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A Preview Of The 2014 San Francisco Giants Starting Pitching Staff

 

Matt Cain is struggling this season to say the least. He has games where he can be most dominant pitcher in baseball, then other games where he struggles to make it through five innings. He has a 4.79 ERA in 124 innings pitched while giving up 16 HRs.

Matt Cain is struggling this season to say the least. He has games where he can be most dominant pitcher in baseball, then other games where he struggles to make it through five innings. He has a 4.35 ERA in 153 innings pitched while giving up 19 HRs.  This mediocre season is cause for concern, since he now makes at least $20 MIL per year from 2013 – 2017, with a $7.5 Buyout in 2018, or one more year at $21 MIL.  Perhaps winning 2 of the last 3 World Series, and logging over 600 + IP combined in that time frame is beginning to take its toll.  I would bet on Cain to have a big bounce back campaign in 2014.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

At this point in the season, it is pretty safe to say that the San Francisco Giants will not be playing beyond September.

This year has been a big disappointment for the defending World Champs, collapsing big time before the All Star Break.

Coming into 2013, the Giants had basically the same team that won the 2012 World Series. The performance though, compared to 2012, was night and day.

The biggest difference in the team’s performance from 2012 is undoubtedly the pitching.

Matt Cain was the undisputed ace of the staff in 2012, throwing a perfect game and posting a 2.79 ERA.

Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner both had a 3.37 ERA. Even Barry Zito had a tolerable season, going 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA – including a huge unbeaten streak – that carried through the 2013 Post Season..

This year, a 4.15 ERA would be acceptable for any pitcher in the rotation not named Bumgarner. Madison Bumgarner has been the one bright spot for the staff this year, carrying a 2.73 ERA.

Cain has a 4.35, Zito a 5.34, Vogelsong a 6.75 (he spent some time on the DL with a finger injury), and Lincecum a 4.38.

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San Diego Padres In 2014: Maybe Without Headley And Volquez?

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Triple Play Podcast Special Trade Deadline Edition

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Monday July 29th, 2013

One trade that could be exemplary of what the Padres need to do is the Hunter Pence trade from the Astros to the Phillies. The Phillies had an abundance of young prospects, and the Astros were in a situation similar to that of the Padres. The Astros got Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singelton, and Josh Zeid for Pence, cash, and a PTBNL. Headley might not carry the same value that Pence did at the time, but I’m sure that the Padres could get a similar deal to the one that the Astros got.

One trade that could be exemplary of what the Padres need to do is the Hunter Pence trade from the Astros to the Phillies. The Phillies had an abundance of young prospects, and the Astros were in a situation similar to that of the Padres. The Astros got Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singelton, and Josh Zeid for Pence, cash, and a PTBNL. Headley might not carry the same value that Pence did at the time, but I’m sure that the Padres could get a similar deal to the one that the Astros got.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

After the San Diego Padres looked promising in the early months of 2013, the team has finally come back down to Earth.

The team looked like it might contend for an NL West title – or a Wild Card about 45 games into the season, but from then on, the season went downhill.

In this feature, I’ll discuss at what the team could look like next year if Chase Headley and Edinson Volquez wind up elsewhere.

This year, Chase Headley has not been anywhere close to what he was in 2012.

Last season, the Padres third baseman was a legitimate MVP candidate, driving in 115 runs (Led NL – and had 73 after the ALL – Star Game) and hitting 31 HR.

This season, he started off on the DL and came back to hit only 8 HRs with 33 RBI while only hitting .238. This performance is a far cry from 2012.

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Red Sox Mid-Season Update: (Pitching)

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 Thursday. July.11/2013

I think it's safe to say that Clay Buchholz is the best pitcher on the Red Sox staff. He was looking like a strong candidate for the 2013 AL Cy Young Award until he was injured. Now he is on the road back as he threw his 1st bullpen Wednesday, and his 2nd is scheduled for Friday. Then he is set to start a rehab assignment if all goes well. I'm fine with him taking his time though. He NEEDS to be healthy for the playoffs.

I think it’s safe to say that Clay Buchholz is the best pitcher on the Red Sox staff. He was looking like a strong candidate for the 2013 AL Cy Young Award until he was injured. Now he is on the road back as he threw his 1st bullpen Wednesday, and his 2nd is scheduled for Friday. Then he is set to start a rehab assignment if all goes well. I’m fine with him taking his time though. He NEEDS to be healthy for the playoffs.

By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Writer and Red Sox Correspondent): 

The MLB All-Star game is nearly upon us, and technically we are already passed the halfway point in the season, so it seems like a good time to do an update on where the Red Sox stand at this point.

The Boston Red Sox currently hold a record of 56-37. They still sit in 1st place in the AL East, 3.5 games ahead of the 2nd place Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have led the division for most of the season and continue to exceed all preseason expectations.

In the early part of the season, the Red Sox were winning with pitching and hitting that was statistically at the top of the MLB. That is no longer the case. Their offense is still near the top, but their pitching has fallen off.

The Red Sox currently lead the MLB in Runs (484) and OPS (.802) showing their offensive prowess. However, their pitching staff currently sits in 17th in the Majors with an ERA of (3.96), 17th in K/BB ratio (2.43), 24th in WHIP (1.35), and have the 6th most Blown Saves (14).

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San Diego Padres: Within Striking Distance

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Tuesday June 18th, 2013

Within the first 12 games of the MLB season, the baseball world, after watching the San Diego Padres struggle, knew the team was headed for yet another rough year. This still might be the case. But, currently, the Padres sit just one game back from the top of the National League West standings. The team carries a 36-34 record—a record that many would deem impossible to achieve after watching the team start off 2-10.  Bud Black has seen his time ascend to near the top of the NL West by going 34 - 24 in their last 58 games played

Within the first 12 games of the MLB season, the baseball world, after watching the San Diego Padres struggle, knew the team was headed for yet another rough year. This still might be the case. But, currently, the club sits just one game back from the top of the National League West standings. The team carries a 36 -34 record —a record that many would deem impossible to achieve after watching the team start off 2-10. Bud Black has seen his time ascend to near the top of the NL West by going 34 – 24 in their last 58 games played.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

The NL West is not exactly living up to expectations, though. The Dodgers are having a disaster year with Matt Kemp, the team’s superstar, spending time on the DL. Hanley Ramirez, whom the Dodgers acquired last season to provide offense, has spent all but a few games on the DL. Carl Crawford, who the Dodgers expected to be healthy this year, has also caught the injury bug. 

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Toronto Blue Jays: All Offense?

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Tuesday May 28th, 2013

Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion. 3 of the first 4 hitters in the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays lineup, and all from the Dominican Republic. In their first year as teammates on the Blue Jays, and one of their first spring training practices, have already become a close trio. Dominican slugger Jose Bautista is missing from this photo, but is the 4th piece of this dazzling 1-4 combination.  The Jays’ offense has been a completely different story. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the two leading hitters on the team, have 11 and 13 HRs, respectively. Bautista is hitting .291 and Encarnacion is hitting .247, which is not the best, but his power makes up for it. Encarnacion has also driven in 38 runs while Bautista has driven in 27. Melky Cabrera has not been the same person as he was last year with the Giants, but he is still hitting .287.

Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion. 3 of the first 4 hitters in the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays lineup, and all from the Dominican Republic Dominican slugger Jose Bautista is missing from this photo, but is the 4th piece of what was supposed to be a dazzling 1-4 combination this year. But Jose Reyes was hurt and the Jays’ offense has been a completely different story. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the two leading hitters on the team, have 11 and 13 HRs, respectively. Bautista is hitting .291 and Encarnacion is hitting .247, which is not the best, but his power makes up for it. EE has also driven in 38 runs while Bautista has driven in 27. Melky Cabrera has not been the same person as he was last year with the Giants, but he is still hitting a respectbale .287.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

When Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays set out last winter to improve the team, no one could have predicted what is happening currently.

Anthopoulos brought in R.A. Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle. Ricky Romero struggled in 2012, so he started the season in the minors, and Brandon Morrow remained in the rotation.

The Jays also had a tremendous hitting lineup to build on with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Brett Lawrie.

Jose Reyes arrived as part of the Marlins trade and Melky Cabrera was signed through free agency. Although the Blue Jays are saddled with being in one of the strongest divisions in baseball, they were the favorite on paper.

Over the course of a few games, all this was thrown out the window. Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes got injured, Melky Cabrera got off to a slow start, R.A. Dickey was not in his Cy Young form, and the team was not playing the way everyone had expected. Now, some could say, the Blue Jays are all offense.

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San Diego Padres 2013 Rotation: What To Make Of It?

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Wednesday April 24th, 2013

Volquez is coming off an up-and-down year with the Padres. He went .500 with an 11-11 record and had an average ERA at 4.14. He should be prepared for the 2013 season as he threw against real competition in the 2013 WBC so he'll already have all of his stuff developed for the duration of 2013.

Volquez is coming off an up-and-down year with the Padres. He went .500 with an 11-11 record and had an average ERA at 4.14. He should be prepared for the 2013 season as he threw against real competition in the 2013 WBC so he’ll already have all of his stuff developed for the duration of 2013.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

The San Diego Padres currently have one of the most boring Starting Rotations in all of baseball. I cannot think of a rotation with more average pitchers than the one the San Diego organization has.

If someone presented me with the statistics of each pitcher in the Padres rotation, I probably would not be able to discern between the number one and five starters. The ace of the Padres — if we can call him that — is Jason Marquis. So far this season in four games, he has a 4.63 ERA to go with a 1-2 record.

Now some pitchers do get off to rough starts, so we cannot judge him based on his ERA and record. But, after looking further into Marquis, I found that his career ERA is 4.60. Is this really the career ERA a team would want for their “ace”?

Tyson Ross, whom the Padres acquired from the A’s was penciled in and made three starts in the five-slot in the rotation. Ross recently went on the 15-day DL with a left shoulder subluxation.

This year, Ross made three starts, none of them more than 5.1 Innings. Although Ross has a solid 3.86 ERA through those starts, it is unlikely that he will keep this up.

Edinson Volquez at the 2013 WBC:

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San Diego Padres: How Will They Fare Without Chase Headley?

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Tuesday April 2, 2013

Chase Headley actually fared well at Petco Park in 2012 - with a 3 Slash Line of - .272/.357/.812.  He added 13 HRs and 51 RBI.  He could potentially hit a few more out with the fences drawn in

Chase Headley actually fared well at Petco Park in 2012 – with a 3 Slash Line of – .272/.357/.812. He added 13 HRs and 51 RBI. He could potentially hit a few more out with the fences drawn in.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

2013 was going to be a rough year for the San Diego Padres even before they got the news that their highest powered offensive weapon would miss a significant amount of time. Chase Headley was the only spark in the weak Padres lineup in 2012, hitting 31 HR and driving in 115 runs. A performance like this could not get the Padres out of second-to-last place in the NL West, so I am afraid to see how the Padres will fare after they start 2013 without their third baseman.

This year, the West is stronger as Zack Greinke has been added to the Dodgers most notably, the Diamondbacks have improved their team, and the Giants are the defending World Champions, having extended the reigning NL MVP. The Rockies also have power-hitting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki back in the lineup after missing most of last season due to injury.

If the Padres were going to contend this season, they would need to get off to a hot enough start to keep up with the rest of the teams. Without Chase Headley, I do not see how that is possible. Even with Headley it would be a very tough task. The Padres have not made any notable additions, so it looks like it will be more of the same in San Diego.

Headley Highlights _ Mature Lyrics so Parental Guidance is Advised

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Ricky Romero: Aiming For 2013 As The #5 Starter

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Tuesday March 19th, 2013

Ricky Romero had a rough 2012 campaign, posting a 9-14 record to go with a sky-high 5.77 ERA. He is looking to rebound in 2013 with the help of the revamped Blue Jays lineup and rotation.

Ricky Romero led the American League with 105 Walks – and featured a brutal WHIP of 1.674 en route to a 9 – 14 campaign with a 5.77 ERA. This was only a year removed from being an ALL – Star in 2010 – and finishing 10th in AL CY Young Voting. The Blue Jays Left Handed Pitcher was 15 – 11, with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP. After the year, the team traded for Josh Johnson, former AL Cy Young winner Mark Buerhle – and reigning NL CY Young winner R.A. Dickey. Along with fellow returning Blue Jays Starter Brandon Morrow.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

At the beginning of 2012, Ricky Romero was solidified as the number one starter in a strong Toronto Blue Jays roster. In the previous three years of his career, he only had an ERA above 4.00 once (in his rookie season, 4.30), and had won more than 10 games every year.

2012 was an absolute disaster for Romero as he posted a sky-high 5.77 ERA and a 9 – 14 record. He had fans confused as to how such a solid pitcher could do a complete 180 and turn from an ace to an iffy back-of-the-rotation starter.

Romero is in a very interesting situation for 2013. The Blue Jays added two very formidable starters in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle when they acquired the two in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins. The two former Marlins starters will help support the preexisting rotation consisting of Brandon Morrowand Romero..

Also in contention for a spot is Kyle Drabek, who has made starts over the past couple of years, but has never really stuck. Johnson, Buehrle, Morrow, and Alvarez will round out the top four spots, and Romero will most likely be the fifth starter for 2013.

Ricky Romero Interview:

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Ricky Nolasco: Should Marlins Deal Him Or Keep Him For 2013?

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Tuesday March 5th, 2013

Nolasco might be the the next guy to be traded for more prospects.

Nolasco might be the next guy to be traded for more prospects.  The man has a Career Record of 76 – 64 (.543) with a lifetime ERA of 4.49 in 7 seasons for the Marlins.  However, despite a higher ERA – he does not walk that many hitters  (2.1 BB / Per 9 IP) – and his SO Ratio  is 7.4 / Per 9 IP.  He might be able to help a team that is playoff bound in 2013.  The Marlins will not offer him a 1 YR Free Agent deal to retain a Draft Pick – so it is either deal him or lose him for nothing at the end of the campaign.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

The Miami Marlins are in a state of disrepair. 2012 was meant to be their return to contention with the signings of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. A healthy Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton were meant to provide power to the lineup that supported the pitching staff anchored by Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco.

The excitement of the new-look team combined with the anticipation of the new stadium. Unfortunately, the Marlins had a terrible season and shipped Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, and every notable player except Giancarlo Stanton and Ricky Nolasco to the Blue Jays, most notably.

Ricky Nolasco Warming Up:

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Yu Darvish: What Needs To Be Done For An Encore In 2013

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Tuesday January 29th, 2013

Yu Darvish ended up with a 3.90 ERA at the end of the 2012 season, helping the Rangers into the Wild Card Game.

Yu Darvish ended up with a 3.90 ERA at the end of the 2012 season, helping the Rangers into the Wild Card Game play in game.  While Darvish went 10-2 before the ALL-Star Game – and then 6-7 afterwards, however the the ERA only went from 3.88 (1st half) – 3.92 (2nd half).

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

Yu Darvish was up there with the most hyped players ever to sign out of Japan. There was a bidding war just to get the rights to negotiate with him, and the half-Japanese half-Iranian pitcher ended up signing with the Texas Rangers for over $50 Mllion and another 53.7 Million in a posting fee.. Darvish had what many would call a successful season with the Rangers in 2012, going 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 191.1 Innings Pitched. He was just what the Rangers needed in a front-of-the-rotation type pitcher who could eat up innings. Darvish signed a 6-year contract before 2012, so the Rangers will still get a minimum of five more years from him. In this feature, I will discuss what Yu Darvish needs to do in order to continue to be the successful starter the Rangers signed.

All in all, Yu Darvish had a great 2012 season. All of his numbers were right where they needed to be, and the pitcher did not have any major issues. Darvish struck out 221 and carried a 1.28 WHIP. The only statistic that was a bit eye-catching was the number of walks. Darvish walked 89 batters over the course of the season, and held a 2.48 K/BB ratio. Darvish’s control was the one part of his skillset that was rather questionable. There were games last season in which Darvish walked four, five, even six in a game. In fact, Darvish walked six in a game three times, and five in a game twice. He had no games in which he did not walk anyone. In his last seven starts, however, Darvish did not walk more than two in a game—which could possibly mean that Darvish worked out whatever was causing him to lose control.

Yu Darvish 2012 Highlights:

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MLB Player Profile: Nationals Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann

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Wednesday January 23rd, 2013

Jordan Zimmermann is heading into Arbitration shortly with the Nats coming off of his best year in the Major Leagues with a 12-8 Record.  For his career, he is 24-26 with a 3.47 ERA.

Jordan Zimmermann is heading into Arbitration shortly with the Nats coming off of his best year in the Major Leagues with a 12-8 Record. For his career, he is 24-26 with a 3.47 ERA.  Zimmermann had Tommy John surgery in 2009 – and has come back stronger. 

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

Having his breakout season in 2012, Jordan Zimmermann has been a guy the Washington Nationals have been able to rely on. 27 years old in 2013, Zimmermann helps anchor the young Nationals rotation including Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals had success in 2012, winning the NL East and making the playoffs for the first time as a franchise. The Nationals got unlucky though, and were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series. This year the Nationals will hope to build on their 2012 performance, and Jordan Zimmermann will most likely be a big help.

One of the main reasons the Nationals were eliminated so early last season is because of the shutting down of Stephen Strasburg. In the middle of the season, I wrote about the pros and cons of shutting Strasburg down, and in the end the situation ended badly. Last year, the Nationals had a very strong rotation consisting of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez, and Edwin Jackson. By shutting Strasburg down, the Nationals lost a quarter of their rotation and had to scramble when the Division Series went more than three games. Ross Detwiler got the start and Zimmermann had to come into the game in a relief role. There was no reason for this to have to happen. Protecting Strasburg was important, but in my opinion the Nationals overprotected him, which cost them dearly in the playoffs.

Jordan Zimmermann Flashback Highlights:

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James Shields or David Price: Tampa Bay Rays are Ready to Trade an Ace

Thursday November 8th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  With center fielder B.J. Upton most likely leaving for free agency, the Tampa Bay Rays will have some gaps to fill in their lineup this offseason. Unless they sign a high-profile free agent like Josh Hamilton (which I discussed in my last feature), the Rays will need to make a move to land a bat. The Rays have a solid pitching staff. Some may even say they have a pitching surplus. With David Price and James Shields leading the staff that includes Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, the Rays can say that pitching is their strength. Out of all these pitchers, one should probably be traded though in order to boost the offense.

The two pitchers that would carry the most trade value on the staff are Shields and Price. Hellickson and Moore are both young and somewhat unproven, so they would probably not provide much of a return. Shields is a pitcher I compare to Mat Latos, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds from the San Diego Padres last offseason. The Padres cashed in big time. For Latos, the they got a haul including Edinson Volquez, the projected number two starter in the Reds’ rotation at the time, Yonder Alonso, a top prospect, and Yasmani Grandal, another prospect and first-round pick. If the Rays traded Shields and got a deal similar to that of the Padres, they would be set up quite nicely for future success.

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The 2012 San Francisco Giants Postseason Update

Wednesday October 10th, 2012

Kyle Holland (Guest Writer):  In 2012, the San Francisco Giants had one of their best year hitting in recent memory. Melky Cabrera, before his suspension, was hitting .346/.390/.516 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs. Buster Posey, NL batting champ, hit .336/.408/.549 with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs in route to his MVP hopeful season.

In the postseason though, the bats have yet to come alive.  Through the first 3 games in the NLDS, the Giants have just 12 hits, including just 3 in game 3, 2 of which came in the 10th inning. They had only 2 hits in game 2. Add to the fact that in both games 2 and 3, they were getting no-hit through at least 5.2 innings. Read the rest of this entry

Barry Zito: Reborn in San Francisco?

Thursday October 4th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: If you asked a group of Giants fans who was the biggest disappointment on the team over the last few years, you would most likely get a unanimous decision: Barry Zito. When the Giants signed him after the 2006 season, they thought they were getting an ace. Zito had a stellar career with the Oakland Athletics, posting a 102-63 record to go along with a 3.55 ERA. He was a three-time All-Star with the A’s and won the 2002 American League Cy Young award. The Giants went all out to sign Zito, offering him a seven-year $126 million deal. Big mistake.

In his first year with the Giants, Zito was not horrible, but he definitely was not what the Giants expected. He went 11-13 with a 4.53 ERA. After this year, Zito never posted an ERA lower than 4.03, and did not win more than ten games (until this year). In 2008, Zito lost 17 games. It was that year that many of the fans turned on him completely. Fans doubted Zito earlier, but it was this year that really established his pattern of poor performance. No one could believe that the Giants had signed him to such a large contract—the largest for a pitcher at the time—and that he could regress so much. Zito was more than bad—he was awful. There were talks of taking him out of the rotation and putting him in the bullpen. By this time, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were with the Giants and were performing well. Zito had been passed up.

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Aroldis Chapman: The Best Closer in Baseball?

Thursday September 13th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  Aroldis Chapman has had an unbelievable season for a closer. He has gone 5-5 with a miniscule 1.60 ERA and 119 strikeouts. And, he has only pitched 67.2 innings. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings is 15.8. That would mean that if he were to start, he would strike out more than half the batters he would face if he went the distance. Chapman has established himself as a dominant pitcher, and with Mariano Rivera on his way out, is “the Cuban Missile” the best closer in baseball?

When the Reds signed Aroldis Chapman, they had intentions to make him a starter. Many thought he would be very successful with the plus fastball that he already had, along with other, developing pitches. Chapman spent his first two years towards the back of the bullpen, but not as a closer. He was a bit wild and had not completely gotten control of his ridiculous 103 mph fastball. Even with some of these flaws, Chapman showed major closer potential. He had no problem striking batters out, he had an out pitch, and he had a decent ERA. His only major issue was walks. In his second season—his first full—Chapman walked 41 in 50 innings. If he would make it as a closer, he would have to gain control and make adjustments.

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Stephen Drew: Another Great Move by Billy Beane

Thursday August 23rd, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  Before the trading deadline, it was thought that the Oakland A’s were going to make a move. With the extra wild card in play this year, the team seemed to be a contender. Their weakest position though was at shortstop. There were a few options out there, some reasonable and some not, among those were Hanley Ramirez and Stephen Drew. Ramirez was very unlikely to be acquired by the A’s due to the nature of his contract, but he would’ve provided the most boost for the team. The story goes that the A’s almost had Ramirez all but acquired, with the Dodgers eating at least of his contract. But the A’s hesitated, and the Dodgers swooped in and agreed to take on all of the remaining dollars on his deal. With Ramirez ending up on the Dodgers, Stephen Drew seemed to be the most viable option left. Drew missed a large portion of the 2011 season with a broken ankle sustained on a slide into home, and made his 2012 debut around the time of the All-Star Break. In his short time with the Diamondbacks this season, Drew hit just .193 and was pretty disappointing. With the teams hierarchy going public with their displeasure, the writing was on the wall for Drew. It looked like Arizona would be able to get at least the same amount of production from a replacement, so a trade seemed imminent. For some reason the trade never got done, but the A’s kept at it.

Oakland was the perfect candidate to acquire Stephen Drew. So it was no surprise that Billy Beane finally got his man this week. Without a producing shortstop, the A’s had a very little chance at the playoffs. Sure, Drew only hit .193 this year, but he carries a career .266 average over his seven-year career. Plus he walks a ton. A stereotypical A’s hitter characteristic. In 2008, Drew hit .291 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs. If the A’s could get anything close to this production, they would be in very good shape. Drew will most likely keep hitting in the two-hole of the lineup, behind Coco Crisp. Once Drew gets settled and regains form, the A’s should get some good production from the top of their lineup, setting the table for the monster bats of Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Chris Carter. Even if Drew were to continue hitting .193, he would still be an improvement from the overall batting average of A’s shortstops at .190. As long as he can walk and hit with some power. Drew will most likely be taking time away from Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales. Given their combined numbers, that is a very good thing. The A’s also just sent the struggling Jemile Weeks down to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Drew.

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2012 Braves Pitching Staff: What’s Going on in Atlanta?

Friday August 17th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  As of today, the Atlanta Braves sit four games out of first place in the NL East. This division was supposed to be the strongest in baseball. The Nationals made moves in the offseason to acquire Gio Gonzalez, the Marlins signed three big name free agents to go along with the core of Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton, and the Phillies kept their strong pitching staff intact. The Braves didn’t make any huge moves and stuck with what they had—a strong hitting lineup to back up a good pitching rotation. The Braves started the season with Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor as their five-man rotation. Jurrjens was coming off a strong 2011 campaign in which he posted a 2.96 ERA through 152 innings. The Braves were hoping Jurrjens could replicate last season’s performance in order to give the team a better outcome and hopefully make the playoffs.

Unfortunately this was not the case for Jurrjens. He has been awful this year, going 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA. This isn’t the performance the Braves were hoping for, but somehow they are able to manage. Tim Hudson, the oldest on the staff at 36, has a 3.59 ERA to go with a 12-4 record. Tommy Hanson hasn’t been his best this year with a 4.29 ERA in 22 starts (his record is a bit deceiving at 12-5). He has also spent some time on the DL. The real story this year is Ben Sheets. After missing some of the 2010 season and not playing all of last year, Sheets joined the Braves midseason and has been fantastic. In his six starts this year, Sheets has gone 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA. In his 10-year career, Sheets’ best was 2004, when he posted a 2.70 ERA while going 12-14 with the Brewers. If he can keep his performance up, Sheets will have the best year of his career at age 34 (half a season, but still).

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MLB Tommy John Surgery Updates

Thursday August 16th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  Over the course of this year, there have been more pitchers going in for Tommy John surgery than I can ever remember. And make no mistake, it is mostly pitchers that are falling victim. According to our TJ Tracker, there have been 39 pitchers (including Michael Pineda who had arthroscopic surgery) that had the surgery since March. In the month of August alone, there have already been two pitchers to go under the knife and one that most likely will. Neftali Feliz had the surgery on the first of the month after trying to come back from an arm injury, and he was then being shut down in a rehab assignment. Drew Hutchison of the Blue Jays also had this surgery. It seems like every pitcher will eventually need this surgery in his career. It is becoming the reality of modern day baseball.

Before the surgery, pitchers’ careers were much shorter, some just 7-8 years long. Now with this new technology, careers are prolonged. It’s been said that Tommy John surgery can even strengthen an arm. The ligament is replaced with a tendon (usually from the leg) and the arm is made stronger. Sometimes pitchers are said to throw even harder after the surgery. This may or may not be true; there is some debate. It could be that pitchers are taking more time to condition, but it could also be that they are given a stronger arm. Some pitchers have had the surgery multiple times. One that comes to mind is Brian Wilson of the Giants. Wilson had his first surgery in college. He fully recovered and was converted from a starter to a reliever in the minors. Upon arriving to the majors, Wilson was a fireballer and became the closer. He threw in the upper 90’s even after a surgery like this. It will be interesting to see how he recovers from his second surgery and if he can retain the closers’ role. Read the rest of this entry

Stephen Strasburg Update: The Nationals Decision to Shut Stras For the Season is Looming

Thursday August 9th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:The rest of the Nationals’ season rides on the talented right arm of Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals have a very strong staff with Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson as the core. One could make a case for Zimmermann, Gonzalez, or Strasburg as the ace, as each of them carries a sub-3.40 ERA. Zimmermann has a 2.45, Strasburg has a 2.97, and Gonzalez has a 3.32 ERA. Pitching is undoubtedly the Nationals’ strongpoint. But, if Washington was to abide by the innings limit they set for Strasburg, their playoff hopes could be in jeopardy.

At the beginning of the season, the Nationals came out and said that Strasburg would only throw 160 innings before being shut down due to his having Tommy John surgery last year. As of Wednesday, he has thrown 127.1. In his 22 starts this year, he averages about 5 2/3 innings a start. With the 32 2/3 innings that he has left, he would only be able to make five to six more starts. The Nationals have played 110 games thus far, so that leaves them with 52 to go. He is set to pitch Friday, so if he were to go every fifth day and pitch his average of 5 2/3 innings each time, his limit would be reached by the beginning of September. The good news is if the Nationals decide to abide by this limit, they have a few options available to them.

Read the rest of this entry

2012 Trade Deadline Update #7 7/31: League, Snider, Thames, Soto, and More

Tuesday July 31st, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: Monday night and Tuesday morning turning out to be a busy one for MLB General Managers! Here are the flurry of deals before the MLB Non-Waiver Trading Deadline:

Brandon League to the Dodgers

With the Giants talking to the Mariners about League, I think the Dodgers traded for him just so the Giants wouldn’t get him. They really don’t have a reason to get him other than that. Their bullpen has been solid this year with Kenley Jansen holding it down at the back and Josh Lindblom highlighting the other relievers. League would’ve been key for the Giants. They lost Guillermo Mota at the beginning of the year for 100 games due to his second failed drug test, Sergio Romo has been a bit shaky lately, and Santiago Casilla hasn’t been the best closer. Not to mention Brian Wilson went down with an elbow injury after only a few appearances. Although League hasn’t been the best this year (0-5 with a 3.63 ERA) he will definitely help strengthen the already strong Dodger bullpen. After acquiring Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Dempster, the Dodgers are definitely ahead of the Giants in my mind. For League, the Mariners get OF Leon Landry and RHP Logan Bawcom. Landry this year in Single-A Rancho Cucamonga has hit .328 with eight homers and 51 RBI, and Bawcom has gone 3-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 27 games with Double-A Chattanooga. League was removed from the closer’s role in Seattle in favor of Tom Wilhelmsen earlier this season, so losing him won’t drastically affect the Mariners. League is apparently owed $1.85 million for the rest of this year.

Eric Thames to the Mariners

Right after trading League, the Mariners went ahead and traded Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames. Thames adds some more youth to the Mariners and looks like the fourth outfielder right now. This year, in 42 games, Thames is hitting .243 with three homers and 11 RBI. The Blue Jays add to their bullpen after getting Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ (who can either start or come out of the bullpen) from the Astros. Delabar held a 4.17 ERA in 36.2 innings for Seattle this year. Neither team seems to be going anywhere, so it looks like each is building for the future, as each player is signed through 2017.

Travis Snider to the Pirates

Snider went to the Pirates for reliever Brad Lincoln right before Eric Thames was traded. The Blue Jays seem to be bolstering their bullpen by getting rid of young outfielders. Snider started the season in Toronto last year before being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, and stayed there until recently being called back. The Blue Jays must have finally given up on him after he hit .225 last year and .235 this year in nine games. Snider will join the mix of Andrew McCutchen, Alex Presley, and Starling Marte in the outfield for Pittsburgh. The Blue Jays get reliever Brad Lincoln in return, who has gone 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 59.1 innings this year. He’s only 27 so he should be with Toronto for a while.

Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Braves

After losing out on Ryan Dempster, the Braves went out and got Paul Maholm, who has been doing well for the Cubs going 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA. The Braves also received Reed Johnson. Johnson has hit .307 for the Cubs this year and will join Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, and Martin Prado in the outfield. He should serve as a fourth outfielder and possibly come in late in games as a pinch hitter. The Cubs will get Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman. Vizcaino went 1-1 with a 4.17 ERA with the Braves last year. Chapman, this year for Triple-A Gwinett, has gone 3-6 with a 3.52 ERA in 53.2 innings.

Geovany Soto to the Rangers

Soto will go to the Rangers after they designated catcher Yorvit Torrealba for assignment. Soto will primarily catch while Mike Napoli will see some time at first base. Soto struggled this year for the Cubs, hitting just .195 with six homers and 14 RBI. He makes $4.3 millon this year. Hopefully for the Rangers, Soto will put up better numbers than Torrealba, who hit .236 with three homers and 12 RBI. The Cubs will obtain pitcher Jacob Brigham, who went 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in124 innings for Double-A Frisco. Soto just wasn’t cutting it for the Cubs; maybe he’ll have a fresh start with the Rangers.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshansky, Baseball Writer & Facebook Administrator.  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 Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky)***

 

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2012 Trade Deadline Update #6 7/29: Lirano to the White Sox, Johnson to D-Backs, and More

Sunday July 29th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: Here are some of the latest key baseball trades that have taken place over the last 24 hours:

Francisco Liriano to the White Sox

After losing out on Greinke, the White Sox needed to make a move. Their pitching needed an extra boost. Chris Sale hasn’t been himself his last two starts, giving up five earned runs in each, and Jake Peavy has been on and off lately, going 1-2 in his past three starts. Although Liriano has for the most part had a terrible year, holding a 3-10 record with an atrocious 5.31 ERA, he hasn’t been all that bad in his last few starts (excluding his last start against Chicago—2.2 innings, seven earned runs),striking out 10 and 15 in the two starts before facing Chicago. The White Sox are hoping that Liriano will continue his turnaround and help them reach the playoffs. This could be tough for the White Sox though; the Tigers seem to have the makings of a playoff team to not make the playoffs, and the AL West looks like it could produce three playoff teams as of now. But, with all this, Chicago does look promising after the acquisition of Kevin Youkilis earlier in the year. Adam Dunn has returned to form, hitting more home runs and striking out just as much. It looks like the White Sox will have a good shot to play in October. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Trade Deadline Update #4 7/27: The Dodgers Need More Pitching- Evaluating the Options

Friday July 27th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: After acquiring shortstop/third baseman Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins, the Dodgers got exponentially better. With Hanley, the Dodgers gained an offensive force on the left side of the infield. With two solid pitchers, the Dodgers are good team, but a third would take them to the next level. There are several options out there:

Cliff Lee, Phillies

Signed through 2015, Lee will be a long-term option that could cost a premium. Fortunately for the Dodgers, money isn’t too much of a factor now with the new ownership. The left-handed Lee would fit well possibly as the number-three starter after Chad Billingsley to rotate left/right/left with Clayton Kershaw at the top of the rotation. The Phillies might trade Lee this year due to his out-of-character 1-6 record with a 3.95 ERA.  Signing Cliff Lee could potentially put at risk the ability to re-sign Clayton Kershaw, since Kershaw’s two-year $19 million contract expires after next year. The Dodgers would be busy paying Lee the last three and a half years of his five-year $120 million contract, so Kershaw might have to settle for a little bit less (even with the new ownership) or sign with another team—the last thing the Dodgers would want. Acquiring Cliff Lee will be highly unlikely for this reason, plus the fact that the Phillies might want to hold onto their 2nd/3rd ace. Read the rest of this entry

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 2012 World Series contenders?

Thursday July 19th, 2012

John Burns:  The 2012 season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks like it might be getting saved by a 20 year-old named Mike Trout. The L.A. Angels had a record of 6-14 before they called Trout up from Triple-A, and has a 44-27 record since the call up of Trout. Mike Trout leads the A.L. and is 3rd in baseball with a .353 batting average and is tied with Dee Gordon for the MLB lead in stolen bases with 30. Trout is almost a lock for the A.L. Rookie of the Year. But if he keeps this up and leads L.A. to the playoffs, he could be the A.L. MVP. Read the rest of this entry

The MLB Pitching Leaders in Wins: What to Make of Them?

 

Monday July 9th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: With more than half of the season over, we’ve seen a lot of surprises when it comes to pitching. Some have pitched unbelievably well and are rewarded for it, some haven’t pitched as well and have been lucky, and some aren’t so lucky. Although it might be wrong to spotlight pitchers on the night of a hitting showcase, here’s a list of pitchers (some lucky and some not) who are atop the majors in wins.

Eight Wins:  To name a few: Ubaldo Jimenez, Clay Buchholz, Ricky Romero, Jason Vargas. I would think it’s safe to say these guys are getting really, really lucky. Taking a look at these ERAs, Jimenez has a 4.50, Buchholz has a 5.53, Romero has a 5.22, and Vargas has a 4.07. Not to mention, Buchholz has only two losses. Looking purely at wins and losses, he’s a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Obviously wins don’t tell the whole story. Luck plays a huge part in each of these win-loss records. The Indians average 4.52 runs per game, so that explains why Ubaldo wins. The Red Sox and Blue Jays never have a problem producing runs either. But the Mariners? Although he’s been lucky, Vargas has also had seven losses, so for almost every time the Mariners have scored for him, they’ve also failed to score for him.

Nine Wins:  C.J. Wilson, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain—among others. With a 2.43 ERA, Wilson deserves all the wins he has. The Angels provide a strong offense that produces enough runs to give CJ his wins. Strasburg, too, has a 2.82 ERA to explain his high number of wins. The Nationals weren’t a early season team to put up big numbers in the offensive department in the early part of the season, but Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper have helped to carry the team. In his career with the Giants, Matt Cain has never gotten the run support he deserves. This year he has finally gotten it and it has shown. Cain earned the starting spot in the All Star Game and will definitely be a Cy Young candidate. Read the rest of this entry

The Boston Red Sox Are Falling Apart

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Tuesday May 8, 2012

Ryan Ritchey: The Boston Red Sox since last September have been a team that has been falling apart. Ever since the report that pitchers were drinking in the clubhouse (and eating fried chicken), the team hasn’t been the same. After the season, Theo Epstein decided not to bring back Terry Francona… and then left the Red Sox himself. With this being said, the Sox had several holes to fill. First the general manager. This hole was filled by none other than Ben Cherington. Cherington had a lot of pressure placed on him to perform and to win. His first big job was to hire a manager to get the job done. He went and got Bobby Valentine. Bobby Valentine in my opinion was not a good hire for the Red Sox and judging by the Red Sox current record, most would agree.

You can put the blame on many people for the Red Sox woes this early in the season. Not only is it the fault of the manager, but it also goes on the players as they are the ones that play the game. Dustin Pedroia is one of the hardest working players in the league and doesn’t take a day off so it can’t fall on his shoulders (or Big Papi’s). But many of the Red Sox hitters need to be accountable. Mostly though, you could blame the pitching. In my opinion it is the pitching that is causing this down fall for Boston.

Josh Beckett has the best ERA from any starter in the rotation and he is 30th in the American League with a 4.45 ERA. With that number alone, you aren’t going to win many games. The Red Sox have a great offense but giving up that many runs per start you aren’t going to get many wins. Even when the starters throw a decent game, the bullpen usually ends up giving up runs on many nights and losing the game. If the Red Sox are going to do anything this season, Cherington better go find some pitching or it is going to be a long season for Red Sox Nation.

Another big reason the Red Sox are playing like they are is Adrian Gonzalez. Epstein went out and got Gonzalez from San Diego thinking he would be the best hitter in the American League. He was that player for one season but that is no longer the case. We are a little over a month into the season and Gonzalez only has 2 home runs and 16 RBI. For a power guy like Gonzalez, those numbers are subpar to say the least. His power numbers are down and he hasn’t been showing up in big games against the Rays and Yankees as he  did last year. Not only are his power numbers down, his average is a “whopping” .270. Read the rest of this entry

New York Yankees: 6-Man Rotation and Implications

Tuesday August 9, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  When you look at the New York Yankees pitching staff in 2011, two things come to mind.  C.C. Sabathia is the only frontline starter they currently have, and he has a pretty decent supporting cast.  That being said, last week, the Yankees have decided to go with a 6-man rotation for the time being.  This could be a motivational tool for Phil Hughes, who has struggled with injuries and command this season.  It also could be a way to limit some of the other starters’ inning totals.  Here is a quick look at all six members of the current rotation and how they stack up.

C.C. Sabathia is a true ace.  A workhorse.  A throwback to a generation where pitchers routinely threw 210+ innings in a season.  In his first 10 Major League seasons, Sabathia averaged over 210 innings per season.  This season, he is on pace for close to 250 innings.  Sabathia is once again this season one of the strongest frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award.

Bartolo Colon is having a resurgence nobody could have predicted.  His ERA+ (a stat that compares his ERA with league average as well as adjusting to ballparks) of 126 is the highest it has been since 2002 when he was traded from Cleveland to Montreal.  He has thrown 113 2/3 innings already, which is more than he threw from 2008-2010.  Although it is fair to say he didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 2010.  Colon hasn’t thrown this many innings since 2005, when he threw 222 2/3 on his way to a Cy Young Award.  Colon is throwing strikes and eating innings.  Since joining the rotation, Colon has averaged over 6 innings per start.  Colon is a candidate to tire and wear down due to his large frame and weight, as well as the number of innings he has thrown in the last 5-years.

A.J. Burnetthas again been under-performing in relation to the 5-year $80M contract he signed before the 2009 season.  Burnett has always been touted as a pitcher with electric stuff, but unable it seems to figure it out.  Last year he was atrocious.  This year he is better, but still not very good.  He is on pace to lead the league in wild pitches for the second time in three years; in 2010 he was 2nd.  Burnett’s walk rate of 4 per 9 innings is not good, and he is giving up home runs at an alarming rate of 1.3 per 9 innings.

If we thought that Colon has been good this year, then Freddy Garcia has been great.  Once considered a great inning eater, with 7 of his first 8 MLB seasons throwing over 200 innings, he is back to his old tricks.  Garcia doesn’t throw with the same velocity as he once did; his fastball averaged 93 mph in 2002, whereas it sits around 87 now.  He knows this is the case, and actually only throws his heater 37.2% of the time, compared to 63% in 2002.  The biggest difference is that he now throws a split-finger 21.5% of the time, which he didn’t begin throwing with any regularity until 2006.  Garcia threw 157 innings last year, so I don’t see him wearing down yet as evidenced by his 3.16 ERA in 122 1/3 innings this season.

Phil Hughes has not had the 2011 that the Yankees dreamed of after his terrific 2010 season, where he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA.  Hughes has only started 8 games this year, and has not pitched very well.  His main problem is that he is simply not missing any bats.  His K rate sits at 4.74/9 IP.  Hitters are hitting more line drives, and less ground balls off Hughes, which is a reason for a spike in his BABIP of .343 as compared to .274 last year.  The Yankees could be using his next couple of starts to see if they will stick with a 6-man rotation.  Hughes has been unable to last more than 6 innings in a start this year.   It should be noted though that his last start on August 2nd was an encouraging one, as he threw 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits and induceing 9 ground balls.

Ivan Nova had been dangled in trade talks seemingly from the end of the last World Series until this year’s trade deadline, where the Yankees pulled him back to keep for themselves.  GM Brian Cashman has said that they feel Ivan Nova is as good as the current version of Ubaldo Jimenez, so they held on to him, hoping to harness his ability.  When Hughes returned from the disabled list, Nova was initially optioned to AAA to make room in the rotation.  Nova has been pretty good all season, as his sinking fastball induces a ton of ground balls.  His 10-4 record with a 3.81 ERA has been impressive, but he still doesn’t strike out many hitters.  Nova threw almost 190 innings last year, so he will have no restrictions this year as he currently sits at 122 IP in the MLB and AAA combined.

The Yankees have a pretty good problem to have in that four of their starters are pitching well., one starter has been working back from an injury and is improving, and the other is a guy with tremendous talent.  The choice that many would like to see is Burnett being pushed to a bullpen role, but I don’t see that happening.  One more turn in the rotation should prove that the Yankees need to cut down on Garcia and Colon’s innings, and that Burnett should throw on 5 days rest instead of the usual four.  Garcia and Colon may also get skipped in the rotation a couple of times down the stretch to save their arms for the playoffs.

For the playoffs, most teams use a three or four-man rotation, using their fifth guy in a long relief role.  The Yankees can make a case for a four-man rotation, using Sabathia, Nova, Colon and Garcia if they all stay healthy.  That is a lot of talent and experience to utilize in a short playoff matchup.  Hughes has never been that impressive to me, but if he rounds into form, he could easily slot into the fourth spot, pushing out Colon or Garcia, depending on who loses the battle at the end.

The bottom line is that the Yankees have depth at the Major League level.  They have successfully held on to many of their top prospects in the last few years, while adding crafty veteran free agents to the mix.   The result is that the Yankees should continue contending for the American League East division title this year and for many years to come.

 

 

***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.***

 

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Pitching Keeps Tribe Alive

Sunday May 22, 2011

On the Reports, we will be occasionally featuring an up-and-coming baseball writer that has come to our attention and share their work with you, the readers.  Part of our mandate at MLB reports is to provide the best baseball coverage and analysis in the business.  MLB reports ultimately is designed to expose our readers to the world of baseball and the stories, facts, insights and profiles behind it.  In order to meet this goal, we would like to give exciting young writers the chance to showcase their talents and provide a fresh pool of ideas to our site.  In today’s premier feature, we are excited to have Shane Miller as our first guest writer with his post on the Cleveland Indians.  Shane’s topic was to discuss the start of the Indians season and to review the success behind it.  The direction and focus of the story was up to our writer and in today’s feature, Shane takes a look at the Indians and the pitching that has been the core of the team’s success in 2011.  Enjoy! 

Shane Miller (Guest Writer for MLB Reports): As the second month of the Major League baseball season is coming to an end, the Cleveland Indians to many baseball fans surprise still sit atop the American League Central division.

Well today I am here to discuss how the Indians have managed to lead the AL Central for the first two months of the season. My observation has been that pitching has been the main component to their early season success.  As part of this article, I will be discussing the Indians pitching staff and how they have led their team to success beyond the wildest dreams of most baseball observers.

Pitching without a doubt has been the ultimate key to the Tribe’s early season success.  The Indians pitching staff has the second best ERA in the American League at 3.45 and have managed to keep the ball in the park by giving up the third fewest home runs in the AL by only giving up 28 home runs on the season. Also the Indians have also been successful in keeping runners off the base paths giving up the second fewest walks in the AL at 127.  A pitching staff that manages to keeps its walks and runs down will in most cases be successful and the Indians pitching staff of 2011 is proof that good pitching is the backbone of a winning baseball club.

A great deal of credit is due to manager Manny Acta, who has done a wonderful job with all the young pitchers he manages on the Indians.  Cleveland also happens to boast one of the youngest, if not the youngest starting rotations in major league baseball.

Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and rookie Alex White make up the Cleveland Indians starting rotation.  On paper, not much was expected of the Indians starting five going into the season.  But success is contagious and as the season has progressed, the pitchers that few in baseball gave much credit have proven that they are for real.  The fans in Cleveland are getting excited about their Indians and the team starts and ends with its rotation.

As the newly anointed staff ace, 26-year-old Justin Masterson is enjoying a break out season.  So far Masterson is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 48 strike outs and 19 walks in 60.2 innings pitched.  Masterson has done an excellent job this season in keeping the free passes to a minimum and keeping the ball in the park by only allowing one home run all year.  At his current pace, Masterson is a likely 2011 all-star candidate and is finally fulfilling the hype that surrounded him from the time he came up with Boston as a rookie.

Tomlin is another pitcher who is not getting enough recognition for the amazing season he has put together so far in Cleveland.  Looking at Tomlin’s stats, he is 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, with 27 strike outs and nine walks in 52.2 innings pitched.  The only red flag that I could find with Tomlin is that he has given up eight home runs this season.  The number of long balls needs to go down as he only gave up 10 home runs in 73 innings pitched last season.

Another starter of note, the rookie White has pitched very good so far this season in the three games that he has started.   White has compiled a record of 1-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 13 strike outs and nine walks in 15 innings pitched.  Like I indicated with Tomlin, White also has an issue with long balls by giving up three home runs in 15 innings pitched so far.   This means that White is averaging a home run every five innings pitched.  In my opinion, if White can keep the ball in the park he will one day become an outstanding pitcher. (*Editor’s note:  at time of publishing White has been placed on the DL by the Indians with a finger injury.  While the severity is unknown, White could be lost for the season by the Indians.  As adversity tests character, the Indians rotation will be put to the test if White is lost to the team for any kind of extended period.*) 

With two of the five starting pitchers for the Indians enjoying breakout seasons and a rookie putting up great numbers in three starts, no wonder the Indians are in first place and have a record of 27-15.  The Indians bullpen has also been another source of strength of the Indians team overall.  The Indians bullpen is made up of Frank Herrmann, Joe Smith, Vinne Pestano, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin, Rafael Perez and closer Chris Perez.  While again unimpressive on paper to start the year, the Indians relief corps has been lights out all year and one of the best in the game.

The closer, Chris Perez has been very good for the Tribe this season, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 11 saves, 11 strike outs and 10 walks in 18 innings pitched.  The walk totals are very high and if Perez wishes to remain a closer long-term he needs to cut down on those walks.  He is currently averaging six walks per nine innings and that needs to be at least cut in half for him to be able to remain successful.

The setup man Rafael Perez has been astounding this season with a record of 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11 strike outs and six walks in 15 innings pitched. Rafael is one of the reasons why Cleveland has one of the best bullpens in the MLB and is sneaking up behind Chris Perez to one day take the closers role away from him.  If Rafael can continue pitching like he has this season, he could definitely be the closer by season’s end if and when  Chris falters.  Rookie middle reliever Pestano is also having a great year in the Indians pen with a 1-0 record, 1.65 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 18 strike outs and six walks in 16.1 innings pitched. Pestano has been amazing this year with a very strong 9.9 strike outs per nine innings.

Pestano has done an excellent job in limiting walks and home runs given up and has only allowed three earned runs all season. The Indians obviously have amazing pitching from the starting rotation all the way to the deepest part of their bullpen. Without some of these rookie standouts or career years the Indians might not be in this position to possibly contend in historically one of the deepest divisions in baseball.  Time will tell where this team is headed but if the start of the year is any indication, the Indians will be players in the AL Central in 2011 and possibly for many years to come.

***Thank you to Shane Miller for preparing today’s article on the Indians.  You can follow Shane on Twitter.***

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2011 MLB CLOSERS- AN INSIDE LOOK

MLB reports:  As readers know from my previous articles, the closer position in my opinion is the most volatile one in all of baseball.  While I love the idea of a 9th inning hard thrower coming in to blow away the other team to get the save, the identity of the closer on each team can change day-to-day and week-to-week.  Some teams came into the season with a set closer in place, while other teams are still working by committee.  After completing opening weekend, let’s take a look around baseball to see how some closers have fared thus far.

1)  Pittsburgh Pirates- Joel Hanrahan:  After some talk of Hanrahan and Evan Meek sharing the closing duties for the Pirates, Hanrahan has taken the role and run with it.  In three games, Hanrahan already has three saves and is yet to give up an earned run.  His 5/1 K/BB ratio is great.  With Meek getting blown early and often (21.60 ERA), it looks like the Pirates have their closer for the foreseeable future.

2)  Los Angeles Dodgers- Jonathan Broxton:  With three saves of his own, Broxton looks strong to start the season.  Until you notice that he also given up two homeruns and has a 1/0 K/BB ratio.  This means that Broxton is giving up runs and not striking guys out despite being handed early season leads.  A recipe for disaster, Broxton will need to shape up in a hurry or risk losing his job in the next week or two.  Monitor this situation closely.

3)  New York Yankees- Mariano Rivera:  The only other closer with three saves on the season, Mo is just being Mo.  He is as automatic as closers come and requires no further explanation.

4)  Atlanta Braves- Craig Kimbrel:  Another possible closer-by-committee situation has turned into Kimbrel having the job exclusively to start the year.  With two saves, five k’s in two innings thus far, Kimbrel has been lights-out.  As long as he stays consistent, the job is his for now and possibly the next few years.

5)  Chicago Cubs- Carlos Marmol:  After signing a big contract, much was expected from Marmol.  The other closer besides Kimbrel to have two saves, Marmol has been hit and miss to start the year.  With few options on the horizon, expect Marmol to be good and finish with 20-30 saves for a middle-of-the-pack Cubs team.

6)  Anaheim Angels- Fernando Rodney:  With a 13.50 ERA and 4/2 BB/K ratio, Rodney is on a very short leash at this point.  With one or two more rocky outings, expect Scoscia to turn to other options until Rodney straightens himself out.  I see Rodney being the closer for the majority of the year, but April has not been kind to him thus far.

7)  Minnesota Twins- Joe Nathan:  I was at the Jays/Twins game on Sunday and got to watch both Nathan and Capps pitch.  I cannot say at this point which pitcher has the advantage, although Nathan looked very rusty after a year off.  If Nathan does not come together, I can definitely see Capps taking the job for the foreseeable future.  Coming back from injuries is tricky and I would not be relying on Nathan at this point yet.

8)  Arizona Diamondbacks- J.J. Putz:  So far, so good in Arizona.  With one save under his belt, Putz had 2 k’s in his first opportunity. After a horror of a bullpen last year, Kirk Gibson will enjoy a year of Putz as his closer in Arizona.

Remember, it is still early and much can change over the course of this month.  Closers are often one home run or blister away from losing their positions.  They are a nightmare for fantasy players and even bigger stress sources for baseball fans.  Keep your expectations in check and remember to judge the players on the totality of their work: one bad inning will rarely make or break a person’s career.

Around the Majors:  Players of Note from Monday April 4th

1)  Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis led the surging Orioles to another victory.  Roberts had a three-run home run for the O’s and Markakis chipped in with three hits of his own. 

2)  Jake Arrieta got the win for the Orioles over the Tigers, pitching six innings and only one earned run.  On the flipside, Porcello gave up five runs in five innings, with 9 hits allowed.  The Tigers pitching has been weak out of the gate.

3)  Martin Prado and Dan Uggla both homered for the Braves in a win over the Brewers.  Nice to see Uggla getting on track.

4)  Ricky Weekes continued his torrid start to the season with his third home run. Highly touted for years, if he stays healthy, 2011 could be his year.

5)  Beachy was outstanding in his first start of the year.  Only one earned run over six innings, he had a 1/7 BB/K ratio.  Kimbrel dominated for his second save by striking out the side in the ninth.

6)  Saito was bombed in the 8th for the Brewers, giving up two earned runs and three hits in the 8th.  With Axford’s struggles to boot, the closing situation in Milwaukee remains murky.

7)  Alfonso Soriano had two hits and home run for the Cubs in their win over the Diamondbacks.  Soto also chipped in with two hits as well.

8)  A-Rod and Posada both went deep for the Yankees as they beat the twins.  The Yankees bats have been on fire.

9)  Ivan Nova had a quality start for the Yankees, with three earned runs in his six innings pitched.  He finished with a 1/3 BB/K ratio.

10)  Texas remained undefeated as Nelson Cruz hit his fourth home run in four games.  Always a power threat, Cruz can break forty bombs if healthy.

11)  Elvis Andrus also went deep for Texas and is hitting .385 on the season.

12)  Derek Holland continued to show the Mike Maddux magic by having a quality start, seven innings, three earned runs and a 1/5 BB/K ratio.  Maddux is the new Dave Duncan.

13)  Milton Bradley hit third for the Mainers and finished with three hits.  With a .353 average, Milton is surprising a lot of people.  Let’s see if he can keep it up.

14)  Erik Bedard in his first start of the season after a long layover from injuries returned and pitched ok.  Three earned in five innings, Bedard gave up two home runs in the loss.

15)  McCutchen and Walker continued to lead the Pirates as they upped their record to 3-1 by defeating the Cardinals.  McCutchen hit his second home run of the year and Walker finished with three hits.

16)  Charlie Morton was the next Pirates pitcher to star.  One earned over six innings, though of concern was his 5/2 BB/K ratio.  Morton better watch those walks if he hopes to be successful this year.  A decent fifth starter, I wouldn’t expect much from him yet on a young Pirates team.

 

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MLB Opening Day: Survival List and Highlights

MLB reports:  Going into day-two of the MLB opening day schedule, I will be in Toronto tonight to watch the hometown Blue Jays face the Minnesota Twins.  With a sold-out, packed stadium of over 50,000 screaming fans, tonight will be awesome.  Opening day is the greatest baseball day of the year and should never be missed.  I have attended all-star games and World Baseball Classic matchups and I can still say that opening day is number one.  I have not yet attended any world series games, which has its own energy and excitement..  But the start of the year, the start of the season, with hope and optimism all around- opening day is king.

With hope comes reality.  Opening day, while a great deal of fun to watch, should still be prepared for ahead of time.  For those experienced fans who have been through this before but need a refresher after a long offseason and for those new to the game, I have prepared the following tips for you.  Opening day is most enjoyable when you come to the game ready.  Here is what you need to do in order to enjoy the experience to the fullest.

1)  Pack food and water:  Check the policy of your stadium on this, but most will allow you to bring in any food and a sealed bottled of water.  Opening day gets pretty hectic, as the stadium will be full and the concessions are not yet in mid-season form.  To avoid missing any of the action in long lineups, plan ahead and bring your own munchies. 

2)  Wear baseball gear:  Coming to opening day without a baseball top/cap is unacceptable.  Preferably you should wear the colors of your home team, but any baseball clothing will do.  To get into the excitement, you have to dress the part.

3)  Bring a camera:  Opening day will last three to four hours, but pictures last a lifetime.  Be sure to capture all the moments of the game and your surroundings.  The more friends an family that you have at the game, the better the photo opportunities.

4)  Bring people:  Coming to the game with a buddy or loved one is great.  But the more people that join you in your section, the greater the feeling you will have at the game.  I have seven people in total in my group coming today, it will be a blast.

5)  Strategic bathroom breaks:  Try to go right before the game starts.  The bathrooms will be crowded all game long and hopefully your bladder can hold up for most, if not the entire game.

6)  Arrive early:  On a Friday, traffic is usually bad no matter where we live.  Add to that the number of people attending the game, the slow pace of the ushers in welcoming people, checking tickets and giving away free stuff- and you have a recipe for disaster.  Try to be at your stadium approximately two hours before game time to make sure that you can easily get in, check out the concessions and all the pre-game festivities in a relaxed manner.

7)  Bring your Smartphone:  If you have a blackberry or iphone, sending the occasional updates through twitter or facebook will make you leading edge and gives the people that follow you a chance to share in your experience.  Photo updates get bonus points.

8)  Get into the game:  Socializing throughout the game is fun.  But if you are at the point that you have no idea what inning it is and the score, clearly you are not paying enough attention.  Keep focused so that you miss any of the key game highlights and bring the game into your discussion.  The greater experience you have on opening day, the more likely you will be out for future games this season.

9)  Watch the lineup:  Your home team likely has some new faces.  Learn the roster and get to know the players on your team.  You will see them for 162 games this year and watching them live to start the year will help your knowledge.  I look for things like batting stances, pitching deliveries, names/numbers etc.  Learn your team as the better you know your guys, the harder you will support them.

10)  Savor the moment:  Enjoy every second that you are there.  Take in every sight, sound and smell from opening day from the second you enter the stadium to the time you leave.  You will only get one crack at opening day every season, enjoy this one. 

I wish everyone a great MLB opening day!  Hopefully you will get to attend a game in person over the course of the last two days.  If not, try to make sure that you are enjoying an opening day game, if it is on your computer, television or radio.  Then try to make the effort to get to a game as soon as you can to get into the spirit of the start of the MLB season.  Plan a road trip for the summer to watch some games at a park that you have never seen.  But at the end of the day, just enjoy baseball.  It is the greatest game in the world and its back for the next seven months.  It’s truly the best time of year to be a baseball fan.

MLB reports from Opening Day- Thursday March 31st:

1)      Some shaky closers to start the year as Axford imploded as the Brewers lost to the Reds, Broxton and Franklin both gave up long balls in their initial outings and Rodney got the save in a high WHIP fashion.  Remember, there will be new closers on 30-40% of teams by the end of the year.  Closer is the most volatile position in baseball.

2)      Alex Gordon, batting third for the Royals, went 0-5 with 3 SO.  My preseason pick to have a strong bounce back year, I hope that he doesn’t fail me.

3)      Checking my predictions for the opening day schedule, I finished with a 5-1 record yesterday.  The only game I missed on was the Cardinals and Padres game.  Little did I know that Pujols would ground into three double plays.  It was just one of those games.  We shall see how I do on the rest of my predictions later today.  You can view my opening day matchups and predictions on http://mlbreports.com posted on Tuesday.

4)      The Dodgers/Giants game proved to be a pitching matchup for the ages.  Kershaw and Lincecum went head-to-head and did not disappoint.  Key moment of the game occurred when the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead in the 6th with the bases loaded and two outs.  Mattingly decided to let Kershaw bat for himself.  In a tight game with little offensive opportunities, the Dodger’s manager could have cost himself the game.  In an early game and Kershaw likely to go only one more inning (which he did), you need to play to win.  Hopefully someone can explain the National League to Donny as the season progresses.  Otherwise, Kershaw looks like he is ready to break out into a superstar and Lincecum will be solid yet again.

5)      The Padres are in big trouble.  Now that Adrian Gonzalez is gone, the smoke and mirrors can be removed and the carriage is now back into being a pumpkin.  When Venable is your leadoff hitter and Orlando Hudson is batting third, you know that it will be a long year.  It looked to me like Buddy Black created a lineup by drawing names out of a hat.  With so little talent, maybe he is on to something. 

6)      Jered Weaver looked great to start the year and should be in Cy Young form.  The Angels as a team are yet again the impatient hackers on offense that they always seem to be.  Against a scuffling Luke Hochevar, the Angels stranded 15 men on base and only took one walk as a team.  The Angels will have to rely on their pitching if they hope to contend in the AL West.  Vernon Wells had a typical Vernon night.  Anaheim fans will be calling for his head by June.

7)      Great start by the Braves.  Lowe was spectacular and Heyward is mature beyond his years.  He will be the face of the franchise for the next ten to twelve years if he stays healthy.

8)      Phil Coke, the named fifth starter for the Tigers had a shaky relief outing against the Yankees.  This cannot help his chances to keep a starting role.  Hopefully the Tigers give him a chance to start and show what he can for at least a month.

 

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Changing Baseball Pitching – Cuba Style

MLB reports:  The handling of pitchers and pitching staffs has evolved over the years in baseball. Once upon a time, pitchers were expected to complete all or almost all games they completed. Slowly the use of relievers expanded. From there, the invention of pitch counts started- 100 approximately per start. Innings limits, per start and per year are now prevalent. Teams are getting wiser as to watch the innings pitched in a year from the time a pitcher is a rookie and most create yearly caps. The strategy of handling pitchers seems to get stricter every year.

Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are often credited with the modern game use of pitchers. The notion is for starters to pitch approximately 5 innings, with relievers for innings 6-7. The setup man pitches inning 8 and closer for the 9th. The above standard is adopted by all teams at this point in the MLB. But is this the right system? It is hard to know. Pitchers today seem to be stronger than ever and throwing less innings, yet injuries are at an all-time high. From a results standpoint, are MLB teams maximizing production from their pitching staffs? That is the million dollar question. Now I throw another hat into the ring- let’s try playing Cuban baseball instead. Perhaps its time for a shift.

My suggestion is a variation of the Cuban style of baseball, but I will simplify it for this article. Here goes the idea in a nutshell. A team would employ the closer for the first 2 innings of a game. The start of a game is the most crucial, to set the tone against the opposing team. Rather than start the traditional starting pitcher, who often takes time to get warmed up, start the closer who knows how to come into a game cold. The closer would pitch the first two innings and hopefully make short work of the opposing team. From there, the starter would come in, after warming in the pen during the game, for innings 3-9. If problems start near the end of the game, bring in the 2nd closer for inning 9, or 8-9 depending on need.

The above system is based on the Cuban style of ball. Watching the previous WBC in 2009, the Cuban system would have Aroldis Chapman starting the game, going anywhere from 1-4 innings. From there, Pedro Lazo, the workhorse starter would pitch the rest or close to the rest of the game. Imagine today for the Cinci Reds pitching Chapman to start a game, Volquez pitching innings 3-8 and Cordero with the 9th. How scary would that be? The opposing team would have no rhythm to start the game and would never likely get going from there.

Baseball has evolved over time and will continue to do so over time. Nolan Ryan is trying to get more innings under his pitchers’ belts to build stamina and endurance on the Texas Rangers. I like the system personally, but it doesn’t work for everyone. The concept I propose above is not my invention but based on the Cuban game. All I am saying is that perhaps its time for a change in the MLB. It will make the game more exciting and perhaps even revolutionize it…yet again.

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

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