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The Prince is Crowned Yet Again! Fielder Wins Another Home Run Derby Title

Tuesday July 10th, 2012

John Burns:  Kauffman Stadium was electric Monday night from the top sluggers in baseball putting on an absolute home run clinic. Detroit’s Prince Fielder won his second Home Run Derby by beating Toronto’s Jose Bautista 12-7 in the final round. Fielder got off to a slow start with 5 homers in the first round which barely advanced him over Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen who both had 4 home runs in the first round. After the first round it was all Prince Fielder. Prince hit 23 homers in the final two rounds and became only the second player to win multiple titles in the Home Run Derby.

Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano were the captains for their respected leagues and picked 3 sluggers to represent the NL and AL. The first round results for the sluggers were: Robinson Cano (0 homers), Matt Kemp (1 homer), Andrew McCutchen (4 homers), Carlos Gonzalez (4 homers), Prince Fielder (5 homers), Mark Trumbo (7 Homers), Carlos Beltran (7 homers), and the leader in the first round Jose Bautista with 11 homers.  Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez were all eliminated after the 1st round. Read the rest of this entry

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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.***

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.
 
 

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


David Ortiz to the Jays or Yankees? Try the Rays or Angels

Monday October 17, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the World Series all set to commence on Wednesday (Cardinals and Rangers)- our attention is slowly shifting to the upcoming free agency period.  A big name (literally) of discussion has been David Ortiz, or better known in baseball circles as “Big Papi”.  The rumor mill is running wild as to where Ortiz will play in 2012.  Let’s shed some light on the subject and clear up the confusion.

The soon to be 36-year old Ortiz is coming off one of his finest seasons in recent memory.  Papi finished with a steady all-around season:  29 home runs, 96 RBIs, 84 runs, 78/83 BB/K, .309 AVG and .953 OPS.  Ortiz was named to his 7th all-star team and finishing up a 5-year, $64.5 million contract.  For a player that appeared to be in decline back in 2009, Ortiz has shown the last two seasons that he has some juice left in the tank.  But with the Red Sox in shambles, given the departure of long-time manager Terry Francona and soon to be ex-GM Theo Epstein, Ortiz himself has said that Boston has become too much of a soap opera.  The question on every baseball fan’s mind:  will he stay or will he go?

 The Ortiz decision to stay in Boston will largely depend on several factors.  Firstly, it is unclear whether the team wishes to retain him or go in a different direction.  As an aging team with hitters that could use the rest from playing in the field every day, the Red Sox may not longer wish to commit the DH spot to one exclusive batter.  Taking that into account with Papi’s streaks and slumps that past few years and recent comments, may be enough for the Red Sox upper management to wish to move on.  But if the team does wish to retain him, or give in to fan pressure to keep Ortiz (which is likely to come given his immense popularity), will Papi himself want to remain in Boston?  Only the man could answer that question.  To know the answer, one would have to get into the player’s head.  Does Otiz get along with his teammates or are there divided fractions?  How much did the 2011 collapse take a toll on his morale?  When will a new GM come into place and will he be able to have a good relationship with Ortiz?  Same issue for a new manager…and you get the idea.  There are many variables that put into question whether Ortiz could or would stay in Boston.

In my estimation, Ortiz is on his final contract.  He will likely obtain a 2-year contract, with an option for a third.  Based on his rich history and legacy in Boston, I think that when push comes to shove- the player will stay.  Boston needs Papi; and Papi needs Boston.  It would not feel right to see Ortiz in another uniform (check out highlights from his days in Minnesota and you will see what I mean).  Major League Baseball also would love to see Ortiz remain in Boston for marketing purposes.  With so many vested interests in getting this deal done, I believe it will happen.  But what if it does not?  What if Papi jumps ship? I see his options as far and few between.

The first option that jumped out was the Yankees.  It will not happen.  While the Yankees would love to stick it to Boston, they will not likely want another aging DH on their hands after the Jorge Posada fiasco this past season.  The Yankees also have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and company that need days off the field, A-Rod especially given his failing health.  With A-Rod becoming a part-time DH as soon as next year, the Yankees cannot afford to take on Papi at this stage.  Plus the team has up-and-coming superstar Jesus Montero that needs playing time and has nothing more to prove in AAA.  So the Yankees rate as a no.

 The next options for Ortiz?  It will only be American League teams as he is only a DH at this stage of his career.  The only realistic teams that have the open position and fit are Toronto, Tampa Bay and Anaheim.  The Jays are being thrown around many circles as a possible destination.  It makes sense for several reasons.  Ortiz knows the ballpark well from his AL East days.  He gets along well with Jose Bautista and would serve as a great mentor for the Jays young hitters.  Toronto was missing production last season from the DH spot and would welcome Papi’s bat.  But despite these factors, I don’t see this signing happening.  Ortiz will want to play on a contender and fight for another ring.  His career is winding down and so are his chances.  While Toronto has a strong young nucleus, they are at least 2-3 years aways.  As much as this would be a feel-good signing, I would rate is as another no.

Thus the battle for the services of David Ortiz will boil down to the Tampa Bay Rays and Anaheim Angels.  Two strong playoff contending teams that desperately need his bat.  Tampa Bay should be the favorite, given the familiarity of the AL East and the strong need of the team.  The Rays have the lineup spot for Ortiz and should make a big push for him.  The Angels have the same need, but not the best fit for position.  The team has a logjam in the outfield with Mike Trout likely to be with the big club next year and Kendrys Morales returning to the team from injury.  But when there is a will, there is a way.  Like many other squads, the Angels would need to do some creative shuffling to make room for Ortiz.  Vernon Wells may need to be moved for a bad pitcher’s contract in return (Carlos Zambrano anyone?)  Kendrys Morales may not be recovered or Trout may not be ready.  The Angels went through a desperate need all year in 2011 for runs and will not want to face the same issue come 2012.  Papi could be the perfect short-term solution for the Halos.

The four-horse race to sign David Ortiz will come down to the Red Sox, Jays, Rays and Angels.  The Rays are my dark horse favorite and best overall fit.  The Jays would love to take him on, it will just depend on the confidence Papi has in the team’s ability to compete.  Boston will hang in right till the end and the Angels will need to be aggressive to get him.  If we are playing the odds, I would rate Boston as a 70% favorite, followed by Tampa Bay at 20% and the Jays/Angels at 5% each.  Once the World Series ends, let the David Ortiz sweepstakes begin!

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

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

Tuesday September 20, 2011

 

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

PRE-BLUE JAYS

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

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

BLUE JAYS

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

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

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

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

IN THE FUTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Thursday September 8, 2011

 

 

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

 

VANCOUVER

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

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

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

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

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

 

MONTREAL

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

Still people ask:  could they come back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

 

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

 

 

MLB Home Run Leaders: A Look at the Leaderboard

Monday August 29, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are coming to the last month of the MLB season.  Readers are often requesting updates as to the hone run leaders and to handicap who will be the leading sluggers by year’s end.  Taking a look at the current top 10 home run hitters in baseball, we find many familiar faces and some surprises.  Here is our updated look at the mashers and bombers of baseball:

 

T-1:  Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees (38)

Oh yes.  The Grandyman can.  The baseball world has gone Granderson crazy.  From what appeared to be a hitter on the decline when he joined New York, Curtis Granderson has reinvented himself into an MVP candidate in 2011.   Watching Curtis in Detroit, most expected him to be a 20 something home run hitter at most.  Imagine that he has already hit 38 home runs with a month to go.  It goes to show that baseball can be a very unpredictable sport and that New York still has the power to create miracles.  I do not expect to see him on this board for the next five years, but for 2011 at least, Granderson has shot up to the top of the baseball mountain.

 

T-1:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (38)

A regular on this list all season, Bautista has picked up from where he left off last season.  While unable to maintain the Ruthian pace he was on in the first half of the season, Bautista has maintained his strong numbers throughout the year.  With his 38 home runs, Bautista has already walked 107 times and has a 1.098 OPS.  MVP voters will have much to consider at the ballots this year.

 

3rd:  Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (35)

There are some certainties in life.  Death, taxes and Teixeira home runs.  This man is as steady as they come and despite the lack of flash and glitter, he always seems to get the job done.  No surprise to see him this high up on the list.  Teixeira is simply money in the bank.  You never have to worry about him.

 

T-4:  Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (31)

For all the talk of doom and gloom, Albert Pujols still made the top five list.  A “down” season for Sir Albert is a .895 OPS and 31 home runs.  Numbers that most players would die for, but not anywhere close to his high standards.  As an impending free agent, I fully expect Pujols to remain in St. Louis.  But with his statistics not at his norm, the Cardinals might be able to sign him at a slightly more realistic price tag.  $22 million per season rather than $25 million perhaps.

 

T-4:  Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (31)

Matt Kemp, or Baby Manny as he was called as a young prospect (the second coming of Manny Ramirez) has blossomed this year.  Together with his 31 home runs, Kemp has already driven in 100, has a .964 OPS and a .320 AVG.  Getting much press as a NL MVP candidate, Kemp is finally beginning to fulfill on the potential he had shown in his career leading up to this season.  People thought for some time he was good, but I don’t think many expected such a strong campaign.  A young player on the rise, Kemp might only be scratching the surface on many productive seasons to come.

 

T-4:  Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles (31)

Our generation’s Rob Deer keeps plugging away with the long balls.  Reynolds has a respectable 31 home runs thus far, but have come with a whopping 157 strikeouts.  More disturbing though his .226 AVG.  An all-or-nothing slugger throughout his career, Reynolds is not showing any signs of improvement.  The signs are showing for him to bounce around baseball, eventually ending up as a platoon player or even to Japan.

 

T-7:  Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins (30)

One of the youngest and brightest stars in the game, Stanton has exploded in Florida in a big way.  Heralded as the next Dave Winfield, Stanton has not disappointed in 2011.  With 30 home runs to go along with a .889 OPS, Stanton is showing that the promise and hype is for real.  Rumored to be requested by the White Sox as part of the Marlins hoping to land Ozzie Guillen as a manager, the Marlins are surely happy they held onto their young slugger.  Together with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, expect Stanton to blossom into a top ten player in baseball very soon.

 

T-7:  Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (30)

Once considered a top hitter in the game, Berkman had many question marks surrounding him after a down season last year.  While many analysts thought the Cardinals were taking a risk by signing him, the Cardinals brass were confident in Berkman’s ability to rebound.  Back in the NL Central and surrounded by Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup, Berkman has not disappointed.  With 30 home runs, 77/75 BB/K, .289 AVG and .975 SLG, Berkman is getting MVP consideration as well as a lock as the NL Comeback Player of the Year.  While Berkman cannot continue like this forever, expect at least 1-2 more solid seasons out of the seasoned veteran.

 

T-7:  Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (30)

What a journey Uggla took this year.  With a .232 AVG, one expect Uggla to be considered to be having an off-year.  But with 30 home runs a 33-game hitting streak, Uggla has had his moments this year.  Considered one of the best hitting second basemen in the game, power is a big part of Uggla’s repertoire.  While the rest of the numbers are down, the long balls have remained constant.  With his first year on a new team out of the way, expect a rebound from Uggla next season.

 

T-10:  Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (29)

Considered to be one of the biggest prizes in the offseason free agent derby, Prince Fielder is having a fantastic campaign for the Brewers.  Together with his 29 home runs, Fielder scored 81 runs, driven in 102, has 87/84 BB/K and hit .295, with a .955 OPS.  The questions on people’s minds is whether he will stay in Milwaukee and if the biggest free agent contract this year will go to Fielder or Pujols.  With Scott Boras as his agent, my money is on Fielder moving to greener pastures and commanding the top contract as a free agent.  Together with Ryan Braun, Fielder gives the Brewers a strong team going into the playoffs in what is likely his last season in Milwaukee.  Although number ten on this list, Fielder has shown the consistency this season to be considered one of the top hitters in the NL this season.

 

 

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On the Verge: Brett Lawrie Call Up by Jays is Imminent

Thursday August 4, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  The Brett Lawrie rollercoaster started December 6th, 2010.  Lawrie was sent to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s incumbent ace, Shaun Marcum.  Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos immediately said that Lawrie would be working out at third base, switching from second base.  This would be Lawrie’s third major position change in 3 years.  He was drafted out of Langley, BC by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 MLB draft.  That year, Toronto held the 17th pick, and it was said that they coveted him greatly.  They instead had to settle for college first baseman and current AAA prospect, David Cooper.

Lawrie hit .293 in spring training this year, while playing decent enough third base to warrant a discussion of keeping him on the roster.  However, Anthopoulos deemed he was not ready to play in the Major Leagues, and the fans in Toronto grumbled as the Blue Jays consistently put Edwin Encarnacion at third base to start the year.  Lawrie started off hot in AAA Las Vegas, and played good defense.  This still wasn’t enough, as the Jays asked him to be more patient and change his approach.  Lawrie did just that, and by May 31st, was hitting over .350 with power and walking more often than he had in the past.  When the Jays were on the brink of calling him up (see our Report from June 2nd), Lawrie was hit by an errant pitch on the back of his left hand.  Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath, and Lawrie declared it was a bruise.  Two days later when swelling subsided, it was found out that Lawrie had a non-displaced fracture.

When he finally returned to Las Vegas in the middle of July, Lawrie came right back to where he left off.  He is now hitting .352 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI.  More importantly, he has 26 walks and is playing much improved defense.  Now, the Jays’ faithful are continuing to call for him.  Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have repeatedly said “he’s close” and that they want to get him everyday at bats before rosters expand in September.

Now, when Lawrie gets the inevitable call (my guess being Friday, August 5th, before the beginning of a road series in Baltimore), where will he play?  The Jays have Jose Bautista, one of the top three players in baseball at third base.  Well, the plan that Anthopoulos has set out is that Bautista would shift back to his preferred right field, creating a logjam of young and talented outfielders.  Travis Snider is 23 years old and he will play every day at one of the corner positions.  Colby Rasmus is 24 years old and will be in center for the foreseeable future.  That leaves Eric Thames, also 24, the corner outfielder who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the love and admiration of many fans, on the bench.  You could say that Thames can just DH because he isn’t the best fielder of the bunch (although more than adequate and constantly improving), but where does Edwin Encarnacion play then?  Encarnacion is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball since the beginning of July.  He has 9 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI with 12 walks in 25 games over that span.  Thames most likely gets optioned to AAA to get every day at bats until rosters expand in September.  Here is how that lineup stacks up.

Yunel Escobar - SS
Colby Rasmus – CF
Jose Bautista - RF
Adam Lind - 1B
Edwin Encarnacion - DH
Travis Snider – LF
Brett Lawrie – 3B
J.P. Arencibia - C
Aaron Hill -  2B

If one of these players is traded, then there won’t be a problem.  The only other option barring a trade, is something that Anthopoulos has stated adamantly will not happen.  Moving Lawrie to second base and sitting former Silver Slugger Aaron Hill on the bench.  This could possibly be the best option available for both the short-term and long-term.  With Hill underperforming (ranked 20th out of 21 qualified 2nd baseman in WAR), and his $8M option for 2012 likely to be declined, Lawrie could slot into that spot for a very long time.  Anthopoulos has preached having talent and skill “in the middle of the diamond” and second base is a spot that sorely needs some stability after Hill’s last two years.  The only thing that could stop this movement is if Anthopoulos sees Hill, who is a good defender, as a guy who can turn his career back around.  If Hill were placed in the 9 hole, and changed his approach, he could be a very serviceable player there.  One idea that has been bandied around is that the Jays decline the option on Hill, and sign him to a much smaller deal to bring him back as the second baseman.

I honestly believe that Anthopoulos has the wheels turning, and with Encarnacion being so hot, many teams would love to take him on to make a push for the playoffs.  If Encarnacion is not in the picture, there is a spot for Thames as a full-time player.  He and Snider would probably split time between left field and DH, with Bautista in right, and Lawrie at third.

What gets lost in all of this, is that the Opening Day center fielder, might become a 5th outfielder.  Rajai Davis  has 33 stolen bases, and is playing better in a part-time role since Rasmus joined the team.  He will be reserved to being a pinch runner, and possibly a late inning defensive replacement for Thames.

The odd man out for this year seems to be Thames, even though the Blue Jays see him as a valuable asset for the long-term.  Whether that means for him to be on the field, or using him as a trade chip remains to be seen.  Lawrie will likely end up playing third base every day, proving why the Jays gave up Marcum for an unproven “troubled” prospect. 

 

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

 

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Vernon Wells Trade Discussion: Midseason Winners and Loser

Sunday July 17, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  January 21, 2011 is seen as a bit of a turning point in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays.  General Manager Alex Anthopolous traded away long-time face of the franchise, Vernon Wells.  Wells had been with the Blue Jays since he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall by the Jays in the 1997 amateur draft.  After making his debut in 1999, he played in a Toronto uniform through the 2010 season.  His name is littered across franchise record books, and he was a beloved figure in the clubhouse.  On December 15, 2006, Wells signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension, which at the time was the 6th largest contract in MLB history.  Over the next few years, Wells’ lack of production and time spent on the disabled list, made his contract “unmoveable”.

That was of course until Alex Anthopolous took the helm as Jays GM, and was able to find a taker for Wells and the four years and $86 million remaining on the contract.  Into the picture came Tony Reagins, GM of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  It has been said that Reagins approached Anthopolous about Wells.  One would think that in order for a deal to work, the Blue Jays would have had to send a large sum of cash to the Angels in order for the deal to go through.

The deal that was finally consummated was to send Wells and approximately $5 million to the Angels in exchange for OF Juan Rivera, and C/1B Mike Napoli.  Rivera was seen as a throw-in, as his $4M contract was more than the Angels wanted to pay.  Napoli had fallen out of favour in manager Mike Scioscia’s eyes; despite hitting at least 20 home runs in each of the three previous seasons despite receiving limited playing time.  Toronto then flipped Napoli to the Texas Rangers for standout reliever Frank Francisco.  The Rangers received the powerful, right-handed versatile hitter they coveted, and the Blue Jays thought they received the closer they needed.

It is quite obvious that no matter how any of those players perform, the Blue Jays are the big winner because of the payroll space they have cleared and can use to extend their star players, see Jose Bautista.  However, this deal has not been so cut and dry.  While Napoli has swung the bat with authority, Juan Rivera has been traded to the LA Dodgers, and Francisco has been awful out of the Jays bullpen.

Let’s take a quick look at each player’s production and how their respective teams have fared so far.

 

Mike Napoli

Again performing as a part-time player at three positions, Napoli has been very solid for the Rangers.  He has hit 13 home runs and driven in 34 RBI in only 187 plate appearances.  While his average leaves something to be desired, he makes up for it in his ability to take walks and hit the ball to the gaps.  With his OPS at .906, he has proven that he is a tremendously underrated player.  His WAR through half the season is at 1.7, and he is on pace to break his career high of 2.6.

 

Juan Rivera

Because he was seen as a salary dump for the Angels, the Blue Jays took him on and saw him as the everyday left fielder and DH out of spring training.  He was never able to get it going, and quickly fell out of favour in Toronto.  His OPS sat at .666 when traded, with a limited ability to get on base and very little power.  This on top of the fact that he played atrocious defense led to his -1.2 WAR.  He was traded to the LA Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations on July 12, 2011.

 

Frank Francisco

Seen as a pretty successful power arm for the late innings, Francisco was picked up from the Texas Rangers along with cash.  He continues to strike out a ton of batters, (10.1 K/9), but he is giving up more hits than he has in the past.  However, part of this is due to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .359.  His xFIP is actually almost two runs lower than his ERA, 3.56 as opposed to 5.40.  I think that Francisco has been unlucky, and when it all evens out, it will show that he is at least a competent late inning reliever.

 

Vernon Wells

Wells was obviously the big fish in this trade.  He has the ability to be an MVP-caliber player (see his 2003 and 2006 seasons).  He has two gold gloves in center field, as well as three All-Star appearances in his career.  He has hit 30 home runs three times and driven in 100 RBI three times.  Wells’ production in 2011 has been nothing short of horrendous.  He has 14 home runs so far, but other than that, hasn’t done anything particularly well.  His OPS is .671 with an OBP of .254.  Wells is striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances, and walking in less than 4%.  Now, you could look at his BABIP (.228) and think he has been unlucky, but it is that low because of his awful 10% line drive rate.  With a flyball rate of 47% and by hitting a ton of infield flies, his BABIP won’t likely rise much.  It is unlikely that Wells will ever return to being the player he once was.

 

VERDICT: 

Taking a look at these stats, we can see that the Rangers were an instant winner.  They gave up an expendable reliever, and gained a valuable bat off the bench.  The Angels are the big losers in the deal, as they owe Wells over $60M over the next 3.5 years.  That kind of production out of a left fielder is unacceptable for a team trying to contend for the playoffs.  Toronto knew that with the trades they made, they would not be as good of a team without Wells.  They are in a rebuilding mode, and the money they save can be used on drafting and developing young talent.  Francisco could be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, so another draft pick could be theirs. 

**The grand winner in this series of moves is the Blue Jays, as with the departure of Wells, they have been able to extend Jose Bautista with a five-year, $65M contract.  They have been aggressive in international signings this month as well, and look to pour more resources into the draft. ***  

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the Vernon Wells trade.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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2011 MLB All-Star Game Recap: National League Defeats the American League for 2nd Year in a Row

Wednesday July 13, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):  This year’s edition of the Midsummer Classic, the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, had a record-setting vote-getter.  Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays received over 7.4 million votes in fan voting.  This game was said to have lost some of its lustre due to the amount of players who elected not to participate.  A total of eight players that were voted in by fans or chosen by coaches dropped out due to injury, timing or just plain wanting to rest.  For the American League, David Price (TB), Derek Jeter (NYY), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and  Jon Lester (BOS) all withdrew due to various ailments and injuries.  Chipper Jones (ATL), Jose Reyes (NYM), and Placido Polanco (PHI) were the players who bowed out in the National League.  One of Major League Baseball’s rules pertaining to eligibility for pitchers is that they must not start on the Sunday prior to the game.  Due to this rule, CC Sabathia (NYY), James Shields (TB), Justin Verlander (DET), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Cole Hamels (PHI), and Matt Cain (SF) were ruled ineligible and unable to participate in the game.

Surely not having Price, Sabathia, Shields, Verlander, Hernandez and Rivera hurt the AL.  Although he has had an impressive start to the season, CJ Wilson (TEX) probably should not have been pitching when he gave up the 3-run home run to Prince Fielder (MIL).  It easily could have been one of those more accomplished aces as mentioned.  However, that is the way it turned out, as the National League took advantage early and defeated the American League by a score of 5-1.  The MVP of the game was Fielder, because of his huge home run that put the NL on top early and as it turned out, for good.

My pick for MVP was Roy Halladay (PHI), as he started for the National League and was dominant as only the Doc can be.  He faced the minimum six batters over two innings, including Curtis Granderson (NYY), Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) and Jose Bautista (TOR); all potential MVP candidates.  Halladay managed to throw only 19 pitches as part of his historical pitching performance.

In the 2nd inning, the defensive play of the game occurred when Brian McCann (ATL) hit a towering flyball in foul territory that Bautista caught as he slid into the wall.  Aside from being one of the top home run hitters in baseall, Bautista is also an accomplished fielder who is capable of winning a gold glove at either third base or right field.

The scoring in the game started in the top of the 4th inning, when Adrian Gonzalez blasted a Cliff Lee (PHI) cutter over the right center field wall for a solo blast.  The AL followed with three straight singles, the last of which was off Tyler Clippard (WAS).  Hunter Pence fielded the ball and threw a laser to the plate to catch Bautista who tried to score from second for the third out.  In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Beltran (NYM) and Matt Kemp (LAD) hit singles to set up Fielder`s massive bomb.

Jordan Walden (LAA), another player who probably didn`t deserve to play as much as the other big name starters, began to light up the radar gun last night, hitting 100 mph on his first four fastballs.  Starlin Castro (CHC) came in to pinch run at first base after Troy Tulowitzki (COL) hit a leadoff single.  Castro proceeded to immediately steal second and third base.  He then set up another play at the plate, where Walden bare handed a weak ground ball by Rickie Weeks (MIL) and threw Castro out.  Weeks stole second and came around to score when Andre Ethier (LAD) hit a single to right field, making the score 4-1.

The scoring continued in the bottom of the seventh inning when Pablo Sandoval (SF) hit a ground rule double over the wall in the left field corner.  This scored Hunter Pence (HOU) after his leadoff single and a passed ball that allowed him to move to second base, and eventually score.

Fan favorite Brian Wilson (SF) came in the top of the nineth inning with runners on second and third.  A fly out and ground out later, and the game was in the books.  Make the final score 5-1, as the National League wins for the All-Star Game for the second year in a row and secures home field advantage for its league in the up coming World Series in the fall.

This year`s All-Star Festivities were enjoyed by so many fans, and continually impressed me.  I have had a great time covering the 2011 All-Star Game, everything from the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and of course,  the All-Star Game itself.  With Major League Baseball now entering the dog days of summer and the secon half of the season, it is time to speculate on trades and the calling up of prospects.  Pure heaven for this baseball writer! 

 

***EDITOR’S NOTE:  With Chase Field still buzzing, the trade market has already begun.  The Milwaukee Brewers announced right after the game taht they had acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash considerations from the New York Mets for two players to be named later.  With the Brewers acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, clearly Milwaukee is going for it.  Will be interesting to see if Brewers allow K-Rod’s $17.5 million option to vest for 2012, which is based on number of games finished in 2011.  If K-Rod finishes 55 games, the option will vest.  As he has already finsihed 34 this season, so the option could vest depending on how the Brewers use K-Rod and how close they remain to a playoff berth.  It will be interesting to see what prospects go from Milwaukee to New York.  Long-term this deal could hurt Milwaukee depending on which top prospects they give up.  But in the short-term, this deal will make the Brewers’ fanbase happy and their slugging free agent to be, Prince Fielder, may have more thinking to do before selecting his new team for 2012.  The ground work has been set with respect to the trade market.  Now we will see if the K-Rod deal has indeed open the trading floodgates for the rest of baseball. ***

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
American 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 0
National 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 - 5 9 2

W: T. Clippard

L: C. Wilson

S: B. Wilson

 

National All-Stars

Hitters AB R H RBI BB SO #P AVG OBP SLG
R Weeks 2B 3 1 0 0 0 1 12 .000 .000 .000
B Phillips 2B
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
C Beltran DH 2 1 1 0 0 1 7 .500 .500 .500
a-A Ethier PH-DH
1 0 1 1 0 0 8 1.000 1.000 1.000
b-G Sanchez PH-DH
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
M Kemp CF 2 1 1 0 1 0 15 .500 .667 .500
A McCutchen CF
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
P Fielder 1B 2 1 1 3 0 0 6 .500 .500 2.000
J Votto 1B
2 0 0 0 0 1 9 .000 .000 .000
B McCann C 2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
Y Molina C
1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1.000 1.000 2.000
c-J Bruce PH-RF
1 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .000 .000
L Berkman RF 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 1.000 1.000 1.000
J Upton RF
2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
M Montero C
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
M Holliday LF 1 0 0 0 0 1 7 .000 .000 .000
H Pence LF
2 1 1 0 0 1 10 .500 .500 .500
T Tulowitzki SS 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 .500 .500 .500
S Castro PR-SS
1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .000 .000
S Rolen 3B 2 0 0 0 0 2 8 .000 .000 .000
P Sandoval 3B
1 0 1 1 0 0 6 1.000 1.000 2.000
Totals 31 5 9 5 1 9 126      
a-singled to right for C Beltran in the 5th
b-popped out to second for A Ethier in the 7th
c-struck out looking for Y Molina in the 8th
BATTING
2B: Y Molina (1, C Perez); P Sandoval (1, B League)
HR: P Fielder (1, 4th inning off C Wilson 2 on, 0 Out)
RBI: P Fielder 3 (3), A Ethier (1), P Sandoval (1)
2-out RBI: A Ethier
All-Stars RISP: 3-8 (P Fielder 1-1, J Upton 0-1, S Rolen 0-1, B Phillips 0-1, R Weeks 0-1, A Ethier 1-1, G Sanchez 0-1, P Sandoval 1-1)
Team LOB: 3
BASERUNNING
SB: S Castro 2 (2, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila, 3rd base off J Walden/A Avila); R Weeks (1, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila)
CS: L Berkman (1, 2nd base by D Robertson/A Avila)
FIELDING
E: S Castro (1, throw); J Bruce (1, throw)
Outfield Assist: H Pence (J Bautista at Home).
 

National All-Stars

Pitchers IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
R Halladay 2.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 19-14 0.00
C Lee 1.2 3 1 1 0 0 1 25-16 5.40
T Clippard
(W)
0.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3-3 0.00
C Kershaw
(H)
1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 8-6 0.00
J Jurrjens
(H)
1.2 1 0 0 0 1 0 23-15 0.00
C Kimbrel
(H)
0.1 0 0 0 1 0 0 14-8 0.00
J Venters 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 4-4 0.00
H Bell 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5-2 0.00
J Hanrahan 0.1 1 0 0 0 1 0 14-9 0.00
B Wilson
(S)
0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 7-5 0.00
Totals 9.0 6 1 1 1 5 1 122-82  
PITCHING
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: R Halladay 4/6; C Lee 4/8; T Clippard 1/1; C Kershaw 1/3; J Jurrjens 5/6; C Kimbrel 0/2; J Venters 2/2; H Bell 0/1; J Hanrahan 1/3; B Wilson 2/2
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: R Halladay 4-3-2-5; C Lee 4-1-3-8; T Clippard 1-1-0-1; C Kershaw 1-1-2-2; J Jurrjens 3-5-3-4; C Kimbrel 1-2-4-1; J Venters 1-2-0-1; H Bell 1-0-0-1; J Hanrahan 1-2-4-2; B Wilson 1-1-1-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: R Halladay 3-2; C Lee 4-1; T Clippard 0-0; C Kershaw 2-0; J Jurrjens 2-2; C Kimbrel 1-0; J Venters 1-0; H Bell 0-1; J Hanrahan 0-0; B Wilson 1-1
Game Scores: R Halladay 57
 

American All-Stars

Hitters AB R H RBI BB SO #P AVG OBP SLG
C Granderson CF 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
J Ellsbury CF
2 0 0 0 0 2 8 .000 .000 .000
A Cabrera SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .000 .000
J Peralta SS
2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
A Gonzalez 1B 2 1 1 1 0 0 6 .500 .500 2.000
M Cabrera 1B
1 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000
M Young 3B
1 0 0 0 0 1 5 .000 .000 .000
J Bautista RF 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 .500 .500 .500
C Quentin RF
2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
J Hamilton LF 2 0 1 0 0 0 4 .500 .500 .500
M Joyce LF
2 0 1 0 0 0 7 .500 .500 .500
A Beltre 3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 10 .500 .500 .500
K Youkilis 3B
1 0 1 0 0 0 4 1.000 1.000 1.000
M Cuddyer 1B
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
D Ortiz DH 2 0 0 0 0 1 10 .000 .000 .000
a-P Konerko PH-DH
1 0 0 0 1 0 13 .000 .500 .000
R Cano 2B 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000
H Kendrick 2B
1 0 0 0 0 0 7 .000 .000 .000
A Avila C 2 0 0 0 0 0 7 .000 .000 .000
M Wieters C
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
Totals 33 1 6 1 1 5 122      
a-walked for D Ortiz in the 7th
BATTING
HR: A Gonzalez (1, 4th inning off C Lee 0 on, 2 Out)
RBI: A Gonzalez (1)
2-out RBI: A Gonzalez
All-Stars RISP: 2-5 (M Joyce 1-1, A Beltre 1-1, H Kendrick 0-1, M Cuddyer 0-1, P Konerko 0-1)
Team LOB: 6
FIELDING
DP: 1 (A Avila-R Cano).
PB: M Wieters.
Outfield Assist: J Bautista (A Ethier at 2nd base).
 

American All-Stars

Pitchers IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
J Weaver 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 14-8 0.00
D Robertson 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 14-7 0.00
M Pineda 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 10-8 0.00
C Wilson
(L)
1.0 3 3 3 0 1 1 22-14 27.00
J Walden 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 20-13 9.00
C Perez 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 15-9 0.00
B League 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 19-13 9.00
A Ogando 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 6-5 0.00
G Gonzalez 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 6-3 0.00
Totals 8.0 9 5 5 1 9 1 126-80  
PITCHING
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: J Weaver 4/4; D Robertson 1/3; M Pineda 3/3; C Wilson 3/6; J Walden 2/4; C Perez 2/4; B League 3/5; A Ogando 2/2; G Gonzalez 1/1
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: J Weaver 3-3-0-2; D Robertson 2-1-3-1; M Pineda 3-3-1-1; C Wilson 4-2-4-4; J Walden 2-3-5-3; C Perez 2-2-2-3; B League 1-4-4-4; A Ogando 2-0-1-2; G Gonzalez 2-1-0-0
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: J Weaver 1-1; D Robertson 0-1; M Pineda 0-1; C Wilson 0-2; J Walden 1-0; C Perez 0-2; B League 0-2; A Ogando 2-0; G Gonzalez 0-0
Game Scores: J Weaver 53

 

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Game.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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2011 MLB Home Run Derby: New Format, Ortiz and Fielder as Captains and Picks

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

 

MLB reports:   Change is in the air as Major League Baseball has revised the format for the Home Run Derby, coming up on Monday, July 11th from Chase Field in Arizona.  The biggest change is the appointment of captains.  Former home run derby champions David Ortiz and Prince Fielder will serve as the leaders of the AL and NL squads respectively.  Each captain is able to select three additional players of their choice to fill out their home run derby team, regardless of being selected as an all-star.  The Home Run Derby team selections are due today, but David Ortiz has already jumped the gun to fill out his roster.  Papi’s selections are about to be listed, but first the format change for the Home Run Derby this year.

According to Major League Baseball:

“While the format to determine the individual champion will remain unchanged, the total number of home runs hit by all players in all rounds will be tabulated for the AL and NL to determine the winning team, captain and charity recipient. Each player will get 10 outs per round, the four players with the highest total of home runs will advance to the second round, and the two players with the highest cumulative number of home runs in the first two rounds will advance to the Championship Round, where first and second round home runs do not carry over for individual scores.”

Thus the derby now becomes a team effort right up until the final round, where an individual winner will be selected.  Thus the 2011 Home Run Derby will have a winning team, as well as an individual champion.  With the format of the Home Run Derby becoming somewhat stale and many players declining invitations, change was needed.  There was also talk of the “Derby Curse”, where participants in the Home Run Derby would find their home run totals slip in the second half of the season.  From Bobby Abreu in 2005 to Josh Hamilton in 2008, the curse has taken on a life of its own.  With teams starting to put pressure on its players to avoid the home run contest, the new format is a breath of fresh air.  Having the teams and captains brings fun and competitiveness back to the event and should rejuvenate a great brand for Major League Baseball.  While this year’s format will likely require future tweaking, in my opinion at least, MLB has done a great job in building excitement to the upcoming derby.

As mentioned, today is the deadline for the team captains to submit their home run team picks.  For the American League, Captain David Ortiz has made his selections.  Representing the AL in the 2011 Home Run Derby will be Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox, Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays and Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees.  Gonzalez and Bautista were the first two selections by Ortiz that accepted their invitations.  Cano teammate, Mark Teixeira, was originally selected as the fourth member of the squad, but declined his invitation.  Cano has since happily accepted and will be launching home runs for the AL next Monday.

On the current MLB home run leader board, Bautista sits at #1 with 27 home runs, Ortiz at #11 with 17, Gonzalez at #18 with 16 and Cano at #27 with 14.  Ortiz made some interesting choices, as Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz and Paul Konerko were not selected despite being in the top 10 home run hitters in the game as of today.  I don’t believe that many people would argue with the selections of Bautista or Gonzalez.  It is the selection of Cano that would likely have some tongues wagging.  Most experts would have preferred Teixeira on the squad, but unfortunately he declined the invitation.  Personally, I would have gone with Granderson or Miguel Cabrera for the position.  But regardless of preference, the AL squad is a mighty one and should give the AL a strong chance to win this year’s Home Run Derby.

In the National League, Prince Fielder continues to ponder and calculate his selections, which should be announced later today.  Prince, at #6 on the home run leader board with 21, has many candidates to choose from.  One selection apparently confirmed is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, who is #4 with 22 home runs.  Other strong candidates are Fielder’s teammates Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks (with rumors have Weeks likely to receive and accept an invitation).  Other possibilities are Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, Jay Bruce of the Reds, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies and Mike Stanton of the Marlins.  If you are handicapping at home, my predicted NL squad is Fielder, Weeks, Holliday and Bruce.  We will find out later today if Prince and I are on the same page on this one.

No matter who ends up representing the AL and NL, Ortiz and Fielder will captain exciting and dynamic home run hitting squads that will electrify the Arizona crowd next Monday.  I cannot recall a more anticipated Home Run Derby in recent history.  Good luck Prince and Papi and don’t forget to eat your wheaties this week.

 

***Get ready for a week’s worth of All-Star reporting, as MLB reports has everything All-Star covered between now and the big game on Tuesday.  We will be keeping an eye on the All-Star game itself, as well as the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and everything in between.  The All-Star game is a little over a week away and we will bring you all the latest All-Star game news as it develops.  To view the AL and NL All-Star Game rosters and Final Vote candidates, click here***

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.

2011 MLB ALL-STAR GAME FINAL VOTING RESULTS:

Here are the final numbers as voted by the fans for the starting lineups in the All-Star game:

American League

CATCHER — 1, Alex Avila, Tigers, 4,144,384. 2, Russell Martin, Yankees, 3,646,033. 3, Joe Mauer, Twins, 2,308,436. 4, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox, 2,183,113. 5, Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers, 1,810,755. 6, Carlos Santana, Indians, 1,501,053. 7, J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays, 1,024,020. 8, A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox, 963,463.

FIRST BASE — 1, Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, 6,034,533. 2, Mark Teixeira, Yankees, 4,174,690. 3, Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 3,473,849. 4, Mitch Moreland, Rangers, 1,680,462. 5, Paul Konerko, White Sox, 1,323,853. 6, Adam Lind, Blue Jays, 860,203. 7, Justin Morneau, Twins, 781,717. 8, Matt LaPorta, Indians, 750,953.

SECOND BASE — 1, Robinson Cano, Yankees, 6,679,976. 2, Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 4,391,835. 3, Ian Kinsler, Rangers, 2,729,450. 4, Orlando Cabrera, Indians, 1,538,135. 5, Ben Zobrist, Rays, 1,245,709. 6, Howie Kendrick, Angels, 1,079,227. 7, Will Rhymes, Tigers, 671,674. 8, Aaron Hill, Blue Jays, 587,179.

THIRD BASE — 1, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 5,277,823. 2, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, 4,036,191. 3, Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, 4,018,641. 4, Evan Longoria, Rays, 2,804,004. 5, Brandon Inge, Tigers, 1,113,787. 6, Maicer Izturis, Angels, 666,828. 7, Mike Aviles, Royals, 602,091. 8, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, 505,015.

SHORTSTOP — 1, Derek Jeter, Yankees, 4,536,386. 2, Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians, 4,073,992. 3, Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 2,698,902. 4, Jhonny Peralta, Tigers, 2,301,524. 5, Marco Scutaro, Red Sox, 1,642,606. 6, Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays, 1,104,761. 7, J.J. Hardy, Orioles, 956,073. 8, Alexei Ramirez, White Sox, 946,442.

DESIGNATED HITTER — 1, David Ortiz, Red Sox, 6,324,793. 2, Michael Young, Rangers, 3,072,467. 3, Victor Martinez, Tigers, 2,302,988. 4, Jorge Posada, Yankees, 1,998,551. 5, Johnny Damon, Rays, 1,303,471. 6, Travis Hafner, Indians, 1,206,971. 7, Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles, 1,136,364. 8, Billy Butler, Royals, 891,940.

OUTFIELD — 1, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 7,454,753. 2, Curtis Granderson, Yankees, 6,683,877. 3, Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 4,646,394. 4, Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, 4,609,667. 5, Carl Crawford, Red Sox, 3,213,581. 6, Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 2,704,249. 7, Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, 2,528,532. 8, Nick Swisher, Yankees, 2,277,856. 9, Brett Gardner, Yankees, 2,064,372. 10, J.D. Drew, Red Sox, 2,009,877. 11, Matt Joyce, Rays, 1,597,334. 12, Jeff Francoeur, Royals, 1,505,399. 13, David Murphy, Rangers, 1,458,420. 14, Grady Sizemore, Indians, 1,283,993. 15, Austin Jackson, Tigers, 1,254,267. 16, Carlos Quentin, White Sox, 1,218,968. 17, Melky Cabrera, Royals, 1,201,982. 18, Shin-Soo Choo, Indians, 1,158,749. 19, Alex Gordon, Royals, 1,120,683. 20, B.J, Upton, Rays, 1,081,270. 21, Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, 1,008,145. 22, Torii Hunter, Angels, 927,271. 23, Sam Fuld, Rays, 916,219. 24, Michael Brantley, Indians, 878,556.

 

National League

CATCHER — 1, Brian McCann, Braves, 4,698,838. 2, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, 2,972,786. 3, Buster Posey, Giants, 2,418,923. 4, Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers, 2,271,498. 5, Ramon Hernandez, Reds, 2,056,263. 6, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, 1,864,675. 7, Ivan Rodriguez, Nationals, 1,225,342. 8, Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks, 1,149,461.

FIRST BASE — 1, Prince Fielder, Brewers, 4,864,523. 2, Joey Votto, Reds, 4,254,305. 3, Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 4,171,094. 4, Ryan Howard, Phillies, 2,563,736. 5, Freddie Freeman, Braves, 957,816. 6, Brandon Belt, Giants, 917,044. 7, Ike Davis, Mets, 824,681. 8, Todd Helton, Rockies, 761,928.

SECOND BASE — 1, Rickie Weeks, Brewers, 4,460,395. 2, Brandon Phillips, Reds, 4,273,079. 3, Chase Utley, Phillies, 3,345,845. 4, Freddy Sanchez, Giants, 1,627,733. 5, Dan Uggla, Braves, 1,583,903. 6, Neil Walker, Pirates, 993,369. 7, Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks, 862,204. 8, Skip Schumaker, Cardinals, 856,658.

THIRD BASE — 1, Placido Polanco, Phillies, 4,410,701. 2, Chipper Jones, Braves, 2,849,578. 3, Scott Rolen, Reds, 2,251,425. 4, Pablo Sandoval, Giants, 2,213,057. 5, David Wright, Mets, 2,106,800. 6, Casey McGehee, Brewers, 1,877,744. 7, Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, 1,192,220. 8, Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, 1,137,696.

SHORTSTOP — 1, Jose Reyes, Mets, 4,707,976. 2, Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, 3,932,000. 3, Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, 2,311,689. 4, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers, 1,695,431. 5, Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks, 1,523,919. 6, Alex Gonzalez, Braves, 1,476,368. 7, Miguel Tejada, Giants, 1,265,544. 8, Paul Janish, Reds, 1,168,551.

OUTFIELD — 1, Ryan Braun, Brewers, 5,928,004. 2, Lance Berkman, Cardinals, 4,345,766. 3, Matt Kemp, Dodgers, 4,293,626. 4, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, 3,948,268. 5, Jay Bruce, Reds, 3,218,003. 6, Andre Ethier, Dodgers, 3,013,030. 7, Carlos Beltran, Mets, 2,631,991. 8, Shane Victorino, Phillies, 2,370,351. 9, Corey Hart, Brewers, 1,875,897. 10, Justin Upton, Diamondbacks, 1,845,385. 11, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, 1,733,281. 12, Jason Heyward, Braves, 1,715,925. 13, Raul Ibanez, Phillies, 1,641,389. 14, Drew Stubbs, Reds, 1,572,673. 15, Carlos Gomez, Brewers, 1,508,939. 16, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, 1,343,144. 17, Hunter Pence, Astros, 1,315,276. 18, Jonny Gomes, Reds, 1,310,142. 19, Martin Prado, Braves, 1,296,763. 20, Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, 1,282,608. 21, Aubrey Huff, Giants, 1,240,980. 22, Chris Young, Diamondbacks, 1,151,443. 23, Ben Francisco, Phillies, 1,124,361. 24, Jason Bay, Mets, 1,114,574.

Final Rosters are Announced: 2011 MLB All-Star Game Vote Totals and Time for the Final Vote

Monday, July 4, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The day has finally arrived.  After weeks of voting in stadiums and on-line, the 2011 final rosters for the All-Star game are set, coming up Tuesday July 12th from beautiful Arizona, hosted by the Diamondbacks.  Barring injuries and players pulling out, we now know the starting lineups, pitching staffs and reserves representing the American League and National League in the All-Star game.  After the fans voted in the starting lineups, the All-Star managers, Ron Washington for the AL and Bruce Bochy for the NL, filled out the rest of their rosters.  There were some surprises in the announcements to say the least.  We saw some last-minute changes in the voting by the fans to the starting lineups.  From there, the All-Star managers made some very interesting selections as well.  On the whole, the rosters are fair and well deserved.  But some spots are debatable.  Then once you account for the selections by the managers, we enter the realm of a week-long debate.  Let’s take a look at the rosters for each league, including the starters, the pitching staffs and the reserves.  From there, we will analyze the candidates for the coveted “Final Vote” spot as chosen by the fans on-line, between now and 4:00p.m. on July 7th.

American League All-Star Roster:

AL Starting Lineup:
Pos Player
C Alex Avila,Tigers
1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
2B Robinson Cano, Yankees
3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
SS Derek Jeter, Yankees
OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
OF Curtis Granderson, Yankees
OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers
DH David Ortiz, Red Sox

The American League starting lineup as voted by the fans took shape as projected the last few days.  The infield remains with Adrian Gonzalez at first, combined with Yankees Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.  Despite late pushes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Beltre could not garner enough votes to make the starting lineup, although both are on their way to Arizona as reserves.  David Ortiz joins Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton in a very heavy Yankees/Red Sox lineup.  Jacoby Ellsbury also did not attain enough votes to start but will be a reserve.  Hamilton, the former AL MVP, proved to be too popular on this day.  The one major upset though was Alex Avila, who through very strong play and Tigers fans voting is starting next Tuesday ahead of the reserve Russell Martin.  Considering that Martin held onto the spot for the majority of the voting, Tigers fans were very successful in sending the deserving Avila to Arizona.

AL Pitching Staff:
Pos Player
P Josh Beckett, Red Sox
P Aaron Crow, Royals
P Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
P Felix Hernandez, Mariners
P Brandon League, Mariners
P Chris Perez, Indians
P David Price, Rays
P Mariano Rivera, Yankees
P James Shields, Rays
P Jose Valverde, Tigers
P Justin Verlander, Tigers
P Jered Weaver, Angels
P C.J. Wilson, Rangers

An incredible pitching staff to say the least, but not without its omissions.  Despite such a strong selection, C.C. Sabathia, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Jeremy Hellickson, Ricky Romero and Bartolo Colon all were left off the roster.  Other pitchers deserving consideration with Jordan Walden, Sergio Santos, Kyle Farnsworth and Jonathan Papelbon.  The selections of Aaron Crow, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon League and Jose Valverde will receive the most criticism in the coming days.  While decent picks, there appears to be more deserving players that were cast aside for the above all-stars.  A dilemma every year, I make the submission that the AL pitching staff is one that needs a second opinion given the candidates left on the board.

AL Reserves:
Pos Player
C Russell Martin, Yankees
C Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2B Howard Kendrick, Angels
3B Adrian Beltre, Rangers
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
OF Michael Cuddyer, Twins
OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
OF Matt Joyce, Rays
OF Carlos Quentin, White Sox
DH Michael Young, Rangers

Notable absences are Paul Konerko of the White Sox and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees.  Despite strong power numbers for each, the AL is only carrying two active first basemen, with Michael Young available as well.  Apparently the limit of Yankees was reached and a spot could not be found for either one.  Konerko though will get a second kick at the can, who together with Victor Martinez are the strongest candidates for the Final Vote spot.  While credit should go to Ron Washington in the selection of Joyce and Quentin, the selection of Cuddyer will be considered curious by some.  His roster spot relates more to the representation of a player for each team than being a top all-star.  So as a result, deserving candidates like Konerko, Teixeira and Martinez may not be in Arizona for the big game.

National League All-Star Roster:

NL Starting Lineup:
Pos Player
C Brian McCann, Braves
1B Prince Fielder, Brewers
2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers
3B Placido Polanco, Phillies
SS Jose Reyes, Mets
OF Ryan Braun, Brewers
OF Lance Berkman, Cardinals
OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers

We are now in the senior circuit and begin with the starting lineup.  The fans were very active in the final week of voting here as four members of the starting lineup were last-minute winners.   Prince Fielder is in over Albert Pujols, Rickie Weeks beat out the reserve Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes is in while Troy Tulowitzki is out of the lineup and on the bench and Matt Kemp beat out Matt Holliday for the starting position.  All four were very deserving winners and represent a case where the fans pushed hard and got it right.  Together with Brian McCann, Ryan Braun, Placido Polanco and Lance Berkman, the NL has a strong offensive lineup.  The Polanco selection was not one of my favorites but more of a result of a very weak third base class in the NL than anything else.

NL Pitching Staff:
Pos Player
P Heath Bell, Padres
P Matt Cain, Giants
P Tyler Clippard, Nationals
P Roy Halladay, Phillies
P Cole Hamels, Phillies
P Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
P Jair Jurrjens, Braves
P Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
P Cliff Lee, Phillies
P Tim Lincecum, Giants
P Jonny Venters, Braves
P Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
P Brian Wilson, Giants

The NL pitching staff is certainly controversial and as debatable as the AL squad.  Absent are pitchers Craig Kimbrel, John Axford, Drew Storen, Kevin Correia, Tommy Hanson, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, among others.  It is hard to argue with many if not most of the NL pitchers selected, although Ryan Vogelsong and Brian Wilson are two selections which are likely to cause the ire of the rest of the baseball world.  How Correia and Hanson in particular were omitted is beyond me.   But again this is part of the All-Star process.  An issue that is coming up every year is the selection of too many of a team’s own players by the league manager.  While Ron Washington was fair in his picks, I see Bruce Bochy as favoring his staff a little too much in this case.  Hopefully this issue gets settled out soon once and for all.

NL Reserves:
Pos Player
C Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
1B Joey Votto, Reds
2B Brandon Phillips, Reds
3B Chipper Jones, Braves
SS Starlin Castro, Cubs
SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
OF Carlos Beltran, Mets
OF Jay Bruce, Reds
OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals
OF Hunter Pence, Astros
OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

 Names that are missing off this list are Ryan Howard, Danny Espinosa, Mike Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, among others.  Looking at the selections overall, Chipper Jones was the one that most stands out.  But given the weak third base crop and Jones lifetime contributions to the game, this is actually a fairly classy move in what could be Jones swan song.  But overall I am satisfied with the NL reserves.  Not as many issues as the pitching staff from my standpoint.

With the All-Star rosters in place, fans now get to select the 34th roster spot for each league.  A dog fight is definitely in store for Thursday.

MLB Final Vote Candidates:

AL Nominees:

While Alex Gordon is a feel good story this year and Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist deserve consideration, this spot will come down to a popularity contest between AL Central rivals Paul Konerko and Victor Martinez.  While both are very worthy candidates, it is a question of to which direction the fans will push.  My pick is Paul Konerko but given the success of Alex Avila, I am forecasting Victor Martinez as the Final Vote victor here.

NL Nominees:

Another set of worthy candidates, this one will boil down to the Phillies faithful pushing of Shane Victorino, the hometown Diamondbacks selection of Ian Kennedy or the push for Andre Ethier of the Dodgers.  My selection is Ethier but I can see Victorino landing the spot based on the passion and push of his local fans.  Call it gut on this one, although I can see the worthy Kennedy squeaking in as an option.

***Get ready for a week’s worth of All-Star reporting, as MLB reports has everything All-Star covered between now and the big game on Tuesday.  We will be keeping an eye on the All-Star game itself, as well as the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and everything in between.  The All-Star game is a little over a week away and we will bring you all the latest All-Star game news as it develops.***

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2011 MLB ALL-STAR GAME FINAL VOTING RESULTS:

Here are the final numbers as voted by the fans for the starting lineups in the All-Star game:

American League

CATCHER — 1, Alex Avila, Tigers, 4,144,384. 2, Russell Martin, Yankees, 3,646,033. 3, Joe Mauer, Twins, 2,308,436. 4, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox, 2,183,113. 5, Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers, 1,810,755. 6, Carlos Santana, Indians, 1,501,053. 7, J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays, 1,024,020. 8, A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox, 963,463.

FIRST BASE — 1, Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, 6,034,533. 2, Mark Teixeira, Yankees, 4,174,690. 3, Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 3,473,849. 4, Mitch Moreland, Rangers, 1,680,462. 5, Paul Konerko, White Sox, 1,323,853. 6, Adam Lind, Blue Jays, 860,203. 7, Justin Morneau, Twins, 781,717. 8, Matt LaPorta, Indians, 750,953.

SECOND BASE — 1, Robinson Cano, Yankees, 6,679,976. 2, Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 4,391,835. 3, Ian Kinsler, Rangers, 2,729,450. 4, Orlando Cabrera, Indians, 1,538,135. 5, Ben Zobrist, Rays, 1,245,709. 6, Howie Kendrick, Angels, 1,079,227. 7, Will Rhymes, Tigers, 671,674. 8, Aaron Hill, Blue Jays, 587,179.

THIRD BASE — 1, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 5,277,823. 2, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, 4,036,191. 3, Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, 4,018,641. 4, Evan Longoria, Rays, 2,804,004. 5, Brandon Inge, Tigers, 1,113,787. 6, Maicer Izturis, Angels, 666,828. 7, Mike Aviles, Royals, 602,091. 8, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, 505,015.

SHORTSTOP — 1, Derek Jeter, Yankees, 4,536,386. 2, Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians, 4,073,992. 3, Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 2,698,902. 4, Jhonny Peralta, Tigers, 2,301,524. 5, Marco Scutaro, Red Sox, 1,642,606. 6, Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays, 1,104,761. 7, J.J. Hardy, Orioles, 956,073. 8, Alexei Ramirez, White Sox, 946,442.

DESIGNATED HITTER — 1, David Ortiz, Red Sox, 6,324,793. 2, Michael Young, Rangers, 3,072,467. 3, Victor Martinez, Tigers, 2,302,988. 4, Jorge Posada, Yankees, 1,998,551. 5, Johnny Damon, Rays, 1,303,471. 6, Travis Hafner, Indians, 1,206,971. 7, Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles, 1,136,364. 8, Billy Butler, Royals, 891,940.

OUTFIELD — 1, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 7,454,753. 2, Curtis Granderson, Yankees, 6,683,877. 3, Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 4,646,394. 4, Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, 4,609,667. 5, Carl Crawford, Red Sox, 3,213,581. 6, Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 2,704,249. 7, Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, 2,528,532. 8, Nick Swisher, Yankees, 2,277,856. 9, Brett Gardner, Yankees, 2,064,372. 10, J.D. Drew, Red Sox, 2,009,877. 11, Matt Joyce, Rays, 1,597,334. 12, Jeff Francoeur, Royals, 1,505,399. 13, David Murphy, Rangers, 1,458,420. 14, Grady Sizemore, Indians, 1,283,993. 15, Austin Jackson, Tigers, 1,254,267. 16, Carlos Quentin, White Sox, 1,218,968. 17, Melky Cabrera, Royals, 1,201,982. 18, Shin-Soo Choo, Indians, 1,158,749. 19, Alex Gordon, Royals, 1,120,683. 20, B.J, Upton, Rays, 1,081,270. 21, Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, 1,008,145. 22, Torii Hunter, Angels, 927,271. 23, Sam Fuld, Rays, 916,219. 24, Michael Brantley, Indians, 878,556.

National League

CATCHER — 1, Brian McCann, Braves, 4,698,838. 2, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, 2,972,786. 3, Buster Posey, Giants, 2,418,923. 4, Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers, 2,271,498. 5, Ramon Hernandez, Reds, 2,056,263. 6, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, 1,864,675. 7, Ivan Rodriguez, Nationals, 1,225,342. 8, Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks, 1,149,461.

FIRST BASE — 1, Prince Fielder, Brewers, 4,864,523. 2, Joey Votto, Reds, 4,254,305. 3, Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 4,171,094. 4, Ryan Howard, Phillies, 2,563,736. 5, Freddie Freeman, Braves, 957,816. 6, Brandon Belt, Giants, 917,044. 7, Ike Davis, Mets, 824,681. 8, Todd Helton, Rockies, 761,928.

SECOND BASE — 1, Rickie Weeks, Brewers, 4,460,395. 2, Brandon Phillips, Reds, 4,273,079. 3, Chase Utley, Phillies, 3,345,845. 4, Freddy Sanchez, Giants, 1,627,733. 5, Dan Uggla, Braves, 1,583,903. 6, Neil Walker, Pirates, 993,369. 7, Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks, 862,204. 8, Skip Schumaker, Cardinals, 856,658.

THIRD BASE — 1, Placido Polanco, Phillies, 4,410,701. 2, Chipper Jones, Braves, 2,849,578. 3, Scott Rolen, Reds, 2,251,425. 4, Pablo Sandoval, Giants, 2,213,057. 5, David Wright, Mets, 2,106,800. 6, Casey McGehee, Brewers, 1,877,744. 7, Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, 1,192,220. 8, Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, 1,137,696.

SHORTSTOP — 1, Jose Reyes, Mets, 4,707,976. 2, Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, 3,932,000. 3, Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, 2,311,689. 4, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers, 1,695,431. 5, Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks, 1,523,919. 6, Alex Gonzalez, Braves, 1,476,368. 7, Miguel Tejada, Giants, 1,265,544. 8, Paul Janish, Reds, 1,168,551.

OUTFIELD — 1, Ryan Braun, Brewers, 5,928,004. 2, Lance Berkman, Cardinals, 4,345,766. 3, Matt Kemp, Dodgers, 4,293,626. 4, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, 3,948,268. 5, Jay Bruce, Reds, 3,218,003. 6, Andre Ethier, Dodgers, 3,013,030. 7, Carlos Beltran, Mets, 2,631,991. 8, Shane Victorino, Phillies, 2,370,351. 9, Corey Hart, Brewers, 1,875,897. 10, Justin Upton, Diamondbacks, 1,845,385. 11, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, 1,733,281. 12, Jason Heyward, Braves, 1,715,925. 13, Raul Ibanez, Phillies, 1,641,389. 14, Drew Stubbs, Reds, 1,572,673. 15, Carlos Gomez, Brewers, 1,508,939. 16, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, 1,343,144. 17, Hunter Pence, Astros, 1,315,276. 18, Jonny Gomes, Reds, 1,310,142. 19, Martin Prado, Braves, 1,296,763. 20, Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, 1,282,608. 21, Aubrey Huff, Giants, 1,240,980. 22, Chris Young, Diamondbacks, 1,151,443. 23, Ben Francisco, Phillies, 1,124,361. 24, Jason Bay, Mets, 1,114,574.

2011 MLB All-Star Game: Current Vote Totals Before Final Rosters Announced

Thursday, June 30, 2011

 

 

 

MLB reports:  The All-Star rosters for the MLB All-Star game will be announced this Sunday, July 3rd.  With the polling stations set to close shortly, we are nearing the end of the voting process.  After weeks of fan voting on-line and at all MLB stadiums, decision day is upon us in three short days.  But for those of you that don’t like to wait, we have the current vote totals for the AL and NL All-Star rosters by position.  We also prognosticate based on the current numbers as to who will win out and make the final squads.  Let’s begin in the NL, where some open races still exist:

 

2011 NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STAR BALLOTING (as of June 26)

CATCHER
Brian McCann, Braves: 3,062,884
Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 2,271,887
Buster Posey, Giants: 1,849,984
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: 1,451,280
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: 1,392,944

Prediction:  Brian McCann kept his lead and deserves this spot.  He will be behind the plate in Arizona for the NL squad.  Despite missing most of the season due to injury, Buster Posey still sits in 2nd place.  The state of NL catching is weak this year to say the least.  With no competition in the field, McCann is your first named starter.

FIRST BASE
Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 3,358,432
Prince Fielder, Brewers: 2,903,584
Joey Votto, Reds: 2,832,857
Ryan Howard, Phillies: 1,881,711
Freddie Freeman, Braves: 702,911

Prediction:  Despite his injury and guarantee to miss the game, Albert Pujols will be voted in as a starter (in name only).  Prince Fielder has been enjoying a remarkable season and deserves a better fate.  While Prince will go to Arizona, it will be as a substitute for Pujols.  The lead is just too large and Pujols has too strong of a name recognition for Prince to overcome.

SECOND BASE
Rickie Weeks, Brewers: 2,869,583
Brandon Phillips, Reds: 2,791,186
Chase Utley, Phillies: 2,406,965
Dan Uggla, Braves: 1,223,812
Freddy Sanchez, Giants: 1,184,145

Prediction:  This one is very close to call.  Based on his late push, our money is on Rickie Weeks winning out over Brandon Phillips.  A recent return by Chase Utley has created a mini-push for him as well.  In any other year this position would be Utley’s position to lose.  But clearly fans have determined that Utley has missed too much time and Weeks is deserving of his recognition.

THIRD BASE
Placido Polanco, Phillies: 3,261,718
Chipper Jones, Braves: 2,040,594
Pablo Sandoval, Giants: 1,584,671
David Wright, Mets: 1,497,778
Scott Rolen, Reds: 1,417,248

Prediction:  The Phillies fans have spoken and Placido Polanco will be starting at the All-Star game.  David Wright’s free fall from stardom has paved the way for new/old faces to emerge.  This has been Polanco’s spot to lose from the beginning and has steady play has been enough to win out.  Sometimes slow and steady does win the race.

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: 2,955,609
Jose Reyes, Mets: 2,710,777
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: 1,724,166
Alex Gonzalez, Braves: 1,142,470
Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers: 1,131,078

Prediction:  Another very close race that is difficult to handicap.  The gut feel on this one is that Jose Reyes has received enough publicity and media attention to garner the necessary votes to beat out Troy Tulowitzki.  Reyes has enjoyed quite the comeback year and a starting role in Arizona would be the icing on the cake.

OUTFIELD
Ryan Braun, Brewers: 3,932,100
Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 3,208,183
Matt Holliday, Cardinals: 2,935,965
Matt Kemp, Dodgers: 2,743,927
Andre Ethier, Dodgers: 2,264,640
Jay Bruce, Reds: 2,119,267
Shane Victorino, Phillies: 1,742,128
Carlos Beltran, Mets: 1,639,362
Jason Heyward, Braves: 1,302,127
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: 1,253,728
Raul Ibanez, Phillies: 1,239,678
Corey Hart, Brewers: 1,217,629
Justin Upton, D-backs: 1,141,296
Carlos Gomez, Brewers: 1,016,685
Martin Prado, Braves: 1,012,084

 Prediction:  Ryan Braun and Lance Berkman have been foregone conclusions for some time.  It is the battle for the 3rd and final outfield position that remains.  For a while it was Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier on the heals of Matt Holliday.  While Ethier has bowed out essentially, Kemp continues to get his push.  But will it be enough?  MLB reports says yes.  In his breakout year, Kemp is getting the respect and attention he deserves.  It appears that the fans would agree as well.

2011 AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR BALLOTING (as of June 28)

CATCHER
Russell Martin, Yankees: 2,779,592
Alex Avila, Tigers: 2,345,065
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,699,604
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: 1,505,143
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 1,309,802

Prediction:  Detroit fans have made a solid plea for the inclusion of Alex Avila as the starting catcher for the AL squad.  But the Yankee faithful have spoken otherwise and continue to lead, together with the Boston Red Sox in most spots.  Catcher is one of them,  with Russell Martin looking to be a lock for Arizona.  The one item of note is that  Joe Mauer will not be voted in.  Mauer when healthy is one of the best, if not the best catchers in baseball.  But this year has been a nightmare for Mauer health wise.  It looks to be a chance for more new/old blood to shine.

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 4,014,722
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 3,077,242
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 2,184,480
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 1,209,258
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 932,422

Prediction:  Taking a look at the numbers, 3 million votes for Mark Teixeira and 2 million votes for Miguel Cabrera is very respectable.  But 4 million+ votes takes the cake in this race for Adrian Gonzalez.  The current leading candidate for AL MVP according to many MLB followers has earned his start in Arizona.  The Red Sox faithful are certainly not complaining.

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano, Yankees: 4,724,816
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 2,979,181
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,896,259
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 1,127,840
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 963,481

Prediction:  Looking at the numbers, it is all Robinson Cano in this one.  No AL second baseman has come close to matching his production and it shows in the voting.  A well-earned spot for the maturing Cano who is graduating to complete superstar status in New York.

THIRD BASE
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 3,735,406
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 2,935,373
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 2,724,286
Evan Longoria, Rays: 2,000,379
Brandon Inge, Tigers: 633,519

Prediction:  Alex Rodriguez will have yet another All-Star game appearance.  While Adrian Beltre got a sudden surge, it is the popularity and steadiness of A-Rod that will win out.

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter, Yankees: 3,392,128
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 2,885,778
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 1,971,514
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: 1,178,114
Marco Scutaro, Red Sox: 1,099,744

Prediction:  Another fairly weak field, similar to that of third base in the NL.  Derek Jeter has slumped and/or been injured all season long.  But the name will win out and Yankee fans are excited to see their future hall of fame shortstop going to the All-Star.  Does Jeter deserve this spot this year?  Probably not.  But without a strong Indians base to campaign for Cabrera, the Yankees captain will start.  Just too much of a lead at this point.

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz, Red Sox: 4,237,014
Michael Young, Rangers: 2,235,504
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 1,453,385
Victor Martinez, Tigers: 1,234,879
Johnny Damon, Rays: 1,028,366

Prediction:  When you think DH, think David Ortiz.  He is his own universe in voting this year.  The DH market is starting to thin out and Ortiz has stood head and shoulders above the rest this year.

OUTFIELD
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 5,263,840
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 4,582,419
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 3,173,000
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 3,051,675
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 2,294,337
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,912,783
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 1,912,062
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 1,648,599
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 1,499,367
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 1,428,367
Matt Joyce, Rays: 1,226,439
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 1,061,445
David Murphy, Rangers: 1,057,887
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 1,033,014
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 924,326

Prediction:  The first two spots in the AL outfield have been set for some time.  Jose Bautista leads all All-Stars in voting and together with Curtis Granderson will definitely be in Arizona on July 12th.  Josh Hamilton has held onto the 3rd spot for some time, despite missing part of the season due to injury.  Jacoby Ellsbury has narrowed the gap significantly in the last couple of weeks and looks to be a starter by the time the rosters are announced on Sunday.  Ellsbury has enjoyed a solid campaign this year and Red Sox nation is making the push for his inclusion in the big game.  That is usually a recipe for success.

Get ready for July 12th, as the New York Red Sox (aka the AL All-Star team) takes on the NL squad on Tuesday July 12th to determine home field advantage for the World Series.  The rosters will be announced this Sunday July 3rd and MLB reports will bring you all the final details.  Stay tuned!

 

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Latest AL and NL Vote Totals: 2011 MLB All-Star Game

Thursday, June 23, 2011

 

 

 

MLB reports:  With the MLB All-Star Game less than three weeks, the race to finalize the lineups is starting to tighten up.  The majority of the starters have fairly significant leads and will be in Arizona, barring injury or declining the invitation.  However, some of the races have started to tighten up, with the positions up for grabs until the final votes are in.  Let’s take a look at the current leading vote getters per league and position:

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR (as of June 21)

CATCHER
Russell Martin - Yankees: 2,226,797
Alex Avila - Tigers: 1,730,511
Joe Mauer - Twins: 1,341,474
Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Red Sox: 1,135,617
Yorvit Torrealba - Rangers: 980,697

Verdict:  Martin is in unless Avila gets a huge spike in votes at the end.  While many are pushing for Avila to get the nod, Martin has the numbers and the fan base to likely win out.

 

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez - Red Sox: 3,017,960
Mark Teixeira - Yankees: 2,407,665
Miguel Cabrera - Tigers: 1,771,893
Mitch Moreland - Rangers: 890,468
Paul Konerko - White Sox: 676,194

Verdict:  A-Gonz will be starting in Arizona.  Take it to the bank.  He has been one of the best players in the AL this season and plays in Boston.  The fans will continue to vote for him until he is announced as the winner.

 

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano - Yankees: 3,664,498
Dustin Pedroia - Red Sox: 2,239,172
Ian Kinsler - Rangers: 1,452,880
Orlando Cabrera - Indians: 910,941
Ben Zobrist - Rays: 828,771

Verdict:  Cano continues to lead the pack by a country mile.  His season totals justify his position.

 

THIRD BASE
Alex Rodriguez - Yankees: 2,876,537
Adrian Beltre - Rangers: 2,307,380
Kevin Youkilis - Red Sox: 2,025,438
Evan Longoria - Rays: 1,639,405
Brandon Inge - Tigers: 490,734

Verdict:  A-Rod is still A-Rod.  Beltre is getting closer though and could make this one interesting.

 

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter - Yankees: 2,654,040
Asdrubal Cabrera - Indians: 2,242,157
Elvis Andrus - Rangers: 1,513,929
Jhonny Peralta - Tigers: 875,371
Marco Scutaro - Red Sox: 813,888

Verdict:  Jeter, the New York Yankees captain, continues to lead the way.  However, an injury and poor play this season have led Cabrera to get closer in the voting.  If Cabrera has a few more strong games, there is a chance he could be in Arizona as the starter.  Either way, expect Cabrera to represent the Indians at the All-Star game. 

 

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz - Red Sox: 3,116,578
Michael Young - Rangers: 1,760,195
Jorge Posada - Yankees: 1,120,830
Victor Martinez - Tigers: 932,711
Johnny Damon - Rays: 864,535

Verdict:  Papi picked a great year to have a strong campaign.  A free agent at year’s end, he is a worthy All-Star pick.

 

OUTFIELD
Jose Bautista - Blue Jays: 4,156,940
Curtis Granderson - Yankees: 3,473,227
Josh Hamilton - Rangers: 2,400,408
Jacoby Ellsbury - Red Sox: 2,249,323
Carl Crawford - Red Sox: 1,789,097
Ichiro Suzuki - Mariners: 1,537,101
Nelson Cruz - Rangers: 1,462,426
Nick Swisher - Yankees: 1,271,843
Brett Gardner - Yankees: 1,120,179
J.D. Drew - Red Sox: 1,112,720
Matt Joyce - Rays: 1,038,098
Jeff Francoeur - Royals: 906,983
Grady Sizemore - Indians: 867,281
David Murphy - Rangers: 785,630
Shin-Soo Choo - Indians: 764,817

Verdict:  Bautista and Granderson continue to lead the AL outfielders in voting and deservedly so.  Hamilton and Ellsbury are battling it out for the final spot in a competition of what have you done for me lately vs. last year’s statistics.  Depending on where you sit in the debate, the 2010 MVP Hamilton or the 2011 resurgent Ellsbury should be the third AL outfielder.  With Hamilton banged up and Ellsbury playing so well for a first place Boston squad, expect Ellsbury to win out.

 

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STAR (as of June 20)

CATCHER
Brian McCann - Braves: 2,301,252
Yadier Molina - Cardinals: 1,836,490
Buster Posey - Giants: 1,573,484
Jonathan Lucroy - Brewers: 1,098,507
Carlos Ruiz - Phillies: 1,095,081

Verdict:  McCann is the best catcher in baseball, not just the NL.  He has received the justified votes and will be starting for the NL squad.

 

FIRST BASE
Albert Pujols - Cardinals: 2,806,864
Joey Votto - Reds: 2,270,211
Prince Fielder - Brewers: 2,066,327
Ryan Howard - Phillies: 1,477,478
Freddie Freeman - Braves: 559,762

Verdict:  Pujols was the leader and remains so despite being placed on the shelf recently.  With Pujols out of the picture, Votto and Fielder will continue to duke it out for top spot.  The power and flash of Prince will likely rule over the steadiness of Votto.

 

SECOND BASE
Brandon Phillips - Reds: 2,286,378
Rickie Weeks - Brewers: 2,094,502
Chase Utley - Phillies: 1,827,194
Dan Uggla - Braves: 1,012,370
Freddy Sanchez - Giants: 987,606

Verdict:  Phillips and Weeks are neck-in-neck in one of the closest positional battles.  Based on Weeks recent play, my money is on him to get the starting role.

 

THIRD BASE
Placido Polanco - Phillies: 2,599,925
Chipper Jones - Braves: 1,558,895
Pablo Sandoval - Giants: 1,302,098
David Wright - Mets: 1,228,710
Scott Rolen - Reds: 1,102,626

Verdict:  Polanco of the NL leading Philadelphia Phillies appears to have this one locked up.  Without much in the way of competition, Polanco has been the best of the bunch according to the fans.

 

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki - Rockies: 2,385,991
Jose Reyes - Mets: 1,972,820
Jimmy Rollins - Phillies: 1,354,896
Alex Gonzalez - Braves: 928,992
Yuniesky Betancourt - Brewers: 860,163

Verdict:  Reyes of the Mets is making a late charge but Tulo might have too big of a lead to overcome.  Expect this one to go to the wire as Reyes has been getting much of the press and attention in the past few days.

OUTFIELD
Ryan Braun - Brewers: 3,034,057
Lance Berkman - Cardinals: 2,562,428
Matt Holliday - Cardinals: 2,390,118
Matt Kemp - Dodgers: 2,062,667
Andre Ethier - Dodgers: 1,889,298
Jay Bruce - Reds: 1,681,613
Shane Victorino - Phillies: 1,357,115
Carlos Beltran - Mets: 1,261,308
Jason Heyward - Braves: 1,059,581
Raul Ibanez - Phillies: 982,046
Justin Upton - D-backs: 950,047
Carlos Gonzalez - Rockies: 944,666
Corey Hart - Brewers: 910,550
Martin Prado - Braves: 830,105
Alfonso Soriano - Cubs: 804,303

Verdict:  Braun has the top spot locked up with Berkman almost guaranteed a starting spot in Arizona as well.  The third outfield position will come down a battle between Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  Kemp is narrowing the margin but based on the vote numbers, St. Louis will likely have 2/3 of the starting All-Star outfield come July 12th. 

 

MLB reports will continue to keep you up-to-date as the voting for the MLB All-Star game comes to a close.  We will announce the starting lineups and rosters as they are made available and let you know on any injury replacements.  This year’s field will be a competitive one and we look forward to catching all the action in Arizona, as the American League and National League battle for home field advantage in the World Series.

 

 

 

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2011 MLB All-Star Game Ballots: American League Vote Totals

Tuesday June 14, 2011

 

 

 

MLB reports:  In part II of our All-Star game feature, we take a look at the leading vote getters for the American League squad.  The MLB All-Star Game is coming up on July 12th from Phoenix, Arizona.  With home field advantage on the line, the question every year is whether the American League will continue its domination in the mid-season classic.  We might as well call this team the New York Red Sox or Boston Yankees given the current composition of the team.  Let’s take a look at the AL vote totals as of today to consider if the fans are getting it right:

 

CATCHER
Russell Martin, Yankees: 1,712,156
Alex Avila, Tigers: 1,093,070
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,041,798
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: 763,607
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 751,858

Verdict:  Round one goes to the fans as Russell Martin for the most part has been the best catcher in the American League thus far.  Coming off an unproductive, injury filled 2010 season, Martin has rebounded to reclaim his all-star status.  The 2nd leading vote getter, Alex Avila, has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign and deserves to be up high on the list.  From there, the waters get murky.  Mauer has been injured all year and Salmatlamacchia has been fairly unproductive for most of the season in Boston.  Names like Arencebia and Suzuki should probably be higher up on the list, as much of this list is based on past production and/or popularity vs. actual production.  But Martin is in the lead for being the best catcher in the AL, as much as he is a Yankee.

 

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 2,027,537
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 1,774,024
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 1,295,547
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 692,670
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 507,547

Verdict:  One of the early season picks for MVP, Gonzalez has been everything that could have been expected and more for Boston.  Teixeira and Cabrera have also enjoyed productive campaigns and are rightfully at the top of the voting leader board.  A case could be made for any of the three to start at first in Arizona, but A-Gonz has been the best of the bunch and deserves to be at the top.  He just happens to play in Boston as well.

 

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano, Yankees: 2,649,737
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 1,518,231
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,129,023
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 732,308
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 633,533

Verdict:  A Yankee in first and a Red Sox player in 2nd in this category.  Are we noticing a trend?  Based on numbers alone, Cano has been far and away the best second baseman in the American League, if not all of baseball.  With almost double the amount of votes compared to Pedroia, fans clearly agree.  The list, one through five, appears to be bang-on with listing the top players at the position.  The fans got it right yet again. 

 

THIRD BASE
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 2,063,520
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 1,752,729
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 1,381,381
Evan Longoria, Rays: 1,226,770
Maicer Izturis, Angels: 364,623

Verdict:  This is not your father’s third base and while this group used to be the elite of the league, the numbers are showing otherwise.  With Longoria injured for must of the campaign, A-Rod continues to be the leading voting getter with Beltre close behind.  I was very surprised to see Longoria as high as 4th, but based on his strong image and popularity, I guess it should have been expected.  A-Rod based on the number deserves this spot, but is here as much for his numbers as the fact that he is a Yankee.  His position as the top player in the game has clearly been eroding for some time.  But for this season at least, A-Rod looks to remain the top third baseman in the American League.

 

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter, Yankees: 1,931,670
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 1,647,802
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 1,180,962
Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays: 640,395
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: 540,601

Verdict:  Much outcry has been heard over this vote and I will agree.  For a player that has given so much to the game, Derek Jeter on the numbers does not deserve to be starting in the All-Star game.  Cabrera, Andrus and Escobar have enjoyed very productive seasons for their respective teams and should be ahead of Jeter in the voting.  But alas Jeter is Jeter and the fans have chosen the sizzle over the steak in this case.  A big double thumbs down here.

 

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz, Red Sox: 1,974,918
Michael Young, Rangers: 1,428,833
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 810,672
Travis Hafner, Indians: 691,205
Johnny Damon, Rays: 672,529

Verdict:  The designated hitter, the who’s-who of players playing out the string in the American League.  Despite strong seasons by Young, Hafner and Damon, it is David Ortiz who has been the best DH of 2011 and as a result has a huge lead in the voting.  Jorge Posada should be near the bottom of the pack, but sits in third place based on his name and team.  Anyone here besides Ortiz would have been an injustice.

 

OUTFIELD
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 3,042,091
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 2,406,946
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 1,799,339
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 1,447,715
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 1,231,035
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 1,222,687
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,123,608
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 937,365
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 796,905
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 778,871
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 752,687
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 739,930
Matt Joyce, Rays: 737,377
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 642,387
David Murphy, Rangers: 622,160

Verdict:  I will give the fans credit.  Two out of three ain’t bad.  The top two outfielders in the American League have been Bautista and Granderson.  They sit one and two in the lead to be the starting outfielders in Arizona.  Bravo fans.  Bravo.  Josh Hamilton though sits in third place over Jacoby Ellsbury.  Based on last year’s campaign, Hamilton was a far stronger player than Ellsbury.  But this year, Hamilton has missed much of the season due to injury while Ellsbury has rebounded.  Despite the heavy Red Sox and Yankees mix in the lineup, I would have awarded Ellsebury the third outfield spot if given the choice between the two.  But looking at the rest of the voting list, it is beyond me how Swisher, Gardner, Crawford and Drew are at the voting list.  Aside from playing in Boston and New York, these players have done literally nothing to earn their votes.  I am impressed to see Francoeur and Joyce with strong vote totals, proving that smaller names in even smaller markets can still be rewarded for strong play.  Ichiro is also on the list despite one of his worst campaigns ever.  Where I ask is Carlos Quentin, one of the top hitters this year in the American League?  Playing for a poor White Sox team with little attention this year.  King Carlos should be starting, but the popularity contest unfortunately did him in. 

 

 

 

If the voting for the American League All-Star team ended today, 7/9 of the starting lineup would be made up of Red Sox and Yankees players.  While most of the players deserve their positions based on the numbers, it would be curious to see what would happen if those same players were on different teams.  But then if those players were on different teams, they may not end up with the same high numbers they are producing.  Very perplexing.  It would be nice to have greater balance in the voting to include more players from other squads.  But when players like Russell Martin, David Ortiz and Curtis Granderson stand out so far from the crowd, they should be voted in regardless of the city they play in.  While the bias of fans then results in Derek Jeter starting and inferior players like Drew and Swisher receiving high vote totals, looking at the lineups overall, the fans for the most part got it right.  For those critics that do not agree, the best argument is get as many fans from other cities to vote on-line and at the games to make a difference.  But the fans have spoken and we look forward to watching the New York Red Sox take on the National League All-Star team in Arizona on July 12th.

Please click here to read yesterday’s NL All-Star team preview. 

 

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Top Home Run Hitters: The MLB Leaderboard

Sunday June 12, 2011

MLB reports:  Another week goes by and we find that there are more changes on the MLB Home Run Leaderboard.  Jose Bautista finally has some competition and the proven long ball hitters of seasons past have finally made the list.  Let’s take a look at the home run leaders in Major League Baseball as of today:

Tie 1st:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays:  20

Jose Bautista hit #20 on May 28th.  Since then, he has remained stuck on 20 while the rest of baseball starts to catch up.  For a man in a home run draught, he still has 58/35 BB/K on the season, with a .338 AVG, .490 OBP and .692 SLG.  As Bautista works to recapture his early season form, Adam Lind has come back to the Jays as a man on a mission.  Lind is hitting .327 on the season with 11 home runs of his own, a beneficiary of the protection that Bautista can afford him in the lineup.  Realistically speaking, Bautista was never going to hit 80 home runs this season.  But he remains on pace for 50+ and Bautista may still match or exceed his 54 long balls from last year.

Tie 1stCurtis Granderson, New York Yankees:  20

There is a 2nd sherif in town and his name is Curtis Granderson.  One of three Yankees on our list, Granderson has enjoyed a rejuvenation at age 30.  Granderson is close to matching his 24 home runs from last year and well on his way to exceeding his career high of 30 home runs from 2009.  Granderson’s 27/65 BB/K ratio tell me that he has not necessarily changed his free swinging ways at the plate and a “market correction” may be in order here.  But despite his .267 AVG, Granderson has not shown any slow downs in the power department.  2011 has been Curtis Granderson’s coming out party and if Bautista isn’t careful, we may have another home run king on the season very soon.

Tie 3rdMatt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers:  19

Matt Kemp (“The Bison”) at the age of 26, has finally started to cement his place in the book of baseball superstardom.  With 19 home runs on the year, to go along with his incredible .331 AVG, .408 OBP and .632 SLG, Kemp has gone from prospect to star seemingly overnight.  After hitting 26 and 28 home runs over the last two seasons respectively, Kemp is on pace to hit 40-50 home runs this year.  Hitting in the heart of the Dodgers lineup with Andre Ethier, Kemp has been the heart and soul of the team this year.  As he matures as a person and leader, so has his game developed on the field.  The sky is the limit for this young superstar, who has future MVP written all over him.

Tie 3rdMark Teixeira, New York Yankees:  19

The last two spots on our top-five list should come as no surprise, starting with Yankee slugger Mark Teixeira.  With 39 home runs in 2009 and 43 in 2005, Teixeira has showcased his home run strengths in previous years.  A consistent 30+ home run threat, Teixeira is on his way to setting a career high in the category, showing his enjoyment playing in Yankee Stadium with its short porch.  Teixeira, with his smooth swing, home run park and protection in the lineup, has all the factors in his favor.  By season’s end, I expect him to remain near the top of this list and could very well finish at the #1 position.

5thPrince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers:  18

The final spot goes to Prince Fielder, the impending free agent slugging first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Prince has literally done it all this season.  He has shown a great eye, with 36/31 BB/K in 2011, to go along with his .300 AVG, .410 OBP and .614 SLG.  The man hit 50 home runs in 2007 and 46 in 2009.  With a BIG payday ahead (rumored to be in the $200 million range), Fielder is showcasing his skills this year.  At 27-years of age, Prince will be able to write his own ticket when picking his next home.  He has certainly ensured to give himself the best chance to make the big bucks in the future by his strong play in the present.  Fielder’s agent?  None other than Scott Boras.  Expect Fielder to continue to explode on the field all season with teammate Ryan Braun as the Brewers make one more giant push with its hulking first baseman steering the ship.

After looking at such an impressive top-five list, the rest of the sluggers represent the who’s-who of baseball.  Bruce, Braun, Quentin, Pujols, Cabrera, A-Rod…yes, they are all here.  Mike Stanton with 16 home runs has come together quickly in his 2nd season to become one of the top home run hitters in the game.  As we discussed several times to start the season, the cream always rises to the top as the months go by.  As we sit at almost the halfway mark of the season, the proven home run sluggers have proven just that.

The Best of the Rest:

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds:  17

Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox:  17

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals:  16

Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox:  16

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox:  16

Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins:  16

Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers:  15

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers:  14

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals:  14

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers:  13

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies:  13

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees:  13

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Pujols vs. Bautista: Battle of the Sluggers- Friday Faceoff

Friday, May 27, 2011

MLB reports:  On the surface we appear to have a changing of the guard in baseball.  Albert Pujols had been anointed the next Babe Ruth many years ago and his numbers to-date have been simply outstanding.  416 home runs over 11 seasons with a lifetime .329 AVG, .423 OBP and .617 SLG are clear hall of fame numbers.  But then something seems to have happened this year.  As Pujols entered his free agency year, his numbers began to drop.  As Albert Pujols has fallen back down to earth, home run king Jose Bautista continues his career rise.  After 54 home runs in 2010, Bautista has hit the ground running in 2011 and has the MLB world talking.  After so many requests for this faceoff, let’s take a look at Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista in 2011 and determine which is the better player.

Age

Pujols is 31 years-of-age while Bautista is 30.  Rumors have constantly circled Pujols that his actual age may be closer to 33-34, based on Dominican age scandals in the past.  But without substantiation, we will take Pujols at his word and conclude that both players are very close in age and in the same stage of their careers.  Verdict:  Draw.

Power

Bautista leads the majors in home runs with 19 while Pujols has been slow out of the gate at 8.  Pujols has a .407 SLG while Bautista sits at .785.  There is no question that Bautista has far exceeded Pujols in the power department this year.  Considering that Bautista has only had Adam Lind for part of time for protection in the lineup with few other sluggers makes the numbers even more astounding.  Pujols has both Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday in the mix and should be able to see far better pitches than Bautista.  This part is a no doubter.  Verdict:  Bautista, by a country mile.

Patience and Batting Eye

This should have been Pujols category for the taking.  With a career 934/666 BB/K, Pujols has a batting eye that few can match.  This year however, Pujols sits at 20/20 BB/K.  Good numbers, but not superstar Pujols type numbers.  Bautista on the other hand leads the way with 42 walks on the season and is on pace to break 150.  With only 24 strike outs in 2011, Bautista has an almost 2/1 BB/K ratio.  It looks like we have a new sherif in town.  In 2010, Pujols was great with 103/76 BB/K while Bautista produced 100/116 BB/K.  While the walks were evenly matched, Pujols was able to strike out fewer times.  But that was then and this season reads a different story.  Pujols has a .330 OBP and Bautista leads with a .492 OBP.  Not even close.  Verdict:  round 3 goes to Bautista.

Batting Average

Pujols has a lifetime .329 AVG while Bautista sits at .250.  In 2010, Pujols had a .312 AVG while Bautista sat at .260.  In 2011 though we have a seen a role reversal.  Pujols has a .261 AVG while Bautista has a .342 AVG.  Case closed again.  Verdict:  Bautista. 

Stolen Bases

Neither player is a speed demon by any stretch.  Bautista has 5 stolen bases on the year with 9 in 2010.  Pujols had 14 last year but three this year.  Neither gets on base with the thought of running and the stolen bases are negligible between the players.  Pujols has stolen up to 16 bases in his career and stole 14 last year.  But at the current pace, the numbers are fairly even.  Pujols has stolen three bases without getting caught while Bautista has been 5 for 7 in his opportunities.  Verdict:  Draw.

Verdict

With 3 rounds going to Jose Bautista and 2 draws, this week’s competition was a no-brainer.  Jose Bautista in 2011 has taken the crown of best hitter in baseball away from Albert Pujols.  It almost seems like the players have somehow changed bodies.  Jose Bautista has literally become the Albert Pujols of 2011, while Pujols himself has morphed into a lesser slugger in the mold of Bautista before 2010.  Bautista is doing all the right things, by hitting for average, taking a lot of walks and hitting home runs with no end in sight.  Pujols in contrast, has been a shell of himself this year.  He is not able to do any of the things that Bautista has and will need to get himself moving if he hopes to catch up.  As mentioned before, Pujols has great lineup protection and should be seeing many more fastballs and quality pitches to hit than Bautista.  While Adam Lind was hot for a stretch, he is by no means Berkman or Holliday.  Jose Bautista has had to produce with sub par players surrounding him in the batting order for most of the season.  Pujols has also played 9 more games than Bautista, who missed games due to personal reasons and a neck strain.  We shall see where these players are at come season’s end.  Only time will tell.   But until then, we are ready to crown Jose Bautista as the best hitter in baseball.  Check the numbers, they don’t lie.

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 25th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 25, 2011

Q:  Is Jose Bautista’s start for real?  Do you think he can keep it up?  From Brian,Toronto

MLB reports:  Hello Brian.  Great choice of topics as Bautista has been the talk of baseball in 2011.  Considering his body of work, every day that goes by you have to believe that the Jays slugger is for real.  After a great September in 2009, Bautista hit 54 long balls in 2010 and is already up to 19 in 2011.  It is mind boggling considering that Bautista has missed several games this season already for personal reasons and neck issues.  We prepared a profile on Jose Bautista at the Reports, which you can view here.  Jose Bautista appears to be a late bloomer that has discovered his stroke and is here to stay.  He is now the face of the Toronto Blue Jays and a home run force for several seasons to come.

Q:  What is your favorite major league ball park and why?  FromAngela,Vermont

MLB reports:  Although I have not been to every MLB stadium, I have definitely seen my fair share. J If I had to select a favorite, it would likely be PNC Park in Pittsburgh.  The view of the water, the layout of the stadium and the overall baseball feel is one that is without comparison.  I have enjoyed every seat that I have seen in Pittsburgh and would highly recommend seeing the park if you can.  A close second is Comerica Park in Detroit.  Comerica is a combination of my love of the Tigers team with a beautiful stadium and rich history.  That stadium really has it all.  But for overall look and feel, PNC wins out. 

 

Q:  If you could watch baseball in any country, which would you pick and why?  I am thinking Japan?  From Larry, San Francisco

MLB reports:  You are correct Larry, Japan goes to the top of the list.  Clearly you have been paying attention to my tweets!  The enthusiasm and energy from a Japan baseball game, as I have seen on television, literally has no comparison in any other country.  I cannot wait until the day when I am in Japan and watch a game live at a local stadium.  From the food, cheering fans, uniforms, style of play…Japan has it all.  I also have Cuba very high on my list.  From what I watched in the World Baseball Classic, Cubans take their baseball very seriously and my gut feel is that diehard fans would love watching live baseball in Cuba.  Hopefully it works out for me one day, we shall see!

 

Q:  I have been a Cubs fan for 30 years.  I think that I’m done suffering and looking to change teams.  Are my cubbies ever going to win?  From Bruce, Windy City

MLB reports:  Bruce…Bruce…Bruce.  Stand by your team!  I cannot blame you for being discouraged.  But if the Red Sox and White Sox can win the World Series, so can the Cubs.  If your team goes all the way and you are off the bandwagon, I think you will feel very sorry.  Part of a sports fan, especially baseball, is that you will have to suffer for many years sometimes.  In your case as a Cubs fan, for a lifetime potentially.  But team loyalty is key and stick with your Cubs.  They are on the right track in slowly rebuilding the farm system and should be a contender hopefully in the near future.

 

Q:  Will Mariano Rivera ever stop being good?  I wish he had signed with the Red Sox when FA.  He throws one pitch and is over 40, what’s up with that?  From Gene,Boston

MLB reports:  The mystery of Rivera and the famous cutter will live in baseball legendary for years to come.  How he does it few of us know, but somehow he was able to master one amazing pitch and has used it to build a hall of fame career.  You can dream, but Rivera was never going to leave the Yankees.  He came up a Yankee and will retire as a Yankee.  The Red Sox did make a play for him in his last free agency year, but he indicated all along that he was staying in New York.  But despite his magical career numbers which grow with his strong 2011 season, the time is drawing near for the Sandman.  I can see Rivera having 1-2 years at most left in the tank.  But once age and injuries finally catch up, we will know when he is done.  Mariano Rivera is probably the greatest reliever of our generation, if not of all time.  It has been a pleasure to watch him and we wish him the best as he writes the final chapters of his storybook career.

Thanks for the e-mails and keep them coming!  mlbreports@gmail.com

E-MAILBAG ARCHIVE:  Click here for the Archives 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 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.

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 18th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 18, 2011

Q:   Have the dimensions of Citi Field been to the detriment of the Mets franchise?  From Yair, Bat Yam, Israel

MLB reports:   Great question Yair and shalom (hell0) to you in Israel!  With the lacklustre play of the Mets the last few seasons, its great to see that they still have so many fans, even internationally.  Getting to your question, the topic of Citi Field has been a continuous one since its opening back in 2009.  The $850 million structure replaced Shea Stadium and has not played out in the same way that new Yankee Stadium has to say the least.  At a capacity of 41,800, the stadium holds 15,000 fewer fans than Shea and was meant to be more intimate.  Citi Field has some interesting features in its design. Citi Field’s fences are not the same size, ranging in height from being 15 feet in left field and 18 feet in right.  Shea Stadium had outfield fences that were all 8 feet in comparison.  The dimensions overall are not far different from Shea, with approximately 335 feet to the field lines and 408 feet to center.  Shea was never a great hitters ballpark to begin with and Citi Field is no better.  I would attribute the height of the fences as being a major issue for the team in terms of hurting the amount of home runs in the park.  As well, the shortage of quality hitters on the current Mets squad is the main reason for any offensive issues.  As a ball park, Citi Field ranks 11th currently in terms of home runs but 27th last year.  It will be interesting to see how the field plays out this season.  But the bottom line, is that the Mets have the same advantages and disadvantages at Citi Field as all opposing teams.  As a pitcher’s park, the team needs strong pitching and defense to remain competitive on its home turf, with good timely hitting.  This may sound obvious, but team talent and not the stadium will decide the team’s fate at the end of the day. 

Q: Ok how about this?  I am not yet dropping Derek Jeter from fantasy team.  Can I drop Brett Wallace or Mark Trumbo for Yunel Escobar as insurance for Jeter?  From Maury, Boston

MLB reports: Hell0 Maury and no, you cannot make this move.  As much as Jeter is struggling, dropping talents like Wallace and Trumbo do not make sense at this point.  Wallace is hitting .321 in 2011 with 3 home runs and .869 OPS.  Trumbo, while starting to struggle somewhat with a .244 AVG has 6 home runs and 18 RBIs.  If you must make this move, then drop Trumbo and grab Escobar, who is hitting .295, with 3 home runs and .775 OPS.  Quality numbers for a shortstop.  But Jeter is still Jeter and will rebound in my estimation.  Keep plugging the Yankees captain in your lineup and expect a rebound soon.

Q:  Can the Cubs please just leave Starlin Castro  in a fixed spot in the lineup? Like, say, leadoff?  Hitting him 3rd is (^*&&*%$!  From Reuben, parts unknown

MLB reports: I can’t argue with Castro’s numbers to start the season.  .327 AVG, .789 OPS, 23 runs scored, 18 runs driven in, 4 stolen bases and 6/14 BB/K ratio.  As a leadoff hitter or hitting in the second slot, Castro has strong abilities to get timely hits and create runs.  I couldn’t agree with you more that batting Castro in the third slot does not make sense.  With one home run this year and three all of last year, the power is not there for the Cubs shortstop.  The move to hit him third would be out of desperation than anything else.  It is a relection on the Cubs for a lack of other options, than Castro as a new power guy.  As the Cubs continue to gel through the season, expect Castro to have a permanent lineup slot soon.  Leadoff appears to be most likely his destination.

Q:    Do you think Aaron Hill might be enough to protect Bautista in the Jays lineup?  I obviously don’t mean full protection, but maybe just enough for the Blue Jays to be a force.  Another great article by the way, I enjoyed reading your feature on Jose Bautista!  From Nolan, parts unknown

MLB reports:  Thank you for reading the reports, I always appreciate the feedback.  The Bautista article was a lot of fun to write and I enjoyed giving the readers a look into the Jays home run king (You can click to read our piece on Bautista).  As far as AaRon Hill coming back and providing good protection in the lineup, I will admit that I have my doubts to say the least.  Hill has missed several games this year due to injury and when he has been able to play, has hit to the tune of a .237 AVG, no home runs and .573 OPS.  If you take aside 2009, Hill has never shown to be a really good hitter and in my opinion, that season has been an outlier rather than the standard.  Aaron was actually the subject of the first ever article on MLB reports.  If you would like to read more about Aaron and his future on the Jays, please click here.  But if you want the brief synopsis:  Hill is more likely a candidate for a trade/release over the next year than any guarantee of production.  I do not have very much faith in him and neither should you.

 

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Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays: MLB Home Run Leader, The Inside Report

Tuesday May 17, 2011

MLB reports:  Today’s article is as much about admission of guilt as it is about profiling Toronto Blue Jay’s home run king and the greatest slugger in the game going, Jose Bautista.  Yes, in order to fully analyze Bautista, it is time for this writer to come clean.  When you talk and review as much baseball as I do, the one thing that you never like to do is admit is that you are wrong.  There are times where circumstances happen beyond one’s control and predicted results can change and take different forms.  That’s fine.  In the case of Jose Bautista, I am finally prepared today to admit that I was wrong.  Not once.  Not twice.  But three or more times.  For all the “experts” that say they saw the Jose Bautista of today emerging, my hat is off to them.  If they are being truthful, which in most cases I would have a hard time believing.  For in my estimation, Jose Bautista was the one player that literally appeared out of nowhere.  From the abyss of the unknown to bona fide superstar overnight.  Let’s trail the story of Jose Bautista and how the slugger has managed to shape a doubter into a baseball believer.  It took time, but I am finally prepared to state that Jose Bautista here is to stay.

I recall clearly being in Pittsburgh during the 2007 season.  I had visited the city the year before to attend the home run derby and all-star game.  Loving the park, the city and Fatheads (which if you haven’t been is one of the best American restaurants/pubs ever), I decided another trip to watch weekend baseball was in order.  Being a fan of baseball merchandise and memorabilia, I made sure to go through the souvenir shops at the park before each game.  I left with a Ryan Doumit jersey t-shirt (which I still own and wear proudly) but did not pick up any memorabilia on that trip.  One piece of merchandise that I saw that weekend does stick out in my brain though.  In the game used bat barrel, I recall going through the lumber that there were a couple of Jose Bautista un-cracked game used bats.  To make matters worse, the bats were a whopping $30 each.  I distinctly recall laughing at the sight of the bats and indicating something along the lines of that “…the store would need to pay me to take these away.”  Clearly I did not see a value to the Bautista bats that day or attach any future value to them.  A sign of things to come.

Fast forward a year later and the Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates consummated a swap.  A good old fashioned baseball trade.  August of 2008, Jose Bautista gets traded to my hometown Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, turning out to be Robinson Diaz.  My thoughts at the time on the trade went along the lines of, “…I can’t believe the Jays gave up Diaz, a young catching prospect for a non-hitting utility guy.  Wow, the Pirates won this deal hands-down.”  For the balance of 2008 and the majority 2009, Bautista did nothing to change my opinion.  Bautista hit few home runs and his average was barely above the Mendoza-line.  It was actually unbearable at points watching him in his first full season as a Jay, as Bautista did receive 336 at bats in 2009 but mostly due to injuries.  A very late season surge barely made up for a season worth of failures.  To say that I was not sold on the player at this point would be an understatement.  Expecting little to nothing of him going into the 2010 season, Bautista was about to change the baseball landscape and his image in the game forever.  The player that I once considered inferior as a prospect to Robinson Diaz was about to become the “Bautista Bomb.”

Jose Bautista’s 2010 season is in the record books and truly one for the ages.  A relative unknown quantity going into the year, all Bautista did was finish as the MLB home run leader and champion in 2010, with 54 home runs playing in all but one of the Blue Jays games that year.  Add to the total 109 runs scored, 124 runs driven in, 100 walks, .260 average and .995 OPS and Jose Bautista, once a 20th round pick in 2000 for the Pirates was all of a sudden a star.  It’s not like the Pirates were alone in their assessment of the player.  Bautista along the way also had cups of coffees with the Rays, Orioles and Royals.  Despite the many scouts and executives in baseball that analyze the game and review its players, in the age of video and statistics none were able to predict the slugging beast that Bautista would become.  J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Blue Jays who acquired Jose Bautista, will have the Bautista/Diaz swap on his resume as the greatest baseball transaction of his career.  Ricciardi himself, now a New York Mets executive, admits that he never expected Bautista to develop the way he did.  While Ricciardi knew that Bautista had power in his bat having watched him on many occasions at spring training as the Jays and Pirates faced-off, the Bautista of 2010 was never on his radar.

Listening to industry insiders, Bautista in late 2009 made an adjustment to his approach at the plate and instead of being late going after the ball, Bautista was moving his hands quicker and starting his swing earlier.  Apparently the slight adjustment in his batting approach created all the difference in the world.  Credit then manager Cito Gaston, a former hitting coach, with one of his last and greatest teachings.  The big question going into 2011 was whether Jose Bautista was for real and could continue his success at the plate.  The next related issue was to determine Bautista’s value and future salary going into the offseason.  Bautista was arbitration eligible and due for a huge raise.

Going into the offseason that year, the Jays and Bautista were set to face-off in arbitration.  The 2010/2011 offseason saw a vast amount of speculation surrounding Jose Bautista’s contract and what the Jays were going to pay him.  As Bautista was eligible for free agency the next year, fans and commentators debated the winter months whether the Jays should sign Bautista to a long-term contract, let an arbitrator decide or use a one-year contract as a determination whether the production would continue and sign a long-term deal the next year.  As memories tend to get hazy over time, I will help remind everyone the thoughts that were prevalent at the time.  It was clear that if the Jays were to sign Bautista to a one-year contract, they would risk losing him to free agency the next year as another monster season was likely to bring the potential of multiple bidders and exorbitant contract offers.  Considering that Jayson Werth had signed that offseason with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million, anything was possible.  Although unlikely, there was always the risk.  Arbitration was also seen as a risky proposition as feelings and relationships tend to get strained in such a process whereby teams do everything they can to devalue a player when going before an arbitrator.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made it clear in the offseason that he was breaking rank in Toronto and adopting a Rays type policy of not negotiating with players once arbitration amounts were submitted both the team and player in the arbitration process.  The Blue Jays, who had not gone to arbitration with a player since 1997, appeared to be headed to a showdown with Jose Bautista as both team and player had submitted their numbers by the deadline without an agreement.  However further events were about to unfold to change the dynamic of the team that few saw coming with the likely effect of stabilizing the Jays for the next few seasons as a result.

On January 22, 2011, I remember vividly at 6:30p.m. driving in my car and listening to sports radio as the announcer broke the news that Mike Napoli had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Long being a Napoli supporter, to say that I was overjoyed at the news was an understatement.  Power hitting catchers do not grow on trees and with the Jays need for an additional power bat in the lineup, Napoli was a welcome addition.  The only question was the price the Jays had paid.  The news at the time was that the Jays were trading an outfielder but his identity was not known at the time.  I was sure that Bautista was the outfielder in question.  Going into arbitration, I determined that Bautista was worth at most three years and $24 million.  Given that Bautista was unproven and coming off only one strong campaign, there was too much risk in investing any additional dollars in the player.  It made sense to me that the Jays would trade Bautista while his value was at his highest for a known commodity in Napoli.   The next news update literally made me fall out of my chair.  The outfielder traded to the Angels was not Bautista but rather Vernon Wells.  Somehow Anthopoulos was able to unload Wells and his albatross of a contract onto the Angels and spin a productive player in Napoli in return, along with spare part outfielder Juan Rivera.  Hailed as a genius, Anthopoulos created payroll flexibility for the young and up-and-coming Jays while removing a player seen as declining, both in the field and at the plate.  The Wells contract, signed by the aforementioned Ricciardi which was blasted for years by critics as one of the worst ever was now gone.  It did not even occur to me when I first heard that Napoli was coming to Toronto that Wells was headed the other way.  The Wells contract was probably the most unmovable contract in sports and to hear those words simply astounded me, Jays analysts and the baseball community at large.  While the Angels were criticized for overspending and taking on a weak asset in Wells, hope was abound in Toronto and the future appeared to be bright after so many dismal and hopeless seasons before.  I predicted that Rivera, a free agent the next year would have a campaign that would likely mirror the numbers that Wells would put up in Anaheim.  With the outfielders numbers a wash and Napoli on board, the trade was overwhelmingly hailed as a victory for the Jays.

The Jays ended up a couple of days later flipping Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco.  The move was questioned and debated throughout baseball circles, in attempting to determine flipping a power bat for a power arm.  The jury is still out on the move and we will learn in the future whether Anthopoulos over-played his cards.  Jose Bautista on the other hand, had his arbitration hearing postponed at the last-minute in February as the team and player attempted to hammer out a new contract.  The numbers that I was hearing were a one year contract in the $10-$12 million dollar range.  That was the expectation as spring training approached.  On February 17, 2011, the Blue Jays announced that they had signed Jose Bautista to a five-year, $64 million contract.  At an average of almost $13 million per season for five seasons, the prevailing though in baseball was that the Jays had overpaid and taken on a significant risk.  Considering that they were fortunate enough to move Wells and his monster deal, the discussion was that the Jays had made a mistake by committing too much money and too many years to a player that could end up blowing up their face.  I will admit that when I heard the Bautista signing announcement, I hated it.  I saw the Bautista deal as the second coming off the Wells signing and commented that the lustre certainly was removed from Anthopoulos as GM fairly quickly.  One of the biggest questions going into the 2011 season was whether Bautista could repeat anything close to his numbers and be able to justify his large new salary.  While I read predictions of 20-30 home runs at most, the baseball community saw a decline and correction of Bautista’s numbers as he was to fall back to reality.  I cannot recall reading in February and March of any “expert” that predicted Bautista could approach anything close to his 2010 numbers.  I will admit that I was firmly in this camp and predicted a season of 30 home runs and .250 average at best.  Boy was I going to be wrong yet again on this one, as Jose Bautista going to teach the baseball world what he was really made of.

One report from spring training really stuck out to me.  Listening to news from around the Blue Jays camp, it was evident that there was no talk of Vernon Wells.  Management was not discussing the former Jays gold glove outfielder and team leader and none of the players were indicating that a void existed based on his departure.  That said to me a lot about the lack of value that Wells would have brought to the Jays had he remained.  The attitude around the Jays was positive.  A young squad, the team and its fans saw hope and optimism about with its young pitching and core developing hitters emerging.  Names like Drabek, Arencenbia, Lind, Lawrie, Snider and Romero were being tossed around as the Jays were going back to basics and having fun again.  At the center of it all as was the Jays developing leader and main power bat, Jose Bautista.  For the Jays to contend, Bautista would need to anchor the lineup and produce at a level close to his 2010 numbers.  While few saw that happening, it was clear that the ghost of Vernon Wells was gone from the team and the Toronto Blue Jays had a fresh new attitude.  But to say that anyone predicted that Jose Bautista was going to be the second coming of Albert Pujols or Babe Ruth in Toronto would be foolish.  Questions continued to circle around the Jays and Bautista going into the season that were only going to be answered once opening day was under way.

Throughout spring training, Bautista was playing third base as the team discussed playing an outfield of Rivera, Lind and newly acquired speedster Rajai Davis.  I was not a big fan of the move as I enjoyed watching Bautista play the outfield and with a cannon for an arm, I felt that he would best serve his team defensively in the outfield.  Despite being an adaptable fielder, it was my opinion that to have Bautista play at his peak, he needed to stay at one position and preferably at his most natural spot.  With the future of Brett Lawrie almost upon Toronto, I did not see the value of keeping Bautista at third.  Encarnacion, the incumbent third baseman was seen as somewhat defensively challenged to say the least.  Thus with few options in-house, the defensive alignment of the Jays was unknown as March was drawing to an end.  At the end of the month, the team out of nowhere announced that Bautista would indeed be the team’s right fielder on opening day, with Encarnacion moving to third.  Some how, some way, the team did listen to me and I was actually right about something when it came to Jose Bautista.  With his rightful position in place, now all Bautista had to do was hit.

Hit he did.  Over and over and over again.  Despite missing some games this season due to a personal leave (birth of baby daughter) and a sore neck, Jose Bautista in 2011 has become the talk of baseball.  Going into today’s action, Bautista has a .370 average with a major league leading 16 home runs (3 of which were hit on Sunday against the Twins in Minnesota), 35 runs scored, 27 runs batted in, 35/19 BB/SO ratio, .516 OBP and .849 SLG.  Imagine that Bautista has produced this season with little or no protection in the lineup.  Adam Lind was hot for a stretch of games but has since been out for some time with back issues.  I heard one baseball commentator compare what Jose Bautista is currently doing to Barry Bonds in his Giants peak years.  Bonds, like Bautista, had little protection in the lineup.  Without an all-star lineup like the Yankees around him, Bautista is vulnerable to be pitched around in the Jays lineup as their main and in some nights only true offensive threat.  Currently Bautista is getting maybe one or two good pitches to hit a game, which somehow Bautista is able to take advantage of and still hit them for home runs.  With a good eye at the plate and discipline, Bautista takes his fair share of walks and is not a Vladimir Guerrero  type hitter who takes balls out of the dirt and knock them out of the park for home runs.  The pace that Jose Bautista is currently on is rare and not often seen in the game.  We are witnessing what I can describe as “baseball magic” and people are finally taking notice.  No longer an afterthought or question mark, Jose Bautista is being recognized as the real deal and perhaps the greatest slugger currently in the game.

It is time to give the man his respect and due for his hard work and accomplishments.  While I will admit that I did not see Jose Bautista emerging, I can admit that I have been wrong almost every step of the way when it has come to this man’s career.  Baseball evaluations and predictions have never been an exact science.  For every Dan Uggla and Joakim Soria that I saw emerging, I have been left disappointed by the Phil Nevins and Todd Zeiles of this world.  I am happy to have been wrong on Jose Bautista and have been amazed at the player that he has become.  I was probably one of his biggest critics in the early part of his career and after some convincing, I have finally emerged as a believer.  I do not know Jose Bautista the person, although from all accounts and what I have seen he appears to be very personable and an extremely hard work on and off the field.  My feelings on the player have always centered on his hard numbers, statistics that he produced which to me always told the story.  Well if numbers never lie, then clearly the next big thing has emerged in baseball and his name is Jose Bautista.  As the Bautista bombs continue to launch throughout baseball, expect the player to get fewer and fewer pitches to hit as the season progresses.  Incredibly Bautista has only been walked intentionally twice this year and twice all of last year.  Barry Bonds in comparison, walked 232 times in his peak year of 2004, with 120 of the walks being intentional.  While not coming close to those figures, Bautista might exceed 150 walks this year and approach 175 by seasons end.  That is the sign of a great batting eye and a respected batter around the league.  Pitchers and teams are taking notice and despite doing all they can to limit him, Bautista continues to show a combination of power and patience at league leading levels.  I am finally ready to state that Jose Bautista is the real deal and is here to stay.  I think the rest of baseball finally agrees as well.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitter in baseball, Jose Bautista.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com.

 

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

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 11th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 11, 2011

Q:   Where do you see the Boston Red Sox finishing this season in the standings? From Jake, Boston

MLB reports:  My crystal ball in March said that the Rays would win the AL East, with the Red Sox finishing second in the division and taking the AL Wild Card.  I have no reason to deviate from my prediction thus far.  Despite the strength of the Yankees, the Red Sox have so much talent that several hot streaks are in store.  When playoff tickets go on sale, go ahead and order for the opening round at least.

Q:  Fantasy question:  Should I dump Jorge Posada for Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Hanigan, or Hank Conger?  I probably should have done something Monday, as Posada’s .151 AVG is killing my team.  From Bonzi, Parts Unknown

MLB reports: I take it that your league counts average, based on your e-mail.  Turning 40 this summer, Posada has definitely seen better days.  He does have 6 home runs and 14 RBIs, but his numbers overall are fantasy suicide.  I can’t believe Iannetta and Doumit are still available in your league.  If so, grab them in that order.  Iannetta is 28, plays in Colorado, has 5 home runs, 13 RBIs, .398 OBP, .494 SLG.  His .250 AVG is nothing to write home about, but as the #1 catcher for the Rockies, Iannetta has the biggest upside.  Doumit will be traded to a contender at some point likely but while he has shown a steady bat this season, he is always an injury risk.  If Iannetta is not available though, I like Doumit over Posada.  Ramos has been a nice player for the Nationals but is still young and likely won’t play at this level all season.  I would trust Posada over him.  Hanigan and Conger are nice replacement bats for injury but as part-time players offer little upside at this point.  If either was starting, they would still rank below Posada this season for me.

Q:Why do teams not pitch Jose Bautista away, away, away ALL the time? Why even try to challenge him inside?  From Garrett, Michigan

MLB reports: It is not that simple Garrett, as Bautista has become such a dangerous hitter that there are not many pitches that he does not get to.  Judging by his 100 walks last year, which will be higher this year, Bautista has a great eye at the plate.  Based on the damage that he can do, I frankly don’t understand why teams just don’t walk him 4-5 times every game.  Being the strongest offensive option currently in the Jays lineup by a country-mile, Bautista is a long-ball threat every at-bat and taking the bat out of his hands likely will be best at minimizing the damage.  With not many healthy hitters in the Jays lineup that are threats to drive him in, I agree that opposing pitchers should not give Bautista much to hit…and in my opinion, not even give him the option at all.

Q:   Fantasy Trade Evaluation: Aramis Ramirez & Alfonso Soriano for Jason Bay & Brandon McCarthy. Who’s winning?  Who’s losing? I have Ryan Zimmerman on DL.  I am giving up Bay and McCarthy. From Mike, Brooklyn

MLB reports: This one is a toughy.  I wanted to say Bay and McCarthy to keep, but I can’t do it.  My factors are as follows.  McCarthy is 27 and has great upside.  But he is injury prone and cannot be counted on to stay healthy.  He can literally drop at a moment’s notice.  Plus he is 1-3, despite a 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  With little wins potential and health concerns, this trade really boils down to Bay for Ramirez and Soriano for me. 

Bay has been a disaster since coming to the Mets.  Poor production and concussions issues have done him in.  With 6 home runs last year and 1 home run this year with a .213 AVG, 7/19 BB/K ratio, Bay is regretting his decision to leave Boston for New York.  Bay is already 32 and his window of opportunity is closing.  Ramirez and Soriano are no spring chickens either.  Ramirez though has a .286 AVG with 14 RBIs, despite only 1 home run and .718 OPS.  Soriano has a league leading 11 home runs, 21 RBIs and 18 Runs, with a whopping .550 SLG despite an unsightly .242 AVG and .270 OBP.  If you can stomach some of the warts shown by the 35-year-old Soriano and 32-year-old Ramirez, they will still provide much of the stats and comfort that Bay and McCarthy won’t.  In some ways this is a headache for headache trade, but by making the deal, you are getting the likely higher returns.  Go for it.

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MLB Top Home Run Hitters 2011: Updated

MLB reports:  Here at MLB reports, we consistently get fan requests for features on the top home run hitters in the game.  We recently ran a feature looking at the top power hitters and appreciate the feedback and responses.  As a bonus, for all those of you that dig the long ball, here is a look at the current MLB leader board and analysis on each of the top long ball threats.  Some surprises to this point for sure.

T1)  Curtis Granderson, Yankees:  11

For all the talk of the Tigers winning the Granderson trade in obtaining Austin Jackson, Granderson has really made the Yankees look good this year.  At 30 years of age and healthy this season, Granderson has really enjoyed his second year with the Bronx Bombers.  He has hit 11 home runs, to go together with his .283 AVG, .359 OBP and .646 SLG.  Add in 2 triples for good measure as Granderson has done it all for the Yankees in 2011.  Hitting higher in the order, Granderson will continue to have increased chances of scoring and driving in runs.  With a career high of 30 long balls recently in 2009, Granderson is on pace for a new personal best this year.  With his lineup and ballpark, the chances are very good if he stays healthy.

T1)  Alfonso Soriano, Cubs:  11

Left for dead by many experts, Soriano has come out of seemingly nowhere to rejuvenate his career… power-wise.  On pace for 50+ home runs, Soriano is hitting long balls, driving in and scoring runs at a high pace.  However note the key red flag:  4 walks to-date with a .273 OBP.  These kinds of numbers are simply unacceptable and with 31 strike outs, Soriano better find some plate discipline soon if he hopes to continue to receive regular at-bats.  At his late age, Soriano is slowly morphing into an all other nothing home run hitter and his free swinging ways is actually hurting more than helping the Cubs this season.

T2)  Lance Berkman, Cardinals:  10

At the age of 36, Lance Berkman has reclaimed his spot as one of the top hitters in the game for the Cardinals.  Healthy and playing like the Puma of old, Berkman has a 1.191 OPS to go together with his 17/16 BB/K ratio.  To say that he is paying outstanding baseball would be an understatement.  I really liked this signing at the time and playing with Pujols and Holliday has done wonders for Berkman’s bat.  With LaRussa as his manager and strong team along for the ride, I see 40+ home runs in the Big Puma’s future…provided he remains healthy of course.

T2)  Ryan Braun, Brewers:  10

The Hebrew Hammer just doesn’t let up.  The 27-year-old Braun already has 138 career home runs and continues to pile them on.  With Prince Fielder protecting him in the lineup, Braun will just continue to be Braun in 2011.  Mark him down for 30+ home runs and don’t think twice.

T2)  Jose Bautista:  10

As time goes by, Bautista’s numbers slowly but surely are silencing many of his critics.  Despite missing games this season with a neck strain and personal leave, Bautista has managed 10 home runs in 88 at bats.  Combined with his 30/17 BB/K ratio, .352 AVG, .521 OBP and .773 SLG and you have one of the best, if not the best player currently in the game.  Bautista has also produced with Adam Lind and very little else for support in the lineup.  The Toronto slugger is proving that he is not a one-hit wonder and here to stay on the MLB home run leader board.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitters in baseball.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com

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

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Patient Hitters: The Leaders in Walks

MLB reports: As many of you know from my past articles and tweets, the one quality I look for the most in hitters is patience:  the ability to take walks.  The art of the base on balls was exemplified somewhat in the “moneyball” Oakland approach and has been adopted by the Red Sox team in particular, among others.  People often ask me why I value hitters that take walks so highly.  Very simply, walks in my mind lead often to the overall development of every facet of a hitters game.  A hitter that has good judgement of the strike zone and take walks should get on base at a high rate.  A hitter that takes many walks is more likely to judge better pitches to hit, which should increase their number of hits and home runs correspondingly.  When I used to play fantasy baseball, I often looked for batters with high walk totals in filling out my rosters.  These hitters would win championships for me, as they do often for baseball teams in real life.

Patient hitters have a high value in baseball, this has become a fact of life.  Putting this theory to the test, let’s take a look at which batters sit among the leader board in walks as of today.  It will be interesting to see which of these players are considered top players, historically and coming into their own as of today.  Has the number of walks taken this year helped each player in other statistical categories?  Are each of these players better hitters for having many walks?  The results may surprise you.

1st:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (19)

Last year 100 walks went hand-in-hand with a league leading 54 home runs.  This year, Bautista leads the league with 19 walks and 8 home runs.  For a man who hit .260 last year, the high walk has remained while the average has jumped to a league leading .364.  Interesting to note, none of Batista’s walks have been intentional.  Bautista for me is the poster boy of how patience and power are inter-twined.  You almost cannot have one without the other.  For anyone that doubts the value of walks, go look up Bautista’s stats again…they will astound you.

T-2nd:  Bobby Abreu, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (18)

Bobby Abreu, along with Youkilis, Adam Dunn and Swisher, is a resident in the patience club.  With 1,360 career walks, Abreu always brings on-base capabilities for any team he plays for.  Long seen as having declining power, Abreu still hit a decent 20 home runs last year.  Combined with his 87 walks, Abreu managed a .352 OBP despite a .255 AVG.  This year, with a puny one home run and .244 AVG, Abreu is sitting at an unacceptable .329 SLG.  But with a .388 OBP, the 37-year-old Abreu still has some value.  In his prime, Abreu showed that 100+ walks and a .300+ AVG could lead to 40+ home runs in a season.  But Abreu, the elder of the list, only has walks to show for any value left in his tank and is likely dependant on those walks for still receiving any playing time at all.  The end is near, but the walks continue.

T-2nd:  Joey Votto, Cincinatti Reds (18)

As a rookie, I read that Dusty Baker told Joey Votto that he should becoming more free-swinging and less patient to develop as a hitter.  Fortunately for Votto and all Reds fans, the Canadian ignored the advice and continued to grow as a hitter….his way.  Last year Votto had 91 walks, which translated to 37 home runs and a league leading .400 OBP and .600 SLG.  Hitting .324 along the way, Votto was intentionally walked eight times.  Votto fits the bill perfectly- a hitter that picks his spots, waits for the right pitches to hit and avoids the bad ones to get on base.  This year, votto has 18 walks to only 11 strike outs.  The knock on some patient hitters is that they take too many called third strikes and often hit for low averages.  As part of the core of this top list, Votto is able to not only hit many home runs but keep his average steady to high in the process.  Many experts see Votto as having surpassed Albert Pujols as the king of the NL.  Based on his numbers-to-date, I have a hard time arguing.  Votto’s bread and butter has been his eye at the plate.  The 2010 MVP and runner-up 2008 ROY can thank his walks for much of his success in baseball.

4th:  Jonny Gomes, Cincinatti Reds (17)

The fourth member of our list is the only real head scratcher in the bunch.  While all the other listed hitters are known “walkers”, Gomes has basically come out of nowhere to join the group this year.  With a career high of 61 walks in 2006 being far and away his highest season total, few people envisioned Jonny Gomes learning true patience at the age of 30.  Perhaps spending time with Votto has helped his transition.  But then, his .211 AVG would seem to indicate that he might not be fully paying attention in emulating Votto.  At a season total of six home runs, Gomes is on pace to set a career high of 35 home runs.  But looking at the full numbers, Gomes is the outlier.  Hitting in the standard Nick Swisher mold, Gomes has compensated base hits for walks.  With his 18 walks has come 23 strikeouts…which shows that he is missing as many pitches as he is taking.  It is not a bad thing that Gomes is taking many walks, but unfortunately he is swinging for the fences and striking out at a Rob Deer frequency with too few base hits.  Gomes may continue the walks, but without a steadier number of base hits to match, he may not be as productive as one may think.

T-5th:  Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics (16)

Seemingly playing forever, the 25-year-old is entering his 5th season in the bigs.  With a .368 career OBP and 110 walks last year (leading the AL), Barton is patience personified.  The only knock on Barton has been his low batting average and power.  2011 has done nothing to calm those fears, as Barton is hitting .205 with zero home runs.  Along with Gomes, Barton is sacrificing base hits for walks, but not seeing the tangible results that should come along with them.  Well…at least Gomes is hitting home runs, I really can’t see what value Barton has other than walks.  With ten home runs, Barton is slowly becoming another Travis Buck.  As Barton continues to keep first base warm for Chris Carter, I am sad to see that his patience at the plate never translated to greater things for him offensively.  Judging on his 17/20 BB/K ratio, Barton clearly is either not patient enough or judging the right pitches to hit.  Based on this slow start, it appears the one-time A’s prospect has graduated into a full-fledged suspect.

T-5th:  Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (16)

One of my favorite hitters in the game, I always wondered what levels he could reach if he could take more walks.  Always known for a solid average and home run bat, the answer to my question started to be answered last year.  Cabrera set a career high with 89 walks last year and had correspondingly a career high 38 home runs.  This year, with a 17/12 BB/K ratio, Cabrera has already five home runs, to go with his .338 AVG, .458 OBP and .610 SLG.  These are really…really…really good numbers.  Finishing second last year in MVP, the re-born Cabrera has become everything I could have imagined as a hitter.  Together with Bautista in the AL and Joey Votto in NL, we are looking at three of the most complete hitters in the game.  Taking many walks, hitting many home runs, hitting for a high average and not striking out a ton.  Patience at the plate, waiting for the right pitches to hit and taking advantage of those pitches.  Hitting perfection.

T-5th:  Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox (16) 

No conversation on walks is complete without including the Greek God of Walks himself, Kevin Youkilis.  A .292 career hitter with a lifetime .394 OBP and .497 SLG, Youk fit the mold of the perfect hitter as I discussed above.  But something has happened to Youk in 2011.  Despite his high walks and decent number of home runs (4), his average sits at .222.  Considering that Youk has hit .300+ the last three seasons, I do not expect a huge regression at the age of 32.  As long as he stays healthy, Youk should be at .290, .390 and 25 home runs.  That’s just how steady Youk is.  But given his career low average this year, I actually suspect there may be an injury concern.  I do not see Youk turning into Jonny Gomes overnight.  Everything seems to even out in the long run and over the course of the season, the real Youk should emerge.  Walks will always be there, but the rest of the game should follow as well.  But even if he remains slumping, as Bobby Abreu and Daric Barton have shown, at least taking walks brings some contribution to the table.  But unlike those two, at least Youk can still swing a power stick.  Walks truly begin and end with Youk.

Thank you for reading today’s feature on walks and the hitters who take them.  While we all have theories on the subject, think of all the best all around hitters of all time and take a look at their walk totals.  While there may have been many home run kings with low averages or hit kings with poor power, take a look at the best all around hitters and see how many times they walked.  Then tell me what you think about the value of the combination of power and patience and if you now subscribe to this theory.  I certainly hope that you do.

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Top Home Run Hitters: MLB 2011

MLB reports:  For pure fun today, I wanted to scan the major league baseball leaderboard and evaluate the top home run hitters of 2011.  While this list can change at a moment’s notice, looking at the board with over three weeks into the season is always fun.  At least my idea of fun.  I originally planned to make a top ten list, but that was going to prove to be futile.  Six hitters sit at the top of the list with seven home runs a piece and eight hitters tied for second with six home runs each.  Let’s take a close look at the top fourteen then and see which hitters are likely to remain on the list and which have caught lightning in a bottle for a few games.

First Place – Seven Home Runs

Jose Bautista:  Toronto Blue Jays

After 54 home runs last year, is anyone still waiting for a slowdown?  With 19 walks already, .359 AVG and 1.256 OPS, Bautista continues to build on the momentum of last year.  Living up to his large contract extension signed in the off-season, it appears that the new Jose Bautista is here to stay.  At 30 years of age, Bautista is showing that he has enough juice in his bat to approach another 50 home runs this year.

Adrian Beltre:  Texas Rangers

Another big contract signing entering 2011, Beltre has made good on the promise of his bat hitting in Arlington.  Inconsistent throughout his career, analysts have often said that if healthy and playing in a hitters park, the sky is the limit.  Beltre hit 48 home runs back in 2004 playing for the Dodgers and have never approached those numbers since.  At 32 and playing in one of the best hitters park in a stacked lineup, big numbers could come his way.  I see somewhat of a regression, but 30-35 home runs is a safe bet at this point.

Ryan Braun:  Milwaukee Brewers

The Hebrew Hammer has 128 career home runs in four seasons going into 2011.  He has Prince Fielder in the lineup with him.  At 27, Braun is this generation’s Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg.  No slowdowns ahead for this Brewer as he shoots for his first 40+ home run season.  The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year is a future MVP and his time could come this year.

Curtis Granderson:  New York Yankees

The only surprise in the top home run hitters category, Granderson has always shown glimpses of brilliance but injuries and slumps have slowed his path.  The 20/20/20/20 season in 2007 was impressive, as was the career high 30 home runs that Granderson hit in 2009 for the Tigers.  Even though he missed 26 games last year to injury, he still was able to amass 24 home runs.  Now healthy and with the short porch in Yankee stadium, Granderson has a good chance at equaling and besting his career best power numbers.  Given the Yankees lineup as well, I would not count him out.  Granderson is unlikely to remain among the league leaders in bombs, but a solid 30+ home run season is definitely in order.

Albert Pujols:  St. Louis Cardinals

Coming into this season, the Great Pujols hit a Ruthian 408 home runs in 10 seasons.  Truly our generation’s Babe Ruth, Pujols has to be considered one of the best home run hitters of all time.  With an .806 OPS, Pujols hasn’t even begun to heat up.  Pujols has Holliday and a resurging Lance Berkman for protection and going into his first free agency year, expect legendary numbers by seasons end.  This is Albert Pujols we are talking about…I do not have to say anything else.

Troy Tulowitzki:  Colorado Rockies

Still only 26 years old, Tulowitzki is working towards becoming the best player in baseball.  Missing significant time in 2008 and 2010, Tulo still has 99 career home runs going into today.  Playing in the home run haven called Colorado, all Tulo has to do is to stay healthy to succeed.  As this is an odd year, history is shown that he will likely play close to a full season.  His career high of 32 home runs is well within reach and I can see a 40+ home run season this year.  The talent and circumstances are all there…all he needs is health.

Second Place:  Six Home Runs

Lance Berkman:  St. Louis Cardinals

Going into the second tier of top home run hitters, we find some resurgent players, surprises and expected studs.  Berkman was an uncertainty coming into season.  The 35-year-old Big Puma has seen 40+ home run seasons in his career.  2010 was an injury shortened season and after getting traded to the Yankees and faltering in New York, critics began to write him off.  I was a big fan of his move to St. Louis, back to the NL Central and the opportunity to play with Pujols and Holliday.  Defense aside, Berkman’s 9 walks and league leading .725 SLG show that the Puma is back.  With the occasional days off and prime spot in the lineup, 35 home runs is my predicted total for this superstar.

Jonny Gomes:  Cincinnati Reds

The man has seem to been around forever but is actually only 30 years old.  Gomes has seen several 20+ home run seasons in his career, including 18 in 2010 playing in a career high 148 games.  With 18 walks, Gomes has disguised his poor .212 avg this season with a .386 OBP and .530 SLG.  The owner of a lifetime .332 OBP and .463 SLG, Gomes will get a fair amount of playing time this year.  While he is not the second coming of Adam Dunn, Gomes has clearly found a home in Cincinnati.  His lower average and 19 strikeouts concern me at this point as he will need to become a steadier hitter to continue to receive steady playing time.  Part of the surprises of this list, expect a return to form in order for Gomes.  Despite lofty totals, I cannot foresee a 30 home run season coming, even though he plays in that ballpark.  He is too streaky and Dusty Baker is not patient enough to stick with him.

Howie Kendrick:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Not one of my favorite players to cover, I have always soured on Kendrick for his inability to take walks.  With a career high of 10 home runs (twice), low stolen bases totals and inability to consistently get on base, I have rarely seen the upside of Kendrick at the plate.  This season, apparently as light switch has gone off inside his head or bat, as Kendrick is well on his way to shattering his previous power numbers and already has 10 walks on the season (last year he set a career high of 28).  Does a leopard change its spots…or does a Kendrick learn patience?  I will believe it when I see it.  I have watched Kendrick for too long to be sold on what I have seen thus far.  if he is still able to keep up this approach going into July, maybe I will cut him some slack.  Until then, I expect to see Kendrick off this list by mid-June at the latest.  A nice run, but a run is all this is at the end of the day in my opinion.

Russell Martin:  New York Yankees

The second Yankee on our list has found a new home and new lease on life in the Bronx.  Martin had a career high 19 home runs in 2007 playing for the Dodgers, earning a Silver Slugger award that year.  With an OPS of 1.099, Martin is the early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.  Playing nearly every game this season and enjoying a healthy hip, Martin apparently has renewed drive and focus that was previously lacking in Los Angeles.  At 28 years old and continuing our trend of young superstars on the list, all Martin really has to do is stay healthy this year.  In the loaded Yankees lineup and with the short porch, Martin has a chance at 25 home runs this year.

Jorge Posada:  New York Yankees

Yankee #3 is on the downside of his career, or so we are led to believe.  The 39-year-old Posada is a full-time DH for the full-time in his career.  While his .153 AVG and .711 OPS, his 6 home runs (of his 9 total hits) is outstanding.  Too many factors are against Posada staying on the leaderboard.  Health is always a concern and despite no longer playing the field, any tweaks at this point could send the elderly Posada to the DL.  Further, his numbers are showing that when he is not hitting home runs, he is simply not hitting or getting on base.  As Posada continues his best Rob Deer impersonation, I don’t foresee great things ahead for the future hall of famer, nearing the end of an outstanding career.

Carlos Quentin:  Chicago White Sox

Both Chicago teams are represented, with the powerful Quentin starting off for the White Sox.  The likely pick for MVP had he stayed healthy in 2008, Quentin has a laundry list of injuries and ailments his entire career.  But when healthy, Quentin is always a home run threat.  With a 1.023 OPS and having Rios, Dunn, Konerko, Ramirez and Beckham in the lineup for protection, Quentin looks to best his career high of 36 home runs in 2008.  I am sitting on the fence on this one.  The potential is there, but so are the injuries.  Expect at least a couple of trips to the disabled list but assuming reasonable health, I will take 30+ home runs for Carlos.  The Adam Dunn factor cannot be discounted, as he will prove to be great protection for Quentin all season long.

Alfonso Soriano:  Chicago Cubs

A 20+ home run hitter for nine straight seasons, Soriano was written off for dead by many experts, yours truly included.  2009 was a dismal season for Soriano and although he had a steady return last year, at the age of 35 and with knee issues, little was expected from the talented Dominican.  Despite his .513 SLG this season, there are several reasons to expect a continuing decline for Soriano.  His BB/K rate this year is an abysmal 3/21, as his .244 AVG and .272 OBP.  If you ask me, I see Soriano slowly decaying into the next Yuniesky Betancourt.  Soriano is still a lock for another 20+ home run year but with the rest of his game on such a rapid decline, don’t expect much else.  If the Cubs have any other options, I expect Soriano to see more time on the bench or even a trade in order.  But at his salary, I cannot foresee any team taking a chance.

Mark Teixeira:  New York Yankees

The last player on our list and Yankee #4, Teixeira clearly did not get the memo that we are in April and not August.  A notorious slow starter, Teixeira is already up to twelve walks, .402 OBP and .621 SLG.  For the 31-year-old Teixeira who has 281 career home runs, his career high of 43 home runs in 2005 could be broken.  Considering that Teixeira has the ability to hit 10-12 home runs per month in the summer, I see a clear breakout year for this superstar first baseman.  The Yankees went out and got him for a reason.  In addition to his gold glove defense, I am smelling a possible silver slugger and MVP award in 2011.

What is the future of this list?  Hard to tell without a crystal ball, as so many factors can arise.  Injuries, playing time, lineup position…things can change.  But a trend is clear from the early season home run leaders.  Most are in the 27-30 year-old age bracket and are proven home run hitters in their careers.  I expect most of the above hitters to remain on the list, with some surprises to fade away and new players to emerge.  Other superstars, like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez will join this list very soon.  But even in the short span of three weeks into the season, it is clear that even with only a few games played, the home run hitting cream is already rising to the top.

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MLB Scores and Player Highlights from Monday April 11th

MLB reports:  A roundup of all the results from yesterday’s MLB action and the players that shined and ones that did not quite perform as well:

Rangers 2- Tigers 0:  The Rangers moved to 9-1 on the season while the Tigers fell to a dismal 3-7.  Alexi Ogando, the former Rule 5 pickup, upped his record to 2-0 and no runs earned on the season.  The entire Rangers pitching corps has been dominant all season and in this game Oliver got his 4th hold and Feliz with his 4th save already.  Verlander went the distant in the tough loss and now has a 3.13 ERA on the season.  Cabrera with two hits for the Tigers is now hitting .382 on the season, while Peralta is at .344.

Rockies 7- Mets 6:  The Rockies won a thriller decided in the 8th inning and are now 7-2 on the season.  Mets are still treading at 4-6.  Houston Street picked up his 5th save on the season.  Both starters, Jason Hammel and Mike Pelfrey pitched ok but nothing spectacular.  Tulowitzki hitting cleanup hit his 4th home run of the year while Carlos Gonzalez had 3 ribbies in the 3rd spot for the Rockies.  David Wright replied with his own long ball, 2nd of the season and Jose Reyes tripled among his 2 hits for the Mets.  Reyes at .340, Wright at .325 and Davis at .351 are all positive signs for the rebuilding Mets.

Rays 16- Red Sox 5:  At equivalent 2-8 records, two of the best teams in baseball have been slow out of the game.  On this day the Rays brought out their whipping sticks to take it to the Sox.  Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Wheeler all got beaten early and often, while Hellickson despite giving up five walks in 5.1 innings pitched two run ball for the win.  The big story was Sam Fuld, with 2 doubles, a triple and home run (so close to a cycle) from the leadoff spot for the Rays.  A throw-in as part of the Matt Garza trade, Fuld was the hero in this game.  The Rays pounded to the Red Sox for 20 hits, as Damon, Zobrist, Upton, Jaso and Brignac all had big games.  Crawford had two hits for the Sox in the leadoff spot and Ellsbury hit his 2nd home run of the year.

Cubs 5- Astros 4:  In a battle of central division rivals, the Cubs record is now 5-5 while the rebuilding Astros are at 2-8.  Ryan Dempster gave up 4 runs but had 9 SO in his first win of the year, while Marmol is now up to 4 saves.  Figueroa gave up 5 runs in 4 innings for the loss.  Castro had 3 hits for the Cubs in the leadoff spot and stole his first base.  Alfonso Soriano chipped in with a couple of RBIs for the Cubs. 

Athletics 2- White Sox 1:  The Athletics moved to 5-5 on the year while the White Sox felt to 6-4.  In a tough matchup, Dallas Braden pitched one run ball over six innings with seven SO, while Brian Fuentes got his 4th save of the year.  Mark Buehrle pitched 8 shutout innings and left with a no-decision.  Kurt Suzuki had two hits, including his first home run of the season, for an Oakland team that is still having a difficult time generating much offense.  Lillibridge had his first home run of the year for the White Sox.

Cardinals 8- Diamondbacks 2:  Within 4 wins apiece on the season, the Cardinals finally had a strong offensive showing against a decent Arizona squad.  Kyle McLellan, pitching Dave Duncan style ball, gave up one run over six innings for his first win of the year.  The star was Lance Berkman, with 2 home runs and 3 RBIs in the 5th spot.  Albert Pujols remains at an unsightly .150 average.

Reds 3- Padres 2:  The high-flying Reds are now 7-3 on the season, beating a tough Matt Latos and Padres team that is now 4-5.  Fantasy Ace Latos in his first start of the year gave up 3 runs in 6 innings with 7 SO.  Volquez moved to 2-0 by giving up 2 runs over 6 innings with 5 So, but remains with a 5.82 ERA.  Cookie Cordero got his 2nd save of the season.  Gomes got his 3rd home run of the young season while Brandon Phillips is hitting .410 on the season and Votto is at .444.  Orlando Hudson at 2 hits and is now at .313 for an otherwise dismal Padres offense.

Cleveland 4- Angels 0:  The 8-2 Indians, led by Willy Mays Hayes and Wild Thing are hot to start the year (major league 4?)  The Angels, after taking 2 out of 3 against Toronto now stand at 5-5.  Mitch Talbot pitched 8 shutout innings for the win, while Tyler Chatwood (who? exactly) took the loss.  Scott Downs, back off the DL pitched an inning for the Angels.  Asdrubal Cabrera is up to 4 home runs on the year (wow!) and Matt LaPorta had a 3-run bomb for the Indians.  Travis Hafner, by the way is up to a .355 average on the year and Orlando Cabrera is hitting .361.  The Angels only managed 5 hits as a team and 2 total walks, all from Bobby Abreu.  For those following my Vernon Wells watch:  Again hitting 5th as he has all year.  Another 0-4, average down to .091.  I believe a benching and move down the lineup is in order if the Angels hope to ignite their offense.  Callaspo at .353 and Trumbo with his strong power need to move up in the order.

Mariners 8- Jays 7:  In the shocker of the night, the Jays had a 7-0 lead after 6 and 7-1 lead after 7 and still managed to lose 8-7 in the 9th.  The hometown Mariners are still a low 3-7 on the year while the Jays are at an even 5-5.  Jesse Litsch pitched 5 shutout innings for the no-decision but played with fire all night with 4 walks and 5 hits given up.  Purcey, Dotel and Camp all got hit hard as the Jays bullpen imploded in Seattle.  The King was not his usual majestic self and gave up 7 runs and 12 hits in his own no-decision.  Milton Bradley got 2 hits including his first home run of the year.  Rodriguez had 3 RBIs and Justin Smoak finished with 2 hits and 2 walks.  Corey Patterson in his first game as a Jay hit a home run, while Encarnacion and Nix both had 3 hits each.  Adam Lind was 0-5 with 3 SO while Jose Bautista was 2-3 with 2 walks.

Dodgers 6- Giants 1:  In the final game of the night, the Dodgers moved to 6-4 while the World Series Champions Giants moved to 4-6.  Clayton Kershaw was his usual dominant self, pitching 6.2 shutout innings with 7 SO for his 2nd win of the year.  Madison Bumgarner has been slow out of the gates again, falling to 0-2 with 5 runs given up in 5 innings.  Andre Ethier was 2-4 with 2 RBIs and is up to a strong .368 on the season, while Matt Kemp went 1-2 and continued to show a good eye with 2 walks and is at an outstanding .441 on the season.  These 2 young hitters are truly coming into their own and Kemp is finally living up to his “Baby Manny” nickname from his rookie season, minus the issues.  Huff and Burrell both had 2 hits for the Giants, Burrell with his 4th home run and had 2 walks as well, despite hitting .222 on the year.  Posey is at .250 on the season while Brandon Belt is going to be packing his bags soon for AAA with his .143 average on the year.  A strong player and future star for the Giants, it appears some seasoning is still required for the youngster. 

 

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The Toronto Blue Jays Reinvented

MLB reports:  2011 has been one of the most anticipated seasons in Blue Jays history. A young GM in Alex Anthopoulos has reinvented the organization from the top-down. From the hiring of experienced front office advisors, new scouts, John Farrell as manager, strong drafting and trades/ free agent signings, this is certainly not your father’s Blue Jays.

With three games already in the books, let’s take a look at some key aspects of the newest incarnation of the Jays:

1) Farrell plays to win. From switching up his lineups, getting his bench involved, pinch hits, pinch runners, pitching changes- John Farrell is an active manager. Whereas Cito Gaston was criticized for sitting on his hands, it is doubtful that Farrell sits for a moment during a game. I really like Farrell’s managing approach. If nothing else, the Jays of 2011 will never be boring.

2) Kyle Drabek is for real.  All Drabek did to start the year was take a no-hitter into the 6th and consistently throw strikes. Showing maturity beyond his years, Drabek looks to be a fixture in the Jays rotation for the next decade or so.

3) The Jays catching will be solid.  J.P. Arencebia crushed 2 home runs on opening day and Molina hit one of his own in the 2nd game of the series. Both catchers have looked comfortable behind the plate and working well with the pitching staff. Arencebia is no Johnny Bench yet, but he hits the ball hard every time out. He looks to be the next MLB catching superstar.

4) Jose is worth every penny. For the doubters of Jose Bautista, he has picked up where he left off last year. From crushing big home runs, taking walks and playing solid D, Bautista has become the face of the franchise. He is a threat every time at the plate and is receiving the respect of opposing teams. For those keeping score, Vernon Wells is hitting about .150 for the Angels thus far.

5) Adam Lind is getting there. Brian Butterfield has clearly worked hard with Lind at 1st and he is becoming above average to good in the field. Lind has also become a great clean up hitter for the Jays and should benefit from hitting behind Jose. A note to Adam though: no more first pitch ground outs with the bases loaded and two outs in the 9th inning anymore please.

6) Travis Snider is truly a superstar in the making. Please see my post on Travis from Saturday. Snider has a new stance and is much more patient at the plate. Snider had key walks and hits all weekend long. He also showcased his cannon in left on Sunday and I can see gold gloves and silver sluggers in his future.

7) The bullpen is stocked. Farrell has many weapons in his pen on any given night. From Francisco, Camp, Janssen, Rauch etc, the Jays have one of their deepest pens in history. Any starter that can give the Jays lead after 6 innings will give the team a high chance of victory. The Jays strong pen makes the team a force every game.

8) Speed. When healthy, the combination of Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar gives the Jays boppers with an abundance of chances to drive in runs. Both Davis and Escobar are strong with their bats and legs. Having a running game gives the home run happy Jays a better balanced offense and nightmares for opposing pitchers.

9) Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Rivera. The weak link of the 2011 Jays, both men look lost at the plate. Worse, EE looks even more clueless in the field. After three games it is safe to say that no ball hit to third is safe when Encarnacion is out there. A better filler is in order until the Lawrie era begins. Rivera further is another frustration case who is only in Toronto as a salary dump by the Angels in the Vernon Wells deal. A free agent at year’s end, the rope for Rivera should be very short.

10) The atmosphere and vibe.  I have not seen Toronto this excited about the Jays in 18 years. The Jays shop had lineups all weekend and fans were cheering and on their feet throughout all of the games. With all of Toronto’s other sports teams in the gutter, the Blue Jays have a prime opportunity to become Toronto’s #1 team as well as reclaim its status as the face of Canadian sports.

 

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At the Crossroads: Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB reports:  On paper, taking a look at Ryan Doumit (“Dough-Mitt”), there are two sides of the coin.  Heads, you find a switch-hitter turning 30 this year.  A 2008 career season consisting of 15 home runs, 71 runs, 69 rbis, .357 obp and .501 slg.  A catcher by trade, Doumit who stands 6’1”, also plays the outfield and first base.  Despite an injury plagued 2010 season, he still managed 13 home runs in 124 games played last year.  Tails, you find a baseball player that may be labelled as a catcher but often branded as a defensive liability without a home.  Injury prone, 2010 represented the most games Doumit has ever played in a major league season.  Bouncing between the minors and stints on the DL, Doumit next closest seasons were 116 games in 2008 and then 83 in 2007.  The power, while seen in small spurts through his sweet swing, has never materialized into the 20+ home runs projected for him.  Now cast as an outfielder/ back-up first baseman, the future is unclear for Ryan Doumit.  After signing a significant contract with the Pirates, the team has now spent two unsuccessful seasons trying to unload him.  There is even talk of a possible release on the horizon for Doumit.  But is the negativity surrounding this once bright star justified?  Let me put it simply: no.  I am not ready to write off Ryan Doumit and quite frankly, neither should anyone else.

For those of you that read me regularly, you will know that I tend to be biased towards high walks and obp type hitters.  Analyzing Doumit’s number of walks since 2007:22, 23, 20 and 41, it would seem surprising on the surface that I would invoke any type of support of him as a hitter.  Doumit does not have a great reputation as a catcher, lacking the natural instincts for blocking balls in the dirt, throwing out runners etc.  Believe, I have it heard it all and read it all when it comes to Doumit the player.  My discussion on Doumit falls into the “moneyball” vs. scouts debate.  The numbers vs. tools argument.  Having watched Doumit countless times on television and numerous times in person, I will state that the tools override the numbers in this case.  Doumit is a big strapping switch-hitter with the power for 30+ home runs in my estimation.  In the right line-up and ballpark, we could see a whole new player.  Further watching Ryan behind the plate, it always appeared to me that pitchers were very comfortable with him behind the plate and that he had a strong presence of controlling his team and game like a general.  The multi-positional abilities I believe have hurt Ryan in the long run and created a utility player tag on him that is unjustified.  Thus goes the game of baseball and very often the careers of many players.  But hope is not lost yet. 

This spring has already been a rough one for Doumit.  Low batting totals in only 10 games played thus far, Doumit has been sidelined for much of the spring with a strained oblique.  If I was viewing Doumit as a team, I would see a buy low and high reward candidate.  All of the lost games over the years means that Doumit has a lot of miles left, whether in the outfield or behind the plate.  I cannot see the Pirates at this point releasing Doumit for nothing.  Proven health and production this year would lead to an inevitable trade, likely by the all-star break.  Top teams are always in the need of reinforcements and as players continue to drop like flies this spring (Brandon Morrow just announced to start the year on the DL as I write this article), the demand will be there for Doumit.  Why the faith in a player that has not proven much to-date?  Again, simple answer:  tools.  The ability is there and when healthy, we have seen the production.  But we cannot fault Doumit because of injuries alone as he does play on a team that often resembles a AA team on many of its off-nights.  I have never personally seen Ryan Doumit every take a game off, night off or going through the motions during an at-bat.  Playing on a sub .500 team for as long as he has though, one imagine that it would start to take a toll on the confidence of any player, Doumit included.  The Pirates are rebuilding on an upswing, with talented players such as Alvarez, Sanchez and Meek ready to lead the team in the coming years.  I do not see the rebirth of the team occurring on Doumit’s clock, but that does not mean that opportunities should not exist for Doumit.  A fresh start and a defined role and purpose would make all the difference in the world.  Hopefully this will happen soon.

2011 represents a crossroads year for Ryan Doumit.  A talented player once expected to be the centerpiece of his franchise, Doumit is a man without a position and seemingly chance this year.  Given the opportunity to perform, I believe that Doumit will put up the numbers.  McCutchen is healthy and playing strong and as long as he is in the line-up, Doumit will hopefully see some good pitches to hit.  Rounding back into form, Doumit I expect will be on a new team and line-up by May or June at the latest this year.  Motivated by the move, I expect Doumit to flex the baseball tools we know that he has and start to live up to the expectations that are starting to fade for him.  Never count out a talent like Doumit.  The Pirates gave up on Jose Bautista back in 2008 and at age 30 he did pretty well for himself.  Good luck to Ryan Doumit on this upcoming year, I am looking forward to his march back to baseball stardom in 2011.

 

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

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