Monthly Archives: November 2011

Jonathan Broxton Signs with the Royals: Joakim Soria to be Traded?

Wednesday November 30, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Another reliever is off the market.  On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals announced that they had signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a 1-year contract.  The deal is reported to be for $4 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives.  There will be an official announcement once Broxton passes his physical.  Given his health over the past couple of seasons, there are no guarantees that this deal will go through.  But assuming that Broxton’s elbow has recovered from his September surgery, he should be an official member of the Royals any day now.

There are many significant items to come out of this signing.  Broxton was in heavy demand, with at least a dozen teams interested.  The Royals did have to pay a premium to land him, considering the state of his health in recent times.  Looking at the numbers, Broxton had three solid seasons between 2006-2008 as a middle reliever and part-time closer.  He broke out in a big way in 2009, with 36 saves, 2.61 ERA and 0.961 WHIP.  Broxton’s slide began in 2010 and he was shut down effectively for most of 2011.  The Royals are banking on a return to form for the 27-year old Broxton.  At a reported playing weight of 300 lbs., Broxton will need to come in shape to camp and work hard this offseason to be an effective Major League pitcher.  He is still young and has the arm.  The big variables will be is the health of his elbow and his commitment to conditioning.

Based in Georgia, it is reported that location played a large part in his decision to sign with the Royals.  With an up-and-coming Royals team, Broxton could be a good fit as the team looks to be a playoff contender in the near future.  At worst, the team will lose $4 million for a season.  But the upside could be a very effective setup man or closer at a reasonable rate.  A low risk- high reward proposition for the Royals.  So now, where does this leave Joakim Soria?  The Royals have denied interest in moving their top closer.  I would disagree.  Regardless of whether the Broxton signing goes through, it is my gut feeling that Joakim Soria will not be a Royal come 2012.

 The Royals have set themselves up quite nicely in the bullpen.  After Soria and Broxton, the team still has Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Greg Holland, among others, as setup men and possible closing options.  If Broxton were to take over as closer for Soria in 2012, this would allow the other members of the pen to develop and grow.  At least one of these bullpen candidates could be groomed into a closer by late 2012 or 2013.  The options are there for the Royals.  In fact, with so many valuable bullpen arms, the team could even try Aaron Crow into the rotation.  I see his fit likely best in the bullpen, but at the least the option is there…and options are a good thing.  When I look at Joakim Soria though, I see a valuable chip that can be moved to better the team in the long term.

After four strong seasons in the Royals pen, Soria is coming off a weak 2011 by his standards.  He still finished with 28 saves, but also had a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP.  The Royals have to ask themselves a couple of questions.  Given Soria’s arm troubles in the past, could he get injured?  Also, will 2011 be a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come?  Let’s face it: pitchers, especially relievers, are injury risks.  To compound possible health issues, closers are at risk to implode at any time and lose their job.  Soria has been outstanding for several seasons.  Is he the next Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon? Or another B.J. Ryan or Bobby Thigpen?  None of us can look into a crystal ball and tell.  But what we do now is that there are only a handful of closers in major league history that were effective long term and consistently reliable for their careers.  For every Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman, there are hundreds of closers that were strong early in their career and faded.  With the Royals about 2-3 seasons away from contending, Soria is a luxury that they cannot afford to keep at this stage.

For a team looking to acquire Soria, he is signed to a very reasonable contract.  He will make $6 million in 2012 and has 2 team options for 2013-2014 at approximately $8 million per season.  The Royals can choose to keep Soria and perhaps be set at the closer position for another decade.  Or they can keep a reliever that can be injured or ineffective in 2012, thus discounting heavily his trade value.  They also run the risk of losing Soria as a free agent after the 2014 season.  The point is that the longer they wait, the less the Royals will get back for Soria.  With Broxton and company in the bullpen, the Royals would easily find themselves a setup man and closer for 2012 without likely missing a beat.  But given what Soria can bring back in trade value, this is a move that likely should and will happen.

Despite denials from both the Blue Jays and Royals, some outlets have reported discussions of a Colby Rasmus for Joakim Soria swap.  Not a bad move for either team.  I don’t see this trade happening, unless the Royals include another prospect bat (i.e. Wil Myers) and the Blue Jays include a top starting pitching prospect.  The Blue Jays have a glut of outfielders in their system, including Jose Bautista, Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames and Anthony Gose.  The Jays can afford to move an outfielder to acquire the closer they seek.  The top free agent closer at this point is Heath Bell.  At 34-years of age, I would not be terribly excited to give him the 3-year contract he seeks.  Plus he would prefer to play on the West Coast?  Ryan Madson?  To come close to the 4-year, $44 million contract that the Phillies reportedly offered him would be ludicrous, given that he only has 1 full season of closing experience.  For the Jays, given age, contract and ability, their top target should be Soria.  The team was looking at Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies- a sign that they do not want to grab a closer off the scrapheap.  They want the real deal.

Rasmus has the potential to be an all-star and top outfielder for years to come.  A big price for the Jays to pay.  One that I just don’t see happening.  Rasmus though will be the price unless the Jays can offer a good package for Soria.  I think that they have the will and the ability to make this deal happen.  Travis Snider will be the first prospect to be included in the package.  He has not shown enough in Toronto and likely needs a change of scenery at this point to thrive.  The offensive and defensive potential of this young outfielder are still there.  At 23-years of age, the Royals would be acquiring a former 1st round pick who should be major league ready for them in 2012.  But what else to include?  I could see 1-2 pitching prospects heading to Kansas City.  But the name I am stuck on is Brandon Morrow.  Acquired from the Mariners for Brandon League, the 27-year old Morrow has pitched two fairly inconsistent seasons in the Jays rotation.  He has electric stuff, as shown by his 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings this past season.  He is an enigma, much like Edwin Jackson.  Some of the best stuff in baseball but unable for some reason to consistently put it together for a full season.  The 28-year old Jackson will likely obtain a 3-year deal in the $50 million range this offseason.  Considering that Morrow is controllable for another 3 seasons, he could be attractive for the Royals as a potential top starter.

The Soria for Morrow and Snider swap should benefit both the Jays and Royals in the short and long term.  Some people may be surprised that the Jays would move Morrow.  But given the depth of young starters in their system and perhaps waning confidence in Morrow, the time might be right for him to move on.  Thames has already moved ahead of Snider on the depth chart, with Gose likely ready in the next couple of seasons.  The time is also right for Snider to find a new home and advance his career.  I can see the combination of Moustakas, Butler, Snider, Myers and company pounding out runs for the Royals for many seasons.  Joakim Soria, on the other hand, could be signed to a long-term deal by the Jays and become the top closer they have craved for at least the next five seasons.  A good old fashioned baseball trade that benefits both teams.

So there we have it folks.  Jonathan Broxton is likely to become a Royal very soon.  If he does come on board, the Royals are in great shape to move Joakim Soria and fill out some needs in their outfield and starting rotation.  But even if the Broxton deal falls through, the Royals have the depth to still trade their closer.  The Blue Jays, with one of the top systems in baseball, have the pieces to make a deal with the Royals.  Don’t count out Alex Anthopoulos and Dayton Moore.  These are two of the sharpest GMs in baseball.  Neither one will show their hands until they play their cards.  Expect a deal to possibly come as soon as the Winter Meetings.  The MLB reports crystal ball appears to be very clear on a deal of this magnitude coming.  Stay tuned!

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

About these ads

What Is The Future Of The Tampa Bay Rays?

Wednesday November 30, 2011

Sam Evans: Ever since the Rays organization eliminated mistakes from their front office, and combined traditional scouting with advanced numbers, they have produced a winning baseball team in the hardest division in baseball. Unfortunately for the Rays, nobody in Tampa Bay noticed. The Rays have only finished in the top-ten in attendance in the AL twice in their fourteen years of existence. Tampa Bay has the ugliest ballpark in baseball, and now the only question is: How long will they be able to stay there?

What the Rays have done in the last five years is extremely impressive. They have won the division twice and won the wild card once in the last five years despite having the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball. The Rays have discovered market inefficiencies and taken advantage of them. For example, after the 2010 season, the Rays let their top relief pitchers leave in free agency, and they not only received draft compensation, but they easily replaced them in 2011. Also, signing young talented players to long-term deals has been a huge factor in their success. Overall, the Rays have found ways

The Rays have no reason to worry about their on-field product. The team is 368-260 in the last five years, and they show no signs of stopping their pace. They have more pitching depth than almost any other team in baseball, and Evan Longoria is signed through 2016 in what is one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of baseball. Despite having a winning ballclub for four straight years, the Rays are barely filling half of the stadium’s capacity per game.

Low attendances lead to a low payroll, and while the Rays would certainly like a larger payroll, they have still managed to be competitive within the AL East. The new CBA will hurt the teams with the lower payrolls around the league, but it will hit the Rays especially hard. They will no longer be able to take chances on international free agents for a low-cost and they will still be competing with the Red Sox and Yankees revenues.

The main contributor to the Rays low attendance has been the stadium. Tropicana Field is, by far, the worst stadium in baseball. It is the only domed stadium in baseball that is not retractable. The blueprint for the stadium was not well thought out, as evidenced in the catwalks that hang down from the ceiling. The bullpen is are almost nonexistent, and the interior design is the worst in baseball. Not to mention, the ballpark is not at the center of the city’s population unlike most other ballparks in baseball.

After the 2011 postseason, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said that he was disappointed about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay. That is a very bad sign for Rays fans. Sternberg is not a bad owner, and has shown dedication to making the Rays a more popular franchise in Tampa Bay. The Rays have tried everything to get fans to come to the ballpark, from Vuvezelas to a touch tank to a new enlarged scoreboard. Sadly, none of those techniques have worked to this day.

The Rays technically are signed through 2027 according to St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster. This contract that the Rays have with the city states that the Rays cannot enter discussions with other communities. However, with the right lawyer, the Rays would be able to escape this lease agreement. If the Rays can’t find a place to build a stadium in South Florida, then there are many cities that would love to host a Major League franchise. If the Rays are forced to move, then Las Vegas is the perfect fit. It is very sad to watch a team not be able to sell out a game in the ALDS.

I really feel bad for those devoted Rays fans. Living in Seattle, I had to go through the process of losing our hometown basketball team, the Sonics. It was a very similar situation where you could sort of sense the relocation coming. The stadium was not up to par, and the league was impatient. I’m not sure if baseball will ever thrive in Tampa Bay, but I am definitely rooting for this organization to find a way to boost attendances and keep their team in Tampa.

 ***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 (@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.

Is Expansion of Interleague Play a Good Idea?

      

Monday November 28, 2011

Sam Evans: When Major League baseball first instituted interleague play in 1997 it was supposed to draw fans back to the game. It worked, as attendances rose around baseball whenever teams from the other league were in town. Now, in the year 2011, MLB is searching for a new way to draw fans back to the game and level the playing field for teams at the same time.

This offseason, Major League Baseball decided to realign the Astros to the American League. With balance leagues of 15 teams each side, this means that there will be at least one interleague game on days when all thirty teams are playing (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Opening Day, etc). MLB is trying to make the leagues and divisions more fair, but by doing so they are making interleague play less meaningful. In “Elmo Saves Christmas,” Elmo wishes that he could have Christmas every day.  However, when Elmo’s wish comes true, he discovers Christmas is not as fun anymore. I am frightened that this will happen to baseball, and the result is that interleague play will not be as special.

For myself and many other baseball fans, the current interleague schedule is perfect. The summer months are a great time to go watch a team that you otherwise would not normally get to watch. I am afraid that with MLB’s new proposed schedule, the concept of separate leagues will lose almost all of their meaning outside of the postseason. The All-Star game will also not be as exciting because we would have already seen most of these players face each other throughout the year.

If I was Bud Selig, I would recognize that baseball needs to regain popularity among younger people. Baseball needs new ideas in marketing to become more popular around the world. If this new increased interleague schedule is destined to happen,  then I would have only one interleague game on those required days and make it nationally televised. This would be similar to NBC’s Game of the Week which was televised and extremely popular from 1960 to 1990.

I think that interleague play over a whole season will have the opportunity to bring more fans to the game. However, I think there is more of a chance that it has little to no impact.  Major League baseball needs to focus on getting people talking, to create a buzz. We have seen this idea work when fans are drawn to exciting players such as Strasburg and when fans see other people talking about the game.

If Major League Baseball ends up increasing the interleague games, they definitely shouldn’t have more than two interleague games per day, and they should advertise these games as much as possible. I didn’t find many problems with the current alignment, and I think it would have worked best if they had just stuck with the present schedule.  Advances in the game can be great and revolutionize the sport.  Increasing interleague play is not the answer in that regard.  Expect more schedule and realignments changes to come until Major League Baseball gets it right.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 (@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.

Interview with the King of Swag: Cardinals Prospect Chris Swauger

Sunday November 27, 2011

 


Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Chris Swauger, outfield prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system.  When your nickname is Swags and your parent team wins the World Series, life is very sweet.  Swags was originally a 26th round pick for the Cardinals in the 2008 draft.  A steal for the Cardinals, Swags recently completed his 4th professional season.  2011 was his first full season in AA ball and Swags definitely did not disappoint.  Hitting .296 on the season, Swags popped 12 home runs in only 114 games, with 56 RBIs, 52 runs scored, .343 OBP and .442 SLG.  Swags also showed a good eye at the plate by only striking out 67 times.  The upcoming season represents a big one for Swags, as he looks to move up to AAA Memphis and eventually, the show.  One of the most down to earth people that I have ever met, Swags had me in stitches every time we spoke.  In my estimation, Swags represents everything that is good and real about the game of baseball.  While he is 110% devoted and dedicated to the sport, he does not take himself too seriously and keeps the game fun and loose.  Get ready for some great baseball talk- Swags is definitely one of a kind!

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Swags, aka Chris Swauger – Cardinals Prospect:

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

MLB reports:  The year is 2008.  You find out that you are drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.  How did you find out and first reactions?

Swags:  Honestly, I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen.  After a few months of every scout telling me I was one of the best seniors available and would go in the top 10 rounds, I sat at my computer for almost two days waiting.  I nearly went blind tracking it into the 20th round and just walked away from the computer.  After being told by my mother to get a real job, I happened to walk by the study where the online radio broadcast was being streamed and heard my name.  I figured it was a mistake and checked the Draft Tracker.  There was my name in the 26th Round by the St. Louis Cardinals.  As upset as I was before, my emotions turned to pure elation that I would have a chance.  They say senior-signs play for a plane ticket and a jockstrap.  My jockstrap must have gotten lost in the mail.

 

MLB reports:  Going to school at The Citadel:  Pretty cool!  Can you drive a tank or fly an airplane?  What kind of military training do you have?

Swags:  Let me clarify that I PLAYED BASEBALL at The Citadel.  That is completely different from being a regular cadet.  I did get some mandatory ROTC Training and ran a few obstacle courses, but the only tanks and planes I can pilot are the GI Joe models stuffed in the attic with all my old baby toys.  However, I can shine shoes, sweep floors, and make hospital corners on beds with the best of them (I may be qualified to open a retirement home with that type of training).  Basically, I gained a great understanding of discipline and time management going to a military school and it has absolutely made me the man I am today.

 

MLB reports:  Did you know that the Cardinals were going after you in the draft- where did you think you were headed?

Swags:  I had gotten a letter from the area scout, but the first time I talked to him was when he called me to congratulate me on being selected.  I honestly had no idea where I was headed I just wanted to play.  I had no idea who wanted me or where I would go.  And, for 784 picks, I was certain I was going to graduate school.

 

MLB reports:  As a 22-year old rookie- you played in Batavia the year you were drafted.  Tell us about your experiences in Batavia, New York and what the heck is a Muckdog?

Swags:  First of all, a Muckdog is a CHAMPION! One of the best experiences of my life was that championship season in Batavia.  It was my first dose of professional baseball and I got the prescription strength.  First day of practice our cleats were clicking on the rocks in the outfield that used to be a parking lot.  I was fortunate enough to get a host family that provided me with transportation, a 1989 Huffy 5-speed mountain bike.  The swiveling seat and rotating handlebars came standard on that model.  A kickstand did not.  The good news was that I could be anywhere I wanted in Batavia in 20 minutes on that hog.  The lack of anything really fun to do made our team rely on itself for entertainment and with a group like ours that was not hard to find.  In an attempt to keep this interview below an NC-17 rating, I will not go into detail but I will say the shenanigans involved a one-eyed dog, two broken chandeliers, swimmies, M-80s, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and a clothes hamper being mistaken for a urinal.  As far as on the field, we started the season with more errors than hits in our first 3 games, rattled off 12 wins in a row at one point, and rode solid pitching and clutch hitting to a championship celebration.  We were rewarded with a trophy, banner, and a Venezuelan flag.  Not sure how that snuck in there.

 

MLB reports:  You have posted some nice numbers every stop so far in your career.  What is the key to your game- will it be Bautista home run power, Rickey Henderson speed or Willie Mays defense?

Swags:  I appreciate the compliment but I don’t think i deserve to be mentioned with those names just yet.  There is no doubt the key to my game is hard work.  I will admit I am talented and would not be here if I were not, but work ethic that I learned at the Citadel and with the Cardinals is the only reason I am still around.  I have no problem with that.  I would not change one thing about my career path thus far.  I would change about 20 things.  I would have gone in the first round, signed for $4 million, would have been 6’5″…

 

MLB reports:  From Batavia you went to Quad Cities, Palm Beach and Springfield.  Compare the four teams you have played for so far- which has been your favorite and why?

Swags:  There really isn’t that much difference between the teams I have played for in my career.  That is a testament to the consistency that exists within our system.  We preach executing the fundamentals…and don’t be afraid to hit a 3-run homer.  Each team has been my favorite at the time because each stop has its own new experiences and team personality.  Looking back I would have to go with Palm Beach because I’m a native Floridian and I loved getting to play in front of my family and friends quite a bit.  The weather wasn’t too bad either.  I lobbied for shirtless BP a few times but our coaches had no concept of tan lines.  I still cherish the memories of the other places as well.  The atmosphere and the people in Quads and Springfield were unmatched.  Batavia became like a home to me, if only because I was on a first name basis with all 50 residents.  Everywhere I have gone I have enjoyed and will continue to do the same.

 
 
MLB reports:  Do you see yourself playing outfield long-term:  corner or centerfield?

Swags:  I see myself playing catcher if that’s what I have to do to get to the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  How long have you been playing this game Chris- was baseball always the “plan”?  Why not rock star or monster truck driver?

Swags:  Rock-star is still my back-up plan.  I only recently learned to drive a stick-shift, so I will require more education in order to get in a monster truck. “The Plan” with baseball started out with making my high school team.  Then, it was try not to embarrass yourself in high school.  Then, it changed to try to play in college.  Then, it became try to get drafted my junior year.  Then, it became well, there’s always senior year.  Then, it was woohoo I got drafted.  Then, I thought does this really count as a signing “bonus”? Then, it switched to wow I never knew how bad I was at this.  Then, I got better.  And THAT has been the key to the whole plan and why it is still in progress.  I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS.  There is an end game, but “the plan” keeps adjusting with every pitch, out, inning, game, and season.

 

MLB reports:  You just finished off your 2nd year in AA- will we be seeing you in Memphis in 2012?

Swags:  I hope so because I certainly don’t want to gain Double A Veteran status.  I think I have earned a spot in Memphis, but this game is fickle sometimes and our organization has a tremendous amount of talent.  That being said, if my career turns into a NASCAR race (aka another lap around the Texas League) the only thing I can do is be thankful to still be playing and fighting for an opportunity.

 

MLB reports:  Watching your team win the World Series must have been cool.  They won it 2006 before you were drafted and again in 2011.  How badly did you want to be on the field playing with the big club in October?

Swags:  To play in a World Series is every 6-year-old’s dream.  Conveniently, I still act like a 6-year-old so it’s still my dream. It was great getting to see some guys that I have played with get to experience that and I hope and pray I get that opportunity some day.  It’s what gets me up in the morning; that and the rooster that lives next door to me right now.

 

MLB reports:  You have a great name for baseball:  do teammates call you Swag or Swags?  Do you have swagger my man?

Swags:  Swag, Swags, Schwaugs, Schwaaaaaaaaugs, Swagga, and Swagness.  The only name I’ve never heard on a baseball field is Chris.  As far as the swagger goes, that must be a rhetorical question.

 

MLB reports:  What do you need to do to make it to St. Louis and play in the show?

Swags:  The entire starting outfield to get hurt.

 

MLB reports:  Toughest pitcher you have faced in the minors?

Swags:  That would have to be an old St. Louis farmhand who now plays in the Angels organization, Matt Meyer.  In only a couple of at bats against him, he has effectively gotten me to swing at a pitch that hit me, shattered two of my bats, and is the reason I started wearing a shin guard.

 

MLB reports:  Longest home run you have hit in your career?

Swags:  In Batavia, I hit one on the basketball court behind right field.  I was told later that it went through the hoop and  gave someone an H in HORSE.

 

MLB reports:  Do you remember your first professional home run- what was the home run trot like?

Swags:  I remember the home run and the advice I was given prior to it.  I was in Batavia, getting ready to face my first knuckleballer.  My hitting coach said, “See the ball at your eyes and swing as hard as you can.” I was fresh out of the Citadel and pretty good at following orders, so I went up there and tomahawked the first pitch I saw out to center.  I remember running around the bases with a huge grin knowing a career in beer league softball was waiting for me if the MLB didn’t work out.

 

MLB reports:  What song plays when you come up to bat?

Swags:  “Here Comes The Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze.  My goal is to make everyone in the stadium’s head perk up and then immediately start bobbing. Done.

 

MLB reports:  Any superstitions/rituals you have before and after games?

Swags:  I try to stay away from superstitions and rituals because it always ends up being too much to keep up with.  For some guys it becomes an obsession.  I once had a summer ball coach question guys who wrote Bible verses on their shoes.  He said “I guess everyone needs a crutch in life.”  I think he has reserved his spot in hell.

 

MLB reports:  Final question:  if you could change one thing about baseball- what would it be and why?

Swags:  I should be allowed to eject the umpire.  Self-explanatory.

 

Thank you again to Chris Swauger 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 Swags.  As well, please follow Swags on Twitter (@CSwag8)

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Ask the Reports: Sunday November 27th

Sunday November 27, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  I know this is off topic but with the Houston Astros moving to the AL West and constant interleague play, what exactly is the point of an American League and a National League, besides of course the DH?


MLB reports:  The existence of the designated hitter is the key to separate the American League and National League.  Without the DH, there is no difference between the leagues.  Otherwise, having separate leagues would simply be a way to divide up the divisions and teams.  With daily interleague games coming, the mystique of having separate leagues is starting to fall by the wayside.  An idea that was thrown around was to have the DH in play in National League parks and no DH in American League parks during interleague play.  That would create strong interest in the different styles of play in the different parks and peak strong interest in interleague play.  But unfortunately, it appears that idea has been scrapped for now.  Long term, baseball needs to decide if it will have a designated hitter or not.  There are arguments on both sides.  Traditionalists like myself would like to scrap the DH all together and introduce National League style baseball throughout baseball.  With the in-game moves and decisions that must be included with the pitcher hitting, I prefer the NL game.  But others see pitchers hitting as hurting the game with “automatic outs” and risking the health and safety of pitchers by having them hit in the NL.  This argument will continue likely for decades until a resolution is agreed upon one way or the other.  Until then, we will continue to have two different leagues in place.  One has a designated hitter and one does not.  With the increase in interleague play, the line separating the leagues has become even blurrier.  Great question!

Q:  What’s the scouting report on Luis Valbuena?  Andrew
MLB reports:  The newest member of the Toronto Blue Jays will be turning 26 this week (November 30th birthday)- so be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday!  Born in Venezuela, Valbuena is a utility infielder at this point in his career, playing second, short and third.  Coming up originally with the Mariners originally in 2008, Valbuena was traded in December 2008 as part of the Franklin Gutierrez swap.  Since then, Valbuena has played parts of three seasons with the Indians.  In 229 career games, Valbuena has 13 home runs, 57 rbis, 84 runs, .226 avg, .286 obp and .344 slg.  Considering that he was designated for assignment, the Jays picked him up for cash considerations makes sense.  He has shown little at the major league level thus far, but is young and known for a strong glove.  Valbuena has shown steady improvement in the last three years in the minors, with a breakout season in AAA Columbus in 2011.  Valbuena popped a strong 17 home runs in 113 games, with 75 rbis, 64 runs, hitting .302 with a .307 OBP and .476 SLG.  If those numbers can be replicated to any degree at the major league level, the Jays may have a hidden gem uncovered.  At worst, we could be seeing another Ramon Santiago type player or the Venezuelan John McDonald.  The Jays need a backup infielder on the roster and Valbuena could be the answer.  Or possibly their next starting second baseman for the next five seasons.  Doubtful…but it could happen!
Q:  Would Yonder Alonso look good on our team?  Would Xavier Nady be a good fit with the Indians or does the Tribe want something more? Martin
MLB reports:  Wow, that is a mountain of questions!!!   Firstly, Yonder Alonso would look great on the Indians.  In fact, he would look great in 29 other lineups.  The kid is a future superstar, no doubt in my mind.  It is just a question of finding him a permanent home.  The Reds have tried him in left field, but do not see him as a long-term solution there.  The team will either have to move him, or open up first by trading franchise star Joey Votto.  At this point, it looks like Alonso will be the one to go.  I am a big Matt LaPorta supporter, but long-term he does not appear to be the solution for the Indians.  He can always move to the outfield or DH, but a change of scenery is likely the best option for him.  LaPorta never lived up to the expectations of being traded for C.C. Sabathia and both the team and player need to move on.  The Indians have prospects to move, although not as many after all their 2011 swaps including the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.  I can’t see the team wanting to trade more parts, as they cannot deplete their farm.  Given what other teams can offer for Alonso, mainly the Rays, I don’t see an Alonso move in the future of the Indians.  It would be a nice acquisition, but not likely to happen.  Nady on the other hand would be a nice low risk pickup.  If healthy, he could bring the leadership and experience the team needs.  Championship teams need strong extra parts and Xavier Nady would be a strong fit in that regard.  As long as comes cheap and doesn’t expect to start, I would say that is a done deal.  The team may look for one or two more strong bats for its lineups, but that would not stop a potential Nady signing.
Q:  Can’t help but think of Scott Kazmir (compared to Gio Gonzalez being looked at but several teams in a trade).  Brandon
MLB reports: Poor Gio Gonzalez.  Why the harsh words? In all seriousness, I see where you are going with the comparison.  High walk, high strikeout pitcher.  After a 3.23 ERA in 2010, Gio lowered it more to 3.12 in 2011.  He has enjoyed near identical 1.31 WHIPs the last two seasons.  He does not give up a ton of hits, but the walks are very high.  He led the league with 91 walks after allowing 92 the year before.  The home/road splits tell a big part of the story.  This season, Gio went 10-5 at home, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.227 WHIP.  On the road, Gio went 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.424 WHIP.  Pitching in the Oakland ballpark clearly has a strong effect on his numbers.  Similar splits are found in his 2010 numbers as well.  Thus the conclusion is likely that taking Gio Gonzalez out of Oakland and putting him in a hitter’s ballpark (say Wrigley, Fenway or the Rogers Centre) and his numbers will likely balloon.  Pitching in Oakland likely masks much of his warts.  He just turned 26 in September so he still has time to develop.  The next two seasons will tell the tale.  He could become a superstar or the next Scott Kazmir.  Until those walk totals start to drop, you could be on to something.  The kid has a ton of talent, don’t get me wrong.  But he is far from a sure thing.  Until then, your comparison could be close.  Thank you for the comment!
Q:  (Final question:)  Will Kurt Suzuki ever become a superstar?  Bill
MLB reports: Thanks for the question Bill.  I chose this question because I have pondered that question for many seasons.  Suzuki, a 2nd round pick of the A’s in 2004 is now 28-years of age.  They say catchers take longer to develop than other hitters.  Suzuki has been steady behind in the plate, seen as strong defensively and a good game-caller.  The question has been the offense.  The perception has been that Suzuki has pop in his bat and able to take walks in the “moneyball” mold.  Looking at the numbers, that has not transpired in reality.  Suzuki had a career high 15 home runs in 2009 and walked a career high 44 times in 2008.  Suzuki has essentially regressed to a hitter that walks 30+ times, hits a dozen or so home runs in a year, has a .300 or so OBP with a SLG under .400.  He will play in the majority of his team’s games though.  Welcome to Jason Kendall territory.  That is where Suzuki is headed.  My heart says that he will still become a Jason Varitek type hitter as a catcher.  But my brain sees Kendall.  There are a lot worse things in life than becoming the next Jason Kendall.  But for a catcher that had high expectations, more was expected of Suzuki.  I can’t see him ever becoming a superstar at this point.  But I can see a 15-year major league career in his future, built mostly on his catching abilities.

ARCHIVE:  Click here for Past Issues of Ask the Reports

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.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)


Interview with Bruce Spitzer: Author of Extra Innings

Friday November 25, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Q&A with Bruce Spitzer, author of the novel Extra Innings about Ted Williams returning to life through cryonics, to be released this spring.

Q.        In Extra Innings, cryonics and science bring Ted Williams back to life in 2092. What was your inspiration for the concept of the book?

A.        I never saw him play but always admired the man. I have friends who knew him well and every one of them has a story about his larger-than-life persona—good fodder for a book. Then one night five years ago I was watching a Red Sox game on TV and Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were talking about Ted Williams. In between innings I was channel surfing a bit (who doesn’t?) and landed on something like the Discovery Channel, maybe the History Channel. The program was about mummies and a belief in life after death. I connected the dots:  the real-life cryonic preservation of the late Ted Williams and the human desire for life after death and began to imagine what it would be like if indeed Ted was successfully reanimated one day. Thus Extra Innings the novel was born.

 

Q:        Why Ted Williams, and why the year 2092, any particular relevance?

A:        If you’re going to fictionalize an account of a famous person I can’t think of many better than Ted Williams who in real life (or death), as most people know, was cryonically preserved when he passed away in 2002. For a novelist, he was a wellspring of source material. I did a lot of research so that when I placed him in a particular situation I would know how he would react—even his verbal patterns, in particular, his famous cussing. The year 2092 was chosen to set the novel in because it is far enough in the future to believe that science may make cryonic reanimation possible, but not too far out to make verisimilitude difficult.

 

Q:        You chose to write about baseball as your first novel. Why baseball in particular? What is your baseball background?

A:        I played the game only as a boy but, obviously, you need to know something about it to write a baseball book. As an undergrad I did play-by-play on the radio and took a sports reporting track for a while. I’ve been a writer my entire professional life and have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. But Extra Innings is my first foray into fiction. So, after developing “the hook” for the story in my mind, it seemed like it was a mountain I was ready to climb. I have a journalism degree and use it every day. I’ve also been a PR executive for a long time. Quite a few novelists have worked in PR and advertising, which, historically, require good writing skills. The PR types include Danielle Steele and Kurt Vonnegut; and James Patterson is a former copywriter and ad exec. Far be it from me to compare myself to these authors, but as a writer and PR person, you must master the skill of quality research, which was invaluable in writing Extra Innings.

 

Q:        Your novel has been five years in the making. Please describe the process of creating this book from beginning to end.

A:        The first draft took a year to write and I rewrote and revised for another four years. I rise at 4 a.m. each day and write for 2 ½ hours before going off to work at the job I love in Boston where I write and edit other stuff. I also work on fiction for at least a few hours on one day each weekend. So, it is basically a six-day-a-week passion, but because I do it so early in the morning I still have time left for my family, career, friends and other interests.

 

Q:        Would it be fair to say that this book falls mainly into the categories of baseball and science fiction. How would you describe the genre of the Extra Innings?

A:        The novel is general fiction, and commercial fiction, but it has elements of speculative fiction (a subset of sci-fi), a sports novel (of course), and a military thriller (mirroring the “first life” of Ted Williams).

 

Q:        Will a traditional baseball fan enjoy this book?  Most baseball readers tend to enjoy reading about the history of the game, its players and statistics.  For those baseball readers, how will they feel about this book?

A:        I believe baseball fans (and not just Red Sox fans) will revel in it. As a baseball reader myself, it was a joy to research and write—what fun to re-imagine a new life for the greatest hitter of all time and see him play baseball again. However, EI is more that just a baseball book. It’s a story about second chances and redemption. For all of his success on the field in his real life, Williams was flawed in many ways off of the field. In his second life he is compelled to answer the question, what’s more important, a chance to win his first World Series or a chance to be a better man? In addition there are numerous subplots to draw-in a variety of readers. The narrative resonates with the consequences of the major issues we face in our world today—the steroids debate in sports, global warming and flooding, corporate greed, technology run rampant, and the moral ambiguity of war. One of my female beta readers even said, “This is a love story disguised as a baseball book.”

 

Q:        Did you consult with any baseball officials in writing the Extra Innings?

A:        There was a lot of research done at such disparate places as the Boston Athenaeum; the New England Sports Museum; the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown (who put up with me traipsing in on the morning after induction weekend); The MIT Media Lab and its Personal Robots Group; and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (to check out the fighter plane Ted pilots). The authors who provided terrific background material included Leigh Montville (Ted Williams: The biography of an American Hero); Bill Nowlin (Ted Williams at War); the late David Halberstam (The Teammates); John Underwood (It’s Only Me:  The Ted Williams We Hardly Knew); and, of course, Ted Williams the author (The Science of Hitting and My Turn at Bat—The Story of My Life), both with John Underwood.

 

Q:        Can you tell us more about your research process studying Ted Williams? Did you have a focus on the player only or the game during his era?

A:        All of the above. There are situations I put him in that draw specifically on his baseball (and military) history. It was an important part of the plot and resulted in enjoyable twists in the story as he tries to harness some of his old skills and memory while trying to adapt to a new baseball paradigm and a dystopian future-world in general.

 

Q:        With the book now at completion, looking back, would you have done anything different?

A:        Not too much. I had an outline in my head and pretty much followed that map. I actually wrote the ending first, which, for some reason, many authors do, probably because it gives you a target to shoot for. There were a few surprises along the way—things that I hadn’t anticipated. For example, after starting the novel it dawned on me that the first person in the world brought back from the dead is going to know if there is life after death, having nothing at all to do with cryonics. That is, knowing if there is an afterlife and if God exists. People are going to want to know what you know!, particularly religious folks. As the only person who knows, Ted Williams is presented with numerous challenges in the novel.

 

Q:        When is the book set for release? How did you pick the release date?

A:        Extra Innings will be released to coincide with the beginning of baseball season this spring, which, in New England, should be interesting because we will be celebrating the 100th birthday of Fenway Park. Fenway plays a central role in the novel 80 years from today.

 

Q:        What is your planned schedule in promoting the Extra Innings?

A:        We’re working on that now. When the schedule is set you’ll see it announced at http://www.extrainningsthenovel.com/ and on Twitter@BruceSpitzer1.

 

Q:        Where will the novel be available?

A:        You will be able to order Extra Innings as a traditional book or an ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online and other select distributors, and it will also be made available in select independent bookstores. Check out http://ExtraInningsTheNovel.com for a list sometime after the New Year.

 

Q:        Can readers contact you?

A:        Yes! That would be great. The email address is Bruce@BruceSpitzer.com.

 

Q:        Will we see another baseball book in the future from Bruce Spitzer?

A:         Never say never. But the next book is not about baseball. However, I can tell you that it is another high-concept novel.

 

Q:        If Ted Williams were alive today, what would he think of the current game of baseball? Do you believe that he would want to play Major League Baseball in 2012?

A:        Oh yeah, I think he’d want to play today. Any player would if he still had the skills. I’ve talked to enough ex-players to know that most everyone misses it. The question is, how would he like playing in the year 2092?

 

MLB reports:  A big thank you to Bruce Spitzer for taking the time to speak with us today on Extra Innings.  Personally, I can’t wait to read this baseball thriller!  Extra Innings will be available this coming spring.  Keep an eye out for our review of Extra Innings, coming soon.

 

About the author:  Bruce E. Spitzer has been a writer and editor his entire professional life. Spitzer’s writing has won awards from the New England Press Association, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the Publicity Club of Boston. His writing has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. He is a public relations executive and writes the “Dollars and Sense” business column for the MetroWest Daily News, and is also the editor of a business trade journal, Massachusetts Banker Magazine. Spitzer is a graduate of Boston University and Rutgers and lives in the Boston area with his wife and young son. Extra Innings is his first novel.

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Understanding the New MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement

Friday November 25, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, comes an opportunity to see where baseball has failed and succeeded.  While many have said that the agreement hurts small market teams or is unfair to teams with bigger scouting departments, I believe it affects all teams in a grand way.  By now, most of you have heard the details of the agreement, so I will only touch upon a few of the main points.

Houston Astros will move to the AL West in 2013. There will be 15 teams per league and interleague games played all year round.

Interleague all year round can be a tricky subject.  Especially if an AL team is playing interleague games in the last week of a playoff race, and their pitcher has to hit.  This may cause a major headache, where teams will want the designated hitter in both leagues.

A second wild card team will be added no later than 2013.

The two wild card teams of each league will play in a one game winner take all sudden death playoff.  This can give a distinct disadvantage to the winning wild card team, as they will only be able to use their ace once in the LDS.

The Elias system of ranking free agents as Type A, Type B or Type C (unranked) will no longer be used to gauge compensation for the teams losing free agents.

The only way a team will receive compensation for losing a free agent is if they make a guaranteed qualifying one year contract equal to the average salary of the top 125 highest paid players.  This is approximately $12.4M for this year.

The minimum salary will rise from $414,000 in 2011 to $480,000 in 2012. It will also rise to $490,000 in 2013 and $500,000 in 2014.

Major League Baseball Amateur Draft Signing Deadline will not be between July 12 and July 18, depending on when the All-Star Game is played.

This pushes the deadline for drafted players to sign up a month.  Seeing as most players wouldn’t sign until the last minutes of the deadline in the past, this will make a huge difference.  Signed players can be assigned to teams and get their professional careers started.  Teams will be able to develop them for longer and put their stamp on them sooner.

Each team will be assigned an aggregate signing bonus pool for their first 10 rounds of the draft.

The number of money available to be spent is dependent upon a team’s standing in the draft and how many picks they possess.  Therefore, if a team picks 1st overall and has 14 picks in the first 10 rounds, they will have more available money to spend than a team that drafts 30th and has only 10 picks.  After the first 10 rounds, teams may only sign players for no more than $100,000.  If a player signs for more than that amount, the excess gets counted against the pool of money for the first 10 rounds.  What this means is that if a player is drafted in the 18th round and signs for $125,000, the extra $25,000 goes against their spending pool.

It is possible to go over this threshold; however MLB has placed very large penalties for doing so.  If a team goes over their allotted pool by 0-5%, a 75% tax is implemented.

  • 5-10% over equals a 75% tax + loss of 1st round draft pick in the following draft
  • 10-15% over equals 100% tax + loss of 1st and 2nd round draft pick in the following draft
  • 15%+ equals 100% tax + loss of 1st round draft pick in the next two drafts

While this seems like it could be a recipe for disaster, the MLB recommended slots will be higher and more realistic than in the past.  The top 10 picks in the draft will have slots of the following:

1 – $7.2M
2 – $6.2M
3 – $5.2M
4 – $4.2M
5 – $3.5M
6 – $3.25M
7 – $3M
8 – $2.9M
9 – $2.8M
10 – $2.7M

This represents approximately 1.5 times the slot from previous years, so the cap will not be as drastic as most would assume.

There will be a new Competitive Balance Lottery to award draft picks to small market and low revenue teams.

The 10 teams in the smallest markets with the lowest revenue will be entered into a lottery for 6 draft picks after the first round, with the teams with the lowest winning percentage the previous year having a higher chance of picking first.

Each club will be given a pool of money to spend on International free agents.

For 2012 and 2013 international free agent signing period, the soft cap will be $2.9M.  After that, teams will be given more or less money dependent on record in the previous year.  There will also be penalties for going over this limit, which are as follows:

  • 0-5% – 75% tax
  • 5-10% – 75% tax and will not be able to spend more than $500,000 on one player
  • 10-15% – 100% tax and will not be able to spend more than $500,000 on one player
  • 15%+ – 100% tax and will not be able to spend more than $250,000 on one player

Players, managers and coaches are prohibited from using smokeless tobacco anytime that fans are permitted into the ballpark.  They also must not be visible in interviews or club interviews.  They may not carry the product on them or in their uniforms.

Most see this as a deterrent for the players from using the products and giving less exposure to impressionable youth.  While this may be true, players will still continue to use smokeless tobacco, they will just keep their wads out of sight.  No more seeing guys like Nick Swisher with his lip stuck out halfway to the pitcher, that’s for sure.

HGH Blood testing will be implemented starting in Spring Training 2012.

There are many arguments for and against this, and I agree with both.  It eases the minds of millions of people that the “Steroid Era” is behind us, yet if testing is done during Spring Training, it gives ample time for someone to get off HGH and resume normal workouts before tested.  Tests will also be administered with reasonable cause throughout the season, and random, unannounced testing could be done as early as next off-season.

New helmets designed by Rawlings will be used by 2013.

These helmets will protect up to speeds of 100mph, as opposed to the helmets used now, which protect a batter up to speeds of 90mph.  Previous versions have been worn by players coming back from concussions such as David Wright, but players disapproved because they were too bulky and uncomfortable.  This version will apparently be much sleeker and more comfortable.

If a player is selected to play in the All-Star Game, he must attend, unless excused by the Office of the Commissioner.

There will be a Social Media Policy in place for all players, coaches and executives.

The policy is being drawn up, and there is a chance that you could see fan favorites on Twitter such as Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins slightly more censored.  His new manager, Ozzie Guillen, could also see censorship or face penalties.  I think that part of the allure of the game is that players speak their minds.  From Dirk Hayhurst opening up about life in the minor leagues, to Logan Morrison saying what he feels on Twitter, it is something that can bring more youth to the games.  Censoring these players may not be in the best interest of the game, but I will reserve judgment until I find out the exact parameters of the policy.

Instant replay will be expanded.

Replay will be used on plays involving “trapped” catches, as well as fair or foul ball calls.  While everyone loves the human element of the game, and most argue that more instant replay will slow the game down, I am of the ilk that it will speed the game up.  Rather than a manager visiting the umpire to argue a call, yell for five minutes, kick dirt on him and get ejected, the umpire crew can simply go straight to replay, and the play is withheld or upturned in a matter of a minute.

This is basically a very condensed version of the whole CBA, but radical changes are certainly abound in the MLB.  While some are seen as good changes, and some are seen as bad, I am fairly neutral on the matter.  Whereas the MLB achieved close to its goal of having a hard slotting system, the MLBPA also received higher minimum salaries and less restrictions on free agents.  It is a give and take system, and it will take a few years to really see how it affects teams.  Expect teams and agents to find loopholes in the agreement and exploit them to their greatest benefit.

***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.

Interview with Orioles Catching Prospect: Tanner Murphy

Thursday November 24, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Tanner Murphy, catching prospect for the Baltimore Orioles.  Tanner was a 22nd round selection for the Orioles in the 2010 draft.  At 19-years of age, Tanner recently completed his 2nd season with the Orioles organization, playing in the Gulf Cost League.   Coming off elbow surgery,  Tanner looks to be healed and ready for the start of spring training.  2012 represents a big year for Tanner as continues to work his way up the Orioles ladder and one day join the big club in Baltimore.

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with baseball prospect, Tanner Murphy:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLR reports Tanner and thank you for taking the time today for us.  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Tanner Murphy:  Growing up, I idolized Ken Griffey Jr. And Paul Lo Duca.

 

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

Tanner Murphy:  The current MLB player would be Matt Wieters because he smart and smooth behind the plate.

 

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

Tanner Murphy:  I would have to say every game that our team wins and all games when our pitchers feel comfortable no matter what happens on the mound.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Tanner Murphy:  I have many many goals going into this next season.  A couple main goals are to stay healthy the whole season and to become a better catcher and hitter than I was the year before and learn.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what was going through your mind?

Tanner Murphy:  Honestly, the first thing that what went through my mind was: Wow!  It was almost surreal.  I worked so hard towards that day growing up.

 

MLB reports:  What round did you expect to be drafted and what was the process like signing with the Orioles?

Tanner Murphy:  I really wasn’t thinking an exact round, just was going with the flow. The process was a lot of phone calls and thinking and guessing. It was a very busy process.

 

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

Tanner Murphy:  I feel that I am pretty skilled in all aspects of the game, but everyday I can learn and get better to become the best that I can be.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Tanner Murphy:  I feel every part of my game. There is always room for improvement. It is a game of failure and you can’t be perfect in this game.

 

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?

Tanner Murphy:  Strikeouts actually tell you a lot about your next at-bats and can help me become a better hitter. Walks are the same way- just reading the pitchers.

 

MLB reports:  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Tanner Murphy:  Yes. I see that from strikeouts and walks I will continue to get better learning which pitches that I can handle and can’t handle during each of my at-bats.

 

MLB reports:  Long term do you see yourself staying behind the plate considering Matt Wieters is the current starting catcher? How do you view your role in the organization?

Tanner Murphy:  As for now, I do see myself still behind the plate.  Given my age, I have some time.  I feel that my role is to get better and do everything I can do to help the big league club win.

 

MLB reports:  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?

Tanner Murphy:  Defense is the most important part of my game.  Being a catcher, I see everything and handle the pitchers.  My job consists of making the pitchers get through the game, no matter the situation and to know the other hitters.

 

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?

Tanner Murphy:   I can’t really put a time on getting there.  I just need to do everything and work hard to get myself there.  No matter how long it takes.

 

MLB reports:  Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?

Tanner Murphy:  For the most part yes.  There have been some things I wasn’t expecting, but that is the case in everyday life as well.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?  Best friend(s) on the team that you most hang out with and what do you guys like to do to chill?

Tanner Murphy:  When baseball is done for the season, I just hang out, travel, visit family, watch some football and basketball (when there is not a lockout).   But doing that can only last for a couple of months, until the end of November.  At the start of December, I usually start training again getting ready for the season.

 

MLB reports:  Tell us more about your recent elbow surgery:  what was the nature of the injury leading up to the surgery and how is your recovery going?

Tanner Murphy:  I had surgery on my right elbow- my throwing arm.  I had an ulnar nerve transposition.  The nerve when I was throwing was so loose that when throwing, it would move.  When I was throwing then moving back every time it became loose to the point that I could feel it.  I had numbing in my ring and pinky fingers. As for my recovery, I am ahead of schedule.   I have no more numbing and have a full range of motion.  I should be all ready for spring training come February/March.

 

MLB reports:  Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?

Tanner Murphy:  I never really had a favorite pre-game meal.  But I always do the exact same thing before every game.

 

MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

Tanner Murphy:  Glad to help out.  For the readers:  hope you enjoy!  Thanks MLB reports.

 

Thank you again to Tanner Murphy 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 Tanner.  As well, please follow Tanner onTwitter (@TMurphy20)

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Did Braun and Verlander Deserve Their MVP Awards?

Wednesday November 23, 2011

Sam Evans: Over the last two days, Major League Baseball announced their 2011 MVPs. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers took home the award in the American League while Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers won the National League award. Now that the voting is over, we can look at who really deserved the awards.

American League MVP: In August, Buster Olney sparked discussion on the AL MVP, when he said on Twitter that if he had a vote it would go to Verlander. At the time, I thought that the award was Jose Bautista‘s to lose. However, after watching Verlander dominate team after team, it became clear to me that this was the most valuable player in the American League. He meant more to his team than any other player in the league. Verlander finished with a with a 2.40 ERA in 251 innings. Verlander threw more innings than any other pitcher in the majors, and to have that strong of numbers in those innings makes it even more impressive.

Verlander also threw his second career no-hitter this year, and led the majors in strikeouts. Jacoby Ellsbury and  Jose Bautista are not shabby candidates either, but they didn’t have the effect Verlander did on his team. The Tigers expected to win every single time that Verlander was on the mound. Overall, even if the BBWAA made this decision based on Verlander’s twenty-four wins, it was the right choice. Verlander became the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

National League MVP:  In somewhat of a surprising decision, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was awarded the NL MVP award, receiving 20 out of 32 first place votes, and a total of 388 points. Finishing a close second was Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who received 10 first place votes, and a total of 332 points.

First of all, these were obviously the top two candidates. They both had amazing years that should not go unnoticed despite who actually won the award. What I think it came down to was that Braun made the playoffs and Kemp didn’t. This is somewhat understandable because you can make the argument that if a certain player had such a big impact on their team then they should have made the playoffs. The real question is did Braun really make his team that much better, or did he just play on a much better team? Also, did the distractions surrounding the Dodgers and its ownership affect Kemp’s chances of winning the MVP? It definitely did not help his case.

To truly compare these players first you have to evaluate their defense. Kemp played a much harder position then Braun and he had to cover more ground. Kemp had a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat used to show how much ground a player covers) of -4.6. Braun had a UZR of -3.8. Neither of these is very impressive, so I guess we can just call this comparison a draw.

As for offense, in my own opinion, Kemp had a stronger year. Both players were very similar in normal statistics. Braun hit .332 with 33 HR and 111 RBI. Kemp hit .324 with 39 HR and 126 RBI. What impresses me is that Kemp scored more runs than Braun despite not having Prince Fielder batting behind him. Also, Kemp had a harder ballpark to hit in, and plays in a stronger pitching division. Kemp was really the only dangerous hitter in the Dodgers lineup, so pitchers could avoid him more than Braun.

According to Baseball-Reference WAR, Kemp was by far the more valuable player. Kemp led the NL with 10.0 WAR, which make Braun’s 7.7 seem miniscule. Kemp also led the National League in total bases, with 353, and Adjusted OPS + with 171.

These two players had almost identical years. If I had a vote, it would have gone to Kemp. But I don’t think Braun winning is anything to get worked up about.  A strong case could have been made for him, as shown by Braun being the winner of the 2012 NL MVP award.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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.***

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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.***

Projecting MLB Sluggers: The Top 5 in 2012

Tuesday November 22, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Accompanied with my projections and analysis, I profile the top-five fantasy baseball sluggers to target for 2012. I encourage your thoughts and feedback!

1. Ryan Braun

2012 Projections: .321 38 HR 119 RBI 108 R 32 SB

Given that he is at the prime of his career having just turned 28 on November 17, Ryan Braun ranks at the top of the list. He is the complete package and enjoyed a 2011 season that had fantasy owners drooling and was named the 2011 NL MVP today! He was a machine in all five of the standard fantasy categories with a .332 average, 33 home runs, 111 RBI’s, 109 runs and 33 SB’s. The exciting thing is that the will only continue to get better. The home run total has the potential to reach 40 and I don’t see reason why Braun won’t steal 30 bases again. Braun is by no means one of the speediest players baseball, but he is truly one of the smartest base runners. He steals at a career success rate of 80% and was only caught 6 times in 2011. Some people wonder about the effect that Prince Fielder’s potential departure will have on Braun, but I am not overly concerned. Braun is truly a special and hall of fame caliber player because he not only possesses all of the physical tools, but also is one of the game’s smartest players. He continually makes adjustments and just has such an impressive knowledge of the game that allows him to better utilize his talents than others.

2. Albert Pujols

2012 Projections: .312 39 HR 120 RBI 117 R 12 SB

Albert Pujols has been the best fantasy player in baseball since he emerged onto scene in 2001. Ten Ruth-like seasons later, the slugger might find himself in a new uniform. Furthermore, his somewhat “down” season in 2011 has caused concern for many fantasy owners.  But before we expect an A-rod-like decline, lets take a closer look at the numbers. Through the Cardinal’s first 54 games, Pujols batted .257 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI. That means in the team final 108 games, which included the time missed with the wrist injury, he batted .322 with 29 home runs and 71 RBI’s. That is the Pujols that we have all been accustomed to over the last decade. I will not go into detail explaining just how good Pujols has been throughout his career because you should already know by now. Last year was the first season he did not put up .300 30 HR and 100 RBI. He missed this feat by one RBI and one point of average, in a season that included an uncharacteristic 50 game stretch (contract issues?).  I expect Pujols to be back in St. Louis next season, and all though he well on the back nine of his career, he is still too good and has a lot left in the tank. Expect the usual numbers, the type that he continued to put up despite his slow start to the season in 2011.

3. Miguel Cabrera

2012 Projections: .336 34 HR 122 RBI 109 R 2 SB

Did you know that Miguel Cabrera is only 28 years old? I sure didn’t. He has been an offensive force for almost a decade. In my mind, he is the game’s best pure hitter and will only continue to get better. He managed to have another elite season in 2011, despite all the controversy and off the field issues he had to deal with.  He continues to improve at the plate and BB right is on the incline while his K rate declines. For these reasons, and his career .317 average, there is no reason to not expect his average to hover around .330. He is an average anchor for your lineup that will also exceed 30 HR and 100 RBI’s and runs. The only thing he does not do is steal bases. However, refer to my article last week, Cabrera is the type of average and power anchor that can allow your team roster a space for the one-trick ponies, i.e. Michael Bourn. Overall, just expect more of the same from Cabrera: which means elite production in four of the five standard fantasy categories, average, runs, home runs, and runs batted in.

4. Matt Kemp

2012 Projections: .296 33 HR 108 RBI 103 R 34 SB

At 27 years of age, Matt Kemp is also just entering his prime. He missed a 40/40 season by just one home run and batted .326 and drove in 126 runs, which led to being the runner-up for the 2011 NL MVP award. However, he is easily the most difficult to predict on the list. If I expected him to improve upon or even just repeat his 2011 season, he would be at the top of the list. We simply cannot expect Kemp to be this fantasy-tastic again in 2012. Matt Kemp’s .380 BABIP lead all of major league baseball, however he does hold a career .352 clip, which is tops in baseball. Therefore, expect regression in his batting average in the .290-.300 range. Kemp also strikes out a lot, not like in 2010, but he still struck out in 23 percent of his at bats in 2011.  When you are not putting the ball in play at a high rate, there is potential for a lot of volatility. Given his skill set, 2011 was essentially a best-case scenario for Kemp.  The other four guys on the list make contact much more consistently and therefore have been more consistent throughout the career and are easier to project forward. Furthermore, I am not encouraged by the line up around built around Kemp. He is still elite, but it is unwise to expect him to repeat 2011. He will come down to earth but still provide across the board value for your team.

5. Joey Votto

2012 Projections: .316 32 HR 112 RBI 115 R 11SB

At 28 years of age, Joey Votto is also in the prime of his career. His 2011 season, with heavy expectations after an MVP season, was a down season for Votto. A down season in which he batted .309 29 HR 103 RBI 8 SB. And if this type of season is Votto’s worst-case scenario, you can live with it! However, given his age and peripheral stats, all signs point to an improved season for Votto in 2012. Votto is a pure hitter who continues to gain better command over strike zone, as his walk rate his increased steadily in each of the four last seasons. The average will always be there for Votto, just a notch below Cabrera. The biggest concern for fantasy owners was the drop in power, form 37 to 29 home runs. However, Votto hit the ball in the air more often in the second half of the season and hit 16 post all-star HR’s in 260 at-bats, compared to just 13 in his 339 at-bats before the break. Furthermore, his .222 ISO was well below his 2010 season (.276) and career average of .237. Therefore, expect him to bounce back to the 35 HR territory with elite average. The true wildcard for Votto is what he does on the basepaths. He stole just 8 bases in 2011, but if he puts a greater emphasis on running like he did in 2010, with 16 stolen bases, then he has the potential to provide extreme five-category value to your roster.

Honorable Mention:         

Jacoby Ellsbury: His .230 ISO in 2011 (career .152) explains his surprise 30-home run season. Ellsbury’s peripheral indicate he will be more of a .300 20 HR 80 RBI 40 SB type players, making him a notch below Braun and Kemp.

***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.

The All-Bargain 2012 MLB Free Agency Team

 

Monday November 21, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Every baseball offseason, we all seem to fall into a familiar trap.  The focus always seem to be on the “prize” free agents, while bargains always seem to be had (especially when the big spenders have reached their budgets).  So while Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson and company are the majority of the headlines- are they truly the difference makers? Getting quality players that are more economical may in fact have a stronger impact on a team that is looking to compete.  It allows for a team to fill needs while devoting financial resources to other resources, including scouting, signing draft picks and locking up younger players before they hit free agency.  Remember: a team has many expense areas but only a certain amount of money to go around. Devoting $100 million+ to 1 player tends to significantly limit a team, regardless of the strength of such a player.  “Spreading the wealth” so to speak, will limit the risk of putting all the eggs in one basket.  It is a similar to diversification of stocks.  A well-rounded portfolio will tend to outperform most others.  But if those assets can be acquired at a reduced cost, the return will look even better.

Now, imagine that we were going to build a starting lineup based purely on free agents.  What available free agents would give a team the best bang for the buck? If we were to look at the 2012 MLB free agency list, our All-Bargain team would probably look a little something like this:

C:  Ryan Doumit (starter) and Jose Molina (backup): At approximately $5 million combined, Doumit and Molina should offer fairly solid production at a reasonable rate.  Doumit also offers versatility by playing first and some outfield.  If (and when) Doumit gets injured, Molina can handle the starting chores for a stretch with a minor leaguer backing up.  In my estimation Doumit has the potential to breakout in a Mike Napoli manner.  He has the skills and power.  The guy just has to stay healthy.  As far as overall offense and defense from the catching position, there are fewer solid backups that Jose- part of the great “Catching Molinas.”

1B:  Carlos Pena:  This one area that I am prepared to splurge.  For all the talk of the low average, Pena should offer good power, a solid OBP and gold glove defense.  At approximately $10 million per season, he will still be a bargain to the other heavyweights at the position.  This is one area that you need top-notch offense and Pena should deliver again in 2012.

2B:  Kelly Johnson:  See Carlos Pena but at a more reasonable ticket price.  Johnson has a strong knack for getting on base and has excellent power for the position.  He is a gamer that will always have a spot on my team.

SS:  Ramon Santiago:  You can’t fully appreciate what Santiago offers unless you watch him on a daily basis.  Few infielders have a glove as strong as his.  While not the most gifted offensive player, he can chip in the occasional big hit while holding his own as a #8 or #9 hitter.  Another versatile player to have on the roster.  Options are always good.

3B:  Kevin Kouzmanoff:  The “Crushin’ Russian” is on the squad.  Yes, I am still holding out hope that he will come together.  I would take a chance on a breakout.  At the very least you will get good “D” and some offense at a bargain basement price.  If he doesn’t come together, I would grab Casey Blake or Wilson Betemit to sit on the bench if they come dirt cheap.

CF:  Grady Sizemore:  I like the style of Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick.  I would have been at Sizemore’s house on the first day of free agency as well.  Given his high upside and apparent health, I would sign him as quickly as possible.  If you get even 75% of the old Sizemore, you still have a likely All-Star.

LF:  Raul Ibanez:  I’ve heard about his defense.  But I am still signing him.  Rauuuuul will come at a fraction of his last big contract.  The man owns his own rejuvenation chamber and still has the body of a 35-year old.  Strong leader, 20+ home runs and all at a maximum of cost $5 million per season.  Mark him sold.

RF:  J.D. Drew:  Hungry for one more big contract?  With Scott Boras as his agent, this on-base machine should be hungry to prove that he is healthy and productive.  He may cost $3 million per season.  Well worth the risk.  Just to cover ourselves, Johnny Damon is also coming on board as a 4th outfielder.  Between Sizmore, Ibanez, Drew and Damon, we should be able to run out an outfield most days.  If David DeJesus or Rick Ankiel are prepared to hang around as 5th outfielders/designated hitters, we may find some spare cash for them as well.

DH:  If we are talking non-National League team, then we HAVE to grab Josh Willingham as our designated hitter.  Or even a right fielder if we must.  The Hammer still carries a heavy bat and should anchor the offense.  He still has a couple of more productive years in him.  He should come at a relative bargain price considering 25+ home run bats are not easy to come by.

SP:  Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Aaron Harang, Paul Maholm, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis:  From these six selected starters, we should have ourselves a fairly decent rotation.  Pitching is one of the most difficult areas on any roster to fill, especially starters.  You have to catch lightning in a bottle and hope many factors, especially health, work out.  Maholm and Harang should be our “aces” with approximately 12 wins a-piece.  Capuano will be the third starter, who should be even better with another healthy year under his belt.  Between Chen, D-Train and Penny, we will count on veteran inning-eaters who are able to squeeze out wins.  Not the team’s greatest source of strength, but all six of these pitchers combined will cost less per season that C.C. Sabathia on his own.

RP:  Matt Capps, Jonathan Broxton, Jeremy Accardo, Shawn Camp, Fernando Rodney, Damaso Marte, J.C. Romero:  Going with the Tony La Russa formula, we are putting together a veteran pen with several closing options.  If at full strength, Broxton should be the ninth inning guy.  Otherwise, the role will fall to Capps or Rodney.  Accardo and Camp should be decent middle relievers with Marte and Romero balancing out the pen.  Used to their capabilities, our pen should help us contend.

Conclusion:  Building a team on a budget is not the easiest process.  This team will cost us likely north of $80 million dollars, but should stay under the magical $100 million mark.  Considering it is a team built from scratch and based on availability, “Team MLB Reports” should be a veteran squad that stays in the pennant race.  Even with the relative slim pickings in some areas, this year’s free agency squad offers value at most positions.  While no teams will be built based solely on free agency this year, there are enough complimentary parts that any Major League team can find good value.  It is just a question of shopping smart and buying at the right time.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Interview with MLB Prospect Lance Durham: Talking Baseball with “The Bull”

Sunday November 20, 2011

 


Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Lance Durham, first base prospect and 2nd generation baseball player.  His father, Leon Durham, played 10 seasons in the show.  Best known as an outfielder/first baseman for the Cubs, Leon had pop in his bat and a strong ability to get on base.  Following in his dad’s footsteps, Lance looks to make his own mark on the game.  Originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 2006, Lance opted to attend college and was drafted again in 2009, this time by the Toronto Blue Jays.  Lance has just completed his third season in the Jays’ organization.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to talk baseball with Lance on several occasions.  He is an extremely intelligent bright man, with a strong sense of his roots and his path in the game.  An extremely motivated and hard-working player, Lance has the fundamental tools to succeed in the game.  At 23-years of age, the future looks bright for “The Bull”.  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with baseball prospect and future superstar, Lance Durham:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

MLB reports:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Lance Durham:  My favorite baseball player growing up was my father. I know it sounds cliché but it’s the truth. I didn’t get to see him play in person but we have tapes all over the house of him when he was with the Cubs and I loved the intensity he played with. His demeanor, swagger and confidence were never lacking out on the playing field and that’s something I try to carry out on the field.

 

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

Lance Durham:  I admire Prince Fielder the most. First, he was the only player to play all 162 games in 2011 and 160 games in 2010. That’s something to admire a lot because he brings it to the table everyday and doesn’t ask for days off.

 

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

Lance Durham:  Having the opportunity to follow in my father’s footsteps.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Lance Durham:  Stay healthy and set no limitations for the season. Sky’s the limit.

 

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 Tigers in 2006 and Blue Jays in 2009 and not signing with the Tigers originally?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Jays in 2009?

Lance Durham:  When I first got drafted out of high school, I thanked God and was happy to know that my name was already out there. But I thought it was best for me to go to college at that point. In 2009, it was just like “well, its time to start the grind” because I wasn’t a first rounder like my father and he told me it was time to out perform the competition. I didn’t sign with the Tigers originally because I was drafted in the 45th round and I figured going to college and getting smarter about the game of baseball and physically stronger (was in my best interests). Not to mention mom (Angela Durham) always wanted me to go college and I promised her I would one time in my life. So I did it (went to college) fresh out of high school.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Lance Durham:  I just hope to improve on all areas of the game, whether it’s hitting, base running, defense, and having a great baseball IQ- which I think is the best advantage. The more you know about the game, the better you will do.  My baseball IQ includes knowing what to do with the ball once you get it, thinking before the play even happens, so that the game slows down for you.

 

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

Lance Durham:  Well home runs are awesome.  There is no better feeling for me, except winning a ball game.  Walks are also great because it shows your patience at the plate. Those are two statistics that you want to be pretty high.

 

MLB reports:  How much of an influence was your dad on you growing up? What did you learn from your dad that has shaped you as a baseball player?

Lance Durham:  Dad was a great influence on my baseball career. He has been involved in baseball his whole life, so to learn stuff from him about the game is great. The thing I learned from my dad the most is the mental part of the game. You are going to strike out. You are going to make errors. But it is how you learn from them and not make the same mistakes twice. He always preaches adjustments. If we are in the batting cage and I keep making the same mistake over and over, he won’t say anything until I make the adjustment on my own.  Then he will say “what took you so long,” and we just laugh. But the quicker you pick up on the adjustments, the better ball player you will become.

 

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?

Lance Durham:  Hopefully as soon as possible. That is what all of minor leaguers strive for. I am just going to take it one day at a time. Even in the offseason: with the workouts and the cage work and everything, you just have to have it on your mind and want it bad.

 

MLB reports:  If you were not playing professional baseball, you would be ____

Lance Durham:  A video game creator.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun away from the ballpark?

Lance Durham:  Hanging out with friends, go to the movies and spending time with the family.

 

MLB reports:  Which of your teammates are you closest with – any good stories?

Lance Durham:  This past year on the Lansing Lugnuts team, I got really close with a lot of guys. Michael Crouse, Jake Marisnick, Jack Murphy, Markus Brisker, Matt Nuzzo. The stories could go on for days. Let’s just say that they are a great group of guys and I thank God I got to play with them.

 

MLB reports:  Your father Leon was known as “The Bull”.  Do you go by the same nickname? What is the origin of the nickname and how did you adopt it?

Lance Durham:  Well my dad’s nickname just stuck with me because of him. When he would bring me into the locker rooms as a kid, everyone would already call me “Little Bull” when I was like 10. So it has stuck with me even until today, so I just roll with it. Won’t be long until they just start calling me BULL!!!

 

MLB reports:  Final thought:  When fans think of the name Lance Durham, what images do you want them to associate you with?

Lance Durham:  He was a student of the game.  He played the game right and he played the game hard.  He was also a great teammate.


Thank you again to Lance Durham 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 Lance.  As well, please follow Lance on Twitter (@LanceBullDurham)

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

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.

Should Dale Murphy be Elected into Cooperstown?

 Sunday November 20, 2011

Sam EvansDale Murphy was one of the best baseball players of the 1980’s. He played in 2180 games, hit .265, with 398 home runs. Now, after twelve years of eligibility, Murphy still has not been voted into the Hall of Fame.

Dale Murphy was not a dominant player during his era. He was a very good player, he won two MVP’s and five straight gold gloves. However, when you look back at his two “peak” years, he only posted a 6.1 WAR in those years combined. We can’t fully be sure of WAR’s (wins above replacement) ability to fully show the defensive prowess of players, but either way that is not impressive enough for a Cooperstown candidate.

On the field, Murphy was an inspiration to others. He truly looked like he wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world. Off the field, he wasn’t any different. Just ask Joe Torre, who had this to say about Murphy, “If you’re a coach, you want him as a player. If you’re a father, you want him as a son. If you’re a woman, you want him as a husband. If you’re a kid, you want him as a father. What else can you say about the guy?”  Murphy truly was an American hero as evidenced by his Lou Gehrig award and Roberto Clemente award.

From 1980 to 1989, Murphy had more total bases than anyone in the majors. He had a perplexing career in terms of statistics. He never dominated any one category. A typical season from Murphy would look along the lines of: 30 HR, 90 RBI, 130 K, 15 SB, and a .265 AVG. That is a pretty good year by all standards. The player that was most similar to this stat line in 2011, was Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds.

Let’s make one thing clear. Based on his statistics alone, Dale Murphy is definitely not a Hall of Famer. A 44. WAR is not enough for a Hall of Famer. That is in fact less than Red Sox fourth outfielder J.D. Drew. However, if you want to make a case for Murphy’s election by including his contributions to the game of baseball off the field, I can see a stronger case for his candidacy.

Last year, Murphy received only 12.6% of the BBWAA voted for the Hall. He has a long ways to go, in terms of voting, and not a lot of time to do it. I really am indifferent to whether or not Dale Murphy is Hall of Famer. If he makes it in, I will be pleased that his great character and steady numbers had been noticed. The bottom line is that regardless of whether he is eventually elected into Cooperstown, Dale Murphy should always be remembered as a tremendous player that truly was a role model to kids and adults who followed his career.  Even if he does not fit the Cooperstown mold, he was one of the top players of his generation and should be regarded as a strong role model for future wave of Major League Baseball players to come.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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.


Ask the Reports: Saturday November 19th

Saturday November 19, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Ask the Reports is back! After some thought and re-branding: we have decided to drop the E-mailbag moniker and to keep this section as “Ask the Reports”, which will appear every weekend.  E-mails is but one form you can reach MLB reports. You can follow us on Twitter  and tweet and direct message your questions and comments.  You can “Like” us on Facebook and write on our wall.  You can also leave all questions and comments at the end of each article and page on the website. With social media exploding as it has, we are truly connected in so many ways.  

So keep reading MLB reports. Everyday. Twice a day or more if your schedule allows it. Subscribe to the site to have all current articles sent to your e-mailbox. But most of all:  participate. Send tweets. Write on our Facebook wall. Comment on articles and leave feedback. MLB reports is for you: the readers. The love of baseball is best nurtured if enjoyed as a community. So don’t be shy. Get in touch with us as often as you can. Let your voice be heard on our Facebook wall. There is nothing better than an old-fashioned baseball debate.  We call it MLB4Life on Twitter because we all love baseball for life. Baseball is more than a passion.  It is a lifestyle. Thank you for enjoying MLB reports and we look forward to hearing from you.  Plus you never know when your questions will be answered in “Ask the Reports”: so keep checking and asking your questions every week!

Let’s get to your questions:

Q:  If a modern-day MLB pitcher won 20 games for 20 seasons, he would still be 111 wins short of Cy Young’s win record..  From Eric, LA
 
A:  Great comment.  A true reflection on the evolution of the game.  Let’s start by taking a look at the career of Cy Young:
Denton True Young (aka Cy Young).  Born March 29, 1867 in Ohio.  Threw right-handed, stood 6’2″ and weighed 210 pounds.  He played for 22 seasons: 1890-1911.  He finished his career with a 511-316 lifetime record.  He actually had 5 seasons of 30+ wins.  36 in 1892 and 35 in 1895 being the career highs.  The man pitched in 906 games, starting 815 of them.  He threw 7356 career innings.  Ponder that one for a minute.  He had 5 seasons of 400 + innings and a dozen more seasons of 300-399 innings.  17 years of 300+ innings pitched.  If a modern-day pitcher were to pitch 200 innings per year for 20 years, he would reach 4000 innings.  About half of Cy Young.  That says a lot to me.  In the modern age, the only person that will come close to pitching those kind of innings was Nolan Ryan.  The Ryan Express pitched for 27 seasons.  807 games, 773 starts.  5386 innings pitched.  Career record:  324-292.  So to win as many games as Cy Young, you would need to win 25 games per year for 20 years.  An impossible feat in today’s modern game.  A pitcher would need to start 35-40 games and pitch 300-400 innings per year.  With closers, middle relievers and the stats of MLB bullpens, teams will not allow their starters to go deep into all those ballgames.  A “quality” start is 6 innings pitched.  At 30+ starts per year, most starters today are lucky to crack 200 innings.  Without the starts and innings, starting pitchers have less and less chances to stay deep in games to win.  Plus pitchers need offensive support and health to stay on the field and have a chance to gain wins.  Teams have 5-man rotations and also skip  or push back starts during the season.  We will never see another Cy Young.  Not the way baseball is played today.
 
 
Q:  What do you think Pat Burrell will do after he retires?  Fans of Pat Burrell
 
A:  I could see Burrell taking time off from the game.  Counting his dollars and maybe taking in a party or two (rumor has it that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man…).  But given his quality eye at the plate with pop, Burrell clearly knew a thing or two about hitting in his day.  Almost 300 home runs and 1000 walks do not happen by accident.  When Pat the Bat is ready to return to the game, he will join the Giants or Phillies likely as a minor league hitting instructor, or full-time hitting coach.  If he can show he can coach in the minors, you could see him as a hitting coach or 1st base coach one day in the major leagues.  Pat the Bat has a future in baseball- provided that he can teach and work well with the kids in helping them develop their abilities at the plate.
 
 
Q:  With 8 years and $160 Million, is Matt Kemp worth Manny Money or did L.A. pay a $30 Million premium to keep him off the open market next year?  Or both?  From Jason
 
A:  They did call Matt Kemp “Baby Manny” for a reason.  The Bison has always been highly touted coming up with the Dodgers.  For the last 2 seasons going into this year, some of that promise was starting to show.  Campaigns with 26 and 28 home runs respectively will catch people’s eyes.  Kemp looked like a .290 hitter with 20+ home run pop.   Pretty good- but not a superstar.  Then in 2011, Kemp simply exploded.  He led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs, a difficult feat considering he had little support in the lineup and played his home games in a pitcher’s park.  With a .324 average, we nearly had a triple crown winner.  Kemp had a .399 OBP and .586 SLG.  Superstar numbers.  I am torn in analyzing him.  He was a year away from free agency.  Is he worth $20 Million per year for 8 years?  That is all relative.  Here is how I can best put it: what if Kemp would have hit .290, with 25 home runs with 90 runs and 90 RBIs in 2012 and hit free agency?  Would he have received the same deal?  Very likely.  At that point would the Yankees or Red Sox given him 7 years and $140 million to sign?  Carl Crawford got that same deal last year.  At 28 years of age, Kemp has shown good health and appears to be in great shape.  To say he is able to keep this pace until 35-years of age is not a stretch.  At worst, Kemp would have landed $15 million per season for 7 years, a total of $105 million.  So my thoughts are that the Dodgers would have needed to pay him $20 million for 2012 regardless.  By signing him early, they may have overpaid by $35 million over the life of the deal.  Or Kemp could have signed for $5 million per season on the open market (if no other alternatives) and cost an additional $35 million.  In a perfect world, it would have been nice to have seen more 2011-type seasons from Kemp before handing him this type of contract.  But given his fairly strong track record, health and young age, the Dodgers needed to lock him up now or risk very much losing him after 2012?  Did they overpay?  Not much by free agency standards.  Even if they overpaid by $30 million over the life of the contract, as long as Kemp continues to stay healthy and produce great to strong numbers, this was a deal that had to get done.  With the ownership turmoil and inability to attract and keep key players, this signing sends a message that the Dodgers are “back in business.”  Exactly what the fans want to hear.
 
 
Q:  Thoughts on Cespedes and Darvish? Any chance Blue Jays sign ‘em?  From Thomas
 
A:  There are approximately fans from 30 MLB teams that are hoping their teams will make a push for the 2 likely biggest international free agents.  Yu Darvish from Japan and Yoennis Cespedes from Cuba.  While Darvish will need to be posted and bid upon, Cespedes once declared would be free to sign with any team.  At 26-years of Cespedes is reported to be major league ready.  Viewers of his YouTube video are excited at his abilities at the plate.  He will reportedly cost in the $50 million range to sign.  Darvish, at 25-years of age, is one of the most highly touted pitchers ever to come from Japan.  If he is posted (which is still a big-if at this stage), Darvish is likely to cost north of $100 million (with the posting fee) to sign.  Will the Jays sign either or both?  My answer: no.  Not because the team is not competitive.  Far from it.  But because they will not throw a lot of money on risky propositions.  Neither player has played a single inning of Major League Ball.  No matter how each has fared competitively to-date, few could predict how their games will translate to the major leagues.  The Jays are already stacked in the oufield, with Bautista, Rasmus, Snider and Thames to choose from.  Edwin Encarnacion is even being tried out in the outfield in winterball.  Anthony Gose is also a young hot-shot prospect that will be landing in Toronto soon.  The Jays do not have a strong need for an outfielder and certainly will not want to devote a large portion of their budget to an unknown like Cespedes.  Especially given the mixed track record of Cuban hitters thus far in the majors.  The Jays’ budget would be better spent on pitching.  But to pay $50 million to win the Darvish posting and then sign him for another $50 million, that could translate to $20 million per season for 5 seasons.  That is insanity money.  At that point, I would rather sign C.J. Wilson for 5-years $100 million.  A far more certain return.  The Jays will pick up a strong DH bat this offseason, perhaps a new first baseman and 1-2 new starting pitchers.  They will be shopping.  But no mail-order-players are likely coming anytime soon to Toronto.
 
 
Final Q:  Psychology professor asked what our biggest stressors in life are. I said Brandon Inge still being a Tiger. Everyone looked at me weird.  From Ashley
 
A:  Time to change schools?  If any of your classmates are baseball fans, they must not watch the Tigers very often or simply fail to grasp the horrible play of Inge.  I rarely use the word “hate”. But as a Tigers follower (yes…they are my team), I do not have the time of day for Inge.  The team has him signed for 1 more season at $5.5 million and a team option for $6 million in 2013 or a $500K buyout.  Expect the buyout.  I get that he is a great team guy, and blah blah blah.  In 144 games in 2010, he hit .247 with 13 home runs.  Looking at his numbers, he had a great year in 2006 and 2009.  That is it.  But yet the Tigers have him signed through to 2012.  Last year, Inge hit .197 with 3 home runs and earned himself a trip back to the minors.  At 34-years of age.  He is done.  Done as dinner.  Stick the fork in him.  One of the most gifted defensive players that I have ever watched, he could do it all with the glove.  Perhaps he sticks around as a late-inning defensive replacement.  He is a good emergency catcher and strong third baseman.  But his career as a full-time player is over.  If the Tigers are prepared to leave him on the bench and mentor the young players, I am all for it.  But otherwise, they need to hang onto Ramon Santiago and simply let the Inge-era end.  Brandon Inge has cool tattoos and has provided some spark hits through his career.  Its time for the Tigers to thank him for his contributions and move on.   Thank you Ashley for understanding.  I feel your pain.
 
 

ARCHIVE:  Click here for Past Issues of Ask the Reports

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.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)


The End of the Astros: Bring Back the Houston Colt .45s

Saturday November 19, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The big news of the day in Houston is the approval of the sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane.  Drayton McLane is out as owner.  The final price tag for the team was $615 million.  The catch?  Starting in 2013, the Astros are being realigned to the AL West.  “Houston” has played in the National League since 1962, the year the team was awarded the franchise.  But after 50 years playing NL baseball, the Astros are off to play in the American League.  Houston fans are somewhat dismayed…all the way to upset.  There are season ticket holders that are choosing not to renew their ticket packages.  Attendance is down.  The team has gutted to the point that it is almost a AAA team.  Now, the team is being moved to the American League.  For fans of National League baseball, this move is hard to swallow.  A big advantage of the move is the rivalry that will come into place with the neighboring Texas Rangers.  But with the Mariners, Angels and Athletics in the same division, time zones will be a big problem for Astros fans watching road games.  With all the minuses in the equation, something else needs to be done.  The move to the AL, may create somewhat of a buzz, but perhaps not enough to repair the damages that will result from the move.  The solution?  Re-brand the Astros.  Bring back the Colts .45s.

For you baseball history buffs, the Houston Colt .45s was the original name for the Houston MLB franchise.  The name was conceived by a “pick the name contest”- and what a name it was!  With the idea of the “old west”, the idea of the old colt .45 gun was very cool and classic.   It really fit the Texas mold.  The team even played at Colt Stadium.  But three years later, the team had its own indoor stadium.  The famous (or infamous) Astrodome.  For thirty-five years, the Astrodome was known as the first indoor MLB stadium with the first non-grass surface (appropriately named AstroTurf).  With the space program popularity in Houston, the team very much built itself on the “Astro” concept.  The Houston Astros.  AstroTurf.  The Astrodome.  But now, Houston:  We have a problem.  The team changed locations into a retractable roof stadium in 2000.  Originally named Enron Field and now Minute Maid Park.  No more Astrodome.  The field in the new park, was grass.  No more AstroTurf.  In fact, only the Rays and Blue Jays still play on turf.  So with the Astrodome and AstroTurf gone, why stick with the “Astros” name? The space program connection was probably very hip and trendy in its day.  But as long as I can remember (80’s – Present), the Astros name is not a beloved or dear brand.  It is time to end the final link to the Astros days.

Everything old is new again.  Retro is in.  People love nostalgia, especially baseball fans.  I can’t recall one baseball conversation that I have ever had that included the Colt .45s without the party getting excited.  There was something about that name and logo.  Part of it was the short life span (only three seasons).  It is a very “cool” name.  Original.  You just don’t see a sports team with a name like that.  Then you take into account the logo and Colt .45s envy begins.  I have been to Cooperstown.  I have been to many major league stadiums.  Bring up the Colt .45s name and you generate excitement.  So here is my proposal.  Starting in 2013, to coincide with their move to the AL West, the Houston Astros would become known as the Houston Colt .45s.  The result?  The team would carry excitement and interest everywhere they go.  Merchandise sales would be through the roof.  For a team with a sub-par talent level playing in a league that is largely opposed by its fan base, renaming the team would give the edge that is needed.

I know what many of you are going to say.  I can hear it now.  You cannot promote guns.  Guns means violence and killing.  It will send a bad message.  Etc…Etc…Etc… I get it.  Yes.  Many of you that are sensitive to these issues may be initially “gun-shy” about the idea.  But let’s be realistic.  There is violence and bad influences all over society, from televisions shows, movies, commercials, music, magazines, video games and much of pop culture.  To me, it is not like it is a picture of a bullet or open wound.  Much of the younger generation wouldn’t necessarily know that a colt .45 was a gun.  From there, with a classic and simple logo- the “gun” part of the colt .45s shouldn’t conjure up violence and negative images.  It is simply a a piece of history.  Almost a work of art.  A piece of Houston history and culture.  Like the old wild west.  When the Colt .45s come to play, it will be like an old-time showdown.  The name is chique.  The logo is very hip.  It will be a winner.

For you baseball fans that are about ready to jump out of your seat and order your Colt .45s jersey, I have some bad news.  The name change is not coming any time soon.  It still remains a figment of my imagination and passion.  But with enough of a vision and push, it could happen.  I have seen stranger things develop.  I can see only good things happening if the Houston Colt .45s return.  Even if the publicity is not all positive, the name change will get many fans talking.  A buzz will be created.  For a team that is on the decline and with little upside to look forward to, a name change is probably the biggest quick-fix scheme you will find.  Let’s bury the Astros name with the Astrodome and AstroTurf.  After erasing two mistakes, let’s finish off the third and final portion and bring back respectability to Houston.  Let’s give the team an old/new identity.  The Colt 45 will become the weapon that Houston uses to climb back to baseball respectability and eventually excellence.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Stolen Bases: Fantasy Baseball Strategies to Increasing Steals

Thursday November 17, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Of the five categories in standard 5X5 roto leagues, it is SB’s that fantasy owners most commonly have the incorrect approach. In this article I will highlight players to target and avoid in the stolen base department, as well as discuss basic fantasy strategy.

There are certainly several one trick ponies, such as Brett Gardner, Michael Bourn, and Coco Crisp, who provide elite production in this department. However, there are a couple of things you must consider. These types of players, who will hopefully hit for average and contribute to runs, will hurt your team’s HR and RBI performance. Therefore, be sure that you have excess value dispersed throughout the rest of your lineup to compensate. Secondly, you are heavily relying one on player for your production in this category, and as a result an injury can leave your team devastated. Thus, it is essential, particularly in the early rounds, that you find players who do everything, including steal bases. Even 5-10 steals that a player contributes above the position average will give you a significant edge.

A player to target next year, Eric Hosmer, quietly stole 11 bases in 2011. The young left-hander batted .313 with 11 HR and 44 RBI’s in the second half last season. While his still progressing power production puts him the second tier of first baseman, his double-digit stolen base potential makes him intriguing and perhaps underrated. Still, this guy finished the season with 19 home runs and 78 RBI’s in 128 games played. Since there are a slew of first baseman that finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBI, they will likely be targeted before Homer. Therefore, I like Hosmer as a guy who might just as well approach these power numbers but also steal 15 bases. For this same reason, I like Joey Votto over any other first baseman not named Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera. While, Adrian and Gonzalez and Prince Fielder might put up higher power numbers and similar batting averages, Joey Votto’s 10 stolen bases will make him significantly more valuable. Albert Pujols is also good for ten stolen bases as well. Only Miguel Cabrera out produces Votto enough in the other four categories to excuse his lack of stolen bases.

Now extend this approach to each position. Dustin Pedroia and his 25-30 stolen bases is more valuable than Robinson Cano and his 5-10 stolen bases, despite the fact Cano finished with 7 more home runs and 25 RBI’s. A player I like at this position if you can afford to take the hit in HR’s and RBI’s is Jemile Weeks, who finished with 22 stolen bases in just 97 games. He will get to play full-time in Oakland, and as long as he is hitting above .290, can be valuable to your roster as a good source of steals. On the decline is Brandon Phillips who has dropped from 25 to 16 to 14 stolen bases the last three seasons. This makes him no longer elite, especially when Ian Kinsler is doing 30/30. An interesting group of players, Kelly Johnson, Danny Espinosa, and Ben Zobrist each his 20 home runs and stole over 15 bases. However, they each struggled with average. Again, take not of your team’s strengths. If you own Votto and a couple of other average anchors, these types of players can be good sources of power and stolen bases at the second base position.

Instead of continuing on and telling you the elite base stealers position by position (you can easily look this up), I will give you my 2012 sleepers and busts.

Stolen Base Sleepers:

Don’t forget that Brett Lawrie’s one-quarter of a season not only put him on pace to hit 36 home runs and 100 RBI’s, but also projected him to finish with 28 stolen bases.

Peter Bourjos made noise at the end of the season and once stole 50 bases in the minor leagues. For the speedy outfielder, it was all about getting on base after a 2010 debut in which he batted .204 in 51 games. However, he greatly improved his contact ability, although still needs to improve walk rate, and batted .271 and stole 21 bases for the Angels. He also hit 12 home runs, and has the potential for a productive .280 15 HR 30 SB stat line in 2012.

After stealing 19 bases in 2011, I expect Shane Victorino to reach the 30 mark once again in 2012. It’s not that he didn’t run when he was on base, but his lower than usual BABIP and high than usual ISO (measures true power) simply meant he was not on first base as often as he normally is. With Rollins likely out of Philadelphia, I expect Victorino to ne at the top of the lineup and as aggressive as ever on the base paths.

Keep you eye Cameron Maybin, who stole 40 bases in 137 games for the Padres. As long as he has the chance to play semi-regularly, he is elite in the stolen base category. Furthermore, he appears to be approaching double-digit home run output as well, although he is only a career .255 hitter.

Monitor where Coco Crisp ends up in 2012. I loved him at Oakland in 2011 because he was one of the better hitters on the team (sadly) and at times batted third, but also batted lead off and in the second spot. In addition to leading the American League in steals, he had decent contributions in other categories (8 HR and 54 RBI) compared to some of the other stolen base leaders.

Dexter Fowler is a name to remember because he is simply one of the fastest players in baseball. However, he only stole 12 and 13 bases during the last two years, respectively. He was also caught an alarming 25 times. If he can learn to run on the base paths, he can be elite in this category. It is possible for major leaguers to learn the art of stealing bases. Look at Adam Jones, who was 12/16 on the base paths in 2011 after a 7/14 2010. I expect Jones, who is approaching a contract season, to come closer to 20 steals in 2012.

Speedsters to avoid? Juan Pierre. He really contributes in no other categories and is getting slower, getting caught 17 times in 44 chances in 2011. Furthermore, I do not expect any team to give him the 639 at bats that the White Sox foolishly provided him. Sadly, Ichiro Suzuki is clearly on the decline and appears to be a shell of his former elite self. The same is true with Bobby Abreu.

***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.

Justin Verlander Wins the 2011 AL Cy Young Award: MVP to Follow

Wednesday November 16, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Congratulations to Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, who was the named the 2011 American League Cy Young Award winner on Tuesday.  Verlander was the unanimous choice after leading the lead in most key pitching categories. He absolutely had a season for the ages, with a 24-5 record, 251 IP, 34 starts, 250 strikeouts, 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  This was truly the year of the Verlander and next Monday, the magic is expected to continue with Verlander being named the AL MVP.

We will get to the pitchers being named MVP next week.  For the time being at least, nobody could dispute that Justin Verlander was the top pitcher in the AL in 2011.  After 7 seasons, Verlander already has 107 wins.  At 28-years of age, he has a chance to make a strong run for the next years, health permitting.  Signed to a 5-year $79.5 million contract running through 2014, the Tigers have their ace locked up for the next few seasons as they try to maintain a balanced playoff-caliber team.  A 4-time All-Star who also a Rookie of the Year Award in his cabinet, the sky is the limit for Justin Verlander.  There were other strong pitchers this year in the American League.  C.C. Sabathia, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, just to name a few.  But based on the voting, the award was deservingly given to Verlander.  He was truly the best hurler in the American League and deserved to win this award.

This afternoon the American League will be naming its Manager of the Year.  This one is expected to go to Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, although Jim Leyland of the Tigers and Ron Washington of the Rangers should receive consideration as well.  Everyone has awards fever as Major League Baseball continues to hand out its annual hardware into next week.  Stay tuned!  Free agency is also alive and well with most of the big free agents still yet to sign.  MLB reports has you covered and will report all the big signings as they happen.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Time Has Come For the Royals to Trade Soria

Tuesday November 15, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the free agency season in full swing, some teams may not be happy with the sticker prices on available players.  Especially when it comes to pitching, including closers.  Jonathan Papelbon recently grabbed $50 million from the Phillies and reports have Ryan Madson looking at a deal in the $40 million range.  These figures make existing closers signed to reasonable deals an attractive trade commodity, despite the amount of available relief pitchers on the market.  There may be a quantity of closers, but certainly not quality.  Outside of Mariano Rivera and Papelbon, there are few sure-fire closers currently in baseball.  Enter Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals.

A 2-time All-Star, Soria has put up some impressive numbers in his 5 seasons in Kansas City.  Two seasons of 40+ saves, Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP.  Soria will only be 28 next year and could theoretically be a building block for the next few seasons in Kansas City.  However, closers are generally considered to be foundational players.  Soria is no exception.  2011 was his most difficult seasons in the majors, as he did save 28 games but put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP (all career worsts).  Soria is signed for $6 million this coming season and has 2 more team options at roughly $8 million per season.  The Royals are faced with a decision: hold onto their star closer, or cash in while his market is at its peak.

The Royals are on the way up.  No doubt about it.  Mike Moustakas, Erik Hosmer, Wil Myers, John Lamb and company are expected to come together at the same time to make the Royals the next powerhouse squad.  By my estimation, they should be World Series contenders by 2015.  But with a couple of more seasons of growing pains ahead, can they afford the luxury of Soria?  My argument is no.  Soria’s salary in 2012 is still considered a “deal”, but from 2013 go-forward at $8 million, the Royals would be wise to spend their salary dollars in other areas.  There are still holes to fill on the squad, including 1-2 more bats and starting pitching.  The team will also need to lock up some of its young star players early to avoid unaffordable contract demands down the road.  Joakim Soria can bring back a nice haul to fill needs and stock the team for a future championship.  The team needs to be realistic of where it is today, where it is going in the future and the players it needs to get there.

The Royals also have options to replace Soria.  Aaron Crow (if he is not moved into the rotation) and Tim Collins could all get a shot.  Luke Hochevar, who has been hot/cold during his career in the rotation may eventually settle into the bullpen.  Options are there.  Heck, the Royals plunked Soria from the Rule-5 draft and transformed him from a Padres outcast into a star closer.  With the risk of injury and ineffectiveness always hanging over closers, the Royals may be gambling if they hang onto Soria much longer.  Another season like 2011 could severely damage his trade value, while he could bring in a nice crop of 2-3 prospects if traded this offseason.  The Royals need to do some soul-searching and realize that Soria is worth more in a trade than on their roster.

Teams will surely line-up if Joakim Soria is made available.  The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals would all surely inquire as to his availability.   From all reports, the Yankees and Blue Jays are the strongest contenders to land the Royals closer.  Don’t get me wrong- I am a Joakim Soria fan.  I believe the kid is immensely talented and has the talent and determination to remain a top MLB closer for another decade (health permitting).  But on a losing ballclub that is rebuilding, Joakim Soria is a luxury that the Royals simply cannot afford.  If the team has to trade a Moustakas or Hosmer given their budget but retain Soria, that would be a big mistake in my estimation.  The team needs to build for 2015- not 2012.  This offseason represents a golden opportunity for the Royals to continue to replenish its roster and fill more holes.  The Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was that type of step in the right direction.  If Melky was a Prince, it is time for the Royals to flip their King for a pair of Wild Cards.  It could prove to be their ultimate winning hand.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Kimbrel and Hellickson Named the 2011 AL and NL Rookie Of The Year

Tuesday November 15, 2011

Sam Evans:If you haven’t heard already, on Monday, Major League Baseball announced the rookie of the year winners. Craig Kimbrel won the NL ROY, and Jeremy Hellickson won the AL ROY. Let’s look at the winners and whether or not each deserved their respective awards.

Craig Kimbrel: National League Rookie of the Year:

Craig Kimbrel received a whopping 32 out of 32 first place votes, becoming the 17th player to receive all first place votes. In my opinion, the Atlanta Braves closer Kimbrel definitely deserved this award. He was not only extremely impressive to the eye, but the numbers backed it up. Kimbrel finished with 18 earned runs in 77 innings. He finished with 46 saves and struck out 14.84 K/9. Coming in second place was Kimbrel’s teammate Freddie Freeman with 70 votes, but no first place votes.

I would usually be hesitant to give a closer the award over a player who plays every day. However, Craig Kimbrel is just downright filthy. He might have the best curveball in baseball, and he is only 23 years old. It is impressive for a young flame throwing reliever to be consistent throughout the whole regular season. Not to mention, Braves Manager Fredi González, probably used Kimbrel more than he should have. This was evidenced when Kimbrel had a rough last month of the season with an ERA of 4.76.  It should be noted that Kimbrel threw more innings in 2011 then he threw in any one year throughout the minors. Overall, I think that the voters made the right decision here. Kimbrel was the best reliever in all of baseball and was a very valuable asset to his team.

Jeremy Hellickson: American League Rookie of the Year

Hellickson received 17 out of 28 first place votes. This award was a surprise to a lot of people, including Hellickson,””I guess I was a little surprised, there was a handful of guys I think all had the same amount of chance to win.” If you remember back to September, I wrote that I thought Mark Trumbo should win the AL ROY. Well, I admit that I changed my mind since then. I came to the conclusion that either Michael Pineda or Eric Hosmer were more deserving of the award. Trumbo came in second place with 63 votes (5 1st place votes), thirty-nine behind Hellickson.

I can’t say that I was surprised when I heard that Hellickson won the award. After all, he pitches in by far, the strongest division in the league, he almost threw 200 innings, and he had an ERA under 3.00. Unfortunately, when you take a closer look at his peripherals, Hellickson really didn’t have the year that his standard numbers suggest. He had a SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) of 4.63 and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.44. Who knows what Hellickson’s numbers would have looked like without an outstanding defense behind him! He only struck out 5.57 batters per nine innings, and an 82 LOB %. What these numbers tell us is that Hellickson really had luck on his side and he likely wasn’t even the best rookie pitcher in his division.

I’m not so sure that Hellickson deserved this award. I’m not saying he didn’t have an amazing year helping lead the Rays to the playoffs. I just think that their were stronger candidates to win the ROY award in the AL.

Moneyball to be Released on Blu-Ray and DVD: January 10, 2012

 

Monday November 14, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  It is very difficult to go through nearly four months of baseball withdrawal until live spring training games commence.  After the last pitch of the World Series is completed, baseball fans are left to hibernate in their homes and prepare for the next season.  Talk of Winter Ball.  The Arizona Fall League.  Free Agency.  Winter Meetings.  Great topics to keep the baseball talk alive during the winter.  But this is not always enough.  Baseball fans need their fix.  In the technology age we live in, there is the internet, dvds and Blu-rays.  Classic baseball games can be viewed with one press of a button.  For those that long for the mix of Hollywood and baseball, there is nothing finer than baseball movies.  The best one to come along in some time was the 2011 blockbuster “Moneyball”, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.  If you are in need of a baseball fix, Moneyball is for you.

On Saturday I went back to watch Moneyball in the theatre.  Again.  I simply can’t get enough of this film.  The running time is over 2 hours long, but you don’t feel it.  Moneyball, simply put, is a great movie.  It has a strong story line, excellent performances by its cast and the movie just flows very well.  From Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, Jonah Hill as Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta), Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, Casey Bond as Chad Bradford, Stephen Bishop as David Justice- everything clicked in this movie.  The good news is that the movie will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray for your viewing pleasure.  The bad news is that you have to wait until January 10th, 2012.  For those of you hoping to have a copy of this movie in your hands by the holidays, you will need to wait just a little longer.

The plot of Moneyball, as a book and movie, have been discussed to a large degree already.  The point that I wanted to get across to the readers today is to keep an open mind when watching this movie, if you haven’t already.  While Moneyball for the most part has received strong reviews, there are some criticisms that I have read which I wish to address.  The Anti-Moneyball points can be narrowed to the following:

1)  The Movie is out of date:  The Oakland Athletics are a losing ballclub and Moneyball is no longer relevant.

2) The movie neglects to discuss key players like Nick Swisher and Jeremy Brown, focal points in the book.

3) Art Howe is unfairly portrayed in the movie as compared to the book.

4) For all the success of Moneyball in 2002, the movie does not bring up the Big-3 of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson (who many point to being the direct reason for the team’s success, rather than Moneyball).

5)  Billy Beane actually took the Red Sox job and then changed his mind.

The list goes on and on.   Here is the bottom line.  A Hollywood is easy to critique and find faults and mistakes.  But a movie needs to be taken for what it is.  A movie.  Even for baseball experts, take a movie for what it is and just enjoy it.  If you are going to rip fault into Moneyball for being irrelevant, think again.  The Oakland Athletics did not become a losing ballclub since 2006 because Moneyball stopped working.  It became a reality that every other ballclub start doing what the A’s were doing long before anyone else.  Using that thought process, Moneyball is a landmark film to showcase the entire approach of Major League Baseball and how its teams changed their approaches.  The Moneyball approach is very much relevant and continues to be in play today.  It just so happened that everyone else caught up to Oakland and now they need to continue to adapt.

If you love baseball and you love movies, make sure you get out to a theatre to watch Moneyball one more time before it arrives on Blu-ray and DVD.  Moneyball will go down as one of the best baseball movies of all time and you will want to remember the movie on the big screen for the full experience.  From there, starting January 10th, 2012 (mark the date on your calendar), you will be able to enjoy the movie at home for years to come.  A great baseball movie.  The perfect remedy to a long baseball offseason.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

Ask the Reports: Sunday November 13th

Sunday November 13, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Ask the Reports is back! After some thought and re-branding: we have decided to drop the E-mailbag moniker and to keep this section as “Ask the Reports”, which will appear every weekend.  E-mails is but one form you can reach MLB reports. You can follow us on Twitter  and tweet and direct message your questions and comments.  You can “Like” us on Facebook and write on our wall.  You can also leave all questions and comments at the end of each article and page on the website. With social media exploding as it has, we are truly connected in so many ways.  

So keep reading MLB reports. Everyday. Twice a day or more if your schedule allows it. Subscribe to the site to have all current articles sent to your e-mailbox. But most of all:  participate. Send tweets. Write on our Facebook wall. Comment on articles and leave feedback. MLB reports is for you: the readers. The love of baseball is best nurtured if enjoyed as a community. So don’t be shy. Get in touch with us as often as you can. Let your voice be heard on our Facebook wall. There is nothing better than an old-fashioned baseball debate.  We call it MLB4Life on Twitter because we all love baseball for life. Baseball is more than a passion.  It is a lifestyle. Thank you for enjoying MLB reports and we look forward to hearing from you.  Plus you never know when your questions will be answered in “Ask the Reports”: so keep checking and asking your questions every week!

Let’s get to your questions:

Q: Hi.  I just read the article: To Keep or Get Rid of the DH: The Future of the Designated Hitter in MLB and I wanted your honest opinion. Please reply with it. Thanks!! A 7th Grade Red Sox Fan in Maine
A:  This is an older question which I answered directly to the reader but wanted to share with the readers.  As many of you know reading my work, I am not the biggest proponent of the Designated Hitter.  I don’t hate it per say- but I am a bigger of fan of the National League game. I have read in baseball circles that Major League Baseball is working toward switching up the DH in interleague games.  Meaning there will be a DH in National League parks and no DH in American League parks. An exciting move should it come to fruition, that fans should very much enjoy.  The best pro-DH argument that I have heard is that the pitchers for the most part have little ability to hit and it is time to take that part of the game.  While that is true on some levels, having pitchers hit forces NL managers to use more strategy in games.  There are some strong hitting NL pitchers out there and the bottom is if pitchers know they will have to hit, they will just have to improve themselves in that department.  Ultimately I do not think the DH is going anywhere in the AL.  The players’ union will not allow MLB to get rid of it, as it will cost many older players their jobs.  But by the same token, given the tradition of the NL- I do  not see the DH being used in that league either.  But if I had my way: get rid of the DH and play “real baseball” across the board.  That is my two cents, for what its worth.
Q:  I have a question Mr. MLB reports Writer:  Where did the game of baseball first develop? What country, year, how did it take off, etc. Someone asked me this yesterday and I had no idea.  Mark
A: Great question Mark.  Thank you for the question.  I have read many great accounts on the subject.  However I will rely on Wikipedia for this one:

“The first published rules of baseball were written in 1845 for a New York (Manhattan) “baseball” club called the Knickerbockers. The author, Shane Ryley Foster, is one person commonly known as “the father of baseball”. One important rule, the 13th, stipulated that the player need not be physically hit by the ball to be put out; this permitted the subsequent use of a farther-travelling hard ball. Evolution from the so-called “Knickerbocker Rules” to the current rules is fairly well documented.

On June 3, 1953, Congress officially credited Alexander Cartwright with inventing the modern game of baseball, and he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, the role of Cartwright himself has been disputed. His authorship may have been exaggerated in a modern attempt to identify a single inventor of the game, although Cartwright may have a better claim to the title than any other single American.

Cartwright, a New York bookseller who later caught “gold fever”, umpired the first-ever recorded U.S. baseball game with codified rules in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846. He also founded the older of the two teams that played that day, the New York Knickerbockers. Cartwright also introduced the game in most of the cities where he stopped on his trek west to California to find gold.

One point undisputed by historians is that the modern professional major leagues that began in the 1870s developed directly from amateur urban clubs of the 1840s and 1850s, not from the pastures of small towns such as Cooperstown.”

Q:  Albert Pujols to the Marlins.  Done deal?  Excited Marlins Fan
A:  Not even close my friend.  Not even close.  Pujols did meet with Marlins’ officials this week and was reported to have received a contract offer.  But no- there is no contract in place.  The expectation is that Pujols will be staying in St. Louis.  He has won 2 World Series titles with the Cardinals, including last year’s championship.  He has played in St. Louis for his entire career.  All else being equal, no other teams will offer Pujols more money than the Cardinals.  Even if the difference is give or take $20 million, the man will receive a $200 million dollar deal.  He lives in Missouri, he has roots in the community. Pujols is a Cardinal for life.
Q:  Do you follow any other sports? I love baseball, but football is great also. Cindy
A:  Sorry: baseball only here.  In my younger days I did keep up with the three other major sports.  But life always came back to baseball for me.  162 games, plus spring training and the playoffs.  It is a long season.  But for a baseball fan like myself, there never seems to be enough baseball.  I will go watch another sport if invited.  But you will never find me watching another sport on television.  To be able to write about baseball everyday- the focus has to be on one sport.  Baseball consumes me.  I would not have it any other way.
Q:  Growing up in Cleveland as an Indians fan, my grandfather was also a fan of the Dodgers. I remember going over to his house and watching a Dodger game on tv. As an adult, I am still a fan of the Dodgers, with the Tribe number one on my list. My question: out of all the groups out there trying to buy the Dodgers, who do you think would be able to bring back the history and enjoyment to L.A.??
Thanks in advance.  Larry
A:  The last question of course goes to our #1 fan.  Great question as always.  For the time being, the names that are getting the most press are those of Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey.  The Hershiser/Garvey group is making the loudest bid for the Dodgers, at approximately $1 billion.  But in the background, word is that former owner Peter O’Malley and former GM Fred Claire are also putting together their bids.  For excitement and name recognition, you have to give it to Hershiser/Garvey.  But at restoring the franchise back to former glory, I think it is time to bring back O’Malley.  For tradition and building winning ball clubs, there were few finer than O’Malley.  I still see that other bidders will come into the process, including Mark Cuban.  But Major League Baseball will look for stability and in the best interests of the Dodgers, in reviewing any agreements that Frank McCourt and a winning bidder reach.  This one is far from owner, but if I had to pick the “best” group for the Dodgers, mine would be on Peter O’Malley.

ARCHIVE:  Click here for Past Issues of Ask the Reports

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.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)


Dustin Ackley: A Look at His Young Career and Bright Future

Sunday November 13, 2011

Sam Evans: Dustin Ackley has one of the brighter futures of all young major leaguers. He has lived up to the hype on every team he’s played on and has yet to appear overmatched in the majors.

Dustin Ackley was born in 1988 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In high school we won two state championships in baseball and made honor roll. In 2007, as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Ackley hit over .400 and started all of his teams 73 games. Ackley, and fellow future first-rounder Alex White, led their team to the College World Series championship but lost to Oregon State. As a sophomore, Ackley just improved, batting .417 on the year.

One thing the average baseball fan doesn’t realize is that Ackley does have a serious injury history. As a junior, he had Tommy John surgery and was forced to play first base for the Tar Heels. Nevertheless, in 2009 he hit .417 again except this time showing off his power hitting 22 home runs. In his three years at North Carolina, Ackley had a OBP of .487, stole more than 10 bases every year, and firmly established his reputation as the best college hitter entering the 2009 draft.

After the consensus #1 pick Stephen Strasburg was selected by the Nationals, the Mariners picked Ackley. It was considered a pretty solid pick and not a stretch by any means. “We think he’s a player that will move pretty quick,” Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik said. What’s interesting is that Zduriencik himself actually scouted Ackley in North Carolina, which is rare for a GM living on the other side of the U.S.

The Mariners signed Ackley to a five-year, 7.5 million dollar, major league contract, just before the deadline. Before the 2010 season, the Mariners made a highly criticized move, deciding to move Dustin Ackley, the longtime UNC outfielder, to second base. At the time, most scouts were doubtful of Ackley’s ability to stick at second base.

2010 was an interesting year for Ackley. He got off to a very slow start at AA West Tennessee, but still managed to get on base at a .389 clip, and quieted a couple of whispers about his defense. After 82 games in Tennessee, Ackley was promoted to AAA Tacoma. I was lucky enough to see him a couple of times that year, and he reminded me very much of Tony Gwynn. Obviously, not as developed as a hitter, but he possessed a very mature approach at the plate. Ackley doesn’t go up to the plate trying to hit a homer every time, he just tries to put a good swing on the ball, and get on base. He has an amazing lefty stroke that is quick through the zone.

At the start of the 2011 season, Ackley headed back to Tacoma. In 66 games there, he made it obvious that he was ready for the majors, hitting .303. On June 17, 2011, Ackley made his major league debut. When i heard that Ackley was called up, I made it my first priority to find tickets to the game. I ended up sitting in Section 323 on the first base line. There was a different feel in the usually disinterested Safeco Field that night. The Mariners were playing the Phillies, and Roy Oswalt was taking the mound for the Phils. In Ackley’s first at-bat, with Phillies fans chanting, “OVER RATED,” Ackley singled up the middle. His major-league career just took off from there.

Ackley played 90 games for the Mariners in 2011. He batted .273 with a .348 OBP and a .417 slugging percentage. He also had a OPS+ of 117, and looked solid at second base, committing only six errors and assisting in 49 double plays.

The sky is the limit for Ackley. Scouts are still doubting his ability to play second base, but as long as he stays passable there, the Mariners have their second basemen for the next era.

Ackley could at some point turn in a MVP caliber season, but he’s not especially a power hitter. I think that at his peak he’ll hit about 20 home runs with a .300 average and an OBP around .415. If Ackley stays at his pace from last year, which is actually a legitimate estimate, he will be nearly a 5 WAR player in a full season. Now if only more of his teammates were any good…

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 onTwitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click hereand follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Phillies Sign Papelbon Over Madson: The Stare Arrives in Philadelphia

Saturday November 12, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week.  Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year.  Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher.  At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon.  The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011.  But then something interesting happened.  The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart.  A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly!  At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer.  But what happened?  How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?

The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out.  Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product.  In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract.  While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position.  While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season.  But something funny happened this season.  Madson became solid.  So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP.  With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap.  But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure.  The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson.  The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.

The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer.  In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a  large pact.  But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season.  The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain.  But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go?  Simple.  Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public.  The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it.  But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal.  By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof.  It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%.  Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.

The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn.  While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted.  If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount.  The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put.  At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume.  The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.

For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation.  Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon.  The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board.  Roy Halladay.  Cliff Lee.  Now Jonathan Papelbon.  When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin.  Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff.  So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way.  The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season.  As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable.  But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget.  With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.

The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today.  While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract.  At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon.  While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team.  The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer.  The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon.  While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.

A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers.  By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency.  The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery.  But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans.  At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear.  Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season.  Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.

When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me.  Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon.  Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent.  But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season.  The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons.  There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia.  The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out.  The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love.  Another World Series may not be far behind.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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 Free Agent Closer Carousel

Friday November 11, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  Every one of the MLB’s franchises will be looking for bullpen help, and most will be looking to add a major contributor to the back-end.  The closer position is one that is seen as the most underrated as well as the most overrated job in all of baseball.  On one hand, some people may over-value a closer’s “makeup” and poise, where others say “it’s the same as pitching at any point in the game.”  While I like to sit somewhere between these two concepts, most fans like knowing that their team employs a “proven veteran closer.”  All you have to do is look at the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 to notice that is not necessarily the case.  Their closer was Jason Motte, although Tony La Russa refused to officially anoint him so.  Motte had 12 career saves going into the postseason, 9 of which were in 2011.  However, the fireballer was dominant in the postseason, and helped to bring in another World Series title to St. Louis.

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox employed a closer by the name of Jonathan Papelbon, a 2nd year closer, and they went on to win the World Series.  There are several other times where a homegrown closer has led his team to a championship, Brian Wilson of the 2010 San Francisco Giants being another recent one.

There are many closers without a set home for 2012, with Papelbon headlining that list.  It has been said that Papelbon is looking for a 4 year contract, and could even get a 5th guaranteed year on the open market.  Much of the early talk about closers this off-season has surrounded Ryan  Madson, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was rumored that he had agreed with the Phillies to a 4 year, $44M contract with a 5th year as a vesting option.  It was said that the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was awaiting approval from team president David Montgomery.   It has recently come to light that Amaro Jr. has vehemently denied these rumors.

Frank Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero are all closers who may be looking for new homes in 2012.  Also available are Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, David Aardsma, and Takashi Saito.

The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Houston Astros are some of the teams who figure to be in the market for a closer, if not to upgrade.

Because of the Madson fiasco that has been taking place, I doubt he re-signs with the Phillies.  The Phillies seem to have moved on to their next target, Papelbon.   All Papelbon has done in his 6+ seasons with the Red Sox is accumulate 219 saves with a 4.43 K/BB ratio.  His career ERA sits at 2.33 while his FIP isn’t far off at 2.60, showing just how good he actually is.  I think a 4 year deal worth $51M and a vesting option of $15M would likely get the job done.

Madson’s early “almost signing” may have set the bar for Papelbon, and Madson will be looking for something in the same range. He may have to settle for a bit less as the Phillies look to get the signing done quickly.  Madson took over for Brad Lidge, who battled injuries in 2011 as the Phillies closer.  A 3.88 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate close to 50% ensured a very successful season where his FIP was 2.25.  4 years and $40M should get it done, and I see him going to the LA Dodgers.

Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn’t get an opportunity to close out games.  His displeasure with the situation was coming out, even though incumbent closer John Axford was performing extremely well, and the club was on its way to a playoff berth.  The Miami Marlins (still doesn’t feel right to say) are looking to be huge spenders this off-season, and I see no difference with K-Rod.  Rodriguez  has 291 saves in his career, including a single season record 62 in 2008 with the LA Angels of Anaheim.  I see the 30-year-old signing a 3 year deal worth $30M to usurp the incumbent Marlins closer, Juan Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez).

Heath Bell is a closer who has had tremendous numbers over the last three seasons, albeit in ultra spacious Petco Park as his home field.  His K rate dipped this year, and may have been a bit lucky with a .261 BABIP.  San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes has already said he would likely offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent.  Bell has also said in the past that he would accept arbitration, as he likes San Diego.  This presents a slight problem for the cash-strapped Padres, who prefer to keep their payroll lower.  Bell will be due a raise from the $7.5M he made in 2011, so a $9-10M 1 year deal will likely be in place here with the Padres.

Joe Nathan is a special case, because he had an option of $12.5M declined by the Minnesota Twins, who would still like to bring him back.  Nathan did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and threw 44 2/3 mediocre innings in 2011.  However, over his last 27 innings, he gave up only 20 hits, 5 walks and 10 runs, really finishing strong and proving he is healthy again.  The downfall is that by spring training, he will be 38 years old and clearly looking at the end of his career.  The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer to anchor a bullpen that will see a lot of turnover, and Nathan could be had for $4M and a club option for 2013.

Jonathan Broxton is another closer looking to establish his value.  The hulking 6’4” 300 lb closer had a disappoint 2011 season, and just had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in September.  His K rate has steadily declined from the career high of 13.50/9 IP in 2009.  His ground ball rate, BB/9, ERA and FIP have all suffered at the same time.  Broxton will likely get a one year, incentive-laden deal to prove he is healthy.  He will likely have to settle for a setup man role, and I think he could work with the Mets in spacious Citi Field.

Francisco Cordero has had a 13 year career that started in Detroit, then took him to Texas, Milwaukee then finally Cincinnati.  The Reds recently declined his $12M option, but GM Walt Jocketty has said he hopes to bring the closer back.  However, I don’t see him donning the Reds jersey any longer, as the soon to be 37-year-old will look to move on and close out his career.  While his fastball still averages 93 mph, it is 3 mph slower than Cordero’s prime.  Because of this, his K rate has dipped to 5.43/9IP from 12.22/9IP in 2007.  While his stats have declined, he has averaged 39 saves the last 5 seasons.  He will probably settle for a one year deal worth $6M, where the Minnesota Twins will sign him.

It’s a carousel in the closing world, as more teams are beginning to put less stock in having an established closer at the back of a bullpen.  Homegrown closers are becoming a more popular choice, but some teams look for that slight edge, and if it means overpaying for a pitcher who will throw roughly 5% of the team’s innings, they will do so. 

***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.

An A-to-Z Guide to My MLB Offseason

Friday  November 11, 2011

Daniel Aubain (Guest Writer):  Question: What does a fantasy baseball blogger without a blog do during the offseason? Answer: Guest write an article for one of his favorite baseball sites!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Aubain and I used to run a fantasy baseball blog called Colorado Springs Fantasy Baseball Addict or COSFBA, for short. I recently decided to shut the site down and pursue other writing opportunities but the itch to write has been too strong to ignore. While I am currently working behind the scenes on a new venture, I wanted to take this opportunity today to highlight for you some topics of interest I’ve been or will be following this baseball offseason.

Below is an A-to-Z guide of some of the key topics I am paying attention to this baseball offseason. Enjoy!

  • A is for Awards: So Brett Gardner doesn’t win a Gold Glove (even though he was the best defensive player in all of baseball). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t get a Silver Slugger. And now the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is on Twitter. I’m very excited to see what November 14th through November 22nd has in store for the blogosphere.
  • B is for Baseball: The most minor free agent news or offseason trade (see: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo) trumps ANYTHING going on in the NFL, NHL (that’s still a thing) and the NBA (how much longer until this is no longer a thing?).
  • C is for Closers: Fantasy baseball GMs know to “never pay for saves”. How come real GMs don’t know this? Ryan Madson possibly getting a 4 year/$44M contract offer from the Phillies? Good luck with that.
  • D is for @DJAubain: That’s right. Shameless self promotion. Be sure to follow me at my new Twitter account name. The link is RIGHT THERE!
  • E is for Exhibition Baseball: I hope all of you with the MLB Network were able to catch some of the Taiwan All-Star Series. It was a nice fix for those of us going through withdrawals after an amazing World Series.
  • F is for FanGraphs: Any aspiring Sabermetrician or fan of advanced baseball statistics has to be familiar with FanGraphs by now, right? Well, why not support their work and show the world you’re a big baseball nerd by purchasing one of these fabulous t-shirts. I’ve got mine.
  • G is for Gold Glove: I still can’t believe Brett Gardner didn’t win a Gold Glove. The mainstream media may love awards such as this (it even had its own television show this year) but those of us with any true understanding on how to measure “worthiness” with more than just web gems and name recognition are left scratching our heads more often than not.
  • H is for Hot Stove: Free agent signings. Winter meetings. Blockbuster trades. What’s not to love about the MLB offseason?
  • I is for Intentional Talk: I’m sorry, MLB Network. For all you do right in my eyes, this is your ultimate worst. I find this show unwatchable. It’s so bad it belongs on ESPN.
  • J is for Jose Reyes: Reyes to the Marlins? Not hating it.
  • K is for Keepers: Fantasy baseball GMs all over the country are anxiously discussing whether or not player X or player Y is worthy of being a keeper. I think it is absolutely crazy that some leagues have already required you locking in keepers. Wait until February or March to lock up keepers. It will make your league better. Trust me.
  • L is for Lefty Specialists: Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are both 41 years old, coming off of World Series appearances and free agents. Which GMs are going to overpay for 50-60 appearances and 40-50 innings pitched? I’m hoping the Yankees get one of these guys to replace Boone Logan.
  • M is for Mystery Team: Nothing says offseason free agent signings like a good mystery team in the mix. Who will it be this offseason?
  • N is for Nick Punto: Nick has a World Series ring. Ted Williams and Ernie Banks have zero. Just in case you were wondering.
  • O is for Ozzie Guillen: Ozzie is now with the soon-to-be Miami Marlins and every Latin ballplayer is now rumored to be heading his way via free agency or trades. If only I understood a word he was saying in English. Don’t believe me? Check out his Twitter feed during the World Series.
  • P is for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: How high are these contract numbers going to go and which teams are in the mix? The Yankees can’t sign everyone (in theory). It will be interesting to see where these top sluggers land.
  • Q is for Carlos Quentin: With the Chicago White Sox discussing getting younger and cheaper in 2012, could Quentin be the type of player shipped out of town for a handful of prospects? We shall see. I hear the Marlins have money. Hmmmmm.
  • R is for Realignment: Moving the Houston Astros to the AL West makes absolutely no sense. Thanks, Bud Selig, for the usual knee-jerk reaction to a problem. I’m a huge fan of a radical realignment based on true geographical rivalries. Forget the AL/NL thing. Screw the traditionalists. Make the DH optional. Create regional television networks. Let’s move this game into the 21st century already!
  • S is for Sabermetrics: It’s not going away. It’s not made up of basement-dwelling bloggers. And it is definitely NOT ruining the game of baseball and how it is played on the field. It is a tool used to evaluate and measure the performance of players. Embrace it.
  • T is for Twitter: If you’re not using Twitter, I suggest you check it out. It’s not Facebook.
  • U is for UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is one of the most widely accepted defensive metrics available and yet Brett Gardner, the best defensive player at any position, doesn’t win a Gold Glove. Bitter much? Yes.
  • V is for Vernon Wells: Just a reminder, Wells still has three years left on his contract at $21M per year. That is all.
  • W is for Wilson Ramos: Kidnapped? Unreal. This is just a horrible situation. I hope this gets resolved quickly and without tragedy. We wonder why agents and players lie to escape other countries to come to America to play baseball.
  • X is for X-Factor: No, not that horrible television show on FOX. I’m talking about the intangible “x-factor” agents will be talking about their clients bringing to a team’s clubhouse. Jim Thome has it. Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t have it.
  • Y is for Yuniesky Betancourt: According to the Bill James’ 2012 Handbook (and this tweet), Yuniesky has been baseball’s worst defensive shortstop over the last three seasons; costing his teams 46 runs. Keep that tidbit in mind as this Type B free agent lingers on the market.
  • Z is for the AriZona Fall League: If top prospects are your thing, then you need to be paying attention to what’s taking place in ‘Zona (see what I did there?). Check it out online and be sure to follow it Twitter, too.
Thanks to the great folks at MLB reports for allowing me the opportunity to share my voice with their audience. I truly appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates on what the future has in store for me and all other guest posting articles I’ll be doing this offseason.
 
 
 
 
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.

The Future Of Johan Santana

Thursday November 10, 2011

Sam Evans:  From 2003-2008, Johan Santana was the best pitcher in baseball. During this time period, he posted a 36.0 WAR, which was higher than any other pitcher. He threw over 1300 innings, won two Cy Young awards, had a 9.37 K/9, and had a total ERA of 2.85. The reason that Johan Santana, 32, isn’t still one of the best pitchers in baseball is simple. Injuries.

Before the 2008 season had begun, Santana was finally traded after eight outstanding and underappreciated years in Minnesota. After acquiring Santana, the New York Mets promptly signed him to a six-year, $137.5 million contract, making him one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball.

Then, the wear and tear of pitching so many innings finally kicked in, Santana had surgery to repair a torn Meniscus in his left knee on October 1,2008. Chances are that Santana had pitched with that injury throughout the year. In 2009,  after an impressive 3.13 ERA through 25 starts, Santana had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. For the second season in a row, the longtime warrior wasn’t able to finish  the year on the mound.

2010 was more of the same for Johan. An outstanding season that came to an early close. He had shoulder surgery on September 14 which made him miss not only the rest of the year, but the whole 2011 season as well. There should be nobody questioning Johan’s toughness. Almost every time Santana has been placed on the DL, the team doctors hinted that he had been pitching through the injury for a while.

Not to mention, Santana was taken to court with sexual assault charges in 2010. This might have destroyed part of Santana’s perceived “nice guy” image.

The closest Santana came to pitching in the big leagues in 2011, was five innings of one-run ball for the Mets High-A team. When asked about Santana’s future, the Mets General Manager said this in a statement, “We are optimistic that Johan will be able to begin and maintain a spring training schedule with all other Mets pitchers next February and will be ready for the start of the 2012 season.” If Johan truly can be fully recovered by Spring Training, he surely will be penciled into the Mets rotation.

Johan Santana will make over $20 million over the next two years, and the Mets have a $24.5 Million option for 2014. As for what we can expect from Johan in 2012, no one knows. He could return to the perennial Cy Young candidate that he once was. Or he could become the next pitcher costing his team millions while sitting on the disabled list. However, the most likely outcome is that Johan will throw about 160 innings with an ERA around 4.00. He is getting older but I think that I he can still return to at least a fraction of what he once was, one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 onTwitter 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. 

Breaking Down the Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera Trade

Tuesday November 8, 2011

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  On Monday, the hot stove just got a bit juicier. The San Francisco Giants sent lefty Jonathan Sanchez and minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Melky Cabrera.

Melky Cabrera had one of the most successful seasons of his career, hitting a season-high in average for his career (.305), 201 hits, 102 runs, 87 RBIs, 18 homers and an additional 20 stolen bases to his best season in his career. Today, Brian Sabean, has told the Associated Press, that the reason of their high impressions on Melky Cabrera is that he’s breaking out at 27 and has played for several years already, and this breakout leads him on a path to a successful career ahead of him.

Known for his powerful arm, his 13 outfield assists tied for the sixth-highest in the majors. Cabrera played center field in Kauffman Stadium, and is known as one of the most successful players defensively in the major leagues. Cabrera will bring a strong offensive force we’ll need at AT&T Park. The Giants are both excited and joyful of the new force to the team.

After coming off a career-year in 2010, powerful lefty Jonathan Sanchez will soon be in a Royals uniform. Sanchez had some deep troubles this year, as he barely was able to pitch over 100 innings and was deeply bothered by injuries throughout the season. His control was plagued by the injuries, and he is hoping to recover in time for a successful 2012 season at Kauffman Stadium.

Jonathan Sanchez had his moments, including a no-hitter, which helped lead the Giants to the playoffs in 2010 and to succeed through the playoffs, which led to the team’s championship rings. Sanchez dominated and struck out 11 batters in that NLDS, which led to a 3-2 win. However, his success didn’t completely continue, as he gave up three runs throughout six innings in the second game of the NLCS and only lasted two innings in Game 6 of the series. Sanchez pitched in Game 3 of the World Series, which ultimately led to a loss.

Sanchez started off the 2011 season second in the rotation, with expectations to have another year with a near three earned run average. Instead, he posted a 4.26 ERA, much worse than his expectations. He didn’t get run support with the plagued offensive forces of the Giants and he ended finishing off the season with a poor 4-7 record on the 2011 season. His WHIP was high at 1.44, also his strikeout/walk ration was extremely poor, as he had 102 strikeouts compared to 66 walks on the season.

After a frustrating season on the Giants, Sanchez is hoping to continue where he left off the 2010 season with the Royals. Kansas City thinks of him as a solid No. 3 starter, who was on a champion team and help stabilize the rotation. In addition, the Royals also added Ryan Verdugo, another force to their already amazing farm system.

Now I am going to discuss a brief conclusion of this trade and the affections which have been created from this deal:

This trade has been a definite advantage for both teams, as the Giants received a force in their lineup, which is much needed, and the Royals added a powerful lefty to their poor rotation. They have also compared in a burst of successful seasons. Sanchez had a breakout season in 2010, which was unexpected and out of the ordinary. Cabrera also had a breakout season last year, as both teams are taking a risk on this deal, which helps both teams in opposite ways.

The Royals ace, Luke Hochevar, has had a terrible and dreadful year. Even with the recent struggles of Jonathan Sanchez, he is still likely to be in the front of the rotation. Almost all the members of the rotation have been inconsistent for the Royals. The only strong force was arguably Bruce Chen, who had trouble getting past batters as he posted less than 100 strikeouts in the season.

The Giants can now subtract Cody Ross from the lineup, who had a weak average at .240. Melky Cabrera is a powerful lefty who is a force all around and can likely satisfy most of the Giants’ needs through his offensive and defensive abilities. Cabrera is a great addition to the outfield of the Giants.

Overall this deal has helped both teams in separate ways. There was no specified loser in this deal considering each side met their needs and received a potential solid player in return.


***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.

2012 MLB Hitting Prospects to Target in Fantasy Baseball

Monday November 7, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Looking ahead to 2012, there are several potential rookies and young players that have the ability to provide value in your fantasy league, particularly as keepers.

A name to keep on your radar is Michael Taylor, an outfielder in the Oakland Athletics system. Not only do I like Taylor’s potential 5-category skill set, but with Coco Crisp, Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David DeJesus all entering free agency, he will likely be given the opportunity to play in 2012. Listed at 6’5” and 255 pounds, Taylor has displayed good, but not great, power in the minor leagues. However, he jumped from 6 home runs in 464 at bat during his 2010 AAA season to 16 home runs in 349 at bats in 2011. The 2011 season was cut short due to injury, but Taylor displayed the run producing ability he will need to be successful in the major leagues. Furthermore, he is a good base runner and has the potential to be a 20/20 player. With that said, the .816 OPS he posted in last year in AAA is a little worrisome, as he will face much more challenging pitching in the major leagues. All in all, he is an intriguing prospect due to the fact that he should have the opportunity to play in Oakland and has potential to perform in all five fantasy categories.

Taylor’s AAA teammate, Chris Carter, is another name to keep your eye on. Carter has potential to be an elite home run hitter. He has hit a total of 170 home runs in 754 minor league games. However, he will need to improve shorten his strike zone and make more contact to succeed in the major leagues. Despite mashing the home runs, he has not shown much progress in improving his plate discipline during his long minor league career. But in 2012, Carter will most likely be given a shot and could therefore be a cheap source of power in fantasy leagues. However, Carter’s high strike out totals and minor league track record likens him to the “Quadruple-A” type of players, a la Kila Ka’aihue.

A young player that excites me for 2012 is Dayan Viciedo, who garnered a little buzz after being called up in 2011. Although only 22 years old and still very raw, Viciedo has hit over 20 home runs in each of has past two years at AAA. He is also improved his plate discipline and is likely to be given the opportunity to play in 2012 with Juan Pierre unlikely to return.

Across town in Chicago, Brett Jackson is an intriguing player for the Chicago Cubs organization. Splitting time between AA and AA, he hit 20 home runs and stole 21 bases in 2012. Furthermore, he improved after his call up to AAA, where he his .297 in 67 games. He also showed improved plate discipline at the higher level with a 15.2% walk percentage, although he will need to cut down on his strikeout rate. He is still young and still has power to develop, but he is already skilled enough to join a weak Cubs outfield rotation.

The last name that I will discuss is one that you should already be familiar with, Mike Trout. There has been a lot of hype around Trout, who hit 11 home runs and stole bases in just 91 games for the Angels AA team in 2011. Trout was named the Minor League Players of the Year and even had success in limited time with the Angles in 2011. Although the Angels outfield is crowded, he is guaranteed to find his way into the rotation and should eventually play everyday. He has the potential to be elite in all five categories, starting in 2012. He is surely to be drafted in your league, and with all of the existing hype, he could perhaps be overvalued.  Just remember that the hype is warranted and he is a future fantasy monster, although it remains to be seen how much of his potential he taps into in 2012.

***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.

Interview with Shawon Dunston Jr.: Future Cubs Superstar

Sunday November 6, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Shawon Dunston Jr., outfield prospect for the Chicago Cubs.  Shawon was an 11th round pick for the Cubs this past year.  While he was expected to go as high as the 1st round, signability issues centering on his commitment to Vanderbilt allowed him to drop to Chicago.  The Cubs were able to get Dunston Jr. to sign on the dotted line before the signing deadline and just like that, Shawon Dunston Jr. was a Chicago Cub.  Expected to be the team’s center fielder of the future, Chicago is happy to have yet another Dunston in its system. While Dunston Sr. played shortstop for 18 seasons, Dunston Jr. is starting his own career and legacy in professional baseball.  A player with strong tools and reputation in the game, we look forward to watching Shawon Dunston Jr. patrolling the outfield of Wrigley Field in the near future.  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Cubs prospect and 2nd generation Major League Baseball player, Shawon Dunston Jr.:

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

MLB reports:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Dunston Jr.:  Growing up, I wanted to be just like Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play.  I was also a fan of Barry Bonds

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  I look up to B.J. Upton.  He makes everything look effortless.  I want to be a Jacoby Ellsbury type player.  Dexter Fowler as well has speed and pop at the CF position.

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  Playing in the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic during the summer of my junior year.

 

MLB reports:  Did you fully expect from the start of the draft to sign with the Cubs?  When was the final decision made in the process to sign with Chicago?  Any disappointment with being drafted in the 11th round or did have to do more with your signability status than anything else?

Dunston Jr.:  I was actually surprised they chose me.  I thought three teams were going to get me earlier; I talked to the Cubs’ area guys, but didn’t think they were going to choose me.  I was going to Vanderbilt right up until the last day of the deadline.  It was a tough decision, but my decision came down to the Cubs getting close to my (final dollar) number, getting into the system early and developing now (by playing everyday).  On draft day I was mad and no, I don’t think that I am an 11th round type player.  My bonus I got says it all (got back-end, 1st round money).  My signablity hurt me and also being very committed to Vandy, where I intended to attend.  But that is the past and I am ready to get going.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?

Dunston Jr.:  It was more of a relief, like: “Finally- I got drafted!”  I was still upset though that I did not go higher.  Over time my reactions did not change, as looking back I still expected that I should have been drafted higher.  But I use my feelings as a motivator go-forward.

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  My athleticism.  I am very athletic. 

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Dunston Jr.:  All part of my game can be improved.  I am just trying to be a better player overall.

 

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?

Dunston Jr.:  Yes, I am going to need to take a better approach at the plate. I am confident that will happen.  I am young and have time to develop.

 

MLB reports:  Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?

Dunston Jr.:  Center field.  That is the position that I am playing now and that will be (the position) I will be playing down the road as well.  I play good defense.

 

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?

Dunston Jr.:  I just need to work hard.  Through development and time, I will get there soon.  I just need some time.

 

MLB reports:  What are your offseason plans?  Have the Cubs indicated to you at what level you will likely start 2012 and at which position?

Dunston Jr.:  I plan to get bigger, stronger and faster.  I am excited to be getting ready for spring training and my first professional season!

 

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

Dunston Jr.:  I enjoy hanging out with friends and family.

 

MLB reports:  Have you visited Chicago often in your life?  Any impressions?

Dunston Jr.:  I don’t really remember much from it when my dad played there.  The last time I was there was in the 2003 playoffs at the NLDS with my dad.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send out a message to the Cubs fans, what would it be?

Dunston Jr.:  I am glad to be a part of this great organization and cannot wait to be playing in Wrigley Field soon!

 

Thank you again to Shawon Dunston Jr. 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 Shawon.  As well, please follow Shawon on Twitter (@SDUNSTONJR)

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.


Can the Rangers Win the 2012 World Series?

Sunday November 6, 2011

Sam Evans: The last two years have been like a roller coaster for the Texas Rangers and their fans. The Rangers have been extremely successful, winning two straight American League championships.  But both years they have fallen short in the world series. 2012 is sure to be a critical season for the Rangers organization.

Rotation: I think that C.J. Wilson is making it pretty obvious that he wants to return to the Rangers next year. If we assume that he does, then he will be the Rangers #1 starter. Barring a trade or a signing, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Alexi Ogando will follow him. An interesting decision that Rangers have to make is whether they move Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Feliz is a very intriguing pitcher, who in my opinion, at least deserves one spring training to show what he can do as a starter.

If the Rangers decide not to bring back Wilson, there are not many other top of the rotation starters. Jon Daniels has scouted Yu Darvish, so the Rangers might be in the mix to sign Darvish. However, the Rangers payroll including arbitration player and existing contracts is expected to be over 100M. The consensus opinion is that Darvish will cost over 100M. I’d be surprised if the Rangers could afford a contract like that and if they would prefer Darvish over Wilson at similar money. Other options in free agency include Mark Buehrle and Erik Bedard.

The rotation is going to be immensely important for the Rangers in 2012. You could make the argument that with Cliff Lee, the Rangers would have won the World Series last year. If the Rangers could move Feliz and keep Wilson, they would have one of the stronger rotations in the American League.

Catcher, Third Base, Shortstop, and Second Base: These four positions are written in stone for the Rangers. Adrian Beltre might be the best third basemen in baseball and he is signed through 2015. Mike Napoli had a breakout year last year, and despite playing in only 113 games, Napoli was the Rangers most valuable offensive weapon. 2012 is Napoli’s contract year, so if everything goes wrong for the Rangers, Napoli might be traded for prospects.

As for shortstop, Elvis Andrus has improved ever since he first got to Texas. I think that in 2012, Andrus has the chance to take a big step forward. If he could steal 40 bases (just three more than he did in 2011), and hit over .300, he would become one of the best shortstops in the American League. At second base, the Rangers have Ian Kinsler who is their best player. If he continues at his current pace, he is a dark horse MVP candidate. In 2011, he posted a wRC+ of 128, he played defense better than any other second basemen in baseball, and he hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases. One of the reasons why I don’t think that the Rangers should make a big splash in free agency is that they already have Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Colby Lewis, and Josh Hamilton. Kinsler has a $10M option, which I’d be surprised if the Rangers didn’t accept.  No matter what happens, it is sure to be an expensive offseason.

First Base, Designated Hitter, and Outfield: The Rangers first base situation is a much bigger deal than most people think. Mitch Moreland is far from a sure thing, and with reports now emerging that he battled wrist soreness in the second half of the season, more uncertainty arises from the situation. Moreland batted .241 in the second half of 2011, with a OBP of .300, and only five home runs. That’s simply not good enough for an American League team. Do you think the Rangers are glad they didn’t trade Michael Young? Young hit .338 in 2011 with 213 hits. Young did have a BABIP of .368, so he is probably due for some regression in 2012.

The Rangers have the best duo of corner outfielders in baseball. Josh Hamilton can be penciled in for 2012 as the Rangers cleanup hitter. Nelson Cruz is another middle of the order bat who is an amazing talent. Both of these hitters are capable of hitting .300 with thirty home runs a piece. The biggest question for these guys is whether they can stay healthy. Both have had serious injury concerns throughout their career, but if they could both stay healthy they could help propel the Rangers toward another 2012 AL West championship. As for center field, the Rangers can either test their luck with Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry, and Leonys Martin, or they could turn to free agency. If they were to shop for a center fielder, I think that the underrated Coco Crisp might be a good fit. With the strength of their lineup, center field is really not the biggest of the Rangers worries.

Prospects: Thanks to one of the most extensive scouting departments in Major League Baseball, the Rangers have a very strong minor league collection of prospects. 16-year-old international signings Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman are very intriguing prospect, but both are at the least four years away from making a MLB impact. Jurickson Profar is the best shortstop prospect in all of baseball, and a top-5 prospect overall. Profar isn’t quite ready for the Majors, but if he continues to rake in the minors, he could be a September call up. Martin Perez is the Rangers top pitching prospect but he struggled in AAA last year. In the long-term, if just some of these prospects develop, then the Rangers will continue to have a really good baseball team for years to come. Unfortunately, this system is what scouts call, “bottom heavy”, meaning that most of the highly touted prospects are in the lower ranks of the minors.

Bullpen: The status of the Rangers bullpen all depends on what the Rangers decide to do with Feliz. Texas has Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, and Yoshinori Tateyama all returning for 2012. Darren Oliver is a type A free agent, but at 41 years of age, I expect him to return to Texas. Bullpens are the easiest position to assemble in baseball, so don’t expect the Rangers to have much trouble finding the right pieces to fill out their ‘pen.

In 2012, the Rangers have a chance to be a very special team. If they are not currently the best team in baseball, they are definitely in the top five. It’s highly improbable these days that a team reaches the World Series three times in a row.  But I think that the Rangers have a legitimate chance in 2012.  The Rangers just need the right mix of players to get over the hump and win the big one.  Otherwise, another World Series loss could turn them into the modern day Atlanta Braves (minus the championship).

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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 onTwitter 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. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,792 other followers

%d bloggers like this: