dreary, so manager Davey Johnson was close to pulling the plug on the start if the game was even delayed.  The Nationals wanted to make sure Strasburg had enough time to warm up and be ready to pitch in the game.  When the tarps were taken off the field around 6:45pm, Strasburg was in the middle of his warm-ups.

Dee Gordon led off the game with a double, but after that, Strasburg didn’t see any trouble the rest of the way.  Matt Kemp grounded out softly in between fly balls by James Loney and Juan Rivera in the first inning.  The second inning was vintage Strasburg, as he threw 3 fastballs between 95 and 97 mph with run and sink, then threw a change-up at 90 mph that Andre Ethier swung over for strike three.  Aaron Miles was then disposed of with a  99 mph heater, and Rod Barajas hit a lazy fly ball to center field.

The fourth inning saw Strasburg get two more strikeouts and give up a single to Rivera.  Gordon and Rivera’s hits ended up being the only two base runners against Strasburg.  His outing ended in the 5th inning after a fly out, ground out and foul out.

Strasburg was dominant. His 4-seam fastball was  95-99 mph throughout his 56 pitch outing, 40 of which were strikes.  His 2-seam fastball had great late life, sinking late and inducing ground balls. Only 6 breaking balls were thrown, and although they were pretty sharp and late breaking, it was clearly his 3rd best pitch.  Breaking balls are usually the last pitch to come around after Tommy John surgery, because pitchers don’t start throwing it until later in their rehab.

Strasburg’s final line reads as follows:

5IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 4K.

My pre-game prediction was:

5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 9K.

Aside from the strikeouts, I was pretty close.  Strasburg is such a rare talent, that a rainy and cold Tuesday night game against a non-contender such as the Dodgers drew over 5,000 more fans than their average season attendance.

Strasburg-mania really hit Washington on a cold, damp Tuesday night.  If he continues to pitch like this, the Nationals could be close to contending in 2012, but more likely in 2013 when Bryce Harper could be in the field on an everyday basis.



 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

What Can a Parent Do: A Guide to Being a Baseball Parent

Monday September 5, 2011

MLB reports:  I had the pleasure of meeting James Lamb through social media this year.  As parents and through our mutual love of baseball, we have enjoyed several baseball discussions and debates.  As a professional scout for the Florida Marlins, James is very active in Major League Baseball and is extremely knowledgeable on the sport.  Many of our discussions though centered on parenthood, including being a baseball parent.  James own son, John Lamb, is a prospect with the Kansas City Royals.  Having been through the process of having a son drafted to a major league team, James’ story is a fascinating one.  I learned about James also through his websites, http://pbdad.com and http://baseballpg.com.  Being a father myself to a five-year son with another baby boy on the way, I started discussing with James the journey of becoming a baseball parent.  That is where the concept of this article was born.  We are very fortunate to have James Lamb as our MLB Guest Blogger today.  For all current and future baseball parents, you will find James insights and tips extremely valuable.  We proudly feature on the reports, James O. Lamb, with A Guide to Being a Baseball Parent:  

 

James O. Lamb (Guest MLB Blogger):  Baseball has an infinite number of stories about the players, personnel, coaches and fans whom are associated with the game. One thing that is common among all the unique stories is having parents during the path of participating with the game. I realize the common thread is obvious, but the job of parenthood is key to success as a citizen first and athlete second. There are multiple positions affiliated with the game of baseball throughout the many steps of participation on the field. Surely there are some instances of tragedy where a child loses a parent, or maybe both, but the relative or friend that steps up to facilitate the child assume a very important role in their life. So what can a parent do to help their son play baseball? Try to take a walk with your kids in the game of baseball.

I will never claim to have all the answers but being the father of a current professional baseball player in the Kansas City Royals organization and also a scout for the Florida Marlins, I do have a small clue about the game of baseball. Routinely I’m asked questions about things associated around the great game of baseball. Some ask about youth ball, some ask about the high school challenges, some ask about playing college baseball, some want advice about improving their son’s skills, and many more want to know about the path of their son playing in professional baseball. What is the most important thing a parent can do for their son around the game of baseball? What should a parent do about extra instruction? When should a parent leave the dugout and let someone else control their son’s participation on the field? The examples of questions go on and on covering a huge variety of topics. There all good questions, but I’m reminded by a comment my grandfather made to me when I was very young… the only stupid question is the one never asked. It’s very obvious that many parents have no clue about the game and steps to play for a long time and that is fine. Sound advice for the baseball parent can be discussed in a wide variety of ways, but for the purpose of this article I will address the key ingredients to help any parent with their challenges around the game. I have made mistakes during my walk of being a parent but hopefully some of these experiences can be beneficial during your journey. Take a walk with your kids in the game of baseball and you just might be pleasantly surprised.

Wait for your son to ask you about playing the game. Take them to games and hope they catch the bug and desire to play. It will happen sooner or later if your son wants to learn how to throw, catch or hit. Don’t rush this step of the baseball career. If you already missed this important step, or ignored the obvious, it will eventually be exposed and unlikely they will be a fan of the game. Not the end of the world by any means, but I see players on a regular basis in the high school level, and even college, that illustrate major resentments. The further I dig or observe it becomes extremely obvious the player does not play for the right reasons. Way too much work is necessary for baseball success and the desire simply must be from within the individual, not someone else. The best approach to baseball starts early through desires from the player not the parent. Parents cannot do the work needed for the player’s opportunity to play the game at the highest level, nor can they write a check for their son’s chance to be in the show. Don’t force the game on kids!

Allow them to be kids. Let them enjoy playing the game of baseball. This directly ties into the previous point, I know, but if parents don’t have a sound grip on the foundation of the game of baseball, there will be some serious challenges around the dinner table. Even if the only time you use the table is during the holidays. Kids need to be kids as long as possible and cannot be expected to be perfect on the baseball field. The game of baseball is failure based during half of the game. The offensive side is the glaring example of failure associated with baseball and must be accepted during the early years of playing. Parents that expect more hits, less strike-outs, more wins or higher expectations than the statistics of an average big leaguer are setting their kids up for some serious challenges in baseball and in life. I can say that in retrospect I too was a victim of high expectations during my son’s playing youth baseball. I realize it is difficult to allow our kids to fail with dignity but if we, as parents, push too hard… our young men will likely have years of therapy in their future due to our high unrealistic expectations during their youth. The games your son plays during the ages of 5 to 17 will not impact their careers of playing for a long time, but the negative reaction to possible failure during those games could keep them from wearing a uniform quicker than necessary. If you allow them to fail with integrity, I guarantee you will see them succeed around the game. It is imperative that the kids are allowed to be kids during the early years of playing baseball. The longer they can play with fun in their hearts the higher the likelihood they will be in love with the game enough to survive the challenges ahead. Don’t forget that they are kids while they play!

Let them experience other sports during their youth. Don’t be in a hurry to have your son play 100+ games a year. Way too many kids are simply playing too much baseball during their youth. This approach to playing baseball is an epidemic now in some areas of the United States where the weather permits games and tournaments to be scheduled practically year round. The idea of missing out on baseball development is driven by good marketing from a bunch of ill-advised individuals and corporations. Some players in the professional level are falling victim to a growing statistic of arm problems before their careers are complete and in certain circumstances a player’s career comes to an abrupt halt due to injury. Recently, I have struggled with this situation via hindsight of my own son’s amateur baseball career. John went down earlier this year in a Double-A level game with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the first inning against the third batter. Maybe he played too much during his youth, and maybe he didn’t, but this dad will always wonder if the amount of youth games really contributed to the Tommy John surgery before his 21st birthday. Parents should force their boys to rest or simply play another sport to help occupy their minds away from baseball during the typical off-season periods of baseball. If you live in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas or Florida try to pretend there is snow on the ground during the winter months and you might not need to endure the agony of watching your son‘s career stop against a huge brick wall. My son played youth basketball and even flag-football in an attempt to rest from the game, but his desires to play baseball usually won the household battles especially the closer he got to graduating from high school. The hundred plus game schedules should be a goal for the parent of a baseball player not part of the process for obtaining the professional opportunity of the game. Plenty of other things can provide their much needed rest.

Keep being involved with your son playing the game of baseball. Having been a coach for many years now throughout all levels of youth baseball following my son’s desire to play the game, I am still blown away by the number of parents that treat their son’s practice, games or training as nothing more than a form of childcare. It’s not necessary to be at every practice or game but the more the merrier, at least until they become high school players. Pushing your son’s out of the car at their practice and running errands prevent the chance of assuring he really is learning how to play the game, or more importantly, having fun. If he’s not having fun he should be doing something else to find his passion and genius in life. I played for a few real crappy coaches during my youth but my love and desire to play the game was my personal driving force to work hard and compete for a line-up spot. You’ll never know about your son’s desires if you’re busy getting your nails done or working your brains out to help your boss pay his mortgage. By watching your kids practice or play you’re giving yourself a chance to ensure their desires to participate. Popping into a practice without announcement will give you a clear perspective of their experience and it will have enormous benefit when your son finds you there taking part of their enjoyment, or lack thereof. Your son’s may lose their desires to improve if you’re not part of the experience needed for them to improve and develop during their amateur days of playing the game. I realize the huge challenges parents have to mange time in our fast paced economy and lifestyles but you really should make an effort to be actively involved with the baseball stuff. If you’re too involved your son will let you know that you need to back off. Over involvement is really very common during the wrong stages of a boy’s baseball career, but that is another article for another day. Keep staying involved during their baseball until they make the high school team, at least.

What can a parent do? Try to take a walk with your kid in the game of baseball. The experiences from walking side by side around the game will be life changing for everyone involved. Although a potential love affair with the game may create other obstacles down the road of life all of which depend on the level of involvement with baseball, one thing can be said for sure and that is a true respect for the game will be created. If a relationship is fully allowed to blossom, the benefits are unlimited by the amount of jobs associated in and around the game. Parents can have a profound impact on their kids both in and out of the ballpark. Being a good human being only adds to the true value of any ballplayer at any level. Talent, hard work, a dash of luck and tremendous humility can open many doors and reciprocal affair with baseball. I’m always looking forward to yet another unparalleled baseball story engrained by the individuality of the greatest game on earth.

© by James O. Lamb. All rights reserved.

Twitter @JamesOLamb

http://www.pbdad.com

http://www.baseballpg.com

 

* Please be advised that this article and any additional comments, posts or opinions from the content do not reflect the opinions of the Florida Marlins, L.P., Major League Baseball, or any other affiliations of professional baseball. *

 

Thank you James for preparing today’s article.  Please feel free to contact James O. Lamb on Twitter or through his websites for comments and questions.  James is one of the brightest baseball minds that I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with and getting to know.  We highly encourage our readers to subscribe to James’ websites to gain valuable information and insights.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News

 

Sunday September 4, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and of course, our opinions:

 

I am about to finish the latest baseball book that I am reading and will be posting a review this week.  “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames”, by Ballpark Chaser extraordinaire, Doug Booth.  I don’t want to give away much of my report, that will be saved for the review.  Needless to say, the book has inspired me to fulfil my goal of seeing all thirty MLB ballparks.  While it takes me ordinarily a couple of days to a week to complete a baseball book, this particular book has taken me much longer.  I have read and re-read this book over and over, going back to read favorite sections.  For any baseball fan who loves baseball road trips or is thinking of taking one, this book is the perfect travel companion.

One of the biggest topics on the lips of Yankees fans is the contract status of C.C. Sabathia.  After Ivan Nova, the Yankees have several question marks as to their rotation going into the playoffs.  Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are all in the mix.  But if Sabathia were to hypothetically opt out of his deal and test free agency, the Yankees pitching staff could collapse like a house of cards.  It appears that Sabathia has enjoyed his time thus far in New York and plans to continue pitching as a Yankee.  Although Sabathia will likely opt out, both player and team will do everything possible to keep the big guy in pinstripes.  Sabathia will become even richer on a new deal, as Alex Rodriguez was on his decision to opt out and sign a new Yankees deal.  For the team with the highest payroll in baseball, to contend it will re-sign its ace in the offseason.

Rumors are circulating that many MLB General Managers will be wooed to change teams in 2012.  Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox are all apparently in demand, as is Billy Beane in Oakland and Mike Rizzo in Washington.  From all the best GMs that will be considered for the Cubs position, the only one I could see is Cashman.  With his contract up in New York and the Steinbrenner regime exercising control in decision-making (see the Rafael Soriano deal), Cashman may have had enough and makes the move to the Windy City.  All of the other GMs are in great positions, with little or no incentive to make the leap.  Some have called for the Astros to make a strong play for Friedman, but I see him staying put in a great situation with a strong talent base.  Friedman will see his team through to an eventual World Championship.

I had several conversations with baseball people about the World Baseball Classic, with the third edition coming up rapidly in 2013.  As discussed in a previous article, there are some changes to the WBC that have been instituted, including a qualifying tournament in the fall of 2012.  New countries in the mix include Great Britain, France, Israel and Brazil.  In all there will be 12 new countries, together with 4 holdover countries vying for 4 open spots into the tournament.  From the 16 existing WBC countries, 12 were granted automatic berths into the tournament.  The challenge facing MLB and WBC officials is to have eligible players play for their respective countries.  One particular country I discussed was Israel.  Imagine a team lead by Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis.  Quite the powerhouse offense.  To have this tournament ultimately succeed, star players that are eligible for new and less known baseball countries need to play for these countries and increase the exposure of the sport in those regions.  That is really what the WBC is all about.

For fans in Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, please be patient.  Your teams will be better.  It might be hard to believe and some of you must be sick of hearing it, but your teams have great young talent and each will be a contender one day.  The only variable against you is time.

With their victory over the Giants last night, the Diamondbacks now hold a six game lead in the NL West.  How Kevin Towers remained on the market so long before being hired in Arizona is beyond me.  Derrick Hall and company have put together a nice young team, with strong management on the field and in the front office.  Towers has put together the team and manager Kirk Gibson has molded them into a contender.  It goes to show that a bleak situation can be transformed almost overnight, if you have the right people in place.  Baseball, as much as any other sport, starts with the people in charge.  A solid management foundation flows through the whole organization and can make or break a major league team.  Arizona is the team of destiny in the NL West in my mind and while they will have a very difficult time passing the Phillies if they make the playoffs, just playing in October this year will be considered a huge victory for the team.

Outside of New York and Boston, many baseball fans are apparently sick of talking about the Red Sox and Yankees.  For as much as fans may despise the teams, as baseball fans they should still respect them.  Baseball, without the history and tradition of the Red Sox and Yankees, would have a large void.  During my recent trip to Cooperstown (with a full report on my experiences coming soon), I was fascinated by the Babe Ruth exhibit and all the features on the two powerhouse squads.   There are no guarantees that either the Red Sox or Yankees will be in the World Series this year.  But having the teams in baseball is a good thing.  Attendance figures on the road when either team in town shows the demand.  You may hate the Red Sox and Yankees.  But you love to hate them.  For those of you that are either Red Sox or Yankees fans (can’t be both), you are some of the most passionate and knowledgable fans in baseball and I salute you.

I have been speculating since spring training that Jonathan Papelbon will leave Boston and join the Phillies this offseason.  I read some speculation this week that the Yankees may look to add him as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  I could only imagine the feeling in Fenway the first time Papelbon would step foot on the mound in Pinstripes.  Unlikely to happen in my opinion, but speculating can be fun sometimes.  Until I hear otherwise, I am predicting Papelbon to the  Phillies.

With the playoff races in baseball almost completed, it is time to turn our attention to October and thinking about the teams that will play in the World Series.  My picks at this point are the Rangers and Phillies.  Call it a hunch.  Call me crazy.  I am seeing a Texas Philadelphia matchup and one of the best fall classics in recent history.

Finally, I made a point on Twitter yesterday that the regular season is almost done.  If you have not made it a live game yet this year or even if you have gone to twenty or more games, try to attend as many September games as you can.  When November hits, the winter can be quite a sad time for baseball fans.  Unless you can make it out to Arizona or Mexico, chances are that you will not be able to watch winter ball.  With the internet, those games can be found to be viewed on your computer.  But as fans can attest, nothing beats a live ball game.  Enjoy as many of those games as you can now. 

 

 

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Strasburg-mania Returns to the Nationals September 6th

Saturday September 3, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Stephen Strasburg burst onto the MLB scene with the Washington Nationals in his first start on June 8, 2010 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In his 7 inning gem, he struck out 14 batters with 0 walks, and only 4 hits allowed.  Throughout the rest of the 2010 season, he relied on a fastball that averaged 97.3 mph.  Strasburg also possesses a hard biting, 82 mph curveball and a 90 mph changeup.  His 2010 season came to a grinding halt on August 21st that year, when he left a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he was dominating with elbow tightness.  The Nationals’ front office and coaches all held their breath until after Strasburg’s MRI, which revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Stephen Strasburg required Tommy John Surgery and would be on the shelf for a year.

Strasburg had been previously dubbed as the best pitching prospect ever.  Strasburg was drafted #1 overall out of San Diego State University in 2009 after what is arguably one of the best college careers for a pitcher of all time.  Strasburg signed a $15.1 million dollar bonus just 77 seconds before the deadline that year.  In the 2009 season leading up to the draft, Strasburg was pretty much unhittable.  In 109 innings, he gave up only 59 hits and 19 walks, compared to 195 strikeouts.

Strasburg’s 2011 season has seen him start off with his rehab in Viera, Florida at the Nationals’ spring training facility.  His first official appearance on his rehab stint was for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League in Single-A.  Strasburg pitched 1 2/3 innings as he was under a strict pitch limit, and gave up one run with 4 strikeouts.  Every 5th day the phenom has taken the mound for Hagerstown, then Potomac in the Advanced A-ball Carolina League.  He also pitched in AAA with the Syracuse Chiefs and for the Harrisburg Senators in AA.  His last start was the most impressive of all.  On September 1st, Strasburg toed the rubber for Harrisburg against the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA affiliate.  Through 6 innings, he faced one batter over the minimum, with only one hit and 4 strikeouts.  He also hit 99 mph on the radar gun a number of times.

Strasburg is expected to be called up to start on September 6th at home.  He is actually tentatively scheduled to start 4 home games in the month, in part so that the Nationals can reap the benefits of increased gate revenue as well as being able to control game time starts in case of inclement weather.

The fact that Strasburg took less than 12 months to be back on a mound is a testament to: a) the advances in the surgery, allowing for less rehab time; b) Strasburg’s work ethic; and c) Strasburg’s freakish body healing so quickly.  Strasburg will surely be handled with kid gloves, as he has his entire professional career, never throwing over 100 pitches in a single start.

Strasburg seems to be healthy, and will be looking to be as dominant as his early career has shown.  With ultra prospect Bryce Harper and young phenoms like Strasburg, Drew Storen and Ryan Zimmerman, including recently drafted Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke,  the future actually looks bright for a franchise that has been hurting for a winner.  With a growing fan base (and likely taking fans from the lowly Orioles), this young crop of players look to take the Nationals franchise from laughingstock to a true contender in the tough NL East.

Look for Strasburg’s first start of the season on September 6 against the LA Dodgers.  Strasburg is a true rare talent that only comes around once a generation.  So if you ever get a chance to see him live, I highly recommend you do so, because you could be a witness to history.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Twitter and Baseball: Thoughts from Toronto Blue Jays Prospects

Thursday September 1, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Guest Writer- MLB reports):  There is no denying that social media has completely changed the sports world. It changes the way we watch it, the way we consume it, and the way we interact with it. Sports fans used to live their lives with everything at arm’s length, but now, it is just a finger click away.

One of the biggest advancements that social media has presented is the ability for fans to interact with players, and in return, allow the players to be able to interact with the fans. This has become predominant thanks to one specific social media tool, Twitter. Discussing this opportunity, I spoke with numerous Toronto Blue Jays prospects, who frequently engage on Twitter, to discuss their thoughts on this subject.

I first spoke with Justin Jackson, the Toronto Blue Jays 1st round pick of the 2007 MLB Draft. He has found great success this year as the present outfielder for the Dunedin Blue Jays, posting a .265 batting average. Despite his success at the plate, many Blue Jays fans are even more impressed with his ability to interact with everyone on Twitter via his handle of, @JaxChillinONE. When asked what he likes best about the tool, Jackson replied, “My favourite thing about Twitter is definitely the interaction with fans and friends!”

Next, I turned to Ian Kadish, present reliever for the Bluefield Blue Jays. He has been dominant on the mound, maintaining a 2-3 record with a 2.67ERA in 23 games. What has also been more dominant, however, is his ability to consistently keep his fans and followers updated and connected. Not only does Kadish inform via his Twitter handle, @BearJew36, but he also has his own blog featured at: http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com/. Discussing his activity on social media, Kadish informed me:  “There is no denying that I am a fan of social media, but I realize that it has its positives and negatives.  Athletes need to be smart about it. I definitely think it has brought the athletes and fans closer together because they can interact with each other much easier.  It is more of an interactive environment where fans can give the athlete their praise or tell them how bad they were on that specific day.  Hopefully, the latter does not happen, but sometimes it will, so athletes need to take the comments with a grain of salt.”

Kadish’s statement regarding the fact that players must be cautious could not be more accurate. It was also echoed by Sam Strickland, who is also a reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. This season, with the Lansing Lugnuts, Strickland has posted a 3-1 record with a 4.98 ERA yet has also proven his command and control on the Twitter mound via his handle of @S_Strickland34. Strickland stated, “Without fans, baseball has no purpose. Being a professional athlete comes with a few attachments of the field – Including answering to fans. If you have a great game, people will notice, as is the same with a poor game. And as a pro athlete you have to learn that both occur. It wasn’t that long ago that I was the huge crazy fan, so I am definitely an advocate for social media being intertwined with pro sports. It allows closer access. We as athletes just have to be careful!”

Right-handed pitcher for the Bluefield Blue Jays, Tucker Jensen (@Tucker_Jensen), also highlighted the fact that social media does have its faults, but indicated how the positives certainly outweigh each and everyone. He stated: “Of course, through social media, an athlete is going to hear both praise and hate because of their play. That is just the way sports work. But what needs to be realized is that it is beneficial because it allows others such as JaysProspects or myself to communicate with one another and at the same time get updates of the individuals being followed.”

Steve McQuail has shown his power this season with the Vancouver Canadians, already hitting 12 home runs. He has also shown his power online as well, as through his handle @SteveMcQuail, McQuail consistently keeps his followers updated with his progress throughout the season. He admitted his praise of social networking, indicating: I think Twitter is an amazing tool because it gives people the opportunity to get on a personal level with their favorite players, stars or idols. You can pick up on everyday routines of the people you look up to, an option that was never available before.”

@Mark_Biggs, a right-handed pitcher who only joined the Blue Jays organization a few weeks ago upon signing in the 8th round of the 2011 MLB Draft., echoed McQuail’s statements, indicating, “I think the major benefit of social networking is for people to follow their favorite athletes or actors or whatever the case may be, and allow them to directly interact with them. It’s a unique and wonderful opportunity!”

Brandon Berl, known by his Twitter handle, @Brandon_Berl, has posted a 3-5 record with a 2.47 ERA with the Lansing Lugnuts so far this season. While Berl shows his presence frequently with the Lugnuts, appearing in 28 games so far this season, he shows his presence on Twitter even more regularly. When he was asked to discuss his thoughts on social media, he answered: Social media has definitely added a great opportunity to connect with fans and for them to learn a little bit more about me and all other players.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to communicate with fans and engage with new people and I cannot wait to do so with more!”

Lastly, I spoke with Jonathan Jones, @JonJones707, who echoed all of the Blue Jays thoughts perfectly, stating, I believe that Twitter is a great tool. It gives the fans access to follow their favorite players and see what they are doing, learn their likes and dislikes, and even get to see photos. It allows fans to feel like they have a personal relationship and for the athletes, and in return, it allows us (the players) to see all the fans’ love and support. It goes a long way for us.” 

Knowing that it goes a long way, make sure you follow each and every player mentioned on Twitter. While you are at it, also follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17. For more information on these players and for regular updates, also add @JaysProspects, or visit www.JaysProspects.com.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our guest writer, April Whitzman.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

 

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