Blog Archives

MLB Tommy John Surgery Updates

Thursday August 16th, 2012

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

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

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Ask the Reports: Saturday November 19th

Saturday November 19, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Ask the Reports is back! After some thought and re-branding: we have decided to drop the E-mailbag moniker and to keep this section as “Ask the Reports”, which will appear every weekend.  E-mails is but one form you can reach MLB reports. You can follow us on Twitter  and tweet and direct message your questions and comments.  You can “Like” us on Facebook and write on our wall.  You can also leave all questions and comments at the end of each article and page on the website. With social media exploding as it has, we are truly connected in so many ways.  

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Let’s get to your questions:

Q:  If a modern-day MLB pitcher won 20 games for 20 seasons, he would still be 111 wins short of Cy Young’s win record..  From Eric, LA
 
A:  Great comment.  A true reflection on the evolution of the game.  Let’s start by taking a look at the career of Cy Young:
Denton True Young (aka Cy Young).  Born March 29, 1867 in Ohio.  Threw right-handed, stood 6’2″ and weighed 210 pounds.  He played for 22 seasons: 1890-1911.  He finished his career with a 511-316 lifetime record.  He actually had 5 seasons of 30+ wins.  36 in 1892 and 35 in 1895 being the career highs.  The man pitched in 906 games, starting 815 of them.  He threw 7356 career innings.  Ponder that one for a minute.  He had 5 seasons of 400 + innings and a dozen more seasons of 300-399 innings.  17 years of 300+ innings pitched.  If a modern-day pitcher were to pitch 200 innings per year for 20 years, he would reach 4000 innings.  About half of Cy Young.  That says a lot to me.  In the modern age, the only person that will come close to pitching those kind of innings was Nolan Ryan.  The Ryan Express pitched for 27 seasons.  807 games, 773 starts.  5386 innings pitched.  Career record:  324-292.  So to win as many games as Cy Young, you would need to win 25 games per year for 20 years.  An impossible feat in today’s modern game.  A pitcher would need to start 35-40 games and pitch 300-400 innings per year.  With closers, middle relievers and the stats of MLB bullpens, teams will not allow their starters to go deep into all those ballgames.  A “quality” start is 6 innings pitched.  At 30+ starts per year, most starters today are lucky to crack 200 innings.  Without the starts and innings, starting pitchers have less and less chances to stay deep in games to win.  Plus pitchers need offensive support and health to stay on the field and have a chance to gain wins.  Teams have 5-man rotations and also skip  or push back starts during the season.  We will never see another Cy Young.  Not the way baseball is played today.
 
 
Q:  What do you think Pat Burrell will do after he retires?  Fans of Pat Burrell
 
A:  I could see Burrell taking time off from the game.  Counting his dollars and maybe taking in a party or two (rumor has it that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man…).  But given his quality eye at the plate with pop, Burrell clearly knew a thing or two about hitting in his day.  Almost 300 home runs and 1000 walks do not happen by accident.  When Pat the Bat is ready to return to the game, he will join the Giants or Phillies likely as a minor league hitting instructor, or full-time hitting coach.  If he can show he can coach in the minors, you could see him as a hitting coach or 1st base coach one day in the major leagues.  Pat the Bat has a future in baseball- provided that he can teach and work well with the kids in helping them develop their abilities at the plate.
 
 
Q:  With 8 years and $160 Million, is Matt Kemp worth Manny Money or did L.A. pay a $30 Million premium to keep him off the open market next year?  Or both?  From Jason
 
A:  They did call Matt Kemp “Baby Manny” for a reason.  The Bison has always been highly touted coming up with the Dodgers.  For the last 2 seasons going into this year, some of that promise was starting to show.  Campaigns with 26 and 28 home runs respectively will catch people’s eyes.  Kemp looked like a .290 hitter with 20+ home run pop.   Pretty good- but not a superstar.  Then in 2011, Kemp simply exploded.  He led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs, a difficult feat considering he had little support in the lineup and played his home games in a pitcher’s park.  With a .324 average, we nearly had a triple crown winner.  Kemp had a .399 OBP and .586 SLG.  Superstar numbers.  I am torn in analyzing him.  He was a year away from free agency.  Is he worth $20 Million per year for 8 years?  That is all relative.  Here is how I can best put it: what if Kemp would have hit .290, with 25 home runs with 90 runs and 90 RBIs in 2012 and hit free agency?  Would he have received the same deal?  Very likely.  At that point would the Yankees or Red Sox given him 7 years and $140 million to sign?  Carl Crawford got that same deal last year.  At 28 years of age, Kemp has shown good health and appears to be in great shape.  To say he is able to keep this pace until 35-years of age is not a stretch.  At worst, Kemp would have landed $15 million per season for 7 years, a total of $105 million.  So my thoughts are that the Dodgers would have needed to pay him $20 million for 2012 regardless.  By signing him early, they may have overpaid by $35 million over the life of the deal.  Or Kemp could have signed for $5 million per season on the open market (if no other alternatives) and cost an additional $35 million.  In a perfect world, it would have been nice to have seen more 2011-type seasons from Kemp before handing him this type of contract.  But given his fairly strong track record, health and young age, the Dodgers needed to lock him up now or risk very much losing him after 2012?  Did they overpay?  Not much by free agency standards.  Even if they overpaid by $30 million over the life of the contract, as long as Kemp continues to stay healthy and produce great to strong numbers, this was a deal that had to get done.  With the ownership turmoil and inability to attract and keep key players, this signing sends a message that the Dodgers are “back in business.”  Exactly what the fans want to hear.
 
 
Q:  Thoughts on Cespedes and Darvish? Any chance Blue Jays sign ‘em?  From Thomas
 
A:  There are approximately fans from 30 MLB teams that are hoping their teams will make a push for the 2 likely biggest international free agents.  Yu Darvish from Japan and Yoennis Cespedes from Cuba.  While Darvish will need to be posted and bid upon, Cespedes once declared would be free to sign with any team.  At 26-years of Cespedes is reported to be major league ready.  Viewers of his YouTube video are excited at his abilities at the plate.  He will reportedly cost in the $50 million range to sign.  Darvish, at 25-years of age, is one of the most highly touted pitchers ever to come from Japan.  If he is posted (which is still a big-if at this stage), Darvish is likely to cost north of $100 million (with the posting fee) to sign.  Will the Jays sign either or both?  My answer: no.  Not because the team is not competitive.  Far from it.  But because they will not throw a lot of money on risky propositions.  Neither player has played a single inning of Major League Ball.  No matter how each has fared competitively to-date, few could predict how their games will translate to the major leagues.  The Jays are already stacked in the oufield, with Bautista, Rasmus, Snider and Thames to choose from.  Edwin Encarnacion is even being tried out in the outfield in winterball.  Anthony Gose is also a young hot-shot prospect that will be landing in Toronto soon.  The Jays do not have a strong need for an outfielder and certainly will not want to devote a large portion of their budget to an unknown like Cespedes.  Especially given the mixed track record of Cuban hitters thus far in the majors.  The Jays’ budget would be better spent on pitching.  But to pay $50 million to win the Darvish posting and then sign him for another $50 million, that could translate to $20 million per season for 5 seasons.  That is insanity money.  At that point, I would rather sign C.J. Wilson for 5-years $100 million.  A far more certain return.  The Jays will pick up a strong DH bat this offseason, perhaps a new first baseman and 1-2 new starting pitchers.  They will be shopping.  But no mail-order-players are likely coming anytime soon to Toronto.
 
 
Final Q:  Psychology professor asked what our biggest stressors in life are. I said Brandon Inge still being a Tiger. Everyone looked at me weird.  From Ashley
 
A:  Time to change schools?  If any of your classmates are baseball fans, they must not watch the Tigers very often or simply fail to grasp the horrible play of Inge.  I rarely use the word “hate”. But as a Tigers follower (yes…they are my team), I do not have the time of day for Inge.  The team has him signed for 1 more season at $5.5 million and a team option for $6 million in 2013 or a $500K buyout.  Expect the buyout.  I get that he is a great team guy, and blah blah blah.  In 144 games in 2010, he hit .247 with 13 home runs.  Looking at his numbers, he had a great year in 2006 and 2009.  That is it.  But yet the Tigers have him signed through to 2012.  Last year, Inge hit .197 with 3 home runs and earned himself a trip back to the minors.  At 34-years of age.  He is done.  Done as dinner.  Stick the fork in him.  One of the most gifted defensive players that I have ever watched, he could do it all with the glove.  Perhaps he sticks around as a late-inning defensive replacement.  He is a good emergency catcher and strong third baseman.  But his career as a full-time player is over.  If the Tigers are prepared to leave him on the bench and mentor the young players, I am all for it.  But otherwise, they need to hang onto Ramon Santiago and simply let the Inge-era end.  Brandon Inge has cool tattoos and has provided some spark hits through his career.  Its time for the Tigers to thank him for his contributions and move on.   Thank you Ashley for understanding.  I feel your pain.
 
 

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


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. 

Where Will C.J. Wilson Pitch in 2012?

Thursday November 3, 2011

Sam Evans: Seven years ago, it looked like C.J. Wilson might never pitch in the big leagues after missing the 2004 season due to injury. Fast forward to the 2011 offseason, and he is the most desired starting pitcher on the free agent market. He  has been the Rangers best starter for the last two years. Now, Rangers fans have to wonder if he’ll be back in Texas in 2012.

C.J. Wilson was drafted out of Loyola Marymount University by the Texas Rangers in the fifth round of the 2001 Draft. The next couple years showed signs of promise for Wilson as he moved all the way up to Double-A, after just one year playing in the lower minors. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John Surgery which kept him out for parts of the 2003 season, and all of the 2004 season. In 2005, he pitched in 48 innings for the Rangers but posted a 6.94 ERA. From 2006-2006, Wilson pitched out of the bullpen for the Rangers. He was never spectacular but he recorded 52 saves and gave the Rangers an above-average bullpen arm.

Before the 2010 season, Wilson, behind the support of pitching coach Mike Maddux, earned a role in the Rangers starting rotation. Everything took off from there as Wilson became the Rangers best starter and he has been their best pitcher the last two years. He has posted an ERA under 3.35 these last two years while throwing over 420 innings. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last two years despite pitching half of his games at the hitter’s paradise also known as The Ballpark in Arlington.

The main knock on Wilson is that he can’t win the big game. This is a real issue because most teams willing to shell out the big money for Wilson are likely playoff contenders. I think that part of this has just been bad luck for Wilson. Another factor might be that he has started 77 games over the last two years. I think this recent postseason Wilson was just exhausted from the regular season. I think that some teams will look at Wilson differently after his performances this postseason but it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

C.J. Wilson is currently a free agent and the best starter available.The Nationals are rumored to be interested and they scouted Wilson in September this year. I think that Washington might be a good fit for Wilson to mentor young studs Stephen Strasburg, Brad Peacock, and Jordan Zimmerman. However, I don’t know if the Nationals really can compete with the other teams on a financial basis.If they could come up with the money ( they do have one of the richest owners in baseball) then I’d expect them to compete with the other top bidders.

The Yankees don’t seem to be too interested in Wilson but they might look elsewhere for the front of the line starter. In October, it was reported that the Yankees prefer Yu Darvish to C.J. Wilson. I think this is crazy that they would value a 25-year-old who hasn’t thrown one MLB pitch over a 31-year-old who has been worth more WAR than any Yankees starter under 300 pounds. Yet, according to Joel Sherman, one Yankees decision-maker considers Wilson a #4 starter on a championship team.

Other dark horse candidates for the Wilson bidding include the Royals, Cubs, Marlins, Blue Jays and Red Sox. The most likely team to land Wilson is the Texas Rangers. C.J. has made it clear that he wants to pitch for the Rangers. Wilson was recently quoted saying that there is a “great chance” that he would be pitching for the Rangers next year.

As for how much money he’ll get, I don’t think Wilson will get a $100M deal- but $85 million isn’t out of the question. Wilson sounds like he shouldn’t take too long to make up his mind on who to sign with. The odds are that we will see C.J. Wilson back in a Rangers jersey not only next year, but for many years to come.

***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 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.

Sabathia and the Yankees: Did anyone ‘CC’ this coming?

Tuesday November 1, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays and Prospects Writer – MLB reports):  At the stroke of midnight, C.C. Sabathia wouldn’t have turned into a pumpkin, but the Yankees had the potential of not getting the fairy tale they wanted.

But, lo and behold, a fairy godmother appeared, in the form of a signed contract, which showed that C.C. Sabathia would accept a new deal and remain with the New York Yankees.  The new deal also had the effect of adding 30 million dollars to his bottom line.

As such, Sabathia did not become a free agent. But at what cost?

Sabathia already had $92 million left on the old contract, or, in layman’s terms, about $23 million a year. Now, the new deal increases his salary to $25 million for 2016 and also gives the Yankees a $25 million option for 2017 with a $5 million buyout (depending on whether Sabathia can stay healthy in 2016).

Was the money worth it? At a quick glance it would appear that the money is well-spent for the Yankees. In fact, since signing a $161-million, seven-year deal with the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia has gone 59-23 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season for the Yankees.

But that’s not the only reason that the money was well spent for the Yankees.

If the Yankees would not have been able to convince Sabathia to stay, their rotation (as it stands now) would have consisted of A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and unless some offseason trading or signing occurs, likely David Phelps and Hector Noesi.

Had Sabathia not signed, the Yankees would have been even more likely to chase any and all free agent starting pitchers on the market, including C.J. Wilson of the Rangers, and Japanese phenom (who the Blue Jays and Rangers are currently rumored to be targeting), Yu Darvish.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Sabathia did agree to sign.  But I would not assume that the Yankees have stopped their search for additional starting pitchers to beef up their rotation.  Rather far from it.  In order to get over the hump, the Yankees will need to acquire complimentary pieces to their existing ace pitcher.

But with that being said, can one even imagine what would have happened if Sabathia had not stayed in New York?  And if perhaps some other team came and swept Sabathia off his feet during the upcoming free agency courting period?

If Sabathia had opted out of his contract and become a free agent, it would be interesting to review which teams could have been the right fit for the Yankees’ ace.  Potential suitors could have included the Nationals, who already are developing a young up-and-coming team with a stellar rotation. It could have also been the Red Sox, as after the Tommy John surgery to John Lackey, also require  more depth to their rotation.  Finally, the Los Angeles Angels could have been a suitable destination, because as was saw last year with Vernon Wells, the Angels do not care about the price.  Rather the team looks at the quality of the player (in effect, taking the player they want at any price). The Angels could have been a very strong suitor for Sabathia location-wise, given that CC is a California native.

Overall though, despite the fact that he was born in California, Sabathia admitted that his family has now made New York their home.  Sabathia moved his family to New Jersey and is an active member of the local community.  So much like the end of every fairy tale, CC of course, will live happily ever after.  Then again, making $122 million over the next five years, with the potential for $147 million ver six years, certainly helps!

 

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

 

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

Rangers Win Game 4: 2011 World Series Tied 2-2 and Preview of Game 5

Monday October 24, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays and Prospects Writer – MLB reports):  Already down 2-1 in the series, the Texas Rangers were craving a win against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.  Especially after being outscored 16-7 the game before.  And, with Derek Holland on the mound – - that’s exactly what they got.

The scoring started early for Texas when Josh Hamilton doubled in Elvis Andrus, giving the Rangers the early 1-0 lead in the first.

From then on in, Edwin Jackson settled in, allowing only one hit after the first inning. It was not the hits that hurt him though, but rather the walks.

In the fifth inning, after Jackson walked David Murphy and Nelson Cruz, Jackson was replaced by Mitchell Boggs to face power-hitter Mike Napoli.

So what did Napoli do? You guessed it – hit a home run – a three-run shot and his second of the series. His monster shot gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead.

That would be how the game ende,d as the Cardinals were only able to manage two hits the entire game and only once had a runner past first base (Lance Berkman’s double in the second).

While Napoli was a key reason to the Rangers’ win, the player of the game was certainly Derek Holland who went 8 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits, while striking out seven and walking two.

Interestingly, the two batters he walked came in the ninth inning, before he was replaced by Neftali Feliz, who got Albert Pujols (who went 5-5 with three homers the game before) to fly out and Matt Holliday to strike out to end the game.

The dominance of the Rangers pitching on the mound this night allowed the bullpen to take it easy who had already been overworked from allowing 16 runs the game before.

On Monday, the Cardinals look to regain the lead as they sent their ace, Chris Carpenter to the mound. With that said – the Rangers are hoping C.J. Wilson will rebound from his loss in game 1 and get the win to give them their first lead of the series.  Game time is 8:05 PM ET from Arlington.  From there, the World Series shifts to St. Louis.  The winner of tonight’s game will be only 1 game away from winning the 2011 World Series.  Given Carpenter’s dominance as shown in this year’s playoffs, St. Louis appears to have the edge over Texas and a struggling Wilson.  But as Holland showed last night, anything can happen in baseball on any given night.  Tonight’s game promises to be a classic.

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

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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 Cardinals Are Going to the World Series

Monday October 17, 2011

 

MLB reports – April Whitzman:  The Cardinals heading into last night in Milwaukee were one win away from advancing to the World Series.   Here is a recap of last night’s NLCS action:

 

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Six

One ex-Blue Jays pitcher got the win in game number six of the NLCS last night.  But it was not the one you would have expected.

Shaun Marcum was on the mound for the Brewers, hoping to bounce back from his previous start.  Things unfortunately did not go as planned, as Marcum lasted only one inning.  During his short stint, he allowed four earned runs on three hits, a walk, while striking out one.  The biggest hit came in the form of  a three-run home run, courtesy of David Freese.

Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson, however, did not fare much better.  He lasted only two innings himself, also allowing four runs.  Jackson actually allowed three home runs, including solo shots to Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Jonathan Lucroy.

Heading into the third, the score was already 5-4 in favor of St. Louis.  But the Cardinals weren’t even close to slowing down.  They scored another four runs, thanks to an Albert Pujols home run, a Nick Punto sac fly which scored Matt Holliday, and an Allen Craig two-RBI single that scored David Freese and Yadier Molina.

The Brewers tried to overcome the deficit in the following inning, when Yuniesky Betancourt doubled in Jerry Hairston to make the score 9-5 in favour of the Cardinals.

The Cardinals would continue to add to their lead in the following inning.  After two consecutive singles to start the inning, costly errors allowed Matt Holliday to score on Yadier Molina’s fielder’s choice. The errors also enabled Adron Chambers‘ sacrifice fly to score David Freese, his third run scored of the game.

Knowing how important the win was for the Brewers, they were not prepared to give up in this one.  They scored another run in the bottom of the inning when Ryan Braun grounded out to score Carlos Gomez. The score was then 11-6 for the Cardinals.

But alas, the Brewers offense was a little too late- as the Cardinals went on to add another run.  Albert Pujols hit another RBI single to score Daniel Descalso making it a 12-6 game.

Jason Motte came in for the ninth and got a 1-2-3 inning, as the Cardinals defeated the Brewers 12-6.  St. Louis won the series 4-2, moving on to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers. 

Ex- Blue Jay Marc Rzepczynski ended up  earning the win, pitching 2 1/3 innings, more than any other pitcher in this game.  He allowed one run on two hits, while walking one and striking out two.

Another Ex- Blue Jay, Octavio Dotel, also pitched in the game.  He went 2/3 of an inning without allowing a base runner and struck out one.

After the game, David Freese was named MVP of the NLCS tournament, after going 3-4 with three runs and three RBIs in the game and batting .545 (12 for 22) in the NLCS overall, with three homers, three doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs scored.

Game number one of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals commences on Wednesday night in St. Louis, with the National League enjoying home field advantage in this one (thanks to their All-Star game victory this year).  If it is anything like the series we have been watching thus far, it is going to be an exciting conclusion to an unpredictable and entertaining 2011 MLB postseason.

 
 

 

Today’s feature was prepared by our Blue Jays & Prospects Writer, April Whitzman.  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 April 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.

Tony La Russa Manages the Cards to One Win Away From the World Series

Saturday October 15, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Only one game on the schedule last night- but it was a big one.  The Brewers and Cardinals headed into game five in St. Louis, deadlocked at 2-2.  With the series set to shift to Milwaukee, this was a big game to take the lead in the NLCS.  With two strong pitchers on the mound, this game could have been a pitching duel.  It was far from it and the resulting game surprised many.  Here is a recap of last night’s NLCS action:

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Five

From the title of this article, many readers will take it that the Cardinals won last night.  Indeed they did, a strong 7-1 victory over the Brewers to take a 3-2 NLCS series lead.  This game came down to key factors in my estimation:  the in-game managing by Tony La Russa and the sloppy play of the Brewers.  When referring to La Russa, the talk of last night was the call to the bullpen in the 5th inning.  With the Cardinals up 4-1, the Brewers were threatening with 2 on and 2 out.  Ryan Braun headed to the plate and La Russa ran to the mound.  Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was stellar up to that point, with 4 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 7 hits, 0 BB and 5 strikeouts.  But as noted by last night’s television commentators, Garcia was starting to get into trouble.  With one Brewers run already in and the hits starting to pile up, La Russa appeared to be nervous that his starter was losing it.  Few managers would take out his starter at that point, but then few managers are Tony La Russa.  With his bullpen on fire in this postseason, La Russa was not going to take any chances.  Octavio Dotel got the call and proceeded to strike out Ryan Braun to end the threat.  From there, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte came on to shut out the Brewers on 2 hits and 1 walk.  Motte finished up the game for the save with Dotel taking the win.

But that is not the end of the story.  Far from it.  As much as this game is about the wizardry of La Russa managing his pitching staff (along with trusty pitching coach Dave Duncan at his side), game five was also about the Brewers throwing it away.  Literally.  To me, Milwaukee was a team intent on giving the game away.  Four errors on the night is completely unacceptable, especially for a game of this magnitude.  It is not like the team was not hitting, as the Brewers had 9 hits compared to the Cardinals 10.  Interestingly enough the Cardinals had 20 LOB, compared to the Brewers 14.  But the Cardinals drove runners in when in it counted.  Here is my logic in a game that came down to inches.  Zack Greinke gave up 5 runs, although only 2 of them were earned.  Marco Estrada in the 8th was a complete train-wreck, giving up 2 runs on 1 hit an 2 walks.  Estrada completely was not finding the zone and was lucky to escape with only the 2 runs allowed.  Take out the Estrada inning and Greinke’s 3 unearned runs, and you are now left with a 2-1 Cardinals lead.  Thus the Cardinals victory relied on La Russa’s management, strong bullpen and Brewers lack of execution and poor play.  A game of inches.
 
Greinke was good, but not great in this one.  In 5 2/3 IP, Greinke gave up 7 hits and 2 walks.  But he was not able to strikeout a batter.  Even without his best stuff, Greinke did keep his team in this one and deserved a better fate.  Had he received the defensive support he needed, Greinke could have stayed longer in this one and the game may have turned out differently.  With a 5-1 score going into the 7th, the Brewers seemed deflated and defeated.  Not the way to win ballgames folks.
 
Did Tony La Russa overreact by pulling his starter early?  We will never know.   Had Braun connected for a 3-run home run off Dotel and evened up the score, La Russa would have been the goat.  But by Dotel striking out Braun, La Russa is a genius.  The bottom line is that the Cardinals are one win away from going back to the World Series against a favored Brewers squad.  I find that critics are too quick to pounce on major league managers when they make mistakes, but not fast enough to give credit when they make the right moves.  La Russa doesn’t manage always by the book and has taken many chances in this postseason.  Last night was no exception.  Without the Brewers uneven play and the strong pitching of the Cardinals pen, the game may not have gone in the Cardinals favor.  But the stars did align and Tony La Russa does deserve his due in this one.  In a game of inches and trying to minimize mistakes, the Cardinals played sound baseball while the Brewers did not.  Cardinals win and go on to Milwaukee for game six with the 3-2 edge.
 
ALCS and NLCS:  Game Six Previews
 
Game six of the ALCS goes tonight in Texas, 8:05 PM ET is the scheduled start time.  Max Scherzer goes for the Tigers, Derek Holland for the Rangers.  Many are counting on this one going seven, as Scherzer has been steadier than Holland in the postseason.  But then Holland is due for a big game.  With the big Rangers bats at home, anything can happen in this one.  Jim Leyland and Ron Washington will pulling out all the stops tonight.  This one will be a classic.  Over the in the National League, game 6 goes Sunday afternoon, 4:05 PM ET in Milwaukee.  Shaun Marcum and Edwin Jackson are set to face-off.  There was speculation that Marcum would be pulled given his poor play of late, but the Brewers are sticking with their starter.  Jackson has been solid since coming over to St. Louis.  With the momentum in the Cardinal’s favor, the Brewers will need a big game or face elimination on Sunday.
 
 

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.

Tigers Stay Alive and NLCS Tied Up: Recap of MLB Playoffs and Notes

Friday October 14, 2011

 

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Rangers had a chance on Thursday to advance to the World Series.  The Cardinals were up 2-1 in the NLCS and looking to take a commanding lead.  How did they do?  Let’s recap Thursday’s MLB playoffs:

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Five

 The battle of the aces.  C.J. Wilson and Justin Verlander.  This game turned into a high scoring affair rather than a pitching classic.  The Tigers pulled out a 7-5 victory to stay alive in the series.  Verlander took the win, with 7 1/3 IP, 4 runs allowed, 8 hits, 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.  The lone home run given up Verlander was in the 5th inning to none other than… Nelson Cruz.  The Rangers slugger hit his 5th home run of the series, a 2-run effort.  Phil Coke came in for the rare save, pitching 1 2/3 innings, allowing 1 run.  C.J. Wilson took the loss for the Rangers.  In 6.0 IP, Wilson allowed a staggering 6 runs, 8 hits, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.  The long ball did Wilson in, as he allowed 3 of them to the Tigers in their home park.  Alex Avila hit a solo blast in the 3rd, while Delmon Young had a pair on the day (a solo home run in the 4th and 2-run blast in the 6th).  For good measure, Koji Uehara came on in the 7th to give up a solo home run to Ryan Raburn

The crooked number came for the Tigers in the 6th.  Miguel Cabrera hit a ground ball off the third base bag that could have led to a double play, but rather went for a double.  Detroit kept the momentum from there and scored four runs in the inning.  Detroit actually had a 7-2 lead going into the 8th, but the Rangers were able to chip away and stay within striking distance.  Texas now leads the series 3-2 going into game 6 on Saturday.  The game will be played at 8:05 PM ET, with Max Scherzer and Derek Holland set to faceoff.  The Rangers continue to be one game away from that magical trip back to the World Series. 

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Four

The Cardinals held a 2-1 lead in the series with game four to be played at home.  Kyle Lohse was on the hill for the home team, Randy Wolf for the Brewers.  Turns out that Wolf was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Brewers.  The starter pitched a solid 7.0 IP to take the win, giving up only 2 runs on 6 hits, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.  The only runs allowed by Wolf were on solo home runs, to Matt Holliday in the 2nd and Allen Craig in the 3rd.  Francisco Rodriguez got the hold in the 8th and closer John Axford with the save in the 9th.  Kyle Lohse could not make it out of the 5th, pitching 4 1/3 IP for the loss.  Lohse gave up 3 runs on 6 hits, no walks and struck out 3.  Mitchell Boggs, Arthur RhodesOctavio Dotel and Fernando Salas also pitched in this one.  The Brewers recipe for success in this one was simple.  Great pitching and grinding out runs at the plate.  One could say that the Brewers beat Tony La Russa at his own game.  The Brewers did not hit a long ball in this one, but will certainly take out the well-earned victory.  With the series tied up 2-2, game five goes tonight at 8:05 PM ET in St. Louis.  A great matchup on the mound, as Jamie Garcia and Zack Greinke faceoff. 

 

MLB Notes:

  •  With the Theo Epstein soap opera about to conclude, the focus shifts to Baltimore and Boston for their vacant General Manager positions.  Boston is looking internally to fill the role, while Baltimore is considering everyone and anyone to lead their team.  This is a crucial stage for both teams’ development.  Boston needs to maintain its status as a top flight MLB organization, while Baltimore is on the verge of breaking through (with a great deal of talent in their farm system).
  • The sale of the Houston Astros to Crane will apparently be going through.  The sale will lead to the Astros moving to the American League, playing in the West division.  I will be writing about this subject very soon on the Reports.  But at this point I will say that the move is a win-win for the Astros and its fans.  The team needs stability and  renewed excitement.  A move to the AL West should provide just that and more.
  • Another day, another rumor.  With the Red Sox in apparent turmoil, Big Papi has come out and indicated that he may not return to Boston.  That is his decision and I respect that.  But will Boston be asking him back…and at what price?  If Papi does leave, look for the Jays, Rays and Yankees to all hold discussions with the big man.  The Angels may also be a consideration.  But my money is on a return to Beantown.
  • The expansion of the MLB playoffs will happen.  It is just a question of when.  The latest reports have Major League Baseball adding one more wild card team to each league and a sudden death, one game playoff, to be played by the wild card teams.  I do not know yet how I feel about having just a one gamer to decide the wild card winner.  But I am definitely in favour of expanding the amount of teams.  Personally, I like the idea of each top team getting a full bye into the championship series.  But this may be too revolutionary for baseball.  The expanded MLB playoffs is likely coming as early as the 2013 season.
  • The World Baseball Classic is coming in the spring of 2013.  The qualifying tournament will be played sometime in the fall of 2012.  I am a big fan of this tournament and see it as a big step for baseball expansion throughout the world.  More details will likely not be available until next year, but I will continue to update everyone as information becomes available.   

 

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

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ALCS Game 4 and NLCS Game 3: MLB Playoffs Recap for Wednesday October 12th

 

Thursday October 13, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist - MLB reports):  Going into today, the Rangers held a 2-1 series lead while the Cards and Brewers were tied up at 1-1.  Could the Tigers square up their series?  Who would pull away between Milwaukee and St. Louis?  Let’s get to it by recapping Wednesday’s action: 

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Four

Rick Porcello and Matt Harrison faced off in the battle of number four starters.  Both pitchers did a fairly good job on the night.  Porcello pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), 8 hits, 0 walks and struck out six.  Harrison on the other side lasted five innings, giving up 2 runs, three hits, three walks and striking out three.  Both starters left with a no decision.  The scoring in this one started in the first, courtesy of a Miguel Cabrera 2-run double.  Other than a Brandon Inge solo home run in the 7th inning (off reliever Alexi Ogando), the Rangers pitching staff did not concede another Tigers’ run.  Texas actually trailed in this one 2-0 until the 6th, when they were able to put up 3 runs on the board.  From there it was the battle of the pens, as both teams sent out plenty of relievers in this one.  The Rangers used Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Neftali Feliz.  The Rangers countered with Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Jose Valverde and Phil Coke

Tied up 3-3 going into the 11th, the Tigers trotting out their closer Jose Valverde who had already worked the 10th.  The decision proved to be fatal.  With one out and two on, Valverde faced Nelson Cruz- Texas Rangers postseason hero.  Cruz proceeded to knock in a three run home run, his fourth home run of the playoffs.  The Rangers went on to score four runs in the inning and take the game, final score 7-3.  Feldman with the win, Valverde takes the loss.  The Rangers hold a commanding 3-1 series going into tomorrow afternoon in Texas.  The game is scheduled for 4:19 PM EST, with aces C.J. Wilson and Justin Verlander set to face-off.  With one more win, the Rangers are off to the World Series, their second consecutive appearance in the finals.

 

 Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Three

St. Louis was the site for the battle of the aces.  Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals, Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers.  Neither pitcher was particularly on this night, but did what they had to do to keep their teams in this one.  Gallardo gave up all four runs in the 1st inning, but combined with the Brewers pen for seven shutout innings the rest of the way.  Gallardo pitched 5 innings, giving up 8 hits, 5 walks and striking out 2.  Carpenter only lasted 5 innings as well, giving up 3 runs, 6 hits, 3 walks and striking out 3.  The pens for both teams went into lockdown mode.  The Brewers relievers, LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito and Chris Narveson combined to give up 1 hit and 1 walk over 3 innings, while striking out 3.  The Cardinals pen was even better though on this night.  Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte gave up no hits or walks over 4 innings pitched.  Motte struck out 3 batter in 1 1/3 innings pitched for the save.  Carpenter ended up with the win, while Gallardo took the loss.  Albert Pujols was once again the star for the Cardinals, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks, 1 run and 1 RBI.  The Cardinals take a 2-1, going into game 4 tomorrow night in St. Louis.  Game time is 8:05 PM ET, Randy Wolf vs. Kyle Lohse.  The battle of the number 4′s will determine if St. Louis can take a stranglehold on the series, or the Brewers can even things up going back to Milwaukee.   

 

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Preview of MLB Playoffs for Sunday October 9th and Rangers Take Game 1 ALCS

Sunday October 9, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist - MLB reports):  And then they were down to four.  On the road to the World Series, Milwaukee and St. Louis are set to do battle for the National League- while over in the AL, Detroit and Texas have already started their series.  Is there anything better than the MLB Playoffs?  Didn’t think so.  Let’s get to it by recapping last night’s action: 

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers: ALCS Game One

The Detroit Tigers are becoming linked with “rain” in the 2011 MLB playoffs.  Game one of their ALDS matchup in New York was suspended and played a day later.  So of course, Murphy’s law dictated that the opening game of their ALCS would see rain as well.  But despite nearly a two-hour rain delay (2 total rain delays in the 5th), the Rangers and Tigers were able to get this one in.  Unfortunately for the Tigers, they again ended up losing their opener to fall behind 1-0 in the series to the Rangers.  Neither starter was particularly effective in this one.  Justin Verlander gave up 3 runs over 4 IP to take the loss, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5.  Verlander gave up 2 runs in the 2nd and the eventual game winning run in the 4th, courtesy of a Nelson Cruz solo home run.  His opponent on the night, C.J. Wilson was also very un-ace like for the Rangers.  In his 4 2/3 IP, Wilson gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and a whopping 5 walks, while striking out 6.  Once the rain delay was over in the 5th and the game resumed, this game was the story of the bullpens.  Both pens pitched shutout ball the rest of the way.  Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Ryan Perry kept the Tigers in this one, but the Rangers were able to make their early 3-2 lead stick.  The stars of the night were the Texas Rangers’ relievers, as one by one, they can in to stifle the Tigers bats. 

Mike Gonzalez earned his paycheque for the year by coming in on the 5th to the greatest pressure situation in baseball as a reliever.  Bases loaded, Gonzalez faced Alex Avila with 2-outs.  Needing only 2 pitches, Gonzalez retired Avila to end the inning and the Tigers best chance at breaking this game open.  From there, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz over 4 innings gave up 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 8.  As lock-down as you get in baseball.  Blame it on the rain, blame it on the Rangers having home field advantage and coming in rested.  No matter how you slice or dice it, the Tigers were good on this night.  But the Rangers were better.  With the Rangers high-octane offense and stacked bullpen, the Tigers bats will need to muster more than two runs in a game if they hope to compete with the reigning AL champions.  Another great game in the archives, in what is becoming one of the better MLB playoffs in recent history. 

 Preview of Sunday October 9th:

Game two of the ALCS was scheduled to go tonight, with Derek Holland on the hill for the Rangers and Max Scherzer for the Tigers.  With rain in the forecast at a 90% probability, Major League Baseball wisely postponed this one until tomorrow afternoon.  With Doug Fister not scheduled to pitch until game 3, the Tigers need this game or face a 2-0 deficit.  The Rangers will be hungry to take the Tigers down early and get back to the World Series in a hurry.  This series is far from over and should prove to be an excellent battle.  Over in the National League, the Cardinals and Brewers are set to begin their battle.  Jaime Garcia and Zack Greinke face-off in what should prove to be a classic.  With many “experts” picking the Brewers to advance to the World Series, Tony LaRussa and his Cardinals have their work cut out for them.  But as the Cardinals proved against the Philadelphia Phillies, a team with Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter cannot be counted out.  Both teams have strong bullpens, as is the case in the American League.  With tight games, this game could come down to Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford of the Brewers, or Fernando Salas and Jason Motte for the Cardinals.  With Zack Greinke starting the war of words, the battle lines have been drawn.  Another great series, leading up to the 2011 World Series.

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: ALDS Day One Recap

Saturday October 1, 2011

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Going into the day, the opening day of playoffs had some pretty high expectations to live up to.  While the games weren’t as electrifying as the last day of the season, it was pretty fun to finally watch some high pressure postseason baseball.  Here is a recap of what happened today:

 

Tampa Bay Rays vs.  Texas Rangers:  ALDS Game One

The Rays came into this game with energy and by most accounts, the number three rated prospect in all of baseball taking the mound.  Perhaps the most emotional part of the game was the first pitch thrown out by Cooper Stone.  Cooper’s dad Shannon was killed after falling while trying to catch a foul ball.  The game started in pleasant 80 degree weather in Arlington with a stadium filled with fans wearing Rangers colors.  After the Rays had scored six runs in the first three innings, it became obvious that the Rangers would need to rely on their offense.  This is something they’ve done all year, but Matt Moore proved to be too much for the Texas sluggers.  He was so dominant that in the sixth inning Josh Hamilton, of all people, tried to bunt for a hit (his effort was unsuccessful).  Moore pitched seven scoreless innings while allowing only two hits.  Talk about impressive.  Matt Moore is only twenty-two years, and this was only his second start in the majors (fourth appearance).  If the Rays thought they could hide Moore in the minors for a few months next year, now it seems next to impossible.  To have such a big time performance in front of the whole country will be something that will stay with him forever.  (Another thing that will stay with him forever is his extremely bushy eyebrows, but that’s a different story for another time.)  The Rays other hero was Kelly Shoppach, the thirty-one year old backup catcher.  Shoppach went 3 for 5 with 5 RBI and 2 homers.  That’s pretty impressive considering he batted .176 with 11 HR on the season.  When asked after the game about Matt Moore, Shoppach had this to say, “His nameplate said Matt Moore and I said, ‘Who is Matt Moore?’ … Nobody will forget his name now.”  This game wasn’t a thriller but it showed how many different players on a given day have to contribute in order for the Rays to have success.

Result:  Rays win 9-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers:  ALDS Game One

This game started off with Delmon Young going deep off C.C. Sabathia to right field.  The ball carried just inches over Nick Swisher’s glove and gave the Tigers an early lead.  However, the Yankees battled back to score in the bottom of the first.  After that, the rain started.   This is becoming a trend for postseason baseball and it’s not good for the game at all.  In my opinion, Bud Selig should shorten the season or start spring training earlier in order to avoid this in the future.  Nobody enjoys watching how weather affects the game.  We just want to see the best players square off against each other.  Anyways, the rain kept coming until at fifteen minutes past 11PM in New York, the umpires decided to suspend the game.  Since this is the postseason, that means that the current score, outs, strikes, etc. will be delayed until Saturday at 8:37PM ET.  The only real bummer is that Sabathia and Justin Verlander won’t be able to finish their matchup.  Sabathia wants to pitch tomorrow but I think that’s doubtful and a bad idea no matter how thin the Yankees rotation is.  According to Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch, Ivan Nova is likely to get the start tomorrow.  So if that is true the “starters” will be Nova for New York, and Doug Fister for Detroit.  Fister is 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA since being traded to Detroit, so he will provide a challenge for the Yankees offense.  It should be a fun game to watch, providing the rain holds up.

***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.***

 

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Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***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.***

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How Far Will the Yankees Go in the 2011 Playoffs? Prediction Time

Sunday September 25, 2011

 

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The Yankees entered the season with a troubled rotation, some great bullpen signings from the offseason, and a star-studded lineup.

As the season commenced, the Yankees had immediate troubles in the rotation. The troubles in the rotation started with their former number two starter Phil Hughes, who seemed to be dominant going into the year, yet wasn’t able to play due to a “Dead arm”. The rotation ended up being filled by a rookie (Ivan Nova), C.C. Sabathia, a struggling A.J. Burnett, and two veterans who weren’t very successful in the past few seasons (Colon and Garcia).

The Yankees were up for the challenge, as they not only beat out the  nearly untouchable Red Sox in the AL East division race, but also had a season full of historical baseball moments. Derek Jeter, became the first player in Yankee history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, as for Mariano Rivera, who is now the all-time leader in saves in Major League Baseball history.

Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia unexpectedly became huge parts in lifting Yankees until the day they clinched the division spot. As for Ivan Nova, he won 16 games for the Yankees in the “Journey to the playoffs”. Now the Yankees are finished with that chapter and are now on a new journey: the “Journey to the World Series”.

The playoffs are about to start soon, as the Yankees are in the process of last-minute preparations. Unnamed sources have leaked out that Ivan Nova will start game two, and A.J. Burnett will not appear as a starter in the playoffs. The Yankees’ playoff rotation is looking more favorable for Freddy Garcia to be the number three starter, as Bartolo Colon is going through a horrific slump. Colon’s ERA (earned run average) in September is well over a 6.50, resulting in his ERA surpassing 4.00 on the season. Therefore it is probable that Freddy Garcia will be named to start for the Yankees in the 2011 MLB playoffs.

There have been multiple questions concerning Jesus Montero’s spot in the Yankees playoff roster. To date, it seems likely Yankees will proceed to place him on the roster in place of Francisco Cervelli, as he is expected to come back later in the playoffs due to concussion symptoms.

Besides the rotation, bullpen, and the Yankees lineup, backups also take on a big role in the “Key to success”. The Yankees backups are looking extraordinary as the season is nearing an end. The backups will include a trio of Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Andruw Jones, and either Jesus Montero or Jorge Posada as of now. The backups are looking promising, and can take a big part in the “Journey to the World Series”.

The Yankees have a team full of playoff greats, such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and others such as Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. There is a debate as to whether the veterans can lift the Yankees this year to championship Number 28. The answer is that the Yankees veterans have the promise playoff strength. Veterans such as Derek Jeter (also known as Mr. November), and Mariano Rivera, among others who have experience and the strength to lift the Yankees in the postseason. However, the Yankees veterans are aging, and as they age, they get less and less reliable. This leaves the backups with a huge role to fill.

The Yankees teams consists of youth, veterans, and a great deal of confidence. The confidence was within the clubhouse on Thursday, as C.C. Sabathia stated in an interview with MLB.com, that if he plays correctly he will win. With the attitude and the strength to do so, the Yankees could go far into the playoff race this year.

The Yankees will most likely play the Texas Rangers, or the Detroit Tigers. There is uncertainty which team as of yet, though each team has their ups and downs, and certain distractions they will have to face.  Let’s take a look at the potential matchups:

Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers have an outstanding rotation coming into the playoffs. Max Scherzer, is a strikeout master, while Justin Verlander is just about a master of everything. Verlander has produced great success this year, as he is seeking to win the AL Cy Young, and possibly become the first pitcher to win the AL MVP award in the last 20 years.

Doug Fister will be a huge part of the Tigers playoff plans, as his ERA dropped below 3.00 recently. His September stats consist of four wins and a 0.69 ERA. Fister’s streak is looking unstoppable, and will be a hard match for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching isn’t looking very promising as of late, and the Tigers clearly win that category. If the Yankees can’t produce runs against the hard throwing Tigers’ pitching staff, it may be hard to get by them. The Tigers key hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez. With the Yankees pitching rotation banged up, the Tigers could prove to be a very difficult opponent.

Prediction: Yankees in five

Texas Rangers:  All eyes are on the Rangers banged-up rotation now. C.J. Wilson, who has been having substantial success this year for the Rangers, is facing a problem to think about. As the offseason approaches, so does free agency. Free agency can affect not only the thoughts of players, but how they are playing. Thoughts are a very powerful thing, as on different occasions it can be hard to think about free agency when playing.  The pressure is immense.  Although in Wilson’s case, the pressure could prove to be a motivator to pitch well.

Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis are among the other probable starters. All of them are decent pitchers, though they occasionally rely on help from their offense for run support, which will prove to be the main problem for the Yankees rotation.

The Rangers lineup includes Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler in the heart of their lineup. This will be an extremely difficult problem for the Yankees rotation, as Rangers seem to possibly have the best lineup in the majors. The Rangers offense may possibly even be better than the Yankees lineup. If the strength of the Rangers rotation and lineup continue to consume strength, the Yankees could be outmatched.

Prediction: Rangers in five

Assuming the Yankees play the Tigers, and proceed to the second round, with either the Red Sox/Rays (depending on who wins the wild card), or the Rangers, both series will be a close call and consist of exciting games to watch. The Red Sox are in a similar situation as the Yankees, as their pitching staff has averaged a 6.60 ERA in the last ten games played.  If we have a Yankees and Red Sox matchup in the ALDS, it will likely go the full seven games- where anything is possible.

The Yankees have made history this year and accomplished feats over the years that no team has ever matched. Most importantly, the team wants to succeed. Success is a big thing for the Yankees organization. The Yankees are survivors, never give up, and always look to come back when down. This year has already been one big accomplishment, as the Yankees surpassed the Red Sox in the standings and possibly in making the playoffs.  Now the team is looking for championship rings in the year of 2011.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  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 Jeff 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.

 

Yu Darvish – 2012 MLB Savior?

Saturday September 17, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): This offseason, there could be only two elite pitchers available for teams to bid on.  While C.J. Wilson looks to sign a deal close to $100M, CC Sabathia may be looking at opting out of his current contract with the Yankees.  Before the 2009 season, Sabathia signed a 7 year, $161M contract in which he makes $23M annually from 2010-2015.  Add in the fact that there will be at least five teams fighting for the services of two pitchers, an alternative must be found.

Yu Darvish, a Japanese right-handed pitcher could be the answer.  Although it has not been confirmed that Darvish will even make the trek to North America to play in the MLB, teams are lining up to watch him pitch.  Darvish’s ERA in the Japanese Pacific League for the Nippon Ham Fighters sits at 1.47.  He also has 223 strikeouts.  His 4-seam fastball sits in the 91-94 mph range with a great 2-seamer (or shuuto) with a lot of movement at 89-91 mph.  He has a slurve, as well as a split-finger, which seems to be his choice for an out pitch.

Many teams will be interested in Darvish, but how many really have the financial ability to bid for him in the posting process.  The process is basically a silent auction, with all teams that are interested putting a bid in, and the highest bid wins.  The winning team then has 30 days to agree to a contract with the player.  If an agreement is not reached, the posting fee is then returned back to the MLB team.

A player of Darvish’s magnitude rarely comes up in the posting process, so estimating a potential price is difficult.  Really, the only comparison is Daisuke Matsuzaka.  In 2006, the Boston Red Sox bid of $51,111,111 earned the rights to negotiate with the right-handed pitcher.  Matsuzaka then agreed to a 6 year, $52M contract, that could be worth as much as $60M with incentives.  Matsuzaka has been dominant at times, as witnessed by his 2008 season, where he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA.  He was 4th in Cy Young Award voting after keeping hitters to a .211 average.  He has also been below average, as this year, before going on the disabled list, he walked 5.5 batters per 9 innings.

There are very few teams with the financial flexibility to pull off such a move, while the other teams will pass Darvish up.

New York Yankees
With a payroll over $200M annually, the Yankees can always be in on any free agent, especially a high profile one.  Behind CC Sabathia, who may opt out of his current contract, the Yankees have a lot of question marks in the rotation.  Ivan Nova has had a solid season, but AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes had extremely disappointing campaigns.  If the Yankees want to continue their success in the AL East, Darvish may be the key.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox, like the Yankees, have a lot of question marks in the rotation.  Behind Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, who were extremely solid this year, the rotation has been a mess.  Matsuzaka struggled, Lackey has been pretty bad, and Tim Wakefield is nearing the end of his career.  They don’t NEED Darvish like the Yankees do.

Toronto Blue Jays
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has recently said that he was in Japan scouting Darvish.  The Blue Jays also have question marks beyond ace Ricky RomeroBrandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil underperformed this year, while 21 year old Henderson Alvarez has really impressed in the second half.  The Blue Jays have stated they could take on a payroll of $140-150M when the team is ready to contend.

Texas Rangers
GM Jon Daniels was in Japan in the summer to watch Darvish pitch, and could be a frontrunner for his services.  With CJ Wilson ready to hit the free agent market, the Rangers will have a lot of quality innings to replace. Derek Holland is developing into a solid starter, to go along with Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando.

LA Dodgers
If the Dodgers ownership issues ever get solved, with the young core of players they have, they could put in a very serious bid.  With the franchise struggling, and Hiroki Kuroda’s $12M coming off the books, expect the Dodgers to be aggressive this offseason if a new owner is put in place.  One of the most storied franchises in baseball could get a huge boost in having Darvish come to town.  Clayton Kershaw and Darvish could create a very formidable duo on the mound.

While other teams such as the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners have shown interest, I feel as though these five teams are the best possible fit.  They have the money, and they have the willingness to shell it out to the right player.

I believe a posting fee near $65,000,000 will gain the negotiating rights to Yu Darvish.  While the Yankees and Red Sox are always dangerous, I think that CJ Wilson is the biggest wildcard in the situation.  If he walks from the Rangers, look for them to be very aggressive with Darvish.  The winning team will likely have to cough up around 6 years and $75M in a contract, meaning the total amount spent by the team would be around $130M over 6 years.  For that kind of money, these teams better be sure they are getting the ace they are looking for to take them over the top.

 

 

***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 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.

Bob Kendrick Interview: President Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Tuesday September 13, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick.  It was an honor and privilege to get to know one of the finest and most important executives in the world of baseball.  The Negro Leagues represents a key time period in baseball history.  The NLBM is essentially the Cooperstown of the Negro Leagues, in Kansas City.  Mr. Kendrick is responsible for overseeing the entire NLBM and has one of the most demanding and rewarding jobs that we have ever seen.  His story is a fascinating one and we were glad to have Mr. Kendrick with us today to share it.  For all fans of baseball and American history, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a vital institution to visit.  We present today our interview with the President of the NLBM, Mr. Bob Kendrick: 

 

MLB reports:  Hello Mr. Kendrick.  It is a pleasure to have you on the Reports.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speaking with us.
 
You are President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.  Please give our readers an idea as to what your job entails and the responsibilities of the President of such a fine baseball institute.

Bob Kendrick:  My primary responsibilities are to provide effective leadership, management and operations of the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum and the development of the future John “Buck” O’Neil Education and Research Center. This includes managing a staff of seven; planning strategies to advance the mission and financial stability of the organization and develop and communicate goals and planning strategies with a local board and a national governing board for implementation. In addition, I’m also responsible for developing and managing community and corporate partnerships, programs, marketing, special events along with media, public and community relations.

 
MLB reports:  What is the significance of having the museum in Kansas City?  Was there ever a thought to build it beside Cooperstown?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Kansas City is the birthplace of the Negro Leagues and thus the rightful home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM). In 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in a meeting that took place in at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City. Today, the NLBM operates two blocks from the historic Paseo YMCA and has designated the building as the future home of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. There were never any intentions to build or move the NLBM to Cooperstown.

 
MLB reports:  What does Buck O’Neil mean to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  How did the museum fare when he was alive and what has been the state of the museum since his passing?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Buck, along with the late Horace Peterson, were the co-founders of the NLBM in 1990. He served as the museum’s chairman for 16 years until his death in 2006 at age 94. Buck was the face of the NLBM and the museum’s inspirational leader and the person that is single-most responsible for its rise to prominence.
 
Buck’s death coupled with a down economy have definitely had an impact on the growth of the NLBM. To use a bad baseball analogy, Buck was our power hitter. When you take your power hitter out of the lineup you can’t expect that your offense is going to be as potent as it was with him in the lineup. The NLBM, like a lot of museums and particularly cultural institutions, have had its challenges but I feel strongly that we are poised to carry out Buck’s dream to sustain and grow this great institution.

 
MLB reports:  Do you feel that there is pressure in your role to meet the expectations set by Buck O’Neil? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  No. There will never be another Buck O’Neil! What I’ve tried to do is embrace Buck’s legacy and use it as additional motivation to see that his museum continues to be successful. If there is any pressure, it comes from the understanding that you are responsible for an institution that we want to see stand the test of time. Ultimately, no one will have greater expectations of me than I have of myself.

 
MLB reports:  What are your favorite exhibits at the museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  The Field of Legends is an amazing and awe-inspiring display. It is the centerpiece of the NLBM and features 10 life-size bronze statues of Negro League greats cast in position as if they were playing a game. The players were chosen because they represent 10 of the first group of Negro Leaguers to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
 
A 1952 photo of a young Hank Aaron standing at the train station in mobile getting ready to leave to join the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues is one of my favorites. I believe that photo is the validating point in the exhibit that visitors start to grasp how special the Negro Leagues were and the incredible level of talent the leagues featured. All of sudden, the stories that we’ve shared about the exploits of Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, and the other legends become more real because Hank is a name that everyone knows and understands how impactful his career was.

 
MLB reports:  Are there new exhibits this year that are in place? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’re developing a new exhibit on the life and times of Buck O’Neil in recognition of his 100th birthday (Nov. 13). The exhibit, entitled “Right on Time” is adapted from Buck’s critically acclaimed biography “I Was Right On Time,” and will be a chronology of his life featuring rare family and baseball photos, videos and works of art from a team of professional artists that interpret the meaning and impact of Buck’s illustrious life. The exhibit is scheduled to open at the NLBM on Oct. 6 which would mark the fifth anniversary of Buck’s death. It will be on display until January 2012. The NLBM is developing plans for a national tour of the exhibit.

 
MLB reports:  Why should a baseball fan take the trip to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  I often said that there is no greater example of “love of the game” than there is when you bear witness to what the courageous athletes of the Negro Leagues endured to play baseball in America. Love of the game is something that every fan shares.
 
In some respect, as baseball fans, we’ve all been cheated by not having an opportunity to learn about America’s unsung baseball heroes prior to the rise of the NLBM. When you visit you going to meet some of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game. But more importantly, you are going to gain a perspective on how their determination, courage, passion and perseverance not only changed the game but America too.

 
MLB reports:  You have rejoined the museum after a leave of absence.  How did you find out you were offered the position of President and what was your decision-making process in deciding to accept the role?
 
Bob Kendrick:  I left the NLBM in February of 2010 to accept the post as Executive Director of the KC office of the National Sports Center for the Disabled after being a part of the NLBM team for 12 years departing as VP of Marketing. I began having serious discussions with the museum’s board in March of this year. Betty Brown, chair of the museum’s board of directors, called on behalf of the board to offer me the job. On April 11, 2011 I began my tenure as President of the NLBM.
 
Like any major life-changing decision, I did a lot of soul-searching and had many discussions with my wife, Vanessa, and other members of my family. This was with the realization that sometimes the most difficult thing you can do is go back home. The NLBM had been home for me for 12 wonderful years and I was tremendously proud of what we had accomplished, but I honestly thought that chapter of my life was over. When this opportunity came about I didn’t want to make a decision with my heart and not my head, but I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t lead me back to the NLBM. It’s a tremendous honor to work with a great team and serve as leader of what I believe is one of the most important cultural institutions in the world.

 
MLB reports:  It has been less than a year at the helm of the museum.  What changes have you instituted since taking over?  
 
Bob Kendrick:  My familiarity with the organization, staff and board has made for a pretty smooth transition. The staff, especially, have been great. For all of us, working at the NLBM is a labor of love and I’ve got a great team that has allowed me to move rather seamlessly into this new role.
 
My first few months on the job hasn’t been as much about implementing change as it has been about assessing all aspects of museum operations and the development of a tactical strategy to energize and generate operating revenue. We have a goal of balancing the budget by the end of this fiscal year which ends June 30 of 2012. I have every belief that we’ll be successful in attaining that goal.
 
Any initial change has come from a programmatic standpoint. In June, we brought back our popular Legends Luncheon series. In October, we will introduce the Rube Foster luncheon and will honor former Kansas City Chiefs football great Deron Cherry for his career and leadership on-and-off the field. The Legacy Awards will return on January 14, 2012. The event honors the best Major League Baseball players, managers and executives with awards named for Negro League legends.
 
 
MLB reports:  I read that C.C. Sabathia recently visited the museum.  Who are some other current and former players that have visited the museum?  Any stories?
 
Bob Kendrick:  CC has been a friend of the museum going back to his days with the Cleveland Indians. He always makes a point to visit when the Yankees are in town to play the Royals. While a member of the Indians, CC brought Cliff Lee to the museum. List of current current players includes: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, Derrek Lee, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre and Jerry Hairston to name a few. Former Major Leaguers include: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Joe Morgan, Dave Winfield, Lou Brock, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Minnie Minoso, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Ken Griffey, Sr., Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph, John Smoltz, Buck Showalter, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Bob Watson, Dusty Baker, Ozzie Guillen, Don Newcombe, Robin Roberts, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Cecil Fielder, Rick Sutcliffe, Harold Reynolds, Frank White, John Mayberry, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Bo Jackson, Amos Otis and others.
 
Ryan Howard started visiting the NLBM before we knew who he was. At that time, Ryan was still in the Phillies’ minor league system. He’s never stopped visiting. He’s often said that he would visit as part of his ritual to prepare for Spring Training. He said he drew inspiration from their strength and dedication to the game that helped him deal with the difficulties he would encounter in the game.

 
MLB reports:  What role do current and former players play in building and maintaining the museum?  I personally think that current African-American players need to play a big part in attracting attention to the museum and inviting fans to learn and respect the past of the negro leagues.  How has the process been to get players involved?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’ve made great strides in cultivating relationships with both current and former Major Leaguers. This takes on an even greater level of importance for the NLBM since the passing of Buck O’Neil. We’d like all baseball players to take more ownership in the NLBM and help us preserve this once forgotten chapter of baseball and American history. It obviously takes on an even great magnitude when we talk about the African-American and Hispanic baseball player. This is their story. Simply put, they would not have the opportunity to play the game they love had it not been for the sacrifice of those who played in the Negro Leagues.

 
MLB reports:  Major League Baseball has teams play games yearly in Negro Leagues jerseys, which is a great way for fans to learn about the Negro Leagues.  What other initiatives has MLB taken to assist in the education of the Negro Leagues?  Does MLB and/or Cooperstown support the museum?  If Major League Baseball sat down with you and asked what they could do to assist the museum, what would your answer be?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Major League Baseball and its teams have played an important role in the success of the NLBM and helping educate fans about the history of the Negro Leagues. From the in-stadium salutes held by a number of teams, to celebrating Jackie Robinson, it’s all part of baseball’s embracing of the heritage of the game.
 
The museum has had (and continues to have) a meaningful and valued relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
 
In addition to funding, I asked MLB to create a national day of recognition for the Negro Leagues; partner with the NLBM on a national promotional campaign and provide leadership to serve on the museum’s board.

 
MLB reports:  I have read many articles discussing the lack of interest in African-American boys in playing baseball, particular in inner-cities.  With the lack of fields and the attraction of other sports, including football and baseball, it seems that baseball is having a hard time attracting African-American youth to the game.  MLB is trying to encourage more participation through its programs.  Is enough being done to get African-American children to play baseball?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We want kids of all colors to play and enjoy the great game of baseball. The NLBM believes it has a social responsibility to make sure urban kids have the opportunity to play baseball.We want to use the history of the Negro Leagues as a tool to inspire kids to play. Progress is being made, but it is going to take a long and sustain collective effort. Major League Baseball has done a wonderful job, through its creation and support of initiatives like RBI and the various Urban Youth Baseball Academies, of creating opportunities for African-American kids to play the sport. But this is not Major League Baseball’s responsibility solely. If we are to reverse the trend, then baseball has to become important again to the African-American community.

 

MLB reports:  Do you think that there is a correlation between the interest of today’s African-American youth in baseball and the interest in learning about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
 
Bob Kendrick:  We certainly believe the NLBM can serve not only as a resource to educate young people about the history of this country, but also inspire them by introducing them to men and women who overcame tremendous social adversity to play the game they loved. Urban kids who experience the NLBM can see people who looked just like them who were extremely successful playing, managing and owning baseball teams. The messages that stem from this powerful story transcends time, age, gender and race. Essentially, what the Negro Leagues teaches us is if you believe in yourself and you dare to dream then you can achieve anything you set your heart and mind to. That’s a universal message.

 

MLB reports:  With the All-Star game coming to Kansas City, what events does the museum have planned as part of the festivities?
 
Bob Kendrick:  First, I can tell you that no one is more excited about the All-Star game coming to Kansas City! There’s no doubt that the Kansas City Royals our great city will host one of the most memorable All-Star games ever. I’m confident that the NLBM will play a great role in helping make the event special.
 
We’ve already had great conversations with Major League Baseball and their event planning team about partnership opportunities for the 2012 All-Star game. Look for activities ranging from parties to player appearances to take place at the NLBM. Also, expect to see a new exhibition that will open in June of 2012 that will celebrate the players from the Negro Leagues who became Major League All-Stars. A planning committee is being developed to make sure we maximize the opportunities associated with the 2012 All-Star Game.

 
MLB reports:  In five to ten years from now, what will be the future of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  What is your vision?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Collectively, we are working to ensure the long-term sustainability of the NLBM. As we begin the next two decades of operation, we are dedicated to building a thriving, vibrant, cutting-edge institution that will not only celebrate and educate the public to the rich history of the Negro Leagues, but will continually challenge itself to make history relevant to an ever-changing society. Much of this will be solidified by the completion of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center which will provide an international headquarters for Negro Leagues history and social commentary on issues relative to race and sports.

 
MLB reports:  If people would like to learn more about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and to visit, how do they go about getting more information?  Also how can fans contact you with questions and comments?

Bob Kendrick:  You can get more information about the museum at http://nlbm.com. Or, call the museum at (816) 221-1920. I can be contacted at bkendrick@nlbm.com or please follow me on Twitter @nlbmprez.

 

BUCK O’NEIL CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: As part of our revenue generation plan, we’ve just launched a national individual fundraising campaign in remembrance of Buck O’Neil’s 100th birthday through the introduction of the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM campaign. The effort is asking fans and friends to donate at least $100 in memory of Buck and in support of his museum. Every person who makes the $100 gift (or more) between now and Nov. 13, will have their name, family name or person they designate permanently recognized at the NLBM as part of a new display created to mark Buck’s milestone anniversary.
 
To sign-up for the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM, visit http://nlbm.com or call the NLBM at (816) 221-1920.

 
 

 

Thank you again to Bob Kendrick for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to joining us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you have on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  As well, please feel free to contact Mr. Kendrick directly by e-mail or Twitter.  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Bob Kendrick**

 

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

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

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

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

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

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

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

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

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday August 10th

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

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

 

 Wednesday August 10, 2011

 

 

Q:  Once Anthony Rendon signs with the Nationals, do you see him moving to 2B?  What’s your best guess?  From Flips, parts unknown.

MLB reports:  The Rice product, drafted 6th overall by the Nationals this year is likely to sign with the Nationals by the August 15th deadline.  In the unlikely event that he does not sign, then the Nationals would get a compensation pick next draft.  But luckily for Washington, Rendon is expected to join the club this year.  With Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at 3rd base, many people have speculated at which position Rendon will end up.  I have heard 2nd base tossed around, but the smart money is 1st base.  Adam La Roche is a temporary solution for the squad and not the long-term answer.  The Nationals appear to be set up the middle with Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond.  Rendon’s bat has never been a question.  To get him quickly into the lineup, expect the Nationals to move him to 1st base right away after being signed.  The outfield is another option, but more of a last resort. 

 

Q:  Will this be the year that the Texas Rangers win the World Series?  From Anne, Dallas. 

MLB reports:  If the Rangers had been able to sign Cliff Lee, my answer would have been yes.  But they did not and the Halladay-Lee combination will lead the Phillies to victory in the fall in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers have an excellent team.  An offense led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and company.  C.J. Wilson as the ace.  The bullpen trio of Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.  The Rangers can do it all.  But firstly, just to make it to the World Series the Rangers will need to pass the Yankees and Red Sox.  Even then, the Phillies if they end up as their opponent will be tough to beat.  The Phillies have a solid offense core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence.  The bullpen has been steady, led by closer Ryan Madson.  But it is the starting pitching that will see the Phillies through.  With all the roadblocks in the Rangers path, I see them as a strong contender but not necessarily the favorites to win the World Series this year.   

 

Q: Why is it legal to bulldoze a catcher when he clearly has the ball, but not a fielder at any other base?  From G Homan, Ohio.

MLB reports:  You will have to check the rule book on this one.  It is just as legal to take out a catcher as it is an infielder during play, but it depends on the nature of the play.  A baserunner cannot run outside of the baselines to purposely run over an infielder or a catcher.  But in the course of running the bases, runners can collide with an infielder as they would a catcher.  Now the runners cannot purposely injure a defensive player, like using the spikes or an elbow to the face.  But to reach base safely, a strong slide or collision is a part of the game and can happen at second base the same way it can at home.  Despite cries to change the rules after the Buster Posey injury, strong and aggressive base running remains a vital part of the game.

   

Q:  Will the Phillies get an arm for their bullpen through waivers?  From Miguel, Philadelphia.

MLB reports:  Last time I checked, your team was stacked fairly well at the back-end of their pitching staff.  Ryan Madson as closer.  Brad LidgeAntonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras (when healthy) and Kyle Kendrick.  I wouldn’t be too worried about the pen.  Some people are calling for Heath Bell still to go to the Phillies.  But with the waiver process in effect, I can’t see Bell falling to the Phillies before getting snapped up earlier on waivers.  Another arm or two might out there, but nothing too special.  The Phillies most likely go with what they got and that is still much above most other pens in baseball.   

 

Q:  If you look at the numbers, you will find out that Indianapolis, IN and San Antonio, TX are the most populous cities without a MLB team.  I would think size of market would drive who gets the next teams.  It is obvious that MLB is financially doing really well.  I would keep two leagues, and give the expansion teams to the AL, since they are the league with only 14 teams.
 
American League:

West                       Midwest                   East                 Atlantic
LA Angels                    Rangers             Indianapolis     Yankees
Oakland A’s                  KC Royals        Tigers                   Red Sox
San Antonio               Twins                  Indians                Orioles
Mariners                    White Sox           Rays                    Blue Jays
 
National League:

West                             Midwest                  East            Atlantic
Dodgers       Colorado Rockies        Chicago Cubs        NY Mets
Padres          Houston Astros           Cincinnati Reds    Phil Phillies
Giants           St. Louis Cardinals     Atlanta Braves     Florida Marlins
Dbacks         Brewers                           Pitt Pirates            Wash Nationals
 
I tried to used a US map,and place teams in divisions according to how the line up East and West.  From Tom, Orange CA.

MLB reports:  Very interesting alignment Tom.  Indianapolis and San Antonio have been two very popular destinations for our readers in selecting the next two expansion MLB cities.  There has been resistance by Bud Selig to further expand baseball.  However, as discussed in our previous articles on the subject, baseball needs to add two more teams to balance out the leagues to 16-teams a piece.  Also realignment is in order to create better geographical rivalries and even out the number of teams per division.  So far, the most that we have heard is that baseball is planning to realign by moving one NL team to the AL by 2013 (as the 2012 regular season schedule has already been prepared in draft format).  The problem with the 15/15 split is that an interleague game would need to be played most days, which does not seem like a worthwhile proposition.  Houston by most accounts is the team most likely to move.  So while we appreciate your thoughts, the expansion and radical realignment ideas are unlikely to happen… yet.  If and when they do, we would like to see more shifting of teams to create new excitement and rivalries in baseball.  But the framework you have laid down is a very good start.  Thank you for sending it in.     

 

 

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Carlos Beltran to the Giants: Mets Likely to Trade Slugger to San Fran

Tuesday July 19, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The MLB rumor mill is working overtime as the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31st quickly approaches.  With less than two weeks to go, the speculation is heating up as to which players will be changing uniforms.  Francisco Rodriguez is already a Brewer and Jeff Keppinger was just traded to the Giants.  But rumors persist that the Mets and Giants are not finished with their activity.  With both superstars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran eligible for free agency at the end of the season, talk is that one or both players will be moved out of New York.  With the possibility of the Mets trying to retain Reyes, the most likely scenario is Carlos Beltran changing addresses.  At the center of the speculation is the San Francisco Giants.  The defending World Series champions have been simply atrocious this year offensively.  With their cleanup hitter Buster Posey out for the season, the team cannot afford to miss out on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes. 

The Giants were very fortunate to win the World Series last year.  The playoffs are a tough road and requires the perseverance normally of a balanced team to make it to the end.  The Giants, while solid in the pitching department, were essentially using smoke and mirrors to score runs last year.  The team relied on the likes of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez on offense.  While useful role players, these players are not the big sluggers that are supposed to win championships.  Now with Buster Posey out, the Giants are forced to rely on Eli Whiteside, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell and company to score the team’s runs.  Possessing one of the best, if not the best pitching staff in baseball, the Giants can ill-afford to limit itself offensively and essentially waste such strong pitching.  To defend its championship, the Giants will have no choice but to beef up their offense.

Carlos Beltran has been one of the most consistent hitters in the game over the course of his career.  Taking a look at his numbers, we see a consistently high level of production:

Year Tm AB R H HR RBI SB BA
1998 KCR 58 12 16 0 7 3 .276
1999 KCR 663 112 194 22 108 27 .293
2000 KCR 372 49 92 7 44 13 .247
2001 KCR 617 106 189 24 101 31 .306
2002 KCR 637 114 174 29 105 35 .273
2003 KCR 521 102 160 26 100 41 .307
2004 TOT 599 121 160 38 104 42 .267
2004 KCR 266 51 74 15 51 14 .278
2004 HOU 333 70 86 23 53 28 .258
2005 NYM 582 83 155 16 78 17 .266
2006 NYM 510 127 140 41 116 18 .275
2007 NYM 554 93 153 33 112 23 .276
2008 NYM 606 116 172 27 112 25 .284
2009 NYM 308 50 100 10 48 11 .325
2010 NYM 220 21 56 7 27 3 .255
2011 NYM 328 54 94 14 59 3 .287
14 Seasons 6575 1160 1855 294 1121 292 .282
162 Game Avg. 621 110 175 28 106 28 .282
               
KCR (7 yrs) 3134 546 899 123 516 164 .287
NYM (7 yrs) 3108 544 870 148 552 100 .280
HOU (1 yr) 333 70 86 23 53 28 .258
               
NL (8 yrs) 3441 614 956 171 605 128 .278
AL (7 yrs) 3134 546 899 123 516 164 .287
 
 

His resume speaks for itself.  Beltran is a 1999 AL Rookie of the Year.  He has won four Gold Gloves for his defensive work in the outfield.  He won two silver slugger awards.  A lifetime .282 AVG, .360 OBP and .495 SLG.  In 2004 he hit the magical 30/30 mark (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), and was actually two home runs short of 40/40.  For the most part, Beltran in his prime could do it all.  Hit home runs, hit for average, steal bases, catch and throw the ball like few players could.  One of the few true five-tool players in the game.  The aberrations we find in Beltran’s statistics were the last two years.  Due to various injuries, particularly knee woes, Carlos Beltran was forced to miss much of the last two seasons and saw his production sharply decline.  Now healthy and extremely motivated, Beltran has come back in a big way. 

Beltran played in his sixth All-Star game this year in Arizona.  While he rarely steals bases these days, the rest of Beltran’s game has returned as shown by his numbers.  The only issue surrounding Beltran is whether his knee will hold up for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.  From there, a team will need to determine his long-term health and abilities in awarding him a free agent contract.  But from all indications, Beltran is a player that can still play ball at the highest level when healthy.  An ideal fit for the Giants that lineup that desperately needs run production. 

How bad has the Giants offense been in 2011?  Going into tonight, the Giants as a team are hitting .243, with a .309 OBP and .363 SLG.  The team has collectively hit 63 home runs and scored 356 runs.  Yet somehow the team continues to sit in first place in the NL West, 3.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks.  If not for Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Brian Wilson and the rest of the Giants pitching staff, the Giants would be in the basement of the division.  The run of the Giants over the past two seasons has been incredible, but clearly linked to its pitching.  To support its pitchers and put runs on the board, the Giants have to step up and beef up its offense.  While Jeff Keppinger is a useful player, he will not be enough to get the job done.  Rather, the Giants need to acquire a bomber, the way the Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday a couple of years ago in their playoff run.  Or closer to home, when the Astros acquired Carlos Beltran in 2004.  Beltran hit an incredible 8 home runs during the Astros playoff drive that year.  Coincidentally, Beltran was an impending free agent that year as well.  Fast forward to 2011 and the very same Carlos Beltran is available.  Having a fantastic campaign, Beltran in 2011 has hit .287 to-date, with 14 home runs, league leading 28 doubles, with a .381 OBP and .512 SLG.  Again during a free agency year.  Definite playoff calibre numbers and a perfect fit out west in San Francisco.

The Giants and Carlos Beltran are well suited for one another.  San Francisco needs a strong cleanup hitter.   Carlos Beltran wants to compete for a World Series championship and boost his free agency stock for one more prime contract.  The odds of getting a ring don’t get any better than joining the defending world champions.  Some experts have speculated that Beltran may not waive his no-trade protection to join the Giants.  I am not buying that theory.  The Giants are a terrific organization to play for, with highly regarded management, a fantastic ballpark in a beautiful city, and are one of baseball’s most historical and treasured teams.  Beltran would look fantastic in a Giants uniform.  What better way to showcase his abilities and earn his last free agency contract than by playing for a contender and fighting for a World Series championship.

Remember 1994, the year that Beltran was traded from Kansas City to Houston and played like a man possessed in nearly single-handedly leading the Astros to the World Series.  That performance, combined with his numbers to-date, earned Beltran that off-season a 7-year, $119 million contract from the Mets.  Now Beltran is on the cusp of free agency again and has the potential to “earn his pay” so to speak with the Giants in the same manner that he did with the Astros in 1994.  With Scott Boras as his agent, Beltran will surely receive the advice that playoff performance equals free agency dollars.   

The Giants will have a choice in making a pitch to the Mets for Carlos Beltran.  They will either have to absorb the majority of the contract and provide fairly decent prospects, or have the Mets absorb a large chunk of money and offer 1-2 elite prospects in return.  The Giants are well stocked in the minors and have excellent pitching at the major league level.  The Mets may request Jonathan Sanchez off the major league roster or a combination of minor leaguers from the farm.  Outfielder Thomas Neal and pitcher Zack Wheeler could be on the Mets wish-list.  Or perhaps the Giants will be able to give up a package of lower level prospects and not lose their top prospects and major league level.  The decision will boil down to the money involved and players offered by other teams in trade packages.

At the end of the day, much like the Yankees must acquire Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies (see our recent feature), the Giants have no choice but to trade for Carlos Beltran.  The Yankees cannot afford to waste their superior offense without enough top-level pitching and the Giants in turn, need to surround their talented pitching staff with consistent run production.  It is a lot of pressure to have a team win 2-1, 3-1 games night-in and night-out.  Carlos Beltran has proven that he can carry a team on his back when he is on his game.  Well, in 2011 he is definitely playing at his highest level in years.  Beltran needs the Giants for his next contract and a chance for a ring, while the Giants need his bat and glove to increase their chances of a championship.  The perfect marriage, expect Beltran to be a Giant by the end of July.  This acquisition makes too much sense for the Giants and Brian Sabean will continue to stock his team on route to a possible back-to-back World Series run for the Giants.  Carlos Beltran to the Giants.  Not a question of if, just a question of when.

 

 

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

Wednesday July 13, 2011

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

W: T. Clippard

L: C. Wilson

S: B. Wilson

 

National All-Stars

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

National All-Stars

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

American All-Stars

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

American All-Stars

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

 

 

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

 

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MLB Closers Report 2011: Who is in, Who is out

MLB reports:  I get several messages a day on the state of the closers in major league baseball.  Questions asking me which players have a closing job, which are about to lose their job and which players are most likely to get save opportunities.  In my fantasy baseball days, I used to call it fishing for closers on the waiver wire:  waiting for a closer to underperform and/or get injured and lose their job and immediately pick up the heir-apparent to the throne.  How are the thirty major league teams doing in the closer department?  Let’s take a closer look at each team and find out:

1)  New York Yankees:  Mariano Rivera

With seven saves in eight opportunities and a 1.93 ERA, Mo is as automatic as they come.  Even at his advanced age, Mariano is a #1 fantasy closer, if not the top closer.  Rafael Soriano is the next in-line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

2)  Colorado Rockies:  Houston Street

Although health is often a concern with Street, seven saves in seven opportunities with a 2.03 ERA is not.  Street has really come into his own in Colorado and as long as he can stay healthy, he is becoming nearly automatic out on the mound.  Add in fourteen strikeouts and Street is as dangerous as they come.  Lidstrom has been spectacular as well to start the year, but with health and performance issues surrounding him in the past, Lidstrom at best is a filler in case of an injury to Street.  A solid #2, Lidstrom will form a solid 1-2 punch with Street all season long (on the field and likely on the DL at some point).

3)  Atlanta Braves:  Craig Kimbrel

The youngsters debate should be over.  Six saves in seven opportunities and a 0.96 ERA.  2/14 BB/K ratio.  Kimbrel is clearly the man in Atlanta.  While Venters is very talented and the next in line should Kimbrel falter, the rope for Kimbrel grows by the day.  Atlanta appears to have found its closer for the next decade.

4)  Cleveland Indians:  Chris Perez

With the hot start of the Indians, Perez has been enjoying the ride.  Six saves in seven opportunities and a 2.25 ERA.  One area for concern:  four strikeouts in eight innings pitched.  Although Perez is becoming craftier on the mound, low strikeouts for a closer generally leads to disaster.  The Indians have some decent arms in the pen, including Rafael Perez.  But the Perez of choice is Chris.

5)  San Diego Padres:  Heath Bell

The second coming of Trevor Hoffman, Bell is a perfect five for five in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA.  Having Bell on the Padres is like driving a brand new Mercedes while living in a bachelor apartment on the wrong side of the town.  An unnecessary luxury in many observers’ estimation.  Beware that a hot Bell will have trade rumors surround him all summer long.  The Padres have literally 4-5 closing options in the pen, so this situation is far from settled if Bell is dealt.  I could see Neshek, Qualls, Gregerson and Adams all getting their shot.  For now Bell is a top five closer unless he leaves San Diego.  If I had to watch one reliever it would be Neshek, who has come back from injury and could claim the job in the event he is called upon.

6)  Los Angeles Dodgers:  Jonathan Broxton

Broxton somehow is a perfect five for five in saves but with a 5.19 ERA, the end is likely coming near.  The hope for many baseball analysts, including my own, is that Broxton can turn it around and reclaim his form.  Kuo, once healthy, is the likely pick to take over the role.  My dark horse pick is Mike MacDougal, the veteran who has extensive closing experience.  A 1.13 ERA for MacDougal is outstanding, but his 5/6 BB/K ratio is nothing to write home about.  Guerrier may also get a look, but Kuo is the consensus pick to take over at some point.  I would like to sit here and guarantee that Broxton will recover and return to form, but I can’t promise that.  It could happen, but with each passing rocky outing, even I am starting to have my doubts.  My plan would be to remove Broxton from the role and let him work out in his kinks.  In the interim I would insert MacDougal to steady the ship and then re-insert Broxton in July.  That would be my plan, but not necessarily the same script for the Dodgers.  Keep a look out as this mess is far from settled.

7)  Philadelphia Phillies:  Jose Contreras (Breaking News:  Now Ryan Madson)

Running an eight inning scoreless run, a perfect five for five in saves opportunities with nine strikeouts, Contreras has become the man in Philadelphia.  But running a close second is Ryan Madson, a 1.00 ERA and 2/10 BB/K ratio.  The long-term solution is Madson and any hint of a Contreras downturn will insert Madson in the role.  I expect this to happen any week now and once Madson becomes the closer, he should keep it until Papelbon joins the team next year (yes, it will happen).  Please do not say Brad Lidge though, that story has been written and re-written too many times.  Injuries and production problems is the story of Lidge.  Hopefully the Phillies are smart and do not go down that road again.  The moral of the story:  Contreras today, Madson soon and Papelbon next year.

(P.S. As I am writing this, Contreras has been sent to Philadelphia for an exam and is on the DL.  Ryan Madson is the closer, funny how quickly things can turn)

8)  Kyle Farnsworth:  Tampa Bay Rays

Another closer with a perfect five for five saves record, Farnsworth owns a 1.23 ERA and zero walks allowed on the season.  I am not sure who this person on the mound is and what he has done with the real Kyle Farnsworth, but whoever this imposter is on the mound I would keep him.  All kidding aside, I am a Farnsworth fan and have wished him well for years.  But after watching him implode in nearly every stop on his major league tour, I remain somewhat skeptical.  Jake McGee, my closer pick has started off slow but with improved numbers down the road could grab the job.  Same with Peralta, although walks tends to hurt his value.  The Rays will be riding Farnsworth like a rented mule until he cannot close anymore.

9)  Neftali Feliz:  Texas Rangers

Another five for five in saves opportunities, Feliz with a 1.08 ERA has a stranglehold on the job.  Recently placed on the DL with a sore shoulder, the Rangers will turn to some combination of Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day , perhaps even Rhodes, until Feliz returns.  Don’t sweat this one, Feliz will be back soon and continuing his climb to the top of the ranks of MLB closers in 2011.  Of concern is Feliz’s 5/6 BB/K ratio, which will have to change for Feliz to be ultimately effective as the closer.  Walks tend to do very bad things to closers in the 9th but based on the the talent in his arm, Feliz will be the go-to-guy this year again.

10)  Brian Fuentes:  Oakland Athletics

Fuentes was signed to be a solid lefty in the pen and fill-in closer for the A’s.  Five for six opportunities, Fuentes has been steady for Oakland but sports a brutal 4.66 ERA.  Just like Jonathan Broxton in LA, Fuentes is likely on borrowed time unless he becomes more automatic on the mound.  Add a 5/7 BB/K ratio and the Andrew Bailey watch will continue in Oakland.  While I see Bailey getting the job in the short-run, Fuentes will find a way to reclaim the job by the summer and possibly to the end of the year.  Don’t look now though but Ziegler has not been scored upon this year and could put up a fight as well.  Keep an eye on this situation as it unfolds.

11)  Joel Hanrahan:  Pittsburgh Pirates

Five for five in saves, 2/8 BB/K ratio and a 2.70 ERA translates to increased job security for Hanrahan.  Much like Heath Bell, as Hanrahan performs well he becomes a luxury on a rebuilding Pirates team in need of prospects.  Essentially keeping the seat warm for 2010 all-star Evan Meek, look for Hanrahan to be dealt sometime in the summer and for Meek to take over the closer’s role in 2011 and for the foreseeable future.

12)  Brandon League:  Seattle Mariners

Yet another closer that is five for five in saves, League is holding down the fort until the return of Dave Aardsma.  The 3.68 ERA is ok, but three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings is not.  League has shown good control with only one walk, but changes are still likely coming in Seattle.  Expect the Mariners to deal Aardsma and/or League during the summer if Aardsma can return and show health.  Given that Aardsma is no guarantee, there is a good chance that League can keep the role for the majority of the year.  But I would not bet on it given his shaky track record… I actually expect a dark horse to emerge at some point in this race.

13)  Carlos Marmol:  Chicago Cubs

Five for seven in saves, Marmol has the security of a long-term deal and is clearly the closer in Chicago.  His 2.53 ERA is interesting, but more telling is his 7/15 BB/K ratio.  Few closers can touch Marmol’s heat and if he could just lower his walks totals, he would become a top-five closer in baseball.  But the walks will unlikely go away this year and expect some interesting moments with Marmol as he works towards 30+ saves in 2011.  Kerry Wood is the next-in-line in case, think of him as Marmol insurance.  Marshall has been steady as well and the one surprise is Samardzija with a 3.65 ERA, but his 14/14 BB/K ratio shows the heat is there but the control is not.  But the Cubs are Marmol’s team.

14)  Leo Nunez:  Florida Marlins

Totals?  Five for five in saves, which appears to be a standard at this point in the season.  Nunez has a 2.00 ERA and is off to a hot start in Florida.  As the summer months approach, I cannot see Nunez sustaining these numbers and a few bad outings could cost him his job very quickly.  For a strong run, I appear the Marlins making a trade or picking a new horse for the job.  Webb, Dunn and Hensley may all get looks this year, but are unlikely long-term solutions.  Until then, the job is Nunez’s to lose.

15)  Jonathan Papelbon:  Boston Red Sox

For a guy on the heat seat, all Papelbon has done is go five for five in saves, with a 2.16 ERA and a 2/11 BB/K ratio.  Papelbon is as automatic as they come and with his first run into free agency on the horizon, do not expect Papelbon’s role to change in 2011.  Papelbon has an incentive to be a fantasy closing superstar and the Red Sox will happily ride him to first round picks as compensation in the off-season.  While Bard is the heir-apparent with Bobby Jenks always lurking, do not expect this move to happen until 2012, unless injury strikes.  Papelbon will look really good in Philadelphia next year.  Remember you heard it here first.

16)    J.J. Putz:  Arizona Diamondbacks

Putz has been everything that Kirk Gibson could have imagined in Arizona and more.  Five for five in saves (yes, another one), 1.13 ERA and 0/10 BB/K ratio.  Expect Putz to be an all-star this year as he leads a young Diamondbacks team back to respectability.  With no plan b’s on the horizon, Arizona will live by the Putz and die by the Putz.

17)  Joakim Soria:  Kansas City Royals

Ok…ok…ok…. let’s not get too excited people.  Soria’s five saves in six opportunities comes along with a 5.59 ERA and a 5/5 BB/K ratio.  Add ten hits allowed in 10 2/3 innings and you have some pretty ugly numbers for a top-three closer.  With the three-headed monster of Collins, Crow and Jeffress looming, I can foresee some fans starting to call for the head of Soria as the Royals continue to excel.  Don’t see it happening.  I cannot see the Royals continuing their hot start and I cannot foresee anyone unseating the great Soria.  The young Royals pitching squad needs Soria and unless he literally implodes, which I don’t see happening, Soria will be the closer for the next few years.  As the Royals build to be contenders in the next 2-3 years, they will rely on a healthy and productive Soria to carry their bullpen.  Soria is the Royals closer and do not get any other ideas on the subject.

18)  Brian Wilson:  San Francisco Giants

The Giants were the feel good story of 2011 and while the “fear the beard” motto was cute in its time, I think this story is done.  Wilson has to get away from the beard and concentrate on what he does best:  close ball games.  Although five for six in saves this year, Wilson sports a brutal 7.94 ERA a pedestrian 4/6 BB/K ratio.  The World Series champion Giants will give Wilson a lot of rope and I cannot foresee him losing his job.  But with the World Series letdown could come a return to earth for several players, including Wilson.  While he will still get 30+ saves, his numbers are showing that a market correct is in order.  Wilson needs to get re-focused…he is the only game in town as the closer for the Giants.

19)  Brandon Lyon:  Houston Astros

The poster boy for mediocre closers, Lyon remains a frustration year-in and year-out.  Four for six in saves opportunities, with a 4.32 ERA, 13 hits allowed in 8 1/3 inning and a dismal 2/3 BB/K ratio, Lyon is better suited to middle relief than closing.  Lyon is a veteran on a young Astros team and while experience is supposed to help the young pitchers, his stats are hurting the team.  With Melancon and Fulchino pitching so well, a changing of the guard is coming in Houston.  Right now my money is on Melancon becoming the closer by May.

20)  Francisco Rodriguez:  New York Mets

Together with Papelbon, K-Rod had many doubters going into the year.  Legal troubles and a declining team and numbers looked to spell the end for Rodriguez.  His four saves in five opportunities has been great, together with his 2.35 ERA.  His 6/13 BB/K ratio is showing that the arm and heat are back, but so is his wildness.  K-Rod will get 30+ saves in my estimation, but may not so pretty getting there.  Frankie is getting paid the big bucks and will have the job for 2011.

21)  Jose Valverde:  Detroit Tigers

The king of hot starts, Valverde has been four for four in saves on a very inconsistent Detroit Tigers team in 2011.  His 1.04 ERA and 2/9 BB/K ratio have been spectacular.  Valverde will have the job this year as he works towards another free agency run at seasons-end.  Benoit is the closer in waiting and while he will have the job in 2012, will be the filler when called upon.  The Tigers will stick with Valverde, period.

22)  John Axford:  Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching for a contending Brewers team, Axford’s numbers have not cut it this year.  Three for five in saves, 7.36 ERA and a 6/8 BB/K ratio means that Axford is closing on borrowed time.  I still expect Axford to get a little more rope to straighten himself out, but not for much longer.  While Saito was my pick to take over the role at the start of the season, and poor health and inconsistency have plagued him.  Same with LaTroy Hawkins, another failed closer in the Brewers’ pen.  The dark horse for the role is Kameron Loe, the former Rangers starter and Japanese baseball survivor.  Look for Loe, who has been the Brewers best reliever season to get the role any day now and to run with it into the forseeable future.

23)  Drew Storen/ (Sean Burnett):  Washington Nationals

I know your first reaction:  is Sean Burnett not the closer?  A 3.24 ERA, three for four in saves and 0/6 BB/K ratio- is that not closing numbers?  Perhaps, but Burnett is like a mirage in the desert.  You think you are seeing water, but its all an illusion.  Storen with a 0.77 ERA, two for two in saves, six hits allowed in 11 2/3 innings and 4/8 BB/K ratio is the man.  Storen has been groomed for the position is whole life and was drafted as a closer to become the Nationals ninth inning stopper.  Burnett may still get the occasional opportunity but his saves opportunities are coming to an end.  As Storen becomes nearly automatic, the job will be his for the next decade in Washington.

24)  Matt Capps:  Minnesota Twins

The Twins originally said they would bring Joe Nathan along slowly after missing a year due to surgery.  What did they end up doing?  Throwing him straight into the fire and destroying his pitching confidence and stats line.  With a 9.82 ERA and 6/5 BB/K ratio, do not expect Nathan back in the role for a LONG time.  Capps, acquired from Washington for catching prospect Ramos has now taken over the closing duties.  Three for four in save opportunities, 4.09 ERA and a 0/5 BB/K ratio shows that Capps is ready to run with the job.  Minnesota is well-known for steady starting pitching and I look for Capps to finish with a steady amount of saves.  He may not blow hitters away anymore, but with continued control look for Capps to keep the job for most of 2011.

25)  Francisco Cordero:  Cincinnati Reds

For all the doom and gloom coming out of Cinci for Cordero, he has continued to put up great numbers.  Three for three in saves, 2.00 ERA, a stingy five hits in nine innings pitched and 4/7 BB/K ratio.  The changing of the guard is coming though for the Reds as you look at Chapman’s numbers.  Throws 100+ MPH heat, nine scoreless innings, two hits in nine innings with a 7/9 BB/K ratio.  This is another case that unless the incumbent implodes or gets injured, he will retain his role.  The Reds rely on the Veteran Cordero and Dusty Baker is very loyal to his foot soldiers.  Chapman is still showing wildness and the best course is to let him continue to develop as Cordero keeps saving games.  A change is coming in 2012 but until then, Cordero is the Reds closer.  If you like to gamble though, Chapman has a decent shot at the job… he is the heir apparent and the first reliever in line if needed.

26)  Jon Rauch:  Toronto Blue Jays

One of several new additions to the Jays pen, Rauch originally was supposed to keep the role warm for Frank Francisco until he returned from injury.  Rauch on the season has a 2.08 ERA and is three for three in saves opportunities.  While his 4/6 BB/K ratio is pedestrian, Rauch will have the job for the majority of the year in my opinion.  While Francisco has the heat and the strikeout numbers, he has shown to be very inconsistent and erratic in the closers role from his time in Texas.  Francisco will possibly get a shot at the role at some point early on this season, my money is still on Rauch.  With so many closing options in Toronto including Dotel and Frasor, this situation is very difficult to handicap.  At the end of the day, you either believe in Francisco or Rauch as the closer.  My gut is saying Rauch.

27)  Jordan Walden:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The next, great Angels closer, Walden has taken to the role and run with it.  Ten scoreless innings, three for three in saves, three hits allowed in 9 1/3 innings and a 5/10 BB/K ratio are all impressive.  Fernando Rodney, the veteran closer will be breathing down his neck the whole season.  If not for his 8/7 BB/K ratio, Rodney has a 2.08 ERA of his own and only blown save on the season.  As with all young pitchers, Walden will run into some trouble along the way.  The question will be how he handles adversity.  This is one team that I have faced several arguments on this season.  I see Rodney taking back his job while Walden continues to be groomed into the next big thing.  For me, experience and knowledge tends to usually win out and Rodney has an advantage in both departments over Walden.  The job is Walden’s today and for quite some time, but 2-3 blown saves in a week can change things in a hurry.  Another situation to keep an eye on.

28)  Mitchell Boggs:  St. Louis Cardinals

Where is Ryan Franklin?  One for five in save opportunities and with a 7.88 ERA.  Complaining about the fans of St. Louis won’t appease Cardinals management either.  The 27-year-old Boggs is the newest closer on the carousel, with two saves in two opportunities, 1.59 ERA and outstanding 3/13 BB/K ratio.  There are many people jumping on the Boggs bandwagon and for good reason.  The kid is apparently coming into his own and has taken the job by the reigns.  As is the case with Walden, we do not have enough of a track record to know the long-term potential of the kid.  Again, 2-3 blown saves in a week can change the situation in a hurry.  I still expect Franklin to straighten himself out and perhaps reclaim the job later in the year.  But based on his solid work to-date, the closer in St. Louis is Boggs and the job is literally his to lose.  Keep one eye open, just in case.

29)  Kevin Gregg:  Baltimore Orioles

Pitching in the Brandon Lyon sea of mediocrity, Gregg has been up-and-down this year for the upstart Orioles.  Two saves in three opportunities, 4.50 ERA, and 4/6 BB/K ratio are nothing to write home about.  Mike Gonzalez with a 10.80 ERA does not appear to be healthy and recovered to be able to compete for the role.  Jeremy Accardo has a 2.08 ERA but an alarming 6/4 BB/K ratio.   Koji Uehara, with a 1.35 ERA and 3/7 BB/K ratio is my pick for the Orioles closing job when Gregg inevitably begins to break down.  The Orioles are lucky to have several options, with Simon originally being my original dark horse until legal troubles slowed down his season.  But based on track history, I really like Uehara’s chances to claim the job by June, if not sooner.

30)  (Jesse Crain):  Chicago White Sox

I certainly saved the worst for last and the White Sox have had their share of bullpen woes in 2011.  With one team on the season, Sale and Thornton have not been the saviors that Sox fans were expecting this year.  With ERAs north of 6.00, neither one is likely to take the role anytime soon.  Ohman and Pena have been fairly weak as well and the last two realistic survivors are Santos and Crain.  Much press has been written on Santos, the converted pitcher who has pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings with five hits allowed a 5/13 BB/K ratio.  While many experts are already picking Santos, I am looking at the dark horse, Jesse Crain to take the role.  The former Twin had a steady 2010 year and has started this year with a 1.74 ERA and spectacular 2/11 BB/K ratio.  Santos is the darling of Chicago with his flame throwing ways, but the more experienced Crain appears to be just what the doctor ordered in Chicago.  A situation that is far from unsettled, Thornton or Sale could grab a hold of the job at any time with some steady consecutive outings.  But based on current numbers and future outlook, if you want my pick- it will be Crain.  With such a strong offense and steady starting pitching, the Sox cannot afford to lose too many games in the 9th if they hope to take the AL Central.  That is where a veteran as the anchor will prove to be best solution in the bullpen.

The state of closers is always a heated discussion in baseball circles every year.  Probably the most volatile position in baseball, approximately 30% of opening day closers will still have their jobs by years-end.  With injuries and failures, closers can come and go on a weekly basis.  Today’s failed starters can be tomorrow’s superstar closers.  Next week’s stoppers can also be minor league filler by August.  All baseball fans, whether fans of teams or fantasy players, all get driven to the point of insanity because of closers.  For every Mariano Rivera, there will be three Jordan Waldens, five Jonathan Broxtons and seven Brandon Lyons.  I hope that you enjoyed reading the state of the union on MLB closers today.  Although situations may have changed while I wrote this article (see Contreras) and even tomorrow, remember to keep an open mind and focus on where the next closers will be.  The most effective relievers in the bullpen will usually get the first crack- it is the ones that can succeed under pressure that will keep their jobs.

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