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Get A (Fantasy Baseball) Grip On Reality: Blog Series Part 1

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Saturday May 18, 2013

Like Dale Doback, I too manage a baseball team --kootation.com.  Lucky for me, I was able to secure a steal 113th overall in a keeper league.  You have to read the post in order to find.  Now that I am done, I am going to attend a Catalina Wine Mixer nearby!!

Like Dale Doback, I too manage a baseball team  Lucky for me, I was able to secure a steal (113th overall) in a keeper league. You have to read the post in order to find out who that player is. Now that I am done, I am going to attend a Catalina Wine Mixer nearby!! kootation.com

By Derek Jackson (MLB Reports Fantasy Expert): 

I am happy to be joining the fantastic writer’s and leadership at MLB Reports, bringing you full coverage of Fantasy Baseball. If you’ve never won that elusive fantasy title or you’re the five-peat dynasty, we can all share our knowledge of players, outlooks, and advice in an open forum.

I urge any and all of you to leave me comments ripping apart my thoughts, giving me a firm but reassuring pat on the ass, or just to tell me how great of a fantasy player I must be – Now let’s roll out two player’s who have started out very differently in 2013. This will give you some insight into the stats I use and rely on in my own decision making. all thoughts are welcome.

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Triple Play Podcast Ep #8 – Bucs And Nats Time In The Around The Horn Feature

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Monday, May  13th, 2013

The Triple Play Show will have 5 shows per month.  Each show will be about 1 hour

The Triple Play Show will have 5 shows per month. Each show will be about 1 hour.

By The Big Ticket Show ( AKA Triple Play Podcast on http://www.mlbreports.com)

Guests in this Podcast – MLB Reports Nationals Correspondent David Huzzard of Citizensofnatstown.com ( and MLB Reports Pirates Correspondent Brad Cuprik

On a Mother’s day edition of the triple play podcast we heed the advice of our mother’s and turn the lemon of our original guest being unable to join us into the lemonade of Bard Cuprik of mlbreports.com  (Check out his latest Roster Tree piece – where he goes through the 6 degrees of separation of a how each pitcher arrived in a Bucs uniform here ) – and David Huzzard of the Citizens of Natstown podcast (and Writer) dissects the pitching and the Nationals start to the 2013 Season. Read the rest of this entry

Nick Swisher to Washington: The Nationals Are Looking to Add a Key Free Agent Bat to Their Lineup

Tuesday November 13th, 2012

Kyle Holland:  On Saturday, the Nationals announced that they were re-signing manager Davey Johnson for the 2013 season. With the Nats clearing up the managerial situation it leaves the rest of their offseason for signing free agents. One free agent they will start with is outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher.

Swisher would be a great fit in a Washington uniform. He just recently rejected the Yankees offer of $13.3 million for one more year in New York. With Adam LaRoche declining his qualifying offer from the Nationals, they could let him walk and sign Swisher. Swisher has been known to play first base along with his usual outfield, so he could be a great replacement for LaRoche. Added versatility is always a bonus in today’s game. Read the rest of this entry

The 2013 Nationals Appear Primed to Make a Run at the World Series

Friday October 26th, 2012

Sam Evans: The Washington Nationals had a somewhat disappointing end to their season, losing to St. Louis in five ALDS games. Nonetheless, the Nationals had a tremendous season and should be pleased with where they stand heading into next year. With the NL East teams around Washington getting older and losing talent, there’s no reason why Washington can’t repeat as division champions in 2013. In fact, the Washington Nationals should be favored to make a World Series push in 2013.

Ever since the franchise moved from Montreal in 2005, Washington had yet to have a season over .500 and finish in the top two in the NL East. 2011 was a surprising season in which Washington won ninety-eight games, the most in major league baseball, and won the N.L. East. Their Pythagorean record (96-66) suggests that the Nationals 2012 season was not a fluke. Washington was led by Ian Desmond, rookie Bryce Harper and a tremendous young group of starting pitchers. 2012 wasn’t a fluke and Washington won’t be putting a team on the field in 2013 that is much different. So why can’t they repeat as division champs? Read the rest of this entry

2012 MLB Postseason Preview: Every Pitch Counts

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

October is the time when there is a quiet current of electricity surrounding baseball. There is an intensity in every second between pitches, and the players really zone in. This is the reason they played 162 games through the regular season. They are all after one thing: A World Championship.

Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer):

With the last games of the 2012 regular season being officially completed yesterday I get the same feeling I do every season…it’s a sickening pain in my stomach, that makes me want to hibernate and not wake up until April comes around.  For baseball lovers, we are all very familiar with this feeling.  We find solace in the fact that with the exception of the month of November, we can still follow  baseball transactions all year-long.  Furthermore, we cannot get too upset; baseball isn’t really over.  In fact, some might argue that it is just beginning!

The boys of summer play all those games in the summer heat for one reason.  The grueling 162 game schedule sees many ups and many downs, and all of these challenges are met with a firm resolve:  to do whatever it takes to get to the postseason.  October is the time when the weather turns cold, and ball players become unshaven warriors duking it out to be the victorious few who have the honor to take a championship ring home this offseason. Read the rest of this entry

The Demise of the Montreal Expos Franchise: Part 3 of the Expos Article Series

Friday June.29/2012

Note from Chuck Booth:  I am attempting to bring the history for each of the 30 MLB Franchises into a 5 part series that will focus on 1. The teams history. 2. The hitters 3. The pitchers. 4.  The Team’s Payroll going into in 2013 and 5. (The stadium articles will all be done next summer when I go to all of the parks in under a month again.)  To follow all of the updates, be sure to check my author page with a list of all archived articles here.

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on Twitter)-  The Montreal Expos were a model franchise from 1979-1994.  They only finished under .500 in 3 seasons out of 15 in this stretch of time.  The club simply drafted better than any other Major League team.  Long before the Oakland Athletics and Billy Beane came up with MoneyBall, or the Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays showed us that you can have good runs with your baseball teams on a shoe string budget, the Expos wrote the book on it.  The Expos were forced to trade away their best talent when they came up for free agency or lose them  outright.  There was no way the team could ever re-sign the players.  It wasn’t even in question.  The province of Quebec said good-bye to Hall of Famers:  Pedro Martinez, Vlad Guerrero, Tim Raines and Andre Dawson in the prime of their careers with nothing back in return as Free Agents.

Gary Carter was the 1st great player to be traded by the club after the 1984 season.  Other great players like Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou and John Wetteland were jettisoned out the door as part of a 1995 Firesale after the strike/lockout because the team could not pay them after a massive loss in revenue at the end of the 1994 season. With the clock ticking on the Expos brass (financially as soon as the lockout was lifted) the ownership could not pay the bills!  It is a sad commentary on this franchise that the two big work stoppages in 1981 and 1994 stifled this franchise-perhaps the most out of any team in the MLB.  It all ended up costing the Expos the team and/or a chance to build a brand new ballpark in the downtown core to ever revitalize the interest of the avid baseball enthusiasts in Montreal.  This fan base had suffered enough and they made the baseball club pay for it at the turnstiles.  They had suffered 7 losing seasons at Jarry Park, a 2 billion dollar scam gone wrong in what was Olympic Stadium, a park that was supposed to be a modern-aged retractable roof that never materialized at all and Quebec was left with the bill.  I don’t blame the fans for walking away from the game after the 1994 strike.  They had supported the team through many of trials an tribulations-only to be disappointed time and time again by the economics of baseball.

There is a lot more of this article past the video clip, just click on: READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY

For Part 1 of the Article Series, The Expos Hitters: click here

For Part 2 of the Article Series, The Expos Pitchers: click here

For Part 4 of the Article Series, The Washington Nationals Franchise 2005-2012: click here

For Part 5 of the Article Series, The Nats Best 25 Man Roster 2005-2012 click here

A nice tribute video to the club!

Read the rest of this entry

Top 10 Stat of the Week ( Career HRs With One Team )

Sunday June.24/2012

‘Hammering’ Hank passed the legendary Babe Ruth as the ALL-Time HR leader in 1974. Some still feel that he is the ALL-Time HR leader with the admitted steroid use from Leader Barry Bonds. –Photo courtesy of goldenagebaseballcards

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)-  Seemingly gone are the days where most of the MLB players stick with one team for their whole careers.  As of right now there are not too many superstars that have spent their entire careers with one organization.  Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are 1st ballot Hall of Famers.  Chipper Jones should make the BBHOF.  Todd Helton is close to retiring but I am not sure the voters will see him worthy.  There are some promising chances that Ryan Braun and David Wright might play their entire careers with their current clubs, however with Braun’s PED fiasco last year I just don’t see him entering Cooperstown.  Wright must re-sign with the ownership hemorrhaging, this will prove hard for the Wilpons funds thanks to Bernie Madoff.  When it comes to starting pitching, the list is shrunken that much further.  Justin Verlander is the active win leader with a player only having played for one team.  He has 114 wins with the Tigers, anybody above him on the active ALL-Time Wins list has pitched for multiple teams already.  The next active leader for one team pitched for is Ervin Santana with 91 wins for the Angels franchise.  Felix Hernandez has 90 wins for the Mariners.  Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain have played their entire careers for the same team so far and have CY Young titles amongst them, but have a long way to go in establishing Hall of Fame Careers.

That brings me to my next stat.  There are 9 players in history who have hit 500 HRs or more for one team.  All of them are in the Hall of Fame except for Barry Bonds (who becomes eligible next year.) I am not sure the writers will cast a vote for him because of his steroid use.  When I got the idea for this article, it came to be because I was amazed that Paul Konerko has hit over 400 HRs with the Chicago White Sox.  Again at age 36, Konerko has a look at 500 HRs with the Chicago team.  Right now he can end the season with about 410-420 HRs.  Provided he can play 3-4 years more and have productive seasons, he may reach the milestone.  Chipper Jones is the only other active MLB Player to have 400 HRs with one team.  Larry is slowing down though and will most likely retire after this year.  Read the rest of this entry

Why the Washington Nationals Will Make the Playoffs in 2012

 

Thursday June 21st, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: The last time the city of Washington D.C. saw a World Series trophy was in 1924. That was the work of the Washington Senators with the help of Walter “Big Train” Johnson. Although this year’s version of the team doesn’t have a veteran baseball legend, they do have a couple budding superstars. First is Stephen Strasburg. The first-overall pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg made an enormous impact in his first career start and most of the 2010 season, but ended up on Dr. Lewis Yocum’s table towards the end, and missed most of the 2011 season. Thankfully for the Nationals, Strasburg is back and better than ever, posting an 8-1 record and a 2.45 ERA (before Wednesday’s win versus Tampa Bay: 7IP 5H 2ER 10K and got the win). Unfortunately for the Nationals, Strasburg is on an innings limit this year to protect his young and fragile arm, so he probably won’t be available to start games come September and October.

Thankfully for the Nationals, they have a very deep pitching staff. Strasburg is backed up by Gio Gonzalez, who the Nationals traded for this winter, Jordan Zimmermann, and also newly acquired Edwin Jackson. Gonzalez has finally come into his own after having some pretty decent seasons in Oakland. He has almost identical numbers to Strasburg with an 8-3 record with a 2.52 ERA. With numbers like these at his young age, a Cy Young or two may be in his future. Gonzalez has no innings limit, so he will most definitely be the anchor to the rotation down the stretch. An option for the Nationals if they have a comfortable lead in their division (which is weak as of now… I’ll cover that later), would be to move Strasburg to the bullpen in late August or early September and have him in the rotation for the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry

Bryce Harper: 2012 National League All-Star, ROY and MVP?

 

Wednesday June 13th, 2012


Bernie Olshansky: It’s finally Bryce Harper’s time. He’s been up for just about a month and a half and he’s already making a contribution. Some were a tad bit skeptical as to how he would break into the league (including myself), but with the way Harper is playing now, there isn’t a doubt in my mind about his readiness for The Show and the Midsummer Classic. Harper clearly hasn’t had a problem producing, hitting a solid .303 with seven home runs and 19 runs batted in, to go along with three stolen bases in 39 games. For the amount of games he’s played, with these numbers he should named be an All-Star in 2012. If he gets voted in to start, he would be the youngest positional starting player in MLB All-Star game history.

With the Nationals fans’ excitement behind him, Harper should have no problem getting the votes to get to Kansas City. Over the past few years, fans have elected some questionable players, most notably last year’s election of Derek Jeter, who got off to a slow start. Even if Harper isn’t a shoo-in (which with his numbers, he is), he should be on the team. Harper hasn’t played enough to qualify for the batting leader board, but if he did, he would rank 13th among National League outfielders in average, and he is ahead in home runs of notables Justin Upton (5), Adrian Gonzalez (5) Pablo Sandoval (5), and fellow rookie star Mike Trout (6). 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)

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

An Interview with Nationals Park Expert Ben Fallon

Monday, April.16/2012

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- I had the chance to talk to Ben Fallon recently.  Ben is one of the most hardcore baseball fans from the city of Washington.  We discussed food, the President’s race and the outlook for the young club.

CB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Ben.  Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a Nationals Fan?”

BF: “I am a New Jersey native and lifelong Yankees fan who moved to the Nation’s Capital back in 1995.  I came to Washington to work in politics, working both on Capitol Hill and in the Bush Administration before taking my current job with the Defense Department. I have been a Nationals Partial Season Ticketholder for every season but one since baseball returned to DC in 2005, attending 30-40 games per season. ” 

CB: “Describe your favorite part about being a baseball fan?”

BF: “I just love the game. I love the history.  I love the strategy.  I love being at the games in person and picking up on the signs, the body language and the small parts of the game you miss watching on TV.  I enjoy going to games with family and friends, its 3 hours of entertainment, stress relief, good times and famiily bonding all in one.”

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Sample of what my Friday Travel Blog will Cover

Friday, February 03, 2012 

Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer)- Since writing about traveling to ballparks  is what I know most about, I thought I would take the next 9 weeks (before the season starts) writing articles that extensively go through every part of my expertise.  Over the course of the last five years I have done countless hours of research on this subject matter, so I am going to share my information with you in hopes you may save some time or money this 2012 MLB season.  I am sharing my knowledge of: baseball tickets, maps, frequent flier miles/reward points, car rentals vs. driving your own car, hotels, airports and finally time management & budgeting.  Here is a sneak preview of what I will be posting.

Car Rentals

  The best way to ensure that you have money available on your credit card, (keeping in mind that most rental places take a $200 minimum deposit), is to bid on your car through www.priceline .com. There is a feature where you can bid on your car rental for specific airport locations called ‘BID NOW.’  You can offer a price that you have to pay immediately, but in most cases you will find a serious discount. I have often bid 40% of the average car rental per airport price and had the offer go through.  Anyways, 80% of the time your winning bid will come back to rent from Alamo/National Car Rental.

Car Rentals

 Alamo/National is the best car rental company by far in the United States. Not only do they have exceptional customer service—–they also do not charge your credit card for any $ amount more than the price of your rental. Do yourself a favor and also sign up for ‘The Emerald Club Rewards Program’ from National. They have airport bypass the counter options that enable you to USE self-serving kiosks that do not require you to stand in line at the car centers-rather pick your class of car and proceed to the exit. Other car rental companies have deposit charges that are held against your credit card.  If you are going on a 4 city trip, you can easily have up to $800-1000 dollars locked up in these deposits, this can be harmful in you enjoying your trip. Not all of us have the affordability to have so much money unavailable. An average of 5-8 days is what it will take for the deposited dollars to be restored when your car rental is completed.  National is the only car rental company in which you can redeem a free earned day car rental for a one-way drop off without paying an excessive fee if you have earned a free rental reward day.  I will give you an example.  This means you can rent a car in Los Angeles and drop it off it Albuquerque, New Mexico within the 24 hours for no money extra.  Also with this incredible deal, is that you pay just pennies in taxes for your accrued free rental days, where other car rental places can charge up to $20-30 just in taxes alone despite offering you the free day for a rental reward.  Perfect for that baseball traveler that wants to head in one direction!

Priceline

Priceline is great for bidding on car rentals, but is also fantastic for hotel rentals where you can use the same option to bid for your price of hotels. Honestly, when we are all in the middle of a big baseball road trip, the last thing we want is to spend excessive amounts of money on a hotel we are not going to use other than a quick sleep and shower.   Wouldn’t you rather spend a lot more time at the ball yard?  Again by bidding on the hotel, and paying for it right away you can ensure on a more of a budget/cost certainty. Even if the front desks take a small deposit at time of check in—these transactions are quickly released when you check out. The best to bid  is too low-ball your first few offers, then gradually increase your bidding. Now Priceline does make you alter your bid for every declined request you submit, so the key is to not act aggressive in frustration when you don’t win the bid.  The key here is to be patient.  After 24 hours, you can re-open up all columns to bid again with an increased offer from your first one. Just chart your offers to slightly increase your amount until you have success. I would not suggest you use Priceline for airline flights because the winning bid will usually feature layovers, or more importantly, the times of the flights on won bids may not be conducive to arriving in time for a baseball game in your destination city.

HOTELS

For those economy travelers such as myself, I implore you to use Motel 6 and/or Super 8 as hotel chains to stay throughout the USA. They are decent hotels for the $value you pay. The best feature about these hotels is the ability to check in by 11am-12pm. Most 3-5 star hotels have check in times that start and 3 or 4pm. Again if you are flying or driving in from some other place do you really want to drive around for 3-4 hours sight-seeing because you are simply waiting for a check in time?  Most baseball parks open their gates by 5PM for night games.  Plus with these places cash is preferred, so they do not require a deposit on your credit card. If you are staying in the same city or have sufficient time to stay in one hotel, I would recommend you use Priceline to bid on your hotels. You can save up to 50% off with winning bids on 2-5 star hotels. Keep in mind that most of those hotels can save you money vs the budget hotels, with their free breakfasts.

Travel Note:Traveling to other cities with luggage is hard to finagle sometimes. When arriving in a new city, there may be time constraints or monetary issues that make you think about your luggage. Before you make any purchases for your trip, you must be cognizant of where your luggage will be at all times throughout the travel. You will not be allowed to bring your suitcase through security at the ball parks. Most cities will not even allow you to bring a briefcase into the games. So therein is a dilemma. If you are able to make it to your hotel before the game then your luggage will be okay.  The same can be said if you have rented a car. The toughest games for luggage management are day games when arriving from other cities. For the Eastern Seaboard there is an ally you can use—and it is called ‘Amtrak.’

Amtrak Trains/Greyhound Buses

Both of these methods of transportation are  a great way to see a bunch of baseball games fast while missing a lot of cluttered highway traffic, particularly in: New York-Baltimore-Washington-Philadelphia-Chicago-Milwaukee. Not only will you save gas/traffic scenarios-but Amtrak has a baggage check option at most stations for $3-4 dollars an item per day. All you have to do is have an itinerary, (coming or going) and you can check your luggage items. You will have to monitor the hours of operation for these places-however this option is exceptional when attending matinée games in any of these cities. New York’s Amtrak Station-(New York Penn Station), is a life saver when you can drop off your luggage and avoid renting a car. ‘Greyhound Bus Lines’ is also a good alternative for this in the cities of : Tampa Bay-Miami-Los Angeles-San Diego-Minnesota-Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Kayak.com

Early morning flights are usually the cheapest airfares. I always use www.kayak.com when booking flights into baseball cities.  If you are flying to cities like Cincinnati-Milwaukee-Detroit-Houston-Atlanta-or Dallas you may be shocked at how much they charge for flights. There is a way to get back at those airlines. I have done the following several times. Since these are hubs for other cities from big airlines,  I would check flights from your starting departure and use your intended city of these listed above as a stop-over and then you can walk off the plane during the stop-over if it is cheaper—-and providing you are traveling without checked baggage—example.  Three years ago I had to fly from Pittsburgh to Detroit during a double-header attempt for the first day of my World Record Chase. I needed a Pittsburgh Northwest Airlines flight that left at 5:15 PM  directly to Detroit that arrived at 6:28 PM—it was the only non-stop flight that I could get that would give me a chance to make the Detroit game on time. There was a problem when the price came back was $500  for what was less than a 500 mile flight!  I went to work with my strategy.  I came up with a flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago-with the 1st leg of the trip being my flight that arrived in Detroit at 6:28 as the layover.  The price for this flight was $130. There are many instances of this. I will explain more in the book how I used this scenario for a flexible schedule in case of make-up games.

Air Lines Best To Fly With:

Southwest Airlines-‘I wanna get away’ feature at http://www.southwest.com is a good price point for all of this airline’s domestic flights.  Southwest might be marginally higher in price than some other airlines, however they do not charge for the 1st 2 checked bags as you may have seen from their steady TV Ad Campaign.  They also do not charge transfer flight fees.  This airline is setting the pace for customer price gouging acknowledgement.

Air Tran Airways-Quite frankly, they are the best airline in the USA for MLB fans.  They are cheap, have newer airplanes with the most leg space for a coach ticket. They also offer more one-way non-stop tickets in the morning.  Oh yeah…They are the official airline of XM Sirius Radio.  You can listen to MLB games live in flight, or during off hours you can catch up on all of your favorite shows on XM Home Plate.  Air Tran only charges $75 in case you have to change your flight at anytime plus the difference in flight.  This price is half of most of the legacy airlines.  Should you miss your Air Tran flight they also let you fly stand-by for the rest of the day on any remaining flights to your city of destination.

This is just the start as I will provide a game plan for all of  the 30 MLB cities.  I will take a look at all facets/methods of travel-that will include money and time-saving tips.   After all, don’t we all want to see as many baseball games as we can without being hit in the pocket-book?

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

 

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Can the Rangers Win the 2012 World Series?

Sunday November 6, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Cardinals Win the 2011 World Series and Freese Named MVP

Saturday October 29, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:      The game of the year turned out to be a non-starter at the end.  Before game time I predicted a 5-1 Cardinals victory.  I was close…they took it 6-2.  The big reason for my vision was the fact the Cardinals had ace pitcher on the mound, Chris Carpenter.  The Carp was solid on this night as he gave Tony La Russa as strong out of an outing as could have been expected on short rest.  Carpenter went 6.0 innings, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, 2 walks and striking out 5.  With the Cards’ ace in the zone, the Rangers could not muster any runs after the 1st.  Not only did the Rangers not score any runs, but the Cardinals bullpen was perfect for the final 3 innings, in not giving up any runs, hits or walks.  Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte played as they did for most of these playoffs as the St. Louis Cardinals became the 2011 World Series champions.

While Carpenter got his second World Series victory, Matt Harrison took his second loss.  Harrison pitched decently, going 4.0 innings and giving up the 3 Cardinals winning runs.  Ron Washington proceeded to bring in Scott Feldman, C.J. Wilson, Mike Adams (who gave up the 4th run), Mike Gonzalez and Alexi Ogando.  The difference in this game hitting-wise was David Freese coming up big again with 2 RBIs and Allen Craig delivering the game winning run, a solo home run in the 3rd.  Those two relatively unknowns coming into the playoffs delivered time and time again for La Russa in this postseason.

There are 4 main components to the Cardinals winning the World Series this year:

1)  David Freese:  World Series MVP was a man on fire in October and was the overwhelming choice for the award.  Freese hit .397 in the postseason, 5 home runs and a record 21 RBIs.  It seems that every time the team needed him, Freese came through.  Considering that the third base was a question mark for the Cardinals coming into the season, Freese was exactly the player the team needed at the right time.

2)  Chris Carpenter:  Every big game, every time the needed a big performance, Carpenter was there.  All Carp did this year was get the team into the playoffs, knock off Roy Halladay and the Phillies in the NLDS and win the final World Series game 7.  Carpenter has been Mr. Steady for the team and fulfilling the role of ace in every sense of the word.  Sure the Cards had other weapons to rely upon.  But no Carpenter…no championship.

3)  The Bullpen:  Looking at the numbers, the Cardinals bullpen was obscene this postseason.  Tony La Russa had so many weapons out there as his pen gelled at the right time.  When a team can almost count on 3-4 shutdown innings every night, they stand a good chance of winning.  Jason Motte blossomed into the closer that was envisioned for him and as he honed his control, he has been nearly untouchable.  Dotel, Rhodes and the boys have been as strong a part of this team as any bullpen I have ever seen.  The Cardinals caught lightning in a bottle with this group and rode them all the way to the World Series.

4)  Tony La Russa:  Say what you want about TLR: the man won the big one.  Another World Series championship under his belt and second one in St. Louis.  Considering how many critics blasted him during the season and the Cardinals seemed to be a non-factor going  into September, credit needs to be given where it is deserved.  Too often in sports we are quick to blast a manager for making a mistake, but not quick enough to throw praise where it is due.  It is my feeling that in the aftermath of the past week, many critics were relentless on their criticism of La Russa after the bullpen phone fiasco in game 5.  But even if there is blame to be laid there, the bottom line is game 5 was that the Cardinals bats went cold in that game and the team could not deliver a win.  A manager can only do so much.  His team needs to play well in front of him.  Game 7 was about Carpenter and the bullpen, with some timely hits by Freese and Craig.  But Tony La Russa helped guide this team, with bullpen selections, lineups and match ups and in-game decisions.  TLR is a master chess player and in 2011, his smarts and wits played a big part in his team over taking the Braves for the Wild Card and beating the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers.  Few, if any managers, are as prepared and knowledgeable as TLR.  The Cardinals manager was one of the main building blocks of this particular World Series championship.

Where do we go from here?  After stories and questions circulated all season long, we will finally find out who will be back in St. Louis come 2012.  After winning their second World Series championship together, I am prepared to bet the farm (if I had a farm to bet) that Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols will be back together next year.  With the foundation of the bullpen, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday, combined with Carpenter and a returning Adam Wainwright, this team has the pieces to make a dynasty run.  Pujols has the chance to create a legacy for himself.  His time, his standing in history, all centre around St. Louis.  Pujols and his manager have too much invented in this city and team to turn away.  Both will be back in 2012 as the Cardinals are now the team to beat going into next year.

With the ending of game-7 of the World Series, the major league season has come to an end for another year.  Heading into this offseason, we will have many topics, issues and news stories to cover.  The MLB Winter Meetings.  Winter Ball.  Free agency.  The Collective Bargaining Agreement.  The future of Bud Selig.  MLB Expansion and Realignment.  Spring Training.  Baseball never ends.  The season, from spring training to the World Series is 8 months long.  We are now coming to the hardest 4 months of a baseball fan’s life.  With baseball news stories everyday, MLB reports will continue to bring you the latest news and analysis that you have come to expect all season long.  MLB 4 Life.  That is the name of the game.  On this day, we congratulate Tony La Russa, David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals on an exciting and well deserved World Series championship.  This has been one of the most exciting postseasons and World Series of all time.  Now…the countdown to Spring Training begins.

 

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

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

Freese Sends Cardinals to Game 7 of the World Series

Friday October 28, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Much attention was thrown to Tony La Russa and “Bullpen Phone Gate” following Game 5 of the World Series.  Despite the trend to make the Cardinals manager into the goat, the team lost on Monday night 4-2 by failing to execute the clutch and hit with runners in scoring position (1 for 12 in the game).  With the Rangers leading the series 3-2, a Texas win on Thursday would have clinched the first ever World Series title.  But the Cardinals and their improbable hero, David Freese had other ideas on this night.  As a result, we are now headed to a Game 7 tonight (Friday).  The World Series is down to a 1-game playoff, sudden death matchup, for all the marbles.

Both starters in Game 6 enjoyed decent outings.  Colby Lewis pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up 4 runs (2 earned), with 3 hits, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts.  Lewis did give up a 2-run home run to Lance Berkman in the first inning, his only serious blemish on the night.  His counterpart, Jaime Garcia, lasted only 3 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks while striking out 5.  Clearly La Russa did not see enough in his starter to leave the fate of his team’s season on his shoulders.  As a result, St. Louis began to trot out their bullpen while Texas followed suit shortly after. 

The Rangers used 7 relievers on the night, while the Cardinals used 6.  Both bullpens were shaky on the night, as the  teams exchanged runs throughout the game.  The Rangers actually held a 7-4 lead going into the 8th, but Derek Holland in his 2nd inning of work on the night gave up a solo home run to Allen Craig to cut the deficit to 7-5.  From there, Mike Adams gave up a couple of hits in 1/3 inning pitched and gave way to closer Neftali Feliz.  With the Rangers a sniff away from the World Series crown, Feliz gave up 2 more Cardinals runs to send the game into extra innings. 

The teams exchanged 2 runs each in the 10th inning.  The Rangers runs came off Cardinals closer Jason Motte, who was uncharacteristically pitching a 2nd inning in the game.  Josh Hamilton, well rested after a couple of days off, launched a  2-run shot to give the Rangers the lead.  But Texas quickly gave back the runs in the bottom of the inning courtesy of a Darren Oliver blown save.  The game proceeded to the 11th inning.  With Mark Lowe on in the bottom of the inning to face David Freese, the probable World Series MVP (if the Cards win it all tonight) launched a solo home run to win the game for St. Louis.  One batter faced for Mark Lowe and the game was done.  St. Louis comes back to take the heat off their manager and breathe new life into the squad as the series is now tied at 3-3.

Looking ahead to tonight’s starting pitchers, anything can happen at this point.  St. Louis will likely go with Chris Carpenter on short rest.  The Rangers can use a combination of different arms, with Matt Harrison possibly getting the nod.  Game 7 will be an exciting game, if for no other reason then it being a one-game sudden death playoff.  But if you didn’t get a chance to watch Game 6, try to locate a copy on tape.  One of the most exciting World Series games of all time, this one will be talked about for years to come.   No matter where you are tonight, do not miss out on tonight’s action.  It will be the final game of the 2011 season and your last chance for live baseball until March.  Game sevens also don’t come along very often.  With two high-octane offenses ready to duke it out in St. Louis, I am counting down the minutes until game time.  Let’s play ball! 

 

 

 

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

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

Rangers One Win Away: World Series Game Five Recap

Tuesday  October 25, 2011


MLB reports – Sam Evans:  The Rangers and Cardinals played a thrilling game on Monday night in Arlington. Let’s take a closer look at how the Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the series.

Heading into this game, I don’t think anyone expected C.J. Wilson to do anything special. Instead, Wilson turned in 5 1/3 quality innings giving up only two runs. Luck was on his side as he walked five, and gave up four hits but overall it was a pretty decent start. If indeed Wilson does leave Texas after this season, he left the 51,000 Rangers fans at the game with a good feeling about him.

The Cardinals scored two runs in the second thanks to an error and a wild pitch. In the third, Mitch Moreland got a 2-0 sinker from Chris Carpenter, which he hit 446 feet to right field. So heading into the sixth, the Cards’ had a 2-1 lead.

I really enjoyed Ron Washington’s approach to pitching to Albert Pujols. He basically decided that he’d rather put Pujols on base then risk pitching to the best right-handed hitter in the last decade. It was still a risky decision with Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman hitting behind him. For the most part his decision paid off, as Pujols didn’t score on any of the three times he was walked.

In the bottom of the sixth, Adrian Beltre did what Texas signed him to do. He got a hanging curveball and went down on one knee to hit it out of the park to deep left-center field. Adrian Beltre is so much fun to watch. From his home run head rubs to his stellar play at third base, i wish FOX had a camera just focused in on him the whole game. At the time, this homer looked to be crucial as it tied the game up in what was shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel.

In the top of the seventh, Allen Craig tried to steal on Mike Napoli. Unfortunately, he had literally no jump on the pitcher, and Albert Pujols was the batter. Napoli threw him out and it wasn’t even close. So Ron Washington decided to put Pujols on base. Matt Holliday then singled to center, and took second on the throw, and after a Lance Berkman intentional walk the Cards’ had the bases loaded. Luckily for the Ranger’s, Alexi Ogando retired David Freese to end the inning and preserve the tie. As Jayson Stark pointed out on twitter, Ogando has faced 17 batters this series, and 11 have reached base. It will be interesting to see how Ron Washington uses Ogando in the upcoming games.

The Cardinals threatened later in the inning with runners on first and third and two outs. However, Carpenter got Mike Napoli to fly out to deep, deep center to end the inning. Carpenter turned in a very impressive start, especially considering he was facing one of the best lineups in the American League.

In the bottom of the eighth, Tony La Russa brought in Octavio Dotel to replace Chris Carpenter. Michael Young  jumped on a slider and hit a double into center field. Then after a Beltre strikeout, Dotel intentionally walked Nelson Cruz. La Russa then brought in Marc Rzepczynski to face the lefty David Murphy. Murphy hit a grounder off Rzepczynski’s leg and despite a valiant effort by second basemen Rafael Furcal, Murphy beat the throw to load the bases.

With the bases loaded, one out, and the crowd chanting, ” NA-PO-LI,” Mike Napoli belted a 1-1 slider off the right-center field wall. I think it’s amazing that with all the crazy managing of the bullpen that La Russa does, he didn’t bring in a different pitcher. According to La Russa after the game, he actually called for Lance Lynn instead of Rzepczynski. I’m not quite sure I believe that. Sure the stadium was extremely deafening, but it looks like La Russa just messed up.

Then, things got even crazier. After Rzepczynski struck out Mitch Moreland, La Russa brought in Lance Lynn. After Lynn intentionally walked Ian Kinsler, the sixth intentional walk of the game, he was promptly pulled for Jason Motte who struck out Elvis Andrus to end the nightmare inning. It’s not very often that i try to compare my athletic abilities with players in the majors, because i have so much respect for their dedication and hard work. However, tonight I feel confident that i could have pitched just as well as Lance Lynn. So Tony, if you’re looking for your next superstar IWOOGY ( intentional walk one out guy) you know where to find me.

As expected, after the game La Russa also blamed this event on bullpen miscommunication. This instance was even less believable than the first, I think the 67-year-old La Russa might have just forgotten that Lynn had only been out there for that one batter.

It’s crazy how quick the media can change their opinion on Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. One day they make him look like a genius, and the next day they make a case for his retirement. Tony La Russa has been managing for 35 years, he has watched more baseball games in person than almost all of us. He is with his players everyday and unlike the outside world, knows what’s going through most of their heads. Maybe Lance Lynn had a bad burrito before the game so that’s why La Russa pulled him after only intentionally walking Kinsler. My point is who knows what his reasons are, let’s just appreciate that we can watch a manager who has the guts to make all these daring decisions.

The time when La Russa gets himself in trouble is when he talks to the media. After the game, La Russa talked about not only the bullpen communications issues, but that Pujols got the hit and run sign when Allen Craig was thrown out stealing in the top of the seventh.

Overall, La Russa only blew the pitching aspect of the game for the Cardinals. St. Louis’s real problem was the inability to drive in runners in scoring position. They were 1-12 with RISP this game, and they are 8 for 43 with RISP in the series. If they are Cardinals fans are wondering how they are losing the series, they can look right to the fact that their team hasn’t been able to hit in the clutch.

Game six is Wednesday at 8:05 PM ET in St.Louis. Arguably the series two most effective pitchers will battle it out. Jaime Garcia will start for the Cardinals against Colby Lewis for the Rangers.

 

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

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan 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.

Cardinals Win Game One of the 2011 World Series

Thursday October 20, 2011

 

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  On a cold October night in St. Louis, Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson took the mound for their respective squads to battle in the long anticipated game one of the 2011 World Series.  As the title of this article indicates, the Cardinals took game one.  As the mastery and genius of Tony La Russa continued, here is a recap of last night’s action:

 

Texas Rangers at St. Louis Cardinals:  World Series Game One

 Despite the expectation for a high scoring affair, this game turned out to be very close.  The two high-octane offenses of the Rangers and Cardinals were kept at bay by great pitching and mother nature.  Bats seem to get cold in dreary weather for the most part.  Chris Carpenter went 6.0 innings for the win.  With his 8th postseason win, Carpenter passed the immortal Bob Gibson on the Cardinals all-time playoff win list.  Impressive company indeed.  Despite Carpenter getting frustrated with himself at times (and using choice language that came through on the broadcast), he enjoyed a great outing.  Only 5 hits allowed, 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.  His only blemish on the night was a 2-run shot given up to Mike Napoli.  The home run at the time erased the 2-0 Cardinals lead at the time.  But St. Louis was able to come back in the bottom of the 6th, with pinch hitter Allen Craig driving in the game winning run.  From there, the Cardinals pen took over with 3 shutout innings.  Relievers Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte combined to give up 1 hit and 1 walk (both by Salas in 1/3 of an inning) and 3 strikeouts to preserve the win for Carpenter.  Motte continued his incredible postseason run with his 5th playoff save, a 1-2-3 9th inning.

 C.J. Wilson was good, but not great on the night.  The Rangers ace has not come up big when his team needed him most, as he was fairly erratic on the night.  His final line read 5 2/3 innings pitched, 4 hits allowed, 6 walks, 3 earned runs and 4 strikeouts.  Alexi Ogando came into the 6th with 2 runners on and could not get the job done.  Mike Gonzalez and Scott Feldman came in from the pen as well, but the damage was done as the Rangers could not come back against the mighty Cardinals bullpen.  Questions arose after the game concerning Ron Washington’s use of his bench during the game.  Specifically, his choices of having Craig Gentry and Esteban German pinch hit instead of Yorvit Torrealba and Mitch Moreland, who did not end up coming into the game.  The bottom line for me is that Washington went with his feel and instincts.  If the moves pay-off, he looks like a genius.  In this case, they did not.  But let’s give credit where its due.  The Rangers are back on the big stage for a second straight year.  The Rangers must be doing something very right to make it this far.  Regardless of who would have batted in key situations, the Cardinals pen did its job tonight (as it has been doing all postseason long).  Tonight’s game was more about what Tony La Russa did right, rather than what Ron Washington did wrong.  But Washington will need to keep his chess playing skills sharp in this series if he hopes to have his team win the big prize. 

The big heroes on this night for St. Louis were Lance Berkman (2 hits and 2 RBIs), Craig, Carpenter and Motte.  Game 2 goes in St. Louis Thursday night, 8:05 PM ET.  Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia are set to faceoff.  It will be interesting to see how Garcia responds after receiving an early hook from his manager in his last outing in the NLCS.  This will be a pivotal game for the Rangers, as they do not want to go home to Texas down 2-0.  The Cardinals started off the World Series on the right foot.  Now it is just a question of whether the Cardinals bats and bullpen can keep the magic going for 3 more wins.

 

 

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

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

The Texas Rangers are Heading Back to the World Series

 

Sunday October 16, 2011

 

 

MLB reports – Sam Evans:  On Saturday night, Nelson Cruz and the Rangers advanced to the World Series, eliminating the Tigers from the playoffs. Let’s look at how the Rangers accomplished this feat:

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Six

The Tigers got off to an early lead with a Miguel Cabrera solo home run in the top of the first. Then in the top of the second, Jhonny Peralta homered to add another run to the Detroit lead. 17 of the Tigers 25 runs in this series came via the longball. If there was one thing that Derek Holland did wrong, it was leaving too many pitches up in the zone. Then, in the bottom of the third everything went wrong for Max Scherzer and the Tigers.

With one out, Elvis Andrus walked and Josh Hamilton followed him with a single. Then Michael Young jumped on the first pitch he saw and ripped it into left field, scoring Andrus and Hamilton. A quick visit to the mound did nothing for Scherzer who gave up a single then walked two straight batters before being replaced. Daniel Schlereth came into the game with the bases loaded and he allowed a 2 run single to David Murphy. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a short leash with Schlereth, choosing to pull him and bring in the Tigers’ game four starter, Rick Porcello. Thanks to some clutch hitting from the Rangers and shabby defense by the Tigers, by the time this nightmare inning was done, the score was 9-2 Rangers. This set a Texas franchise record for most runs in one inning in the playoffs. Most of the Rangers hits in the third resulted from their hitters jumping on pitches early in the count.

Detroit scored two more runs in the fifth off an Austin Jackson home run. Still, the Texas offense seemed to be unstoppable for the Detroit pitchers. Nelson Cruz continued his hot streak by hitting his sixth home run of the ALCS in the 7th. This is equally impressive considering Cruz was only 1-15 in the ALDS. Neftali Feliz came in to get the final three outs in what turned out to be a clobbering, with the final score 15-5 Rangers. This obviously wasn’t an easy game for the Tigers and their fans to watch, as the big third inning proved to be the killer for the Tigers.

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers and their entire organization for advancing to their second consecutive World Series. They will face either the Cardinals or the Brewers starting Wednesday night.

 

 

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

 

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

The Curious Case of Carl Crawford

Thursday September 23, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When the 2010 season concluded, many people looked at the trio of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth as easily the most sought after players.  Lee has not disappointed in Philadelphia, where he will garner serious attention for the NL Cy Young Award.  Werth and Crawford, however, have been pretty big disappointments after signing extremely lucrative contracts over 7 years.  Werth received $126M, while Crawford made the biggest splash, inking a deal worth $142M.  While Werth has been lucky to play in front of smaller crowds playing in Washington DC, Crawford has had to endure the masses of critics in Boston.  This is on top of playing in the AL East, battling for the division title, while the team is in a free-fall where the Tampa Bay Rays are gaining ground in the AL Wild Card race.

Crawford came to the Red Sox with HUGE expectations.  Fans of the Red Sox expected him to not only repeat his career season from 2010, but exceed his statistics.  In 2010 with the Rays, Crawford surpassed most of his best seasons in almost every statistical category.  He hit .307 with 19 home runs and 90 RBI, while scoring 110 runs and stealing 47 bases.  His on-base percentage was .356 and he slugged at a .495 clip, giving him an OPS of .851.  In 2011, surrounded by all-star and MVP caliber players, he has struggled to gain any kind of consistency.  He has limped into the end of September with a .255/.292/.401 slash line.

Crawford has only been able to steal 18 bases, which is by far his worst full season total in the MLB.  On June 17th, Crawford sustained a grade 1 strain of his hamstring, and did not return to the lineup until July 18th.  At the time, Crawford’s OBP of .275 and slugging percentage of .384 were near the bottom of the league.  If Crawford had been hot until the injury, and simply fizzled out after he came back, we would have a simple answer.

Crawford has actually fared better since the injury, but I believe he has lost a step.  Crawford relies on speed, and hamstrings often take a very long time to heal.  His game is based on slapping balls through the infield and driving balls to the gaps, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.  Many people thought that the Green Monster would be peppered with line drives off Crawford’s bat, as well as triples going into the deep right-center field gap.  With Crawford’s hamstring issues, he doesn’t seem to be able to drive the ball as well as in recent years.

Another issue with Crawford seems to be that he has been slightly unlucky compared to other years.  His BABIP over the course of his career is .329, while 2009 and 2010 it had been .342.  This year, the stat sits at .300.  Often, when seeing a dip in BABIP, you can look at a player’s line drive rate and see that the player is not hitting as many line drives.  Crawford’s line drive rate is 17.8%, which is actually up from last year’s 16.5%.  His fly ball and ground ball rates have also mostly gone unchanged.  One thing I did notice was that his percentage of bunts for base hits is 0.  Early in his career, Crawford would attempt to bunt upwards of 15 to 18 times per season.  This year, Crawford has only attempted three bunts.  This could be due to his hamstring not being 100% also.

Crawford’s dWAR, (or defensive Wins Above Replacement), which is a defensive stat that shows how a player is able to field balls inside and outside the zone of his position, has always been one of his strong points.  For outfielders, he has been near the top of the league regularly over the last five years.  This season, however, his dWAR is at -0.5, which negates entirely his limited offensive production.

With such close similarities in his batted ball rates, one would expect a slight drop in production due to his lower BABIP.  However, with such a large gap in last year’s production to this year’s, despite a better overall line-up batting around him, one has to really think about what has happened to Crawford.

Crawford may be a multi, multi-millionaire that most of us would give up anything to be, but what most of us forget is that these MLB superstars are human.  Hitting in front of 40,000 screaming, raving Red Sox lunatic fans surely cannot be an easy task.  When playing in Tampa for the first 6 years of his career, he rarely faced hostility or scrutiny at home.  The media has scrutinized every little move he has made this season, because he is under a microscope now.  All this pressure and expectations after signing such a huge contract can take a toll on a player both psychologically and physically.

Here is a radical thought: Fenway’s odd dimensions have actually hurt Crawford offensively.  Left fielders play shallower in Boston than in any other park, due to the Green Monster.  This means that shallow flares, bloop pop ups and even live drive singles are taken out of the equation.  While you can argue that this would then alter every other hitter’s stats, I think that the style of offense that Crawford plays, combined with bad luck, and a slight drop off in actual performance have been the main contributors to his poor statistics. 

Look for Crawford to settle into the Boston atmosphere and return to his career averages in statistics in 2012.  If he doesn’t, there will be many Sox fans clamouring to get rid of him at any cost.

***Today’s feature was prepared by 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.

 

Strasburg-mania Back With a Vengeance

September 6, 2011


 

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer- MLB reports):  The day so many people (namely the entire Washington Nationals organization) have been waiting for is finally upon us.  Stephen Strasburg, ultra phenom, who I covered his rehab here last week at the Reports, started against the LA Dodgers.  The hype that was produced was incredible, with every major US sporting website having a headline dedicated to Strasburg-mania. The twitter hashtag #MerryStrasmus has been coined and millions of people are tuning in to watch his first start since Tommy John Surgery.

Strasburg is a big, strong kid who is known for his tremendous work ethic.  It comes as no surprise that he was able to begin pitching less than a year after getting the surgery.

The weather today in Washington DC was wet and dreary, so manager Davey Johnson was close to pulling the plug on the start if the game was even delayed.  The Nationals wanted to make sure Strasburg had enough time to warm up and be ready to pitch in the game.  When the tarps were taken off the field around 6:45pm, Strasburg was in the middle of his warm-ups.

Dee Gordon led off the game with a double, but after that, Strasburg didn’t see any trouble the rest of the way.  Matt Kemp grounded out softly in between fly balls by James Loney and Juan Rivera in the first inning.  The second inning was vintage Strasburg, as he threw 3 fastballs between 95 and 97 mph with run and sink, then threw a change-up at 90 mph that Andre Ethier swung over for strike three.  Aaron Miles was then disposed of with a  99 mph heater, and Rod Barajas hit a lazy fly ball to center field.

The fourth inning saw Strasburg get two more strikeouts and give up a single to Rivera.  Gordon and Rivera’s hits ended up being the only two base runners against Strasburg.  His outing ended in the 5th inning after a fly out, ground out and foul out.

Strasburg was dominant. His 4-seam fastball was  95-99 mph throughout his 56 pitch outing, 40 of which were strikes.  His 2-seam fastball had great late life, sinking late and inducing ground balls. Only 6 breaking balls were thrown, and although they were pretty sharp and late breaking, it was clearly his 3rd best pitch.  Breaking balls are usually the last pitch to come around after Tommy John surgery, because pitchers don’t start throwing it until later in their rehab.

Strasburg’s final line reads as follows:

5IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 4K.

My pre-game prediction was:

5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 9K.

Aside from the strikeouts, I was pretty close.  Strasburg is such a rare talent, that a rainy and cold Tuesday night game against a non-contender such as the Dodgers drew over 5,000 more fans than their average season attendance.

Strasburg-mania really hit Washington on a cold, damp Tuesday night.  If he continues to pitch like this, the Nationals could be close to contending in 2012, but more likely in 2013 when Bryce Harper could be in the field on an everyday basis.



 

 

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

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan 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.

Strasburg-mania Returns to the Nationals September 6th

Saturday September 3, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Stephen Strasburg burst onto the MLB scene with the Washington Nationals in his first start on June 8, 2010 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In his 7 inning gem, he struck out 14 batters with 0 walks, and only 4 hits allowed.  Throughout the rest of the 2010 season, he relied on a fastball that averaged 97.3 mph.  Strasburg also possesses a hard biting, 82 mph curveball and a 90 mph changeup.  His 2010 season came to a grinding halt on August 21st that year, when he left a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he was dominating with elbow tightness.  The Nationals’ front office and coaches all held their breath until after Strasburg’s MRI, which revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Stephen Strasburg required Tommy John Surgery and would be on the shelf for a year.

Strasburg had been previously dubbed as the best pitching prospect ever.  Strasburg was drafted #1 overall out of San Diego State University in 2009 after what is arguably one of the best college careers for a pitcher of all time.  Strasburg signed a $15.1 million dollar bonus just 77 seconds before the deadline that year.  In the 2009 season leading up to the draft, Strasburg was pretty much unhittable.  In 109 innings, he gave up only 59 hits and 19 walks, compared to 195 strikeouts.

Strasburg’s 2011 season has seen him start off with his rehab in Viera, Florida at the Nationals’ spring training facility.  His first official appearance on his rehab stint was for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League in Single-A.  Strasburg pitched 1 2/3 innings as he was under a strict pitch limit, and gave up one run with 4 strikeouts.  Every 5th day the phenom has taken the mound for Hagerstown, then Potomac in the Advanced A-ball Carolina League.  He also pitched in AAA with the Syracuse Chiefs and for the Harrisburg Senators in AA.  His last start was the most impressive of all.  On September 1st, Strasburg toed the rubber for Harrisburg against the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA affiliate.  Through 6 innings, he faced one batter over the minimum, with only one hit and 4 strikeouts.  He also hit 99 mph on the radar gun a number of times.

Strasburg is expected to be called up to start on September 6th at home.  He is actually tentatively scheduled to start 4 home games in the month, in part so that the Nationals can reap the benefits of increased gate revenue as well as being able to control game time starts in case of inclement weather.

The fact that Strasburg took less than 12 months to be back on a mound is a testament to: a) the advances in the surgery, allowing for less rehab time; b) Strasburg’s work ethic; and c) Strasburg’s freakish body healing so quickly.  Strasburg will surely be handled with kid gloves, as he has his entire professional career, never throwing over 100 pitches in a single start.

Strasburg seems to be healthy, and will be looking to be as dominant as his early career has shown.  With ultra prospect Bryce Harper and young phenoms like Strasburg, Drew Storen and Ryan Zimmerman, including recently drafted Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke,  the future actually looks bright for a franchise that has been hurting for a winner.  With a growing fan base (and likely taking fans from the lowly Orioles), this young crop of players look to take the Nationals franchise from laughingstock to a true contender in the tough NL East.

Look for Strasburg’s first start of the season on September 6 against the LA Dodgers.  Strasburg is a true rare talent that only comes around once a generation.  So if you ever get a chance to see him live, I highly recommend you do so, because you could be a witness to history.

 

 

***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.

ON THE VERGE- RYAN TATUSKO, WASHINGTON NATIONALS

MLB reports:  At MLB reports we will be running an occasional series titled “On the Verge” where we profile a prospect about to hit the MLB scene.  In today’s feature, we profile Ryan Tatusko of the Washington Nationals.

Ryan was born March 27, 1985.  Standing 6’5” and weighing a solid 200 lbs, 2010 represented a breakout year for the right-handed pitching Tatusko.  He was drafted in the 18th round of the 2007 draft by the Texas Rangers out of Indiana State University (hometown Merrillville, Indiana).  After the 3 ½ seasons climbing up the Rangers system, Tatusko was traded on July 30, 2010 with fellow pitcher Tanner Roark for shortstop Christian Guzman. At the time of the trade, Tatusko was pitching for AA Frisco, both starting and relieving.  After being acquired by the Nationals, Tatusko finished 2010 exclusively as a starter for AA Harrisburg.

From 2007-2009, Tatusko did not have numbers that jumped out.  ERAs each year of 4.13, 4.46 and 4.64, records of 3-7, 3-11 and 7-6, in addition to WHIPs of 1.347, 1.372 and 1.338.  A young developing pitcher, but not one on the “radar” so to speak.  In the 1st half of 2010 with Frisco, Tatusko pitched in 24 games, 13 as a starter.  His record was 9-2 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.340 WHIP.  Definitely solid numbers, but a breakout was still in order.  That breakout occurred in the 2nd half of his 2010 season with Harrisburg, where Tatusko pitched in 6 games entirely as a starter, to a sparkling 3-1 record, 1.72 ERA and 1.173 WHIP.  His SO/BB ratio with Frisco was 1.45 and ballooned to 2.77 with Harrisburg.  When I review these numbers, I see a Kyle Drabek type pitcher at the beginning of 2010 and a Stephen Strasburg clone at the end.

Looking at Ryan’s final 2010 numbers combined in AA, we see a 12-3 record, with a 2.63 ERA and 1.295 WHIP.  From an 18th round pick with a microscopic chance of advancement in professional baseball, Ryan is a pitcher likely ticketed for AAA to start 2011 and could end up with the big club sometime between the all-star break and September.

I have had a pleasure to chat with Ryan on a couple of occasions by e-mail and did some research on him as well.  Tatusko has a strong curveball as well as good command of 3 other pitches- fastball, changeup and slider.  The debate early in his career was whether he would remain a starter or be moved permanently to the bullpen.  Young pitchers in the minors are often eased through both roles in the hopes that they will excel in one given spot.  As a 4-pitch pitcher and coming off a strong finish in 2010, Tatusko will likely be a full-time starter for the foreseeable future.  A student of the game, Tatusko keeps journals of his work and watches video in working on and perfecting his mechanics.  A tireless student of the game, Tatusko has the will and ambition to succeed at the pro-level, which is often described as “90% mental and 10% physical”.

Running into growing pains and adversity early in his career was likely a very good thing for Ryan.  Too often in the MLB we see hotshot prospects rushed to the majors, only to have their careers cut short by injuries or failed confidence.  By building his time up in the minors the right way, Tatusko has been able to prove himself and rise up the prospects ladder.  The Nationals going into 2011 are in an interesting situation pitching wise.  They have a young highly touted closer in Storen, that is expected to close for the club for the next decade.  The starting rotation however, is filled with questions marks and landmines.  Livian Hernandez is currently tabbed as the opening day starter.  Enough said.  From there we see the other potential starters being Marquis, Zimmerman, Lannan and Maya.  In the mix we have injured starters Strasburg and Wang who are not certain as to the roles they could play in 2011.  As soon as an opening arises, Tatusko will be one of the first to be called up this year.  If Ryan is able to grow in 2011 the way he did in 2010, his first stay in Washington could be permanent.

Ryan Tatusko is a man who eats, breathes, sleeps and bleeds professional baseball.  Talking to him, I got the sense that this was a ballplayer with no sense of entitlement that has worked hard and earned everything that he has accomplished.  Good luck to Ryan on the 2011 campaign and we all look forward to watching you as you continue your baseball journey to the show.

 

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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