Blog Archives

The New York Yankees Must Retain Hiroki Kuroda

Wednesday November 14th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: The New York Yankees are in a bit of a flux. They can no longer buy their way to championships like they did in 2009, for example. Instead, they have a plan in place to get under the $189 threshold by 2014, which certainly limits their spending this off-season. Talk about a change of events. With big names presumably out of the question due to the aforementioned restraint, Hiroki Kuroda becomes their primary focus to resign this winter.

Kuroda is fresh off what was arguably his best season as a pro. He posted a 3.32 earned run average with career-highs in the wins department (16), innings pitched (219.2), strikeouts (167), and ERA+ (126). So in short, his market value is as high as it can probably be which will increase his personal demands greatly.

However, Kuroda is still viewed as a tier two free agent with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez being the cream of the crop. While he won’t make Greinke type money, it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to sign a deal worth roughly $90 million over a five-year or six-year deal. Whatever Kuroda has in mind, the Yankees must figure out a way to keep him around. Read the rest of this entry

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Robby Rowland MLB Blog: Pirates Prospect Discuss His Transformation, Trade and Much More

Friday October 5th, 2012

Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present the return of Robby Rowland, Pittsburgh Pirates Pitching Prospect. Robby is back on MLB Reports with his latest MLB Blog. We have been very fortunate to have Robby appear several times on MLB reports, in interviews and MLB Blogs prepared by Robby in his own words. One of our fave alumni returns with thoughts from Robby’s World. Robby looks at his transformation as a pitcher, trade to the Pirates organization and much more. Get ready for a special treat. Robby Rowland is real, funny and informative. We know you missed him…as we all did! Get ready to fulfill your Robby Rowland fix!

Robby Rowland-  Guest MLB Blogger:

For those of you who have followed my journey through these blogs, I apologize for taking so much time to write this one. I would like to say thank you to MLB reports for having me on once again. For those of you who are reading one of my blogs for the first time, I want to apologize ahead of time for the writing style. I have so much that I would like to touch upon and I may not always use the proper commas or periods that some English major would… or something like that, I’m not sure. One more thanks is to my computer class teacher, who taught me how to type without looking. I’m glad I can use this skill in my baseball career, unlike all the other subjects in school that seem useless now. I also am known to ramble on a little bit, so bear with me here. Hopefully you will enjoy reading this as much as I did when I wrote it.

As I sit here, listening to a country music Pandora station, I try to think of some things that you guys would like to read about. I’ve heard some good topics via twitter and I will try my best to write about those and try to pick out topics that I can elaborate on. I will try to make this blog entry as entertaining as possible because I know how boring reading can get… if what you are reading doesn’t interest you. I had to do it ALL 4 years in high school… well, I had to read the sparknotes of whatever, which were still boring when they didn’t have anything to do with sports!

I will first talk about my transformation of becoming a “sinker ball pitcher” just over a year ago. Then I will talk about getting traded at the beginning of the season. After I have covered those 2 subjects, I will go on to write about lighter topics. Hope you enjoy and I don’t bore you! Read the rest of this entry

Kyle Wilson Interview: Haley Smilow Talks Baseball with the Laredo Pitcher and Member of Team Great Britain in the WBC Qualifiers

Tuesday September 18th, 2012

MLB reports:  Great news folks, Haley is back! And of course, she has brought a friend. Our Junior MLB Correspondent is featured today with her interview of pitcher Kyle Wilson. The 29-year old Wilson is a baseball story of grinding every day and playing the game he loves. A 22nd round pick of the Dodgers in 2004, Kyle Wilson pitched 4 seasons in the Dodgers system. In 2008, he reached AA Jacksonville of the Southern League. The past few years, Kyle Wilson has played indy ball. In 2012, he spent time with both the Gary SouthShore RailCats and the Laredo Lemurs of the American Association.  

Timing for Haley worked out really well (as usual), given that Kyle Wilson is currently in Germany preparing to represent Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers! With the tournament set to begin tomorrow, we get to learn about one of its representatives- up close and personal. Featured today on MLB reports, Haley Smilow speaks one-on-one with pitcher Kyle Wilson:


HALEY:
I know your home games are played at U.S. Steel Yard, what are some of your other favorite ballparks?

KYLE: The best park I have played in was in Jacksonville, FL when I played for the Suns. The stadium was great and fans showed great support. The league I am currently in I would have to say that Kansas City and Winnipeg had the best facilities, fans, and accommodations. Read the rest of this entry

Roger Clemens and the Sugar Land Skeeters

Wednesday August 29th, 2012

Sam Evans: Roger Clemens deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If Cooperstown picked candidates with regard to their off-field activities, players like Dick Williams and Mickey Mantle might have never been chosen to the elite class that is the Hall of Fame. If Hall of Fame voters look at Clemens’ career numbers, they’ll find it hard to not see him as having one of the best starting pitching careers we’ve ever seen. Clemens is currently pitching with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters after five years away from the game. It’s been only one game so far, with more possibly to come. Let’s look at Clemens, his first start, and how he stacks up against some of his teammates.

Roger Clemens ranks eighth all-time among major leaguers in WAR, and second among starting pitchers (145.5). His upper 90’s fastball, nasty splitter, and above-average changeup led him to over 300 wins and a twenty-four year career in the majors. His last season, in 2007 with the New York Yankees, Clemens still managed to pitch at a fairly high level, posting a 4.14 FIP in seventeen starts. His average fastball velocity was just over 90 MPH for the 2007 season.

After Clemens figured out a bunch of legal things, he “tried out” for the Sugar Land Skeeters, who play in the independent Atlantic League, and made the team. In his first start on Saturday, August 25th, Clemens lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit, not walking a batter, and striking out two. Facing a Bridgeport team that features former major leaguers Joey Gathright and Shea Hillebrand, Clemens topped out at 88 MPH and got a few outs via his splitter. Read the rest of this entry

Mat Latos to the Reds: Former Padres Ace Proving to be a Key Acquisition

Wednesday August 1st,  2012

                                                                                                                                

                                                                (Image Courtesy of Bigstory.ap.org)

Brendan Henderson: 

                The Reds made a big trade involving 5 players in the offseason (one player coming from the Padres and four from the Reds.) This deal benefited both teams in my opinion, as the Reds got an “ace material” starting pitcher in Mat Latos and the Padres got four players including proven MLB pitcher Edinson Volquez and solid prospects in Yonder Alsonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger. Just how much has this trade benefited each team and who has benefited more so far? I will analyze that below. Read the rest of this entry

David Price: The Best Starting Pitcher in the American League?

Tuesday July 24th, 2012



Jake Dal Porto (MLB reports Intern Candidate):  The American league consists of several dominant pitchers, but David Price is arguably the best of the crop. Better yet, he hasn’t even reached his full potential as a pitcher at the ripe age of just 26 years-old. While his stats are far ahead of his experience in the major leagues, there’s still room for him to grow… which is actually quite scary.

 

Price took the American League by a storm in 2010. Leading the Rays’ rotation at the age of just 23, he finished the season with an astounding 19-6 record accompanied by a stellar 2.72 ERA, nearly winning the A.L. Cy Young award. Although the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez edged him out for the honor, baseball took notice on Price’s exceptional season. Yet, this was just the tip of the iceberg for him. Read the rest of this entry

Roy Oswalt Working Back to True Form

Wednesday June 27, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Writer): Fourteen months ago, Roy Oswalt took a leave from the Philadelphia Phillies to be with his family after a series of tornadoes ripped through Mississippi. He left the team, where he was one of the showcased “Four Aces,” with a 3-1 record and a 3.33 ERA and returned with a sore back. He spent a short time on the disabled list, but returned to start in eight more games before once again landing on the DL with “lower back inflammation.” It is unclear whether his back troubles arose during his leave of absence, but Oswalt continued to pitch because he didn’t “want to be labeled a quitter.” Ultimately, his injury became too much, and during his latter stint on the DL there was doubt that he’d ever pitch again. He did return, though, and finished the year with a 9-10 record and 3.69 ERA. After his team faltered (or imploded, depending on how you look at it) in the playoffs, Oswalt declared free agency; his career was not over after all.

At age 34, Oswalt has appeared in eight playoff series, one World Series and three NLCS. When he hit the market last offseason, Oswalt made it clear that he wanted to play for a winner. More specifically, he wanted to play for a team that would have a great chance of winning it all. Like Roger Clemens in 2006 and 2007, Oswalt told teams that he would continue to stay in shape but wait until midseason to sign with the team that he thought would do the best in the postseason. On May 29th, Oswalt picked the 31-19 Texas Rangers and began his road back to the MLB.

Read the rest of this entry

Seattle Mariners and Ace Felix Hernandez: What to Do With King Felix?

 

Sunday June 24th, 2012


Bernie Olshansky: As the Mariners continue to grind away at the bottom of the American League West, many wonder: should they trade Felix Hernandez? With Felix, the Mariners have one of the best starting pitchers in the league, as he’s already pitched in eight seasons by the age of 26. 2010 was his best season, when he won his first Cy Young even though the Mariners struggled and were below .500. Felix has yet to enter his prime and is most likely at the height of his trade value. If the Mariners want to get the most possible out of this ace, they would have to act now. But would the Mariners even dare to trade such a prize? Read the rest of this entry

The Milwaukee Brewers: Planning for 2012 and Beyond

Friday June 15th, 2012

                                                                                                                                      

Image Courtesy of MLB.SI.com

Brendan Henderson: 

                The Milwaukee Brewers are currently sitting in fourth in the NL Central division with a sub-par 28-33 record. Yes, that’s a decent record but I mentioned that it was “sub-par” because baseball fans are used to seeing the Brewers with a better record, but the Brewers lost Prince Fielder to free agency and they lost Alex Gonzalez this year due to injury.

                The Brewers are still in good shape to finish the year near the top of the NL Central, which is why I think they will be buyers at the trade deadline. As I mentioned above the team lost their shortstop, Alex Gonzalez for the season, the team had Cesar Izturis playing shortstop but he also got injured and he is currently on the 15 day DL. So the Brewers currently have Edwin Maysonet playing shortstop. Izturis was batting for a .216 in 31 games played and Maysonet is currently batting .200 in 23 games so there isn’t much difference in offense production between the two, in my opinion the Brewers need to get some offense production from their shortstop which is why I think the Brewers need and will go after a shortstop at the trade deadline. The teams ahead of them in the divison standings (Pirates,Reds, and Cardinals) are all not unbeatable teams. They still have a chance to make a playoff run, which is why I think they need to be buyers at the trade deadline. The Brewers need some more offense fire power if they want to make a run. Read the rest of this entry

Barry Enright Interview: Haley Smilow Talks Baseball with the Arizona Diamondbacks Pitcher

Thursday June 7th, 2012

Barry Enright was drafted out of Pepperdine University by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round for the 2007 amateur draft.

The right-handed pitcher made his major league debut on June 30, 2010. He pitched five innings and earned the win that day against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Enright, 26, is in his second season with the Reno Aces, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. Enright was 9-5 with the Aces last season, and is 4-3 with 4.82 ERA (as of June 5) this year.

Haley:  First, congratulations on your engagement.  Have you set a date yet?  And if it is not a surprise where are you going on your honeymoon?  

Barry:  Thank you. We set a date for January 19 2013 in Santa Barbara. We haven’t decided on our honeymoon yet, but our qualification is clear blue warm ocean water.

Haley:  Can you share with us your first memory as a professional?  

Barry:  My first memory as a professional was in Yakima Washington. I gave up an 0-2 double off the wall to start off the inning but proceeded to strike out the side after that. I was a reliever my first half season to keep my innings down, it was a lot of fun. Read the rest of this entry

Jamie Moyer: A Pitcher Older than the Rockies

Friday April 20, 2012

Bryan Sheehan: Jamie Moyer is old (I’ll give you a second to wipe up the coffee undoubtably spilled onto your computer after reading this shocking fact). So old, in fact, that he is older than thirteen of the thirty current MLB teams, if relocated teams such as the Atlanta Braves are considered unique from their Milwaukee counterpart. So ancient, that his 25 year career is longer than the life of Wilin Rosario, who caught his record-setting win Tuesday. This performance, which came in the form of a seven-inning shutout gem against the woeful San Diego Padres, made Moyer the oldest starter, at 49 years and 150 days, to win a game of baseball. In a time when power pitchers and young flamethrowers, like Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, are lauded, Moyer and his sub-80 MPH fastball (he never got higher than 79 MPH on Tuesday, according to the Denver Post) are still effective enough to win. Tied for 35th all time in wins and just 32 away from the famed 300 club, it would be nice to think that he could stick around a few more years and break even more records. But looking at his current status, it’s hard to tell when his fairytale career will end.

Read the rest of this entry

My Tommy John Surgery Experiences: The Johnny Anderson Guest MLB Blog

Saturday April 14, 2012

  


MLB reports – Johnny Anderson (Guest MLB Blogger):  “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capacity to build the world’s first bionic man.”

 

The doctors call it “UCLR” – ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. The Baseball community call it Tommy John Surgery. I call it the resurrection of my career.  Dr. Frank Jobe introduced the world to his experimental procedure in 1974 on the one and only Tommy John. The UCL is the ligament that creates the stability which allows the high-stress action of throwing a baseball. Through repetitive use and a heavy workload, the UCL will indefinitely succumb to failure. The ligament will begin to fray and eventually tear, leaving pitchers in agony on the mound (see Joel Zumaya, Chris Carpenter, etc.)  During the surgery, a new tendon, coming either from the wrist or hamstring is implanted and woven in a figure-eight pattern through holes drilled in the humerus and ulna bones. Sounds gnarly, I know first hand. After surgery, the player will be in a brace with limited mobility. Over time, the brace can be adjusted to certain degrees to promote extension with the elbow until the player has full flexion. Through rigorous rehabilitation and a 6-month throwing program, it’s not uncommon for pitchers to throw harder than they did before the injury.  The chances of a complete recovery after the surgery are estimated at 85 to 90 percent. Rehabilitation takes around 12 to 15 months for pitchers and about 6 months for position players.

 

The experience I’ve had with my pal TJ has been quite the travel. I suffered a blow-out of my UCL in the first game of Spring Training in 2010 with the Blue Jays. Two pitches into the first inning I felt and heard a loud pop.  I felt a burning sensation throughout my forearm and tricep. I saw my career flash before my eyes. I trotted over to the dugout and held my head in my hands. A week later I awoke to being drugged up on painkillers and a brace on my arm. Months had passed and I was advancing into my throwing program and eventually started to throw to hitters. I went from a soft-tossing lefty, to a power pitcher. My velocity had peaked at 96 mph, and I was overpowering hitters with ease.

 

Fifteen months after the first surgery, I felt that same pop. No rhyme or reason. Heeeere we go again. I saw renowned Tommy John specialist Dr. James Andrews the next day. In his own words, Dr. Andrews said, “I haven’t seen anything like this in 20 years.” Well that was refreshing. July 12th 2011. I found myself sitting in a hospital bed next to Terrell Owens, Matt Stafford and Joba Chamberlain. Nine months later, and here I am. Feeling as strong as ever, and close to facing hitters for the first time since July.

 

While the Tommy John procedure hasn’t created teams of Frankenstein-like monster men, it’s the saving grace of many pitchers across the game. Close to 100 of the 800 or so pitchers in the league have undergone the procedure and have seen miraculous comebacks. But to all the pitchers out there, note that there are always ways to help prevent the UCL from “blowing up.” Through strengthening the Rotator Cuff and shoulder, pressure will be relieved from the elbow. Consistent long toss and post-throw therapy seem to do the trick.

 


I would like to thank mlbreports.com giving me the opportunity to share my story and the Blue Jays for sticking with me, even after everything I’ve gone through. I love all of my fans (the few I have) and interacting with them. I’ve become quite the Twitteraholic as of late and I can be followed at @j0hnny_A. I enjoy interacting with everyone, so give me a follow!  Until next time…. Johnny


***Thank you to Johnny Anderson for preparing this great feature on Tommy John Surgery for MLB reports (and the pictures/video used in todays’ feature)!  Johnny LOVES Twitter- so follow him ASAP!!!  2012 is a big year for Johnny as he continues on his road to recovery. Best of luck Johnny: we’re proud of ya!***

 

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

Interview with Robby Rowland: Discussing the Trade from the Diamondbacks to the Pirates

Tuesday April 3rd, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  We welcome back to MLB reports one of our most famous almuni, Robby Rowland.  Robby interviewed with us on December 1, 2011 and also appeared as a Guest MLB Blogger on February 6, 2012 and December 31, 2011 in his blog that we call “Robby’s World”.  RobbyRow is back on MLB reports…and he has some major news to discuss. As you are aware, RobbyRow was traded this past weekend to the Diamondbacks in exchange for pitcher Brett Lorin.  Originally taken by the Dbacks in the Rule 5 Draft, the team was able to keep Lorin’s rights by completing this trade. RobbyRow was a 3rd round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2010. Now, after 2 seasons in the Dbacks organization, he is off to a new team and a fresh start in Pittsburgh.

Trades are a way of life in baseball. It’s the reality of a sport that is first and foremost a business. While difficult to be leaving the only team that he has ever known, Robby Rowland has taken the trade in stride. While he is grateful to Arizona for everything that they have done for his career, he is exciting to be joining the Pirates and competing for a rotation spot one day. It takes a very mature player to recognize the nature of a trade and the opportunities that can arise as a result, especially at such a young age. The Pirates are very lucky to have obtained this pitching prospect, as he will quickly become a fan favorite!

I caught up with RobbyRow as soon as the trade was announced. He was digesting news of the trade and preparing to join the Pirates. But being the gentleman that he is…RobbyRow still fit us into his hectic schedule. We discussed the trade, from the moment that he got to news to his future plans. Robby was extremely generous with his time in discussing the move and his thoughts. So let’s jump right into it!

Today exclusively on MLB reports, we are proud to present the newest member of the Pittsburgh Pirates and addition to their pitching prospect arsenal, Robby Rowland:

Read the rest of this entry

Tom Glavine is Underrated

Wednesday February 29th, 2012

Sam Evans: There is no question that Tom Glavine is a Hall-of-Famer. However, Glavine seems to still be underrated by baseball fans. Just how good was this three hundred game winner?

Tom Glavine was born in Massachusetts and after high school, he was drafted both into the NHL and MLB. Glavine made his MLB debut in 1987 with the Atlanta Braves. Over the next twenty-one years, Glavine would throw over four thousand innings, and record 305 wins. He won games not by a blazing fastball, but by possessing outstanding command of his fastball and changeup. Read the rest of this entry

Shawn Griffith Interview: Call Him Griff… and a Future MLB Closer

Tuesday February 28th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:   We are definitely fortunate to have many of the Blue Jays top prospects appear here on the Reports. Perhaps because we are based out of Toronto. Or maybe the Jays just have some of the friendliest prospects in the game. Whatever the reason- today’s guest is no exception. Shawn Griffith is the latest Jays prospect to sit in the hot seats and talk ball with us. Griff was a 37th round pick of the Jays pack in 2009. Right after signing, Griff jumped right into pro ball and played for two different levels right off the bat. He finished his professional debut with some very obscene numbers. In 2009, Griff pitched in 25 games to the tune of a 0.53 ERA, 9 saves and a whopping 52 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. Try a 0.683 WHIP on for size to boot. Overall, in his 3 seasons, Griff has a formidable 9-6 record, 3.31 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, and 66/147 BB/So in 117 innings pitched. Making it as far as high-A Dunedin in the last 2 seasons, the MLB reports crystal ball is seeing AA in Griff’s future. Get an apartment rented in New Hampshire Griff…as you will soon get to know what exactly a Fisher Cat is!

For a pitcher with a closer mentality and tools, we get to know Shawn Griffith today. From his time in George Mason to his 2012 outlook, this is the complete Shawn Griffith story. One of the most polite young men you will ever meet…and he even brings tea to the bullpen every game. Talk about a sophisticated reliever! On that note, we are proud to present our exclusive interview with one of the top Blue Jays reliever prospects, Shawn Griffith:

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Michael Kickham Interview: Giants Lefty Prospect Starter- Kicking it into Gear

Saturday February 25th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:   How do the San Francisco Giants do it? When you think of quality starting pitching, the names Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner are bound to enter the conversation. The Giants appear to have a factory where they are able to produce quality pitching prospects at will. Well, you know that we love discovering and analyzing top prospects on the Reports. We are fortunate to have found a great one in the Giants system. Starting pitcher (of course). Left-handed (of course). Stands 6’4″ (of course). Michael Kickham is a name that you will be hearing for many years to come in baseball. A 6th round pick of the Giants back in 2010, Kickham is going into his 3rd professional season. As a 22-year old in the South Atlantic League (A-Ball) in 2011, Kickham certainly looked like a poised veteran. He made 21 starts, throwing 111.2 innings. Kickham struck out 103 and only walked 37 batters, for a SO/BB ratio of 2.78…and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Considering the lack of depth of pitching in major league organizations these days, it baffles my mind how the Giants keep doing it. The key is two-fold. Good scouting/drafting and player development. Clearly the Giants knew what they were looking for when they drafted Michael Kickham. Now he is on the fast-track to joining Bumgarner and company in the Bay area. 

Get ready to learn the Michael Kickham story. From the draft to his journey thus far in the minors. Find out what makes a top MLB prospect tick. What motivates him and drives him to succeed. Michael Kickham gives us a peak into the mind of a pitcher…and a lefty one at that. Today on MLB reports, we are proud to present our exclusive interview with Giants prospect pitcher, Michael Kickham:

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The Aroldis Effect: What’s In Store for the Game’s Hardest Throwing Pitcher?

Thursday February 16th, 2012

Sam Evans: In the history of baseball, no pitcher has ever thrown a baseball faster than Aroldis Chapman. In 1876, when the National League was founded, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call. The athleticism of baseball players and overall talent in the league has improved significantly since then, but it is amazing that we now have over four hundred Major League pitchers that have an average fastball speed that’s at least 90 MPH. Aroldis Chapman is a phenomenal talent, who with the right coaching, has a chance to make more than a few All-Star teams. Read the rest of this entry

Robby Rowland Guest MLB Blog: Inside the Life of a Minor League Player

Monday February 6, 2012

Jonathan Hacohen: Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect, Robby Rowland and his 2nd Guest MLB Blog. After a little bit of arm twisting, we were able to get Robby back on the Reports. Just kidding. Robby is a super guy and was very gracious in agreeing to return. For his latest Guest MLB Blog, Robby took in some suggestions from his followers on Twitter to come up with different topics to cover today. From all his entries, Robby chose to discuss life on the road, springtime and pre-game rituals. Exclusively on MLB reports, Robby Rowland is back with his latest blog entry:

Robby Rowland-  Guest MLB Blog:  Hello all! I am honored to say that I have been welcomed back onto the Reports. Once again, I would like to thank Jonathan for having me on here. It truly is an honor to be asked to share my experiences with the world. For those of you who have not met me in person, you should know that I just love to talk… I got kicked out of a lot of classrooms in my day because I love to chat. That’s why I am honored to be on here- because I am allowed to express my love of talking… but just on paper. I have some great topics to discuss with all of you today. The way I like to prepare my blog entries is by asking my twitter followers about subjects they would like to hear about. I like to first write them down on paper and later type in my blog. And once again I apologize if everything is just thrown down with no sense of proper writing. Boy would my english teacher in high school be upset if he/she read these…

So without further adieu, I would like to discuss several of the topics that you have all brought to my attention!

Read the rest of this entry

Les Williams Interview: Blue Jays Pitching Prospect is Ready to Roll in 2012

Sunday February 5th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  One of our favorite type of stories on MLB reports is when we see a local kid that “makes good” in baseball. For the Blue Jays, then dipped into the Toronto market to draft Leslie Williams in the 37th round of last year’s draft. The Toronto native Williams went directly to the Appalachian League to suit up for the Bluefield Blue Jays.  Les got into 17 games, all but 1 coming out of the pen. Looking to 2012, Les is open to his role but would very much value a starting job. Standing 6’2″ at a solid 220 lbs, Les looks every part of a major league starting pitcher. His go-to pitch is his cutter, which he complements with a changeup. Les and I had the opportunity to speak while he was still in Toronto before leaving for Spring Training. A down-to-earth person, Les is definitely grounded and has his priorities in order. For a city looking for local heroes, Toronto fans can look forward to one day seeing Les Williams standing on the Rogers Centre’ mound- wearing the blue and white Jays uniform.

If you catch Les Williams away from the park, he will likely be eating chicken parmesan and listening to the Temptations. Just whatever you do…don’t stay overnight in an unlocked room at his place (or he will make sure that you have nightmares for years to follow!) With his dynamic personality and storytelling abilities, it was a treat to learn about Les Williams, the person. Today on MLB reports, I am proud to present my interview with Jays pitching prospect, Les Williams:

MLB reports:  Thank you for taking the time to join us today Les.  How has your offseason gone so far?

Les Williams:  My off-season has been great. I’ve been able to get a lot of work done physically and just preparing myself mentally for the season ahead. I’ve been able to get a good job that falls within my field of study at school, so that has been a lot of fun as well. I’m not a huge fan of the snow here in Toronto, so I’m looking forward to heading back down south.

 

MLB reports:  You just completed your 1st professional season.  How have you found the process of getting adjusted to playing professional baseball?

Les Williams:  The process has been for the most part what I expected. I’ve heard many stories from players who have experience life in pro ball and most of those stories hold true. The experience is something I’ve longed for since I started playing the game.

 

MLB reports:  You were drafted by the Jays in the 37th round of the 2011 draft.  Did you expect to be drafted by Jays – any pressure to be chosen by your hometown team?

Les Williams:  After going through the draft process in high school, I learned that anything can happen, and not to expect anything at all. I did well at a pre-draft workout for the Jays and I was hoping that I did well enough for them to consider taking me this year. As a college senior getting drafted in the later rounds there’s no pressure. All you can do is go out and prove to the organization that you are worth keeping around and that you are determined to reach your highest potential.

 

MLB reports:  How did you first find out you were drafted: what was that like?

Les Williams:  I was excited to say the least. I was in the middle of class watching the draft and when I heard my name I stepped out of class and called my parents. They pretended they were surprised but I’m sure they were watching the draft as well.  Seeing my name beside the Blue Jays logo was a dream come true.

 

MLB reports:  Ever have to pinch yourself: does it feel like a dream playing professional baseball?

Les Williams:  Have you ever had a dream and just moments after you wake up, you forget what you dreamt about? That’s what the couple of days after the draft were like. I barely remember anything between that day and the day I signed the contract in Florida.

 

MLB reports:  What other sports did you playing growing up? 

Les Williams:  I played just about every sport up until my sophomore year in High School. I continued to play basketball up until my senior year, which is when I decided not to take the risk of hurting myself and jeopardizing my scholarship.

 

MLB reports:  What are your most dominant pitches?  Any new ones you are working on?

Les Williams:  My cutter is my best pitch. I used it quite a bit my Junior and Senior years in college and it helped a lot during my season in Bluefield. I’m working on sharpening up my slider to have a pitch with some depth. And I’m placing a lot of emphasis on the effectiveness of my changeup as well.

 

MLB reports:  How would you describe “your game”?  What “type” of pitcher are you?

Les Williams:  I like to fill up the zone and get ahead of batters early. I HATE walking guys. There is nothing worse than giving up a free base because a defense can’t stop that. I much rather give up a hard hit single or a double because the next time the batter comes up, I know how I can approach his at bat better.

 

MLB reports:  Looking into a crystal ball, when do you expect to make it to the Show?

Les Williams:  That’s something I can’t put a timeline on. There are so many variables that determine that. The only thing I have control of is the way I compete and carry myself on and off the field. That is my ultimate goal and I am doing everything in my power to reach that pinnacle. I’m not going to stop until they rip the jersey off my back.

 

MLB reports:  Long term:  do you expect to stay a starter or will you consider a move to the pen?

Les Williams:  I’ve always been a starter and this year was the first time I was in a relief role. To be honest, I love to start. I enjoy being in control of the game and giving my team a chance to win. But being in a relief role, I experienced a type of adrenaline rush that you can’t get as a starter. Being in situations with the game on the line is what this game is all about. Any role that I can take to best help the organization succeed is one I am more than willing to take.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals for 2012?

Les Williams:  I plan on having a very successful year and show the organization that I’m here to stay. I hope to spend the majority of the year in A with Lansing and if all goes well, an end of season stint in Dunedin. As college guy, I have to set my expectations high because of the experience and the maturity level that college signed guys possess.

 

MLB reports:  If you weren’t playing baseball, you would be __________________

Les Williams:  Probably be working as a Federal Agent in ICE or A Fugitive Task Force. Or I’d be in grad school working my way to become a Forensic Accountant!

 

MLB reports:  Favorite pre-game meal?

Les Williams:  Chicken Parm. I threw a no-hitter when I was 12 after a chicken parm dinner, so now I try to eat it when I know I’m going to pitch.

 

MLB reports:  What music are you currently listening to?

Les Williams:  I listen to any and anything. Anything from The Temptations to Hip-Hop to Darius Rucker to plain old instrumentals.

 

MLB reports:  Funniest prank you ever saw in a clubhouse? 

Les Williams:  Well it wasn’t in our clubhouse but it was in our dorm where our team stayed after classes had finished for the year and our season was still in progress. One of our pitchers was staying off campus and moved out a couple of days to early, so he needed a place to stay. So he decided it was a good idea to sleep in a vacant room in the dorm. The doors don’t lock on this vacant room so one night at about 1am, me and another teammate dressed in all black and put on masks. We snuck into the room, opened the curtain to let some moonlight in and hovered over his bed. I ripped the sheets off him and said in a deep voice “You shouldn’t have left the door open”. I have never seen a grown man scream like that in my entire life. It is still by far the funniest moment of my time in college. (editor’s note: I will admit that I cannot stop laughing at this one…although I do feel sorry for this nameless soul that has been traumatized for life as a result…)


MLB reports:  Final question:  What would you most want to be remembered for in baseball when you hang up your spikes?

Les Williams:  I want to be remembered as someone who played his heart out and never wasted an opportunity to get better and succeed.


***Thank you to Les Williams for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports.  You can follow Les on Twitter (@LesRWilliams).  Les is VERY excited to be entering his 2nd professional season. Be sure to say hello and wish him the best of luck in 2012!

 

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

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

Looking Ahead to the 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

Saturday February 4, 2012


Rob Bland:  When Barry Larkin was elected into the Hall of Fame, it was obvious going in that he would likely be included.  As it turned out, he was the only player voted in by the BBWAA in 2012.  Larkin received 86.4% of the vote, a jump from 62.1% the year before, when he had the highest vote total of those who did not receive the requisite 75%.  

The 2013 class boasts 13 players who received less than 75% but more than 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot.  There are also 32 new players on the list.  Players must have played in at least 10 MLB seasons, and have been retired for 5 full seasons to be eligible for the ballot.  Of returning players, the most notable are Jack Morris (66.7%), Jeff Bagwell (56%), Lee Smith (50.6%), Tim Raines (48.7%), Mark McGwire (19.5%) and Rafael Palmeiro (12.6%).  It’s hard to imagine that two of the best home run hitters of all time (McGwire and Palmeiro) could garner less than a quarter of the vote, in McGwire’s 7th year on the ballot and Palmeiro’s 3rd respectively.  However, due to steroid usage and their laughable performances in a congressional hearing, this is the case.  

2013’s ballot gets a whole lot crazier when you add baseball’s all-time home run leader, and possibly best player in history, one of the most prolific strikeout pitchers of all time, the best slugging catcher of all time, and a guy who hit over 60 HR THREE times, and totalling 609 blasts.  

Barry Bonds.  Roger Clemens.  Mike Piazza.  Sammy Sosa.  All four of these players have in some way or another been connected with steroids, whether it is pure speculation, or blatant proof.  Knowing what we know about McGwire and Palmeiro’s statuses in the Hall of Fame voting, 2013 could prove to be the most heavily debated election year ever.  Many believe that players who used steroids should never be elected in the Hall, and all records should have asterisks beside them.  Many others believe they should let them in, and that because steroids and PED usage was so rampant in the “Steroid Era” that it doesn’t affect the way they vote.  

Jack Morris’s case for the Hall has been so widely discussed that it bears not repeating.  He was a good pitcher on some very good teams that scored a lot of runs.  Bagwell put up tremendous numbers and has never been proven to be linked to PEDs but is kept out of the Hall because some suspect him of it.  Raines is inching closer to being elected, and Lee Smith is nearing the end of his run on the ballot.  Since I have already given my vote for 2012, and my opinion has not changed on any of those players, I won’t go into too much detail, other than the fact that I believe Morris will be elected in his 14th year.  

Bonds and Clemens would have been first ballot Hall of Famers, no doubt about it.  But because of this cloud of PED usage hanging over their heads, it could be a while, if at all.  

Bonds’ CAREER OPS 1.051 is higher than every player in the MLB not named Jose Bautista in 2011 alone.  His peak season in OPS+ was 268 in 2002.  268!  Career OBP of .444.  514 stolen bases.  He holds the record for most career home runs with 762.  Bonds was a 7-time National League MVP, 14-time All-Star, 8-time Gold Glover, and 12-time Silver Slugger.  Simply put, steroids or not, Bonds was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and should be treated as such.  He should be in the Hall, but may not be elected for many years due to his links to PEDs, his perjury charges, and his overall sour disposition when it came to dealing with the scrutiny of the media.  

Clemens was one of the top 3 pitchers in a generation dominated by hitting, along with Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.  He has the highest fWAR of any pitcher (by a landslide) with 145.5 Wins Above Replacement.  His 8.56 K/9 ranks in the top 10 all time for starters with over 250 GS.  At age 42, (albeit possibly aided by PED) he went 13-8, 1.87 ERA, 185K/62BB, and ERA+ of 226.  Clemens won 7 Cy Young Awards while attending 11 All-Star Games and even winning the AL MVP Award in 1986.  Clemens was always known for his military-style workouts and his bulldog mentality, but as with Bonds, his links to PEDs will taint his legacy.  

Mike Piazza is another case where others have implicated him, and there has been no proof of his taking any PED.  Highest career slugging of any catcher in history; .545.  #1 in ISO; .237.  7th in fWAR; 66.7.  1st in HR; 427.  If these stats don’t make Piazza look like the best offensive catcher in history, I don’t know what else to say.  Maybe his .308 AVG and 140 wRC+, 9th and 1st all time for catchers, respectively, will convince you.  A 12-time All-Star, Piazza also won the 1993 NL MVP award with the LA Dodgers.  He also won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and was voted in the top 10 for the MVP 7 times.  Piazza should be voted in the first ballot as well, but, like Bagwell, will likely wait many years even though there has not been a shred of credible evidence that he took a PED.  

Between 1998 and 2001, Sammy Sosa hit 243 home runs.  60.75 home runs per year.  In the history of the MLB, there have been eight seasons where a player has hit 60 HR.  Sosa owns three of them.  With 609 career home runs and an OPS of .878, it is no wonder Sosa was regarded as one of the best power hitters of his generation.  Sosa played in 7 All-Star Games, won the NL MVP in 1998, and was voted in the top 10 six other times.  He also won 6 Silver Slugger Awards.  Sosa tested positive for PED use in a 2003 supposedly anonymous survey.  Also, not helping his reputation as a cheater is that he was caught using a corked bat on June 3, 2003.  

Curt Schilling needs to get a long hard look as well.  He was able to amass only 216 wins, but his career 1.13 WHIP and 128 ERA+ are very good.  Schilling also compiled over 3100 strikeouts while walking only 711 in 3261 innings.  If Jack Morris gets into the Hall of Fame with much lesser career numbers, but gets in on the merits of his Game 7 victory in the 1991 World Series, Schilling should be elected in his first 3 years of eligibility.  Before Game 6 of the ALCS in 2004, in which the Red Sox were down 3-2 to the Yankees, Schilling tore a tendon sheath in his ankle.  Doctors built a wall of stitches in his ankle to hold the tendon in place so that he could still pitch in the game.  Schilling went 7 innings, all the while blood oozed out of the wound through his sock.  He gave up 4 hits, no walks, and struck out 4 batters, and gave up 1 run.  The Red Sox won the game, and won the series the next night.  The game will forever be known as the Bloody Sock Game.  Schilling’s performance on one leg was one of the gutsiest events I have ever witnessed in this game.  

There are so many other notable names of good to great baseball players, but none should have a real chance of being elected into the Hall of Fame this year…with most likely never getting in.  These players include Craig Biggio, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Shawn Green, Julio Franco, Sandy Alomar, and of course, Jaret Wright.  Remember that guy?  

2013’s ballot is littered with guys who SHOULD be in, but won’t be elected.  Not now, and maybe not ever.  Personally, I vote Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa and Schilling.  Due to their PED connections, the first four won’t get in, and Schilling may take a few years to pay his dues through the process.

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

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Michael Schlact Guest Blog: Preparation for Uncertainty

Wednesday February 1st, 2012

MLB reports: It took us a year.  A long…long year. Begging. Pleading. We literally tried every trick in the book. Fortunately we did not have to resort to bribery. But it came close! ;) When you are one of the most popular baseball players on social media, time becomes a precious commodity for interviews and blogs. He is a busy man with many time commitments. But finally he is here. For your reading pleasure today, we have the one and only, Michael Schlact joining us with a guest blog.

In a recent article feature, the top 30 Must-Follow Baseball Players, Analysts and Writers were named. #8 on the list? MLB reports! Quite flattering and we were very humbled to receive the honor. Now…who came in #2 you ask? You guessed it: our dear Mr. Schlact. Michael plays Twitter like a fiddle. The man is smooth. 10,644 Followers as of this article and counting. The people LOVE this guy…and quite frankly, who can blame them? Michael is 26-years of age, stands 6’7″ and is a baseball pitcher. He is living the American dream! With his beautiful wife Jillian by his side, Michael is fighting and battling everyday to achieve his dreams of playing in the big leagues. 

Originally a third round pick by the Rangers in 2004, Michael pitched for seven seasons in the Texas system. He returns for his second season this year pitching in the Atlantic League for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Michael definitely has inspirations for his journey. Looking at a pitcher like Jerome Williams for example, he rose in 2011 from the Atlantic League (pitching for Lancaster) all the way to cementing a rotation spot for the Anaheim Angels. Dreams can come true and Michael Schlact looks forward to being the next baseball success story. He is young and just entering his prime. Good looking. Stable family man. Driven. Popular with the fans. Michael Schlact is the complete baseball pitching package. Plus did we mention that he is a talented writer?

Exclusively today on MLB reports, we feature Michael Schlact- with his Guest Blog titled “Preparation for Uncertainty”.  Enjoy!

Michael Schlact (Guest Blogger): First, I’d like to thank MLB reports for asking me to contribute to their website. I appreciate the opportunity and I’m honored they chose me to write a piece. A common question that I’m asked is regarding the preparation for the season. As a free agent yet signed with an independent ball team, how does that affect my off-season conditioning and strength program? How does not knowing what your future holds affect the throwing that you do? I will answer these questions and more as we continue.

For those of you that follow me on social media, I’m sure you saw my announcement last week that I have recently signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. I am honored to be a part of that organization and playing with those guys again in 2012. I want to make it clear however, that just because I signed with an independent ball team does not mean I can’t be signed by a MLB team as well. Until I throw my first pitch with the Blue Crabs in 2012, I can be signed by a MLB team without them having to buy out my contract. Once I’ve thrown a pitch in independent ball, the MLB team that wants to sign me must buy me out of my contract. Having that option available makes the future still uncertain even though I have signed to play somewhere. Having gone through this scenario last year, I’ve been able to fine tune my off-season workouts and conditioning to best suit my needs as I move forward.

There is one thing that’s certain at this point. Come April, I’ll head up to Maryland to begin the 2012 season. What is uncertain, however, is when or if a MLB team will come calling and need me to report to their spring training in February or March. This makes the throwing program and workout program very difficult to fine tune. I’ve figured out that if I work out and throw based on a MLB team’s spring training schedule, I’ll be ready for anything. The worst thing that would happen is that I’ll be beyond ready come April when I have to report to Maryland for the independent ball season. I’ve found that preparing for the earliest possible scenario motivates me and drives me to work hard and hope for the best.

My workouts are well-rounded, and I enjoy keeping my muscles guessing. I try to change it up often. Not only does this help with boredom, it keeps your muscles “thinking” and doesn’t allow them to become used to the same routines. A big focus for me is conditioning. I do a workout called Turbo Fire, which is a mix of high intensity training and kickboxing. I also run and ride the bike. My running is usually more sprints than long distance, but that all depends on the workout that I had and the amount of throwing that I’ve done the previous day. I work out my legs and core a lot, and because of my shoulder surgery, I do a lot of rotator cuff maintenance. Putting your body through a 140-160 game schedule demands that you keep your body in top condition.

I’ve been throwing since December, and that’s usually when I begin my program. I feel that it’s very important to slowly work up to long tossing, and building arm strength over an extended period of time tends to work better for me than jumping right in and trying to get game ready quickly. Once I have long tossed enough and my arm feels strong, I’ll hop on a mound. Personally, I get 5-6 bullpen sessions in before heading off for Spring Training. There is a fine line between being ready to go for Spring Training and being game ready too early. The latter tends to cause players to burn out in August.

As always, thank you all for the support that you show me at the stadium, in person, or on social media. I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks to MLB reports for allowing me to give you a sneak peek into my off-season workouts, regardless of my destination. My hope is that I’ll play in a town near you and we can meet at the stadium. Make sure to come and say Hi if you see me! You can find me on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/michael_schlact or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/michaelschlact

Thank you to Michael Schlact for preparing today’s MLB Guest Blog.  Please feel free to “like” Michael on Twitter and follow him on Facebook. You can follow Michael’s journey on his blog titled “The Schlact Stories”.  Michael loves interacting with his fans (and giving away game used goodies)- so be sure to say hello and tell him that MLB reports sent you! 


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Young Phenom Pitchers May Ignite Your City

Monday January 30th, 2012

Doug Booth-  Baseball Writer: Perhaps it is because we see pitchers for more plays in any given baseball game, or maybe it is that young pitchers so rarely dominate to start their careers. But witnessing young pitchers start their careers with a flash- ignites the baseball cities they play for at epic levels.  Sometimes these players may even captivate the baseball world across the nation or even the world.  Today I take a look at 4 players that I have watched or heard about from my baseball experiences.  These players are:  ‘The Bird’ Mark Fidrych, Kerry Wood, Dwight Gooden and (the last player is underneath everyone’s radar,) former Blue Jays pitcher Juan Guzman.

Juan Guzman- Career Record was 91-79 with a 4.08 ERA.  For those people that watched this guy burst onto the scene in Toronto, this was guy was virtually unhittable in his first four seasons.  Barring any other person telling me different, he holds the record for winning percentage for his first 50 starts.  Guzman started his career 39-11 (.780).  Guzman helped anchor a pitching staff that won back to back World Series in ’92 and ’93, by going 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA in his postseason starts.  Guzman would routinely walk batters and throw wild pitches, but when he was looking at runners in scoring position,  he often left them stranded with a strikeout or a weak grounder.  The early 1990’s Toronto Blue Jays  were the model franchise in the Major Leagues. The SkyDome created enough buzz about futuristic ballparks to have all teams look at building their own new ballparks for themselves.  Juan Guzman was there for much of the early successes.  The fans gravitated towards him at the park.  It seemed the more they cheered for him, the better he would bear down and concentrate.  Even though Juan struggled after coming out of the lockout in 1995 (until he retired) going 51-69, he is forever entrenched in the Blue Jays championship seasons.

 Dwight Gooden- Career Record was 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA.  As a teenager at age 19, Dwight Gooden went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA in capturing the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.  In his next season, Gooden had one of the best pitching seasons in the modern era.  He went 24-4 with a mind-boggling 1.53 ERA.  He threw 16 complete games and 8 shutouts, while his 268 strikeouts in 271 innings pitched helped solidify the pitching ‘Triple Crown’ of wins, ERA and strikeouts.  This New York Mets team was looking like they were on the verge of a dynasty with the likes of Gooden, Strawberry and veteran catcher Gary Carter playing so well.  In 1986, the New York Mets won the World Series with Gooden as their ace.  Even though he struggled in the postseason for his career with an 0-4 record, most times his ball club would have never made it to the playoffs without his strong regular seasons.  By the age of 26, Gooden was 132-53 for his career(.721).  He was headed for a Hall of Fame Career, however drug problems (as was the case with fellow Met Darryl Strawberry) caused the rapid decline of his career.  Gooden spent parts of many seasons fighting the addiction.  Gooden had his career revived with the New York Yankees in 1996.  In wearing the pinstripes, he threw a no-hitter and helped the team win the 1996 World Series.  His career winning percentage is still decent at .634, but what could this man have done if he was playing it straight?  As years go by, he is still revered by both New York clubs. So who knows what could have been?

 Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych- Career Record was 29-19 with a 3.10 ERA.  This guy is the best of example of a phenom pitcher capturing a city by storm.  At age 21, Mark Fidrych blitzed onto the scene with a 19-9 record, with leading the league in ERA (2.34) and CG (24), even though he did not make his first start until early May.  He won the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award and his pitching galvanized the city of Detroit despite a 74-87 season.  Fidrych displayed some of the weirdest antics on the mound.  He would fix scuffs on his cleats, talk to the baseballs, manicure the pitching mound and throw back baseballs to the home umpire he thought ‘were going to make him give up hits.’  As a tall and lanky player, with constant body-jerk movements, he was given the nickname ‘The Bird” with his likeness to Sesame Streets character ‘Big Bird.’  Fidrych had his own fans come out for games at Tiger Stadium.  These fans were often referred to as ‘Bird Watchers.’  He was a big draw for attendance for both home and road games.  His 16 starts drew half of the teams 81 home games attendance in 1976.  Fidrych was truly a national celebrity by the time he started his second year.  However, a torn rotator cuff plagued him for the remainder of his brief career, as it went improperly diagnosed until Dr. James Andrews saw him in the mid 80’s.  Fidrych was still a popular figure around MLB until he was killed while working on his truck in an accident in April of 2009.

 Kerry Wood- Career Record is 86-73 with 3.64 ERA.  Still only age 34 right now, Kerry Wood has been pitching in the Majors since 1998.  In his 5th start as a player at age 21, Wood turned in one of the best all time single game performances.  The man struck 20 batters in tying Roger Clemens established record.  There were only two batters to reach base, a hit batsmen and a questionable hit that could have easily been scored an error, prevented Wood from throwing a no-hitter or perfect game.  Instantly Wood’s name was recognizable across the Cubs fans.  This was the year that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were going toe to toe in the historic single season homer chase, yet  Wood was just as popular at Wrigley Field.  Soreness in his elbow forced Wood to miss the last month of the season.  He still registered a 13-6 record, en route to a ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.  Wood spent 1999 on the shelf, from there he struck out 200 batters or more in three of the next four season.  In 2003, the ace teamed up with Mark Prior to deliver a great regular season that ultimately led to a 3-2 lead in the NLCS before the Marlins came back to win the NL Championship (Bartman).  The next 4 seasons were marred by injury, as neither he nor Prior could stay healthy for the Cubs.  It was only a move to the bullpen that finally saw him revive his career in 2007.  Wood was part of 2 division championships in his time with the Cubs, but the one that was sweeter was the 2008 season.  He made the All-Star team as a reliever and the fans were able to cheer for him on a regular basis again.  That season he converted 34 of 39 saves.  After decent years with Cleveland and New York in 2009 & 2010, Wood took less money to return to the city that he loves and started his career with.  Chicago fans will always return the love back for Wood.  He is where he ought to be, wearing number 34 for the Cubs.

So who might be the new pitcher to take on this mantra?  Could it be Matt Moore?  Or maybe it will be Stephen Strasburg in a larger sampling?  Whoever it is, that MLB team and/or baseball will be better served with another new pitching phenom entering its ranks!

 

*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 

 

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

The Future of Alfredo Simon

Sunday January 29th, 2012

Sam Evans: Alfredo Simon has not had the Major League career that most people grew up dreaming about. He’s never maintained success in his four years in the big leagues, plus he was accused of murdering a man during the last offseason. Luckily for Simon, he has a chance to be a starter in Baltimore’s talent-deprived rotation. He is still a promising player with a good build and a fastball that can touch up to 95 MPH.

Simon should be an inspiration to all minor league players. He spent seven years in the minors before he ever reached the majors. During those seven minor league years, he played for the Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, Phillies, and the Giants. Simon never posted amazing minor league numbers and had problems with his offspeed pitches. What kept Simon on teams was his fastball in the upper 90’s and positive veteran influence. In 2008, Simon finally got his chance. The Orioles called him up to the majors and gave him a chance to showcase his abilities against major league hitters.

When Alfredo Simon signed with the Phillies over ten years ago, he claimed to be almost two years younger than he was, as he went by the name Carlos Cabrera. This wasn’t a huge deal, but eventually the information about Simon’s name and age was released to the public. Little did Simon know, this was just the start of his legal issues. Last year, on New Year’s, Simon was accused of killing Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his own brother. As the story was told, the locals were all bringing in the New Year at a huge party, with Simon celebrated by firing his gun into the air twice. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems very suspicious. If Simon was firing his gun up into the air, how did he kill someone? I don’t speak very fluent spanish, but according to a Dominican news telecast, Simon was at a street block filled with hundreds of people, away from Almonte at the time of the murder.

The justice system in the Dominican Republic is far from perfect. Simon could have just paid off people to cover this up after he actually did murder Almonte.  Or this could have been a misunderstanding or tragic accident. However, the court found indisputable evidence that Simon was not the murderer. He had approximately three hundred witnesses testifying his innocence. What I find amusing is that almost all of them showed up for the court appearance, dressed in Orioles gear and Simon’s jerseys. On November 8th, Simon was acquitted of all charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Back to baseball, Simon has never been able to maintain success for long periods of time in the majors. He has shown glimpses of being an electric closer at times. He’s also had moments where he looks like a potential innings-eater starter. Nobody, even Simon, knows where this talented veteran will fit into the Orioles roster. Whether it’s as a starter, or as a late-inning bullpen arm, Simon could be a breakout player in 2012.  Or he could end up on waivers.

Simón can still heat up the radar gun, even now at age thirty. Last year, his average fastball was 94.4MPH. He threw his fastball almost 1 MPH faster in 2010, but that’s likely because he was used out of the bullpen. Speaking of 2010, that was the year when Orioles fans got to see the potential of this 6’6” giant. Due to a Mike Gonzalez injury, and a dreadful Orioles bullpen, Alfredo Simón was name the O’s closer. Simon took complete advantage of the situation and he finished with 17 saves in 21 chances.

Simon’s peripherals suggest that he has been consistently getting lucky during his time in Baltimore. He has a 5.23 career FIP, but only a 4.19 career SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA). Simon is starting to look like another pitcher who consistently outperforms what their sabermetrical numbers suggest they should be. Sabermetrics are far from perfected statistics always and they could be misleading, in terms of Simon’s production.

In 2011, Simon returned to starting pitching. He had sixteen starts and he threw more innings in one year (115.2), than he’d thrown since 2007. He still missed time due to hamstring issues, but overall, Simon threw some quality ballgames for Baltimore. Eight of his sixteen starts were for six innings or more. If Simon can perfect his offspeed pitches better, I could see him having a Carlos Silva in 2004-esue year. That’d make him one of the Orioles best pitchers and he would then be due for a payday in 2013.

Recently, both Manager Buck Showalter, and General Manager Dan Duquette, have made it clear that they want to have players competing in Spring Training for a spot in the Orioles rotation. According to Orioles beat writer, Brittany Ghiroli, Simon has lost ten pounds this offseason and he’s been preparing to be a starter. There will be approximately eleven players competing for five spots in the Orioles rotation this spring. Fortunately for Simon, the majority of them are not very good.

If the Orioles coaching staff can ameliorate Simon into a starter who goes deep into games, without losing his velocity or blocking a younger prospect, then they will have gem of a pitcher at a fraction of the cost of most top starting pitchers. I really do believe in Simon’s capabilities. He has the potential and given that he has a good opportunity coming up this spring, I don’t see any reason why he can’t spend the entire year in the Orioles rotation (health permitting).

If starting doesn’t work out for Simon, he can still be an effective late-inning arm. The Orioles need to develop their pitchers better and stop messing with their roles. They can tell Simon if they want him to be a starter, or a reliever, but the worst thing they can do is have him switch back and forth. For Simon’s career, it’s now or never. 2012 will be the most important year of his career and the Orioles need him to produce at the Major-League level so that they don’t have to rush their young prospects any further.

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

 

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

Johnny Anderson Interview: The Baseball Comeback Kid… “Never Say Never”

Thursday January 26, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Get ready for the complete baseball ride tonight, as we jump into the world of Johnny Anderson. The Blue Jays pitching prospect was born in Pleasanton, California (ever see the movie Pleasantville? Same idea.) The left-handed starting pitcher was drafted by the Jays back in 2008. Only 23 years-of-age, the sky should be the limit for Anderson. He has big dreams. Owning a collection of fancy rides. Getting acquainted with the women of Toronto. The Blue Jays prospect wants it all! But as is the case with many young pitchers, a road bump presented itself. Here is the video (beware, it is not for the faint of heart):

  

I will give you a hint. The surgery that followed has the intials T.J. in it and involves a certain famous doctor in Alabama. If you follow baseball closely, you know what I am talking about. Dr. James Andrews and Tommy John surgery. The good news in the case of Johnny Anderson is that he is feeling great and well on the road to recovery. Facing adversity has not slowed down Johnny Anderson. It has only made him stronger. Today we learn about the Jays prospect, from the draft to his experiences in professional baseball. You can call him John Anderson.  Or call him Johnny. Get ready to laugh. Get ready to cry. Get ready to sigh. Get ready to cheer. Today on MLB reports, we present our interview with Blue Jays prospect, Johnny Anderson:

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports! Our fave starting question: who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Johnny Anderson:  Being a kid growing up in the greater California Bay Area, I always was within a stones throw from Candlestick and the Oakland Coliseum. Seeing the A’s “Big 3″ was quite the treat. I modeled my pitching after Zito, which might be why I got hammered around when I was younger. There was also another soft-tossing lefty that some may remember; Noah Lowry (Editor’s Note: BIG Lowry fan. Nice call Johnny!) We pitched almost identically to each other, so it was always a treat to see him throw.

 

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

Johnny Anderson:  With the Blue Jays graduating so many pitchers over the last couple years, it’s pretty cool to see guys I’ve played with over the years in the Show. With me being in and out of action the past couple years, I’ve been in the training room with a lot of pitchers that have been well established at the major league level. I’ve spent time around guys like Brandon Morrow, Shaun Marcum, Doc Halladay and others. It’s always fun to pick their brain and hear what they have to say.

 

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

Johnny Anderson:  Over all the years I’ve played, I’ve never won many awards or accolades. I’ve been the guy that’s always flown under the radar… and I’m completely content with that. I played 2 years at the Junior College level and without a doubt, they were the most memorable. We were so close to winning a State Championship, but one strike away each year. I was Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2008 and I cherish that honor more than anything thus far.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?

Johnny Anderson:  I previously held a commitment with Oklahoma State University before the draft in 2008. I knew I had a shot at getting selected pretty high, but had no clue what was about to take place. I had an agent/advisor that helped me with the whole draft process so that I’d be prepared if the right deal was in place. The day before, I had close to 20 different teams call me asking me if I’d sign. I gave all of them my agent’s number and let him do the negotiations. If the price and opportunity was there, teams were supposed to know that I was more than willing to forego school and sign. Lo and behold, my agent asks for an outrageous number and I slide to the 28th round. The Jays called my name and I was ecstatic. I knew my life was about to change FOREVER!

 

MLB reports:  You have gone through a very difficult and long baseball road. Tell us about your journeys through your various surgeries…and what is Dr. Andrews really like?

Johnny Anderson:  When I was younger I wasn’t much of an athlete. I was the chubby kid that was just happy to be out there playing. I didn’t make any all-star teams or blow anyone away, I just had the love for the game. I’ve always had a pretty decent arm. I started pitching when I was 12. I played my first 3 years of high school ball and then didn’t even have the opportunity my Senior year. Yes, you read that right. I’m no MIchael Jordan. The next year I walked on to the local Junior College and I made the team. After two outstanding seasons, I  signed with the Blue Jays in 2008. Two years later, I show up for Spring Training ready to compete for a job at the Hi-A level. First game of spring, the unthinkable happens. I feel a pop, and I hit the ground. I knew it as soon as it happened. I was going to need Tommy John surgery and be out for the season. I thought to myself “Ok, I’ll get a brand spanking new elbow and I’ll be ready to rock and roll next year.”

I rehabbed for a year and I felt stronger than ever. My velocity was off the charts, and I felt like a completely different pitcher. The Jays sent me to Lansing last year and after a couple of games, I began to have the symptoms that it was going to happen again. Tenderness, loss of range of motion and unusual soreness. I worked hard to get back to a healthy state and then…it happened again. I was in complete shock. I fly out to Pensacola to see the famed Dr. James Andrews. He’s your typical Southern gentleman. He has a thick cajun accent and is definitely the best in the business. He sees my MRI results and looks dumbfounded. He tells me he’s hasn’t seen a tear of this magnitude in years. To quote him, he said “it was a 1 in one million” type of injury. Not only was my UCL replacement completely disintegrated, but I had torn my Flexor-Pronator tendon as well. It was going to be a long road ahead. As of now, I’m 7 months out of surgery and feeling stronger than ever. I’m feeling extremely confident about the upcoming season and ready to compete for a job.

 

MLB reports:  Tell us about your current offseason? How is the rehab going?

Johnny Anderson:  To state it frankly, I’m in the best shape of my life! (editor’s note: music to my ears. Always a great sign!) I’ve been throwing for close to 3 months pain-free. If all goes well I should be ready to join a squad before the All-Star break.

 

MLB reports:  Your 2011 season was very encouraging based on the numbers. It must give you great hope for the future.

Johnny Anderson:  I was pretty satisfied with how my season went, even considering how short-lived it was. I took the mound with a bulldog mentality and knew that I could blow the hitters away with my stuff. If I can keep the same mindset- the sky is the limit.

 

MLB reports:  What do you have in your bag of pitching tricks- what do you throw?

Johnny Anderson:  I guess you can say I’m the prototypical lefty. I throw both a 2 and 4-seam fastball and complement it with a straight change-up and 12-6 curveball. The renowned Mel Queen (RIP) taught me how to throw a cutter. The same one he taught Halladay when he had his early career woes. It’s a tough pitch to master, but I’ve been working on it over the years.

 

MLB reports:  Any plans on going the knuckleball route? A lefty knuckler would be sweet.

Johnny Anderson:  As a matter of fact, I think I have a pretty decent knuckle. The rule of thumb is that you only use a knuckleball if you don’t have a fastball. So, as long as I can hit 90 I’ll stick with the fastball. We’ll see what happens down the road…

 

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

Johnny Anderson:  I always like to be challenged. I’d love to play at a higher level, as I only have one game of experience at Hi-A. I want to show everyone that I can compete with the big boys. I may not be a high-acclaim prospect, but if given the opportunity I know I can perform at any level.

 

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

Johnny Anderson:  During Spring Training me and Kevin Ahrens spend our off time confined in the team hotel playing Call of Duty. Yes, I’m quite the video game nerd. In the offseason, I enjoy working out and seeing concerts. There are tons of venues in the San Francisco area to see live shows. I love all sorts of music especially Electronic stuff. Not quite sure if this “dubstep” thing is a fad…for now I’ll listen.

 

MLB reports:  Have your visited Toronto the city yet?  Have you met Alex Anthopoulos?  How have you found the city and their GM thus far?

Johnny Anderson:  No! As a matter of fact I’ve never even left the States before. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Toronto and Canada. Especially the women (wink wink). I met AA in 2008 at our Instructional League. He knows more about the game than just about anyone I’ve ever met. Jays fans must be pretty excited about the future. This team is going up and up.

 

MLB reports:  What do you think of Toronto Blue Jays fans?

Johnny Anderson:  I’ve spoken to many through various social media outlets and I love them all. They are extremely passionate about their team and interact with all the players. What more could you ask for?

 

MLB reports:  If you hadn’t picked baseball- what would you be doing today?

Johnny Anderson:  Baseball will always be around me, I love this game more than anything. In the offseason, I teach pitching to younger kids with a couple of other minor league guys from the area. I could definitely see myself being a coach sometime in the future. Also, my father is a recently retired Police Officer. My Plan B is to finish my degree and follow in his footsteps.

 

MLB reports:  Dream car?

Johnny Anderson:  Anything fast and loud. I’ve driven a couple super cars in my time, and I can definitely say that I want one for myself. So if I ever make it to Toronto, you can count on me having a couple of Mercedes’ and American Muscle cars in my garage.

 

MLB reports:  If you could look into a crystal ball- where do you see yourself in five years?

Johnny Anderson:  Hopefully still lacing up the cleats! If my time has come, I can definitely see myself being a Police Officer and a High School pitching coach.

 

MLB reports:  Final thoughts?

Johnny Anderson:  I’d like to thank MLBreports.com giving me the opportunity to share my story and the Blue Jays for sticking with me, even after everything I’ve gone through. I love all of my fans (the few I have) and interacting with them. I’ve become quite the Twitteraholic as of late and I can be followed at @jma32. I enjoy interacting with everyone, so give me a follow!

***Thank you to Johnny Anderson for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports (and the pictures/video used in todays’ feature)!  Johnny LOVES Twitter- so follow him ASAP!!!  2012 is a big year for Johnny as he continues on his road to recovery. Best of luck Johnny: we’re proud of ya!***

 

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

 

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

The 2012 Tampa Bay Rays Starting Rotation

Friday January 13th, 2012


Rob Bland:  Starting pitching surplus.  This is a phrase that every Major League Baseball franchise wishes they could say they possess.  However, one team that is quickly becoming a power in the AL East, has just that.  The Tampa Bay Rays’ rise to success began in 2008 where they were crowned the American League champions.  Since then, they have won due mostly to their strong pitching.  A while back, I heard someone say that the Rays franchise is like an onion: peel one layer off, and there is another layer there waiting to blossom.  When they lost Carl Crawford, probably the best player in franchise history, to free agency, ultra prospect Desmond Jennings came to Tropicana Field.  When Matt Garza was traded to the Chicago Cubs, hyped pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson took over the 5th spot of the rotation and finished the season with a 13-10 record and 2.95 ERA.  Oh, and he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award just to top it off.  The fact of the matter is the Rays have a scary rotation already in place, with David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Hellickson.  

Before the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked Hellickson the #6 prospect in baseball, with Matt Moore coming in at #15.  Moore is a flame-throwing lefty who was called up to the Rays on September 12, 2011 in the middle of a pennant race.  Moore threw 9.1 innings, with 15 strikeouts to 3 walks, and a 2.89 ERA.  He then went on to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, and threw 7 scoreless innings on 2 hits.  GM Andrew Friedman believed in his talent so much that he inked Moore to a 5-year, $14M contract that includes club options that would push the total value to $37.5M over 8 years.  Moore will only be 22 years old at the beginning of the season.  

Alex Cobb is another intriguing arm that is waiting in the minor leagues for his time to shine.  While he wasn’t included in the Rays’ Top 10 Prospects list before the 2011 season, he turned heads while pitching most of 2011 in AAA.  Cobb went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA over 12 starts.  Cobb struck out 70 with 16 walks in 67.1 innings, showing plus command of an 89-93mph fastball.  Cobb projects to be an inning-eating work horse in the middle of a rotation.  While he ended up with 9 starts for the Rays with success, there doesn’t seem to be a spot open for him just yet.  

So it appears as though the Rays have 7 viable starting options at the moment. SEVEN. Most teams can’t even say they have four that they are actually happy with. A true embarrassment of riches!  

Talent is not the only thing to consider when putting a team together, and the strapped-for-cash Rays are no exception.  Even with a team salary of just over $42M, the Rays still clinched the AL Wild Card and reached the postseason for the third time in four years in the loaded AL East.  James Shields has club options for 2012-2014, with a value of $7.5M, $9M and $12M, respectively.  For a team with such a low payroll, a pitcher like James Shields does not quite seem to fit the team’s plans.  It might be in the best interest of the club to be looking for suitable trade partners to potentially shore up the team’s needs at 1B and/or SS.  

The reality is that the Rays believe that Moore is Major League-ready now, hence the multi-year contract.  So therefore, one of the five starters from 2011 is either on his way out, or on his way to the bullpen.  Price, Hellickson and Moore are locks for the rotation it would seem.  Even though he missed all of May and half of June with back tightness after a rough start to the season in which he gave up 23 runs in 31.1 innings over 6 starts, Niemann had a very strong July and August. Niemann finished 2011 with an 11-7 record and 4.06 ERA.  Davis signed a contract prior to the 2011 season that would pay him $10.1M through 2014, with options from 2015-2017 for $7M, $8M, and $10M, respectively.  Davis was 11-10 in 2011 with a 4.45 ERA.  The fact that his career ground ball rate is 37.8% and he has struck out under 6 batters per 9 innings doesn’t bode well for him.  Davis’s stats have regressed in the last two years, and with his contract doesn’t seem likely to net a large return if traded.  He could, however, find himself in a swingman type role to start the season.

In James Shields, the Rays have a HUGE trade chip.  Since 2007, he has averaged over 220 innings per season.  His career marks of 7.5 K/9 and 2.07 BB/9 to go along with a 44% ground ball rate make him a very good pitcher.  With 3-years of control remaining, at an average of under $10M per season, Shields could net the Rays a king’s ransom type return.  When Friedman traded Garza to the Cubs, he received outfielder Sam Fuld, SS Hak-Ju Lee (#6 prospect by Baseball America), RHP Chris Archer (#38 by BA), OF Brandon Guyer (#6 Rays prospect), and C Robinson Chirinos.  Comparing Garza’s 2010 season and Shields’ 2011 season shows that while Garza pitched well going 15-10 and 3.91 ERA, his peripheral stats don’t quite stack up.  Not only is Shields’ platform season greater, but his career statistics prove he has been the better pitcher.  With the exorbitant prices some teams are paying for frontline starting pitching (see Gio Gonzalez and Matt Latos), the Rays should certainly be looking into moving Shields.  

In all probability, the Rays rotation will start out as Price, Shields, Moore, Hellickson and Niemann, with Davis going to the bullpen, and Alex Cobb biding his time in AAA.  The Rays could play out the first few months of the season, and look to deal one of Shields, Niemann or Davis based on where they sit in the standings, and their personal performances.  Starting pitching surplus sure is a great problem to have.

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

 

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

Anthony Ranaudo Interview: 2010 1st Round Draft Pick and Red Sox Uber-Prospect

Friday January 13, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Imagine that you were 6’7″, a chiseled 230 lbs and drafted in the first round (39th overall) in the 2010 MLB draft.  Better yet, you were drafted by the Red Sox.  This comes after you were drafted by Texas in 2007 but opted to play for a powerhouse school like Louisiana State. To top it all off, you show up to your first professional season of baseball as a 21-year old highly rated pitching prospect and you hold your own against the competition.  Impossible dream? Not really…not if your name is Anthony Ranaudo.  Going into 2012, Anthony is one of the top rated pitching (and overall) prospects in the game. While he has the resume and strong credentials already, Anthony is not letting anybody hand him anything in baseball. He is working hard to earn his chance and to prove that he belongs in the majors. Red Sox fans are absolutely giddy at the thought of having Anthony in their team’s rotation one day.  Can you blame them? There are 29 other major league teams who would grab him for their system in a second. For a kid that grew up a Yankees fan in New Jersey, Anthony’s baseball story certainly took an interesting twist. Now a member of Red Sox nation, Anthony Renaudo is on track to land in Boston in the near future.  

Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present Anthony Renaudo of the Boston Red Sox:  

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Anthony.  First question:  We have to know the truth.  We understand that you grew up a Yankees fans.  How did it feel to be drafted by the Red Sox?  Was it difficult to give up the love for the pinstripes and join Red Sox nation?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Haha… that is actually such a common question with all my family members and friends back home in New Jersey. But once I went to college and saw teammates and guys I played with making it to the big leagues, you become more of a fan of the game rather than of one specific team. So by the time the draft came, I was excited to be picked by the Sox and join the tradition and history behind the organization.

 

MLB reports:  You got the call in 2007 that you were drafted by the Rangers.  Was there ever a possibility of you signing with Texas or was it Louisiana State the whole way?

Anthony Ranaudo:  There was a slight chance if they were willing to pay above slot. But I really had my mind-set on going to college, earning a part of my degree, and competing for a national championship at one of the best college programs in the country.

 

MLB reports:  How did you enjoy your time in University?  Do you feel you made the right choice in picking school over pro ball? (if you could go back in a time machine- would you have still made the same choice?)

Anthony Ranaudo:  The time I spent at LSU was an amazing three years to say the least. I would not go back and change a thing, if I had the chance a million times over. The people I met, friendships I made, and the baseball experience I gained- is not something that I could ever replace. I am so thankful I was a part of it.

 

MLB reports:  Not an easy subject I’m sure, but I was curious about your injury in 2010.  You hurt your elbow prior the draft.  How did you get injured and were you afraid that the injury would affect your draft status?

Anthony Ranaudo:  It was actually a freak incident and a rare bone injury that no one really knows why it occurred. But it did happen and affected my performance and ultimately the draft. With that being said, during that time I can honestly say that I wasn’t as concerned with my draft status as I was with returning to my team and helping to defend our national championship in 09.

 

MLB reports:  How is your health today? Any lingering issues?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I am 100 percent healthy with no lingering issues.


MLB reports:  Did you have a favorite player growing up?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Even though he was before my time, I always idolized Nolan Ryan because he was the best pitcher of his time and always wanted to be the best. My dad would tell me stories about him and his work ethic and why he was the best. I used to collect his cards and want to be as successful as he was.


MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why? Any current players that you pattern your game after?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I respect a lot of the players in the major leagues because obviously they have put a lot of time, effort, and energy into their life as a baseball player. Many of them are very intelligent and have learned the game well and that is why they are so successful. I can’t really say there are too many guys that I pattern myself around. But I can say that whenever I am around a major league player, I listen closely and absorb as much as I can about his career and things he has gone through.


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

Anthony Ranaudo:  Personally, my goals for this season are simple. I want to have a focus of getting better each and every day to make myself more of a major league ready pitcher. I think the season will dictate more of my specific goals. But if I work as hard as I can and focus on getting better, I will eventually become the pitcher I know that I can be and hopefully be a major league pitcher helping my team win.


MLB reports:  You were a first round pick by the Red Sox in 2010.  How did you find out you were drafted?  Big party that night?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Actually the opposite. The night before the draft, we were eliminated from the postseason at UCLA and had a plane ride that day and night. I found out I was picked by the Sox after we landed back in Baton Rouge.

 

MLB reports:  Did you expect to go to the Red Sox and as high as the 1st round?  Your name was discussed for some time in baseball circles as a future 1st round selection- how much of the hype reached you?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Well I had heard some rumors about the Sox drafting me, but there are a lot of things your hear all the time. From the time I was a kid it was my dream to play professionally. So just to be drafted was a great honor.


MLB reports:  You start off your career as a Greenville Drive and then moved on to the Salem Red Sox last season.  Tell us about your first two professional teams…and what the heck is a Greenville Drive?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Honestly, I played there for two months and I have no idea. This year was a lot of fun and I really enjoying playing for both teams. I met a lot of good guys and made a ton of new friends that really made this first year of pro ball very memorable.


MLB reports:  How did you feel going from school to professional baseball?  What was the transition like?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Playing at LSU really gave a great start to the transition. There were some minor things to make adjustments to, but overall it was pretty simple.


MLB reports:  Do you see yourself long-term as a starter or reliever?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I have always seen myself as a starter and I love being on the mound for seven or eight innings. With that being said, I also love having the ball in my hand when the game really matters the most in the late innings. So if it is my job to be a reliever or closer one day, I will really enjoy and embrace that role.


MLB reports:  What do you consider your best pitch(es)? Any new ones that you plan to be working on this season?

Anthony Ranaudo:  No new additions this year so far. I am trying to really focus on having great control and command of my three or four current pitches. To this day, my fastball and curveball are still my favorite pitches.

 

MLB reports:  Who were the strongest baseball influences growing up?  Any particular coaches that had a deep impact on your game?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I would have to say my father had the greatest influence on my career. He was the one who taught me the game and was there for every step, even to this day. But without the support of my mother and father and my brothers and sisters, I would never have made it to where I am today.


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

Anthony Ranaudo:  I need to refine my command of the strike zone and throw more quality strikes with greater consistency. Once I do that, I can focus on competing and hopefully moving up the ladder.


MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I am glad I don’t have a crystal ball because that way I cannot worry about it. And that is the approach I take every day. Like I said earlier, I try to get better each and every day. If I can keep doing that while staying healthy, I think those decisions will be made for me, hopefully sooner rather than later.


MLB reports:  Favorite baseball movie of all-time and why?

Anthony Ranaudo:  For Love of The Game. No doubt. Literally tear up every time. It is the perfect description of the life of a pitcher, with the ending of a perfect game. Something that every competitive pitcher dreams of.

***Thank you to Anthony Ranaudo for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports!  You can follow Anthony on Twitter (@anthony_ranaudo). Anthony enjoys speaking with his fans, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Or just wish him good luck on the season, as he works his way up to Boston!***

 

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

 

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

Matt Garza vs. Doug Fister: Who is the More Valuable MLB Pitcher?

Thursday January 5th, 2012


Rob Bland:  One of the perks of what I do is that I get to talk baseball with a lot of great people.  The other day I got into a debate over a couple of right-handed pitchers that are extremely different.  Some people were saying one was better than the other, while others disagreed with that notion.  It got fairly heated… but it usually remained respectful.

The two players in question are Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs and Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers.  Before the 2011 season, it would have been unanimous that Garza was the better pitcher.  However, with a strong performance and a playoff push, Fister turned a lot of heads.  Fister spent the first part of 2011 pitching for the lowly Seattle Mariners. While their pitching staff led by Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Erik Bedard and Fister was solid, they anemic offense couldn’t muster any runs.  When Fister was traded, his record sat at 3-12.  His ERA was a solid 3.33 and while he only struck out 5.5 batters per 9 innings, he only walked 2 per 9.  

Upon his arrival in Detroit, Fister was a new man.  In 70 innings, he gave up 54 hits and walked only 5.  His K/BB ratio was 11.4 and WHIP sat at 0.84.  Fister also had an 8-1 record and 1.79 ERA.  To say he solidified the rotation behind Justin Verlander is an understatement.  Although the Tigers ran away with the AL Central Division, it would have been much closer if not for Fister.  

Matt Garza spent his first season in the National League improving upon his career numbers.  Sure, the NL Central isn’t a very good division, but then neither is the AL Central for that matter.  Garza had spent the majority of his Major League career pitching in the daunting AL East, to varying degrees of success.  With an average fastball velocity of 93.4 mph over his career, and solid secondary pitches, he is known as a pitcher with good stuff, and a bulldog mentality on the mound.  Garza averaged almost 9 K/9 innings last year, to go with a 46.3% ground ball rate, a 3.32 ERA and only 2.86 BB/9.  His record was 10-10 with a Cubs team that struggled mightily all season.  

Now how do you compare these two players who have always played in completely different divisions and have entirely different pitching styles?  Well, it is difficult to do so without looking at each of their past performances and future potential.  Fister averages 89 mph on his fastball, and Garza 93, so arm strength is one advantage that Garza has.  However, in 2011, according to Fangraphs, Garza’s wFB (Fastball Linear Weight) was worth 6.8 runs, in comparison to Fister’s 23.6 runs.  So, despite Garza having a great advantage in velocity, Fister’s fastball was actually a much more effective pitch.  Over his career, Fister has used 2 below average pitches- in his slider and curveball, while his changeup grades out at an average of just over 4 runs per season.  Garza’s changeup is below average, his curveball is average, but his slider is an above average pitch that he threw almost a quarter of the time in 2011.  

Fister is what he is.  He doesn’t strike out a ton, but also doesn’t walk a ton.  He induces ground balls at a high rate, and keeps the ball in the park.  He won’t “wow” you with his stuff… but he is consistent and a dependable starter to have in the rotation behind Verlander.  I would think that in 2012 and beyond, his stats will look more similar to the ones he put up with Seattle than his numbers with Detroit during the past stretch run of 2011.  

Garza is tougher to gauge in my estimation.  He had a few very good years pitching in the AL East for some great Rays teams.  His 2011 season with the Cubs was also solid.  I would think that although he may not accrue a ton of wins, his peripheral stats will continue to shine playing in the paltry NL Central (unless he is traded).  

One of the topics brought up in the debate was that of a hypothetical trade of Garza for Fister straight-up.  There are a few things to consider in this scenario.  First, Garza made $5.95M in 2011, and is likely due a raise to around $8-9M.  Fister made just over the league minimum; $436,500.  He will make a small raise to around $450K in 2012, and will be eligible for arbitration for the first time before the 2013 season.  Second, Garza is under team control through 2013, where Fister is controllable through the 2015 season.  These two facts make Fister a much more valuable asset.  He is cheaper, and will be around for a longer time. So I would hope that the Tigers would say no to that trade if the offer came up.

However, given Garza’s proven track record in the AL East, and his pure stuff grading out higher, I would take Garza if both players were at an even playing field of the same salary and years of team control.  

On the surface- to most people, this seems like an easy decision. But after much research and thought, I decided I would still rather have Garza.  I am going with upside and “stuff” over consistency.  

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

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

Interview with J.R. Bradley: Diamondbacks Pitching Prospect

Sunday December 18, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Today on MLB reports we are proud to feature James Ray (J.R.) Bradley:  2010 Arizona Diamondbacks draftee.  J.R. was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft.  He recently completed his 2nd season in the Dbacks organization, with his most recent season completed with the South Bend Silver Hawks (A-Ball).  At 19-years of age, J.R. has a strong future ahead with the Dbacks.  As a high draft selection, J.R. was clearly valued highly by the Dbacks.  As he continues his progression through the organizational ladder, J.R. looks to continue to develop as he progresses to Arizona one day.    

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Dbacks Pitching Prospect J.R. Bradley:

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MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports J.R. Bradley.  Starting off:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

J.R. Bradley:  Growing up, I always liked Roger Clemens and Jon Garland. Liking Garland came from within the White Sox because Jon Adkins was playing for them. He’s from WV (West Virginia) and has helped me through baseball since I was younger.

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  Roy Halladay. Just the way he competes and handles himself.

 

MLB reports:  What are your proudest accomplishments in baseball?

J.R. Bradley:  Being drafted for sure. But we went to the states all 4 years in high school and won it twice.

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  Just go out and get better, and make all my scheduled starts.

 

MLB reports:  Were you surprised when you were drafted in the 2nd round- did you have any expectations on the draft and who would draft you?  

J.R. Bradley:  I wasn’t too surprised I went to the Dbacks. I was hearing rounds 2-4 from everyone and was on the phone with Oakland when I found out.

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  I’ve always been a guy who threw strikes. Now it’s a matter of throwing quality strikes, which is something I aim to improve this year. Knocking on wood, I’ve always been pretty durable.  I think it’s important to throw innings and make all my starts.

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  Fastball command and getting ahead of hitters early in the count. Also consistency with my slider

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  When I walk guys I get hurt, because I pitch to contact and try to get ground ball outs. Strikeouts I think will come when I tighten up my breaking balls. Once I do that, it will be easier to put guys away.

 

MLB reports:  Long term do you see yourself as a starter or reliever? 

J.R. Bradley:  Starter for sure.

 

MLB reports:  What do you need to do in order to be successful in this game?

J.R. Bradley:  I think a positive mindset.  Baseball is a game of failure already. No need to beat yourself up.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues?

J.R. Bradley:  Man… I’m just focusing on next season!

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  Yes, for the most part. I didn’t realize how important it was to have a routine.

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  Just hang out.  During the season we’re at the stadium so much. In the offseason, I’ve just been working out and playing some basketball.

 

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

J.R. Bradley:  No, I don’t really have a favorite pregame meal.

 

MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

J.R. Bradley:  Thanks for everything man, really enjoyed it. Now just looking forward to getting out there!

 

 

Thank you again to J.R. Bradley for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for J.R.  You can also  find J.R. Bradley on Twitter (@JR_Brad)

 

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

 

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

Interview with Robby Rowland: Arizona Diamondbacks Pitching Prospect

Thursday December 1, 2011

 


Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports:  Robby Rowland, pitching prospect of the Arizona Diamondbacks.   Robby was a 3rd round pick for the Dbacks in the 2010 draft.  He recently completed his second season of Rookie Ball, playing for the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League.  Standing an imposing 6’6″, the soon to be 20-year old Rowland has a bright future ahead with the Dbacks.  I have enjoyed getting to know Robby over the past few days, as we talked our favorite subject…baseball.  I got the sense speaking to Robby that he truly loves the game.  His passion and commitment will carry him very far in my estimation, as he works towards joining the Dbacks one day in Arizona.  There is definitely no attitude in the world of Robby Rowland.  He understands where he came from and what he needs to do in order to one day become a successful major league pitcher.  With spring training less than three months away, I had a chance to catch up with Robby Rowland and learn about his career.  It was a fun interview to conduct and we are looking forward to having Robby return back soon on the Reports!

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Robby Rowland – Diamondbacks Pitching Prospect:

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MLB reports:  Thank you for taking the time to join us today Robby.  How has your offseason gone so far?

Robby Rowland:  Thank you for having me!  The offseason has been good.  Just working out a lot and got a little part-time job. But I already want it to be over.  I am just missing baseball too much right now!

 

MLB reports:  You just completed your 2nd season in Rookie Ball.  Plus you are still 19-years of age!  How have you found the process of getting adjusted to playing professional baseball?

Robby Rowland:  It’s definitely a tough process. I used to think that pitching was very simple; that you just throw the ball and get outs. But I have found out that a lot goes into it. Coming from high school, the adjustment was a lot harder. It’s not just throwing the ball as hard as you can anymore. It’s about pitching to your strengths and trying to locate the ball down in the zone. The hitters in pro-ball will make you pay if you make a pitch up in the zone. I am no longer able to take any pitches off; I have to be zoned in the whole game. Aside from the pitching aspect of the game, I just love professional baseball! I get to live and breathe baseball without any interferences. 

 

MLB reports:  You were drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft.  Did you expect to be drafted by Arizona and what round was supposed to be “your round”?

Robby Rowland:  They were one of the teams that showed a lot of interest in me. It was tough to determine, just because I always had a lot of scouts at my high school games. But when it came down to it, I believe Arizona was in the top-4. Everyone told me the highest I would go was 2nd round and the lowest would be in the 4th round.

 

MLB reports:  How did you first find out you were drafted: what was that like?

Robby Rowland:  Well I had a couple family members over and we hooked up the computer to the TV in our living room so we were able to watch it on a big screen. My agent would call me and let me know that I might be selected here or there so it was kind of a roller coaster day. The names on the screen seemed to be going so slow. After the second round was completed I grew very anxious. I started thinking about the worst possible scenarios. My agent called me and told me the Diamondbacks were 50/50 in taking me. Right after I hung up with him- my area scout, Dee Brown, called me and told me they selected me. I saw my name on the screen and some highlights. Definitely a surreal moment.

 

MLB reports:  Ever have to pinch yourself: does it feel like a dream playing professional baseball?

Robby Rowland:  Haha I had to pinch myself a couple of times during those first few playing days. It’s something that I was born to do. I grew up around this game. My dad played for 10 years, so I was always around the game of baseball. My mom has a couple pictures of me when I was real young holding a couple of my dad’s bats and playing with baseballs around the house. I am just blessed that I am able to be playing the game I love for a living.

 

MLB reports:  What other sports did you playing growing up? Given your height, did you ever consider pursuing basketball instead?

Robby Rowland:  I played football when I was real young but it cut into my Fall Ball for baseball, so I only played one year. Yes actually I was always a basketball player. There were a couple of colleges that wanted me for a dual sport scholarship. It came down to my senior year until I decided to just focus on baseball. It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made in my life. Still to this day, I miss basketball.

 

MLB reports:  What are your most dominant pitches?  Any new ones you are working on?

Robby Rowland:  I like to say that all of my pitches are dominant.  But if I had to throw my best pitch in a certain situation, I would go with my sinking fastball down at the knees. I am a firm believer in a fastball down in the zone with movement is the toughest pitch to hit. I am not necessarily working on new pitches, but when I was instructional league down in Arizona, the pitching coordinator got with me and really helped me to define my mechanics. Before I wasn’t using my lower half and my arm slot was too high, therefore my head was tilting to the left when I would throw. What he did was straighten my body out and helped me figure out how to use my lower half. I also dropped my arm slot a little bit getting some more sink on my ball. The key now is to try and figure out how to control all my pitches with this new delivery and arm slot. 

 

MLB reports:  How would you describe “your game”?  What “type” of pitcher are you?

Robby Rowland:  I like to say I am a strike thrower. I guess you could say that I am a little old school in the fact that I am going to go right after hitters with my best stuff. Almost a “here you go hit it” type of guy. In high school, I was always a strikeout type of overpowering pitcher. But when I got to pro ball, I realized that I needed to start pitching to contact. Keeping the ball down and getting lots of ground balls. It’s like the Bull Durham quote, “Strikeouts are boring, besides that they’re fascist. Throw a ground ball- it’s more democratic.” 

 

MLB reports:  Looking into a crystal ball, when do you expect to make it to the Show?

Robby Rowland:  I couldn’t tell you that. Of course that’s the goal.  But right now it’s about figuring out how to pitch, keep getting better, and when all that comes into play- then hopefully I will make it. 

 

MLB reports:  Long term:  do you expect to stay a starter or will you consider a move to the pen?

Robby Rowland:  I would like to stay a starter my whole life. My dad has always told me that starters have the life!  Pitch every fifth day… who wouldn’t want that?  But whatever my team needs me to do I am willing.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals for 2012?

Robby Rowland:  I have a lot of goals for 2012. I feel like I have a lot to prove after a shaky 2011 season. My main goal is to get my mechanics dialed in and keep learning how to pitch. Of course I want to be on a full season roster and log a lot of innings.  But I realize I am still young and it’s all about figuring out the concept of pitching. I am always just finding ways to get better.

 

MLB reports:  If you weren’t playing baseball, you would be __________________

Robby Rowland:  Oh man… I would have to say I would be playing basketball in college somewhere… 

 

MLB reports:  Favorite pre-game meal?

Robby Rowland:  Gotta go with a Quiznos sandwich here. The Black Angus steak with extra sauce.  Really gets me going.

 

MLB reports:  What music are you currently listening to?

Robby Rowland:  I have a wide variety.. I’ve always loved the classic rock.. Tom Petty, Boston, Lynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad- all those bands.  I will also listen to a little bit of rap and hip hop. I currently just got into a little bit of country but I don’t really know any of the singers.

 

MLB reports:  Funniest prank you ever saw in a clubhouse? 

Robby Rowland:  Ohhhh… there’s been a lot of good ones. I would have to say the time when some guys took a player’s stuff out of his locker and saran wrapped it to one of the benches in the locker room.

 

MLB reports:  Final question:  What would you most want to be remembered for in baseball when you hang up your spikes?

Robby Rowland:  I want to be remembered as someone who played the game the right way. Someone who every time he put a jersey on, he played the game with respect. I also want to be a game changer. The guy that you can throw out there in a must-win game and know that there is a great chance that the ball club is going to get a win. Oh and not to mention maybe one of the best hitting pitchers to ever play the game… just saying…

 

MLB reports:  Thank you for your time today Robby.  It has been a blast speaking to you.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.  We look forward to having you back on soon!

Robby Rowland:  Thanks for everything man. Let me know if there is anything else I could do for you. Sure was a fun interview!

 

Thank you again to Robby Rowland for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Robby.  As well, please follow Robby on Twitter (@RobbyRow_12)

 

 

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

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

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

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

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

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