Blog Archives

Dale Thayer: Finally Stabilizing Himself in the Show? The Best Reliever You Likely Never Heard Of

Friday August 31st, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: The Padres have a surplus of pitching within their organization. From top to bottom, there’s always a top pitching prospect waiting in the wings. The assumption is that most of this pitching has been accumulated from the massive amounts of trades they have made over the past couple of years, but Dale Thayer doesn’t fall into this category.

Thayer’s minor league stats remain to be touched. Very few players have amassed better stats at the levels than he has. He boasts a 2.45 ERA lifetime in ten seasons in the minors, and his K/9 rate checks in at 8.8/9 over that span. However, ten seasons in the minors is awfully extensive, especially considering his above average numbers.

However, his numbers have yet to translate to the major leagues. Trust me, he has received plenty of chances to prove that he can write that ship, but he’s yet to do so. So when he gets his chances, he doesn’t seem to make much of them, ultimately leading to a demotion. Most prospects who bloom in the minors and post stellar numbers generally don’t stick in the minors for long. Thayer, though, is quite the opposite. Read the rest of this entry

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Kerry Wood and the Unfulfilled Career

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (Baseball Writer): When he first came into the league, there were comparisons drawn to Nolan Ryan. Not just, “hey look, both of these guys are from Texas and play baseball!” comparisons, but predictions by some that their career numbers would shine in a similar fashion. But, after 14 years in professional baseball, Kerry Wood has decided to retire from the league, falling far short of the media’s once lofty expectations. Read the rest of this entry

Mike Gonzalez to Nats: Washington is Gearing Up For the Playoffs

Tuesday May 22, 2012

Ryan Ritchey:  With injuries to both Drew Storen and Brad Lidge the Nationals had to go out and find more depth to their bullpen. That is what they did by going out and getting Mike Gonzalez as a free agent, who last pitched for the Texas Rangers. Mike Gonzalez has playoff experience and has the stuff to carry this bullpen until Storen gets back in May. Fortunately for the Nats, they have a fairly deep pen despite loss of Storen and Brad Lidge to injuries. Henry Rodriguez was locked in as the closer, but it now appears that Washington will go with a bullpen by committee. Apparently Craig Stammen will see the bulk of the save opportunities at this point. With Storen coming back around the All Star Break, Gonzalez could continue in a setup role. Until then, perhaps Gonzo may even take over the closer job and give the Nats some needed 9th inning stability. It is looking like the Nationals are making a push for a playoff spot as they are noticing that the Phillies are struggling. They smell opportunity and are jumping in at the right time. If they are going to make a push, they will need a lock-down pen.

The big question is whether going out and getting Gonzalez was a good move… I believe it is. This is a team with tremendous starting pitching that needs a deep pen to shut down games and get wins. I see Gonzalez quite capable of filling in for Storen until he comes back,  and perhaps taking the closer’s job in the interim. The biggest thing for this Nationals team is staying atop the National League East through the All Star Break, to give them confidence for the rest of the season. In my opinion the Nationals go to the playoffs if they are within three games of the National League East leader.

Could it be that the Nationals front office wants to put people in the seats? That is a possibility, but I believe this team wants to win and wants to win now. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are in the majors, this could be a great chance for them to get to the postseason. You put the Nationals in the postseason and baseball ratings go through the roof. Every time the Nationals are on national tv, my twitter feed is filled with Harper tweets. The kid is taking over baseball right now, no doubt about that. 2012 could be a big year in Washington, as the Nationals move to contenders from pretenders.

Ryan Ritchey is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports. I am a high school senior, play second base and plan on studying sports journalism in college. I am a huge fan of Barry Larkin and Brandon Phillips. Have been a baseball fan my whole life and have been writing about baseball since freshman year. You can reach me on Twitter(@Ryan13Ritchey)

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Gregg Olson Interview: Talking Ball with One of the Greatest Closers in MLB History

Friday April 6th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: As a big fan of baseball cards growing up (weren’t we all), one of my favorite memories was opening up my first pack of 1989 Donruss. For those of you that never saw that particular baseball card set, it is longer considered one of the ugliest cards of all time. The choice of colors was interesting to say the least. But for those that grew up with it, the cards were beautiful to us and we loved it! In that first pack of cards, I got a Gregg Olson “rated rookie”. The set featured many great rookie cards, including Griffey, Sheffield and Tom Gordon. But the Olson was my fave. The close-up on his wind-up. The intense competitor’s face. That card was forever burned in my mind. I became a huge Gregg Olson fan and watched his career from his MLB debut in 1988 and ROY season to follow in 1989. It all started though from that first pack of baseball cards. Thank you Donruss…wherever you are…

Being based in Toronto, I had the pleasure of watching Gregg Olson pitch on many occasions as a member of those Baltimore Orioles squads. From 1989-1993, Gregg rang up 160 saves in one of the dominant runs I had ever seen from a MLB closer.  The most saves at the time for a closer under 27-years of age. In 1989, Gregg won the AL Rookie of the Year award and finished 6th in CY Young voting. He was named an AL All-Star in 1990 (the only All-Star game nod in his career). Elbow issues unfortunately set back his career and Gregg did not get the chance to jump back into the closer’s role in 1998, while a member of the Diamondbacks. After 14 years in the big leagues and 217 career saves, Gregg Olson had a career that most players could only dream of. Had things played out differently health-wise, we would have seen him in Cooperstown one day, along with the other top closers of the modern-day, including Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.

Known for his fastball and devastating curveball nicknamed “Uncle Charlie”, Gregg Olson was as good as they get in his prime. It was very difficult in my mind to see him outside of a Baltimore Orioles jersey, but so goes the business of baseball. Gregg ended up playing for 9 major league teams, with a playoff appearance with the aforementioned Diamondbacks coming in 1999. Today on MLB reports, we had a chance to catch up with the Baltimore Orioles Hall-of-Fame pitcher and talk some great baseball. Gregg was at home watching the Masters, but was kind enough to take some time for us. Following his retirement, Gregg Olson has been one busy cat. A Scout for the San Diego Padres. Published Author of the baseball book “We Got to Play Baseball”. Part Owner and President of “Toolshed Sports“- a leading manufacturer of high performance undergear. Gregg has his hands in many facets of the game of baseball! He spoke to us about all parts of his career, from getting drafted and playing with the Orioles to his current ventures and roles (and everything in-between). Gregg is a great personality to speak with. He is funny, sarcastic and extremely knowledgeable. He tells it like it us and doesn’t hold back. Much like the dominant closer in the 9th inning that went straight after top hitters in tight ballgames- Gregg Olson approaches life with the same vigour and intensity. One of my personal favorite baseball players of all-time, baseball fans are in for a treat as I spoke exclusively one-on-one with one of the greatest closers in MLB history.  Today on MLB reports, I am proud to feature my conversation with the one and only, Gregg Olson:


Welcome to MLB reports Gregg.  First question: A 1st round pick (4th overall) in 1988.  Did you expect to go that high in the draft? Did you always know you would be heading to Baltimore?

I actually did. I was told that it was down to Andy Benes and myself for the 1st pick, so it was going to be 1-5. Baltimore wanted me- so it was either going to be San Diego or Baltimore.


It didn’t take you many games- only a handful until reaching the majors in 1988.  How did you get the call? Tell us about that experience.

I really don’t remember how I was told. I had it in my contract that I would be there by September 1st. So it wasn’t a surprise. I do remember flying from Charlotte to Seattle with Curt Schilling (my roomie) for our first trip as big leaguers. Read the rest of this entry

Chad Cordero Interview: Closing In On A Major League Comeback

Thursday March 22nd, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Scott Ableman- click here for link to Scott’s photographs)

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: When you are discussing the terms “closer” and “saves”, this name will always come in conversation at some point. One of the top closers in baseball for several years, this man really needs no introduction. But he will get one anyways…because he is that damn good. As far as superstar closers go, Chad Cordero has been there. Between 2004-2007, Chad was one of the game’s elite. 2005 was his shining moment, as Chad led the league with 47 saves in Washington- the first year of the Nationals. Consistent and a bulldog on the mound. Injuries and a personal tragedy all made the last few years very difficult for Chad and his family. But like on the mound, Chad Cordero in life is not one to give up. He battles on.

I had the honor of speaking with Chad recently as the MLB season began to approach. Where did we speak? Amazingly enough, while Chad was getting a tattoo. Apparently talking baseball helped numb the pain.  If nothing else, it made for an interesting interview experience! We got to discuss many topics, centering around baseball and life in general.

Despite his stardom and popularity, Chad Cordero remains very grounded and focused. After taking the time to heal his body and family, Chad is back with renewed energy and confidence. Despite reports last year of his retirement from the game, I am happy to report that Chad Cordero is far from finished. He is working hard and training for his MLB comeback in 2013.

We covered many topics during our conversation. From closing in College, playing in Montreal and Washington, reaching major league success,  and recovering from the loss of his daughter to SIDS, Chad was very candid in this interview. I even discovered the secret behind the straight-brim hat! Today on MLB reports, we feature one of our favorite closers of all-time – on the comeback trail with the man they called “The Chief” – Chad Cordero:

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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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.

Interview with Frank Gailey: Jays Prospect

MLB reports:  In our most recent interview, we sat down with Toronto Blue Jays prospect, Frank Gailey.  The organization’s 2010 Reliever of the Year, Frank is one of the up-and-coming Jays prospects that should be on everyone’s radar.  A 23rd round pick of the Jays back in 2007, Frank simply put has been dominant on the mound from the moment he put on a Jays uniform.  As Gailey has steadily and methodically risen up the organizational ladder, baseball insiders feel that its time for the Jays to move Gaily aggressively up the ranks to see what he can do.  Back for a second tour of duty with Dunedin High A, Gailey after 15 games this season has exploded, with a miniscule 1.21 ERA, 0.851 WHIP, 6/17 BB/K.  Considering the man has a 2.07 ERA in 5 career seasons with a 1.005 WHIP, Frank deserves to be on the fast track.  With nothing left to prove in Dunedin, Gailey will hopefully be seeing the bright lights of Las Vegas AAA this season.  With left-handed relievers furiously in demand through major league baseball, expect to see Frank Gailey up in Toronto one day soon.  Now, without further adieu, MLB reports presents:  Frank Gailey.

MLB reports:  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak with us Frank.  It is much appreciated.

Frank Gailey:  Thank you for having me and for the opportunity.

MLB reports:  Starting off Frank, to get some background on the type of player that you are- we need to ask who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?   Athletes tend to mirror the players that they looked up to growing up from my experiences.

Frank Gailey:  I would have to say that Tom Glavine was the one pitcher that I looked at most and enjoyed watching.  He is the type of pitcher that uses all approaches when on the mound.  I believe as a left-handed pitcher now in the minors, I now know that I can’t just throw a fastball anywhere and expect to be successful.  I need to locate every pitch in and outside the plate.  Change speeds and be smarter than the hitter.

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

Frank Gailey: To be honest I admire all of them that had a dream like mine and fought through any set backs in their careers and made it.  One day, I wish I hope to be in their shoes.

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

Frank Gailey:  I would have to say that all the accomplishments in my career on the field are amazing and I will never forget the teammates and coaches that were there for me.  However, the proudest moment was when I got the call that I was drafted by the Blue Jays.  To me that showed that all my hard work and dedication to my dream of one day being a big leaguer is paying off.

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2011 season?

Frank Gailey:  I would have to say that my goals for this season are to be stronger and stay healthy while having a good season.  I believe if I do that, then I would be able to help my team be successful.

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted by the Jays, what were your first reactions? Did those reactions change over time? If you can comment on the team itself and your draft position in the 23rd round that would help.

Frank Gailey:  To be honest, I heard I was drafted and I was pumped.  I didn’t really care whom it was that drafted me, as I just wanted an opportunity to compete at a higher level.  But now being with the Jays for some time, I enjoy everyone associated with the Jays organization because they are there to help make me grow better as a player and person.

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

Frank Gailey:  To me my greatest skills are my competitive nature and ability to stay calm and throw strikes with multiple pitches.

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

Frank Gailey:  The part of my game that I wish to improve on the most is to be completely dominant against left-handed hitters.

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

Frank Gailey: To me strikeouts will come if you just throw quality strikes.  I don’t get on the mound to strike guys out, but rather to make one quality pitch at a time.  Personally I hate walking guys because it a free pass.  They did not have to do anything to get on base and I didn’t give my defense a chance to do their job.  I don’t see this mind-set changing because it fits my game plan.

MLB reports:  Long term do you see yourself staying in the bullpen? Do you envision yourself as a closer in the big leagues one day?

Frank Gailey:  If I had to guess I would say yes to the fact that I would be staying in the bullpen.  I don’t see myself as a closer but pretty much everything else.  But I am ready for any role asked of me by the team.

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?

Frank Gailey:  There is no way I can even guess an answer to something like that.  The only things I can do to help my chances are to compete and be the steady guy that the team can rely upon in the bullpen.

MLB reports:  Thank you very much for your time and appearing on MLB reports.  It has been a pleasure speaking with you and good luck on the season

Frank Gailey:  Thank you for having me and thank you to the fans for all of their support.

***A special thank you to Frank Gailey for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  You can follow Frank on Twitter.***

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

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