Blog Archives

A Story of MLB Free Agency: Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols

Thursday July 26th, 2012

 John Burns: Two of baseball biggest sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder both signed $200 million plus contracts this offseason when they hit free agency. Pujols was the first of the two sluggers to sign. On December 10th, 2011, Pujols signed a ten-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, worth around $254 million. It was speculated around the winter meeting that Pujols could join the Miami Marlins who emerged as early favorites for Pujols. Albert could have easily been a Marlin right now if it wasn’t for Miami not granting Pujols a no-trade clause. As for Prince Fielder he waited until late January to sign. Fielder ended up signing a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. Both Fielder and Pujols shocked the baseball world by signing with teams that you would have never expected to see either of them play for. But that is part of the beauty of this game. You never know what will happen. Read the rest of this entry

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Joakim Soria to Undergo a 2nd Tommy John Surgery: The Aftermath of the Loss of the Royals Closer

Saturday March 24th, 2012

Jonathan Hacohen:  I was digging in the MLB reports archive this morning, thinking about the recent news on Joakim Soria‘s seasoning ending injury. The inevitable story came out yesterday, as Joakim Soria is facing a second Tommy John surgery. A visit to Dr. Andrews confirmed it. With “definite damage” to the elbow, as was reported from Soria’s initial prognosis, it was only a matter of time till this announcement was made. So the Royals lose Soria for the season, their top closer facing a long road to return after the reconstructive elbow surgery he is about to face. Did the Royals take too much of a risk by hanging on to Soria this offseason? As a result, what is the Royals bullpen going to look like in 2012? Read the rest of this entry

Time Has Come For the Royals to Trade Soria

Tuesday November 15, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the free agency season in full swing, some teams may not be happy with the sticker prices on available players.  Especially when it comes to pitching, including closers.  Jonathan Papelbon recently grabbed $50 million from the Phillies and reports have Ryan Madson looking at a deal in the $40 million range.  These figures make existing closers signed to reasonable deals an attractive trade commodity, despite the amount of available relief pitchers on the market.  There may be a quantity of closers, but certainly not quality.  Outside of Mariano Rivera and Papelbon, there are few sure-fire closers currently in baseball.  Enter Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals.

A 2-time All-Star, Soria has put up some impressive numbers in his 5 seasons in Kansas City.  Two seasons of 40+ saves, Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP.  Soria will only be 28 next year and could theoretically be a building block for the next few seasons in Kansas City.  However, closers are generally considered to be foundational players.  Soria is no exception.  2011 was his most difficult seasons in the majors, as he did save 28 games but put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP (all career worsts).  Soria is signed for $6 million this coming season and has 2 more team options at roughly $8 million per season.  The Royals are faced with a decision: hold onto their star closer, or cash in while his market is at its peak.

The Royals are on the way up.  No doubt about it.  Mike Moustakas, Erik Hosmer, Wil Myers, John Lamb and company are expected to come together at the same time to make the Royals the next powerhouse squad.  By my estimation, they should be World Series contenders by 2015.  But with a couple of more seasons of growing pains ahead, can they afford the luxury of Soria?  My argument is no.  Soria’s salary in 2012 is still considered a “deal”, but from 2013 go-forward at $8 million, the Royals would be wise to spend their salary dollars in other areas.  There are still holes to fill on the squad, including 1-2 more bats and starting pitching.  The team will also need to lock up some of its young star players early to avoid unaffordable contract demands down the road.  Joakim Soria can bring back a nice haul to fill needs and stock the team for a future championship.  The team needs to be realistic of where it is today, where it is going in the future and the players it needs to get there.

The Royals also have options to replace Soria.  Aaron Crow (if he is not moved into the rotation) and Tim Collins could all get a shot.  Luke Hochevar, who has been hot/cold during his career in the rotation may eventually settle into the bullpen.  Options are there.  Heck, the Royals plunked Soria from the Rule-5 draft and transformed him from a Padres outcast into a star closer.  With the risk of injury and ineffectiveness always hanging over closers, the Royals may be gambling if they hang onto Soria much longer.  Another season like 2011 could severely damage his trade value, while he could bring in a nice crop of 2-3 prospects if traded this offseason.  The Royals need to do some soul-searching and realize that Soria is worth more in a trade than on their roster.

Teams will surely line-up if Joakim Soria is made available.  The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals would all surely inquire as to his availability.   From all reports, the Yankees and Blue Jays are the strongest contenders to land the Royals closer.  Don’t get me wrong- I am a Joakim Soria fan.  I believe the kid is immensely talented and has the talent and determination to remain a top MLB closer for another decade (health permitting).  But on a losing ballclub that is rebuilding, Joakim Soria is a luxury that the Royals simply cannot afford.  If the team has to trade a Moustakas or Hosmer given their budget but retain Soria, that would be a big mistake in my estimation.  The team needs to build for 2015- not 2012.  This offseason represents a golden opportunity for the Royals to continue to replenish its roster and fill more holes.  The Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was that type of step in the right direction.  If Melky was a Prince, it is time for the Royals to flip their King for a pair of Wild Cards.  It could prove to be their ultimate winning hand.

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

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

Phillies Sign Papelbon Over Madson: The Stare Arrives in Philadelphia

Saturday November 12, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week.  Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year.  Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher.  At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon.  The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011.  But then something interesting happened.  The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart.  A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly!  At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer.  But what happened?  How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?

The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out.  Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product.  In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract.  While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position.  While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season.  But something funny happened this season.  Madson became solid.  So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP.  With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap.  But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure.  The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson.  The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.

The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer.  In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a  large pact.  But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season.  The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain.  But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go?  Simple.  Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public.  The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it.  But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal.  By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof.  It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%.  Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.

The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn.  While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted.  If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount.  The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put.  At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume.  The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.

For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation.  Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon.  The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board.  Roy Halladay.  Cliff Lee.  Now Jonathan Papelbon.  When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin.  Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff.  So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way.  The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season.  As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable.  But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget.  With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.

The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today.  While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract.  At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon.  While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team.  The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer.  The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon.  While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.

A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers.  By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency.  The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery.  But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans.  At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear.  Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season.  Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.

When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me.  Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon.  Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent.  But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season.  The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons.  There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia.  The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out.  The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love.  Another World Series may not be far behind.

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

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

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.***

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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

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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.

 

 

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Doug Booth: An Inside Look at the 2011 World Series Ballparks

Sunday October 23, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  We are very fortunate today to have author Doug Booth of “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”, join us today with a Guest MLB Blog.  Doug, an expert on major league baseball parks, shares his knowledge on The Ballpark In Arlington (Texas) and Busch Stadium (St. Louis)- the sites of the 2011 World Series.  We appreciate Doug taking the time out of his schedule to articulate his knowledge and experiences of these amazing ballparks.  Enjoy.      

______________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s Antlers & Claws vs. The Squirrel in the World Series

(AL)TEXAS RANGERS VS. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (NL)

The 2011 World Series features the second ever meeting of a series between the two clubs, with only a 2004 series in Texas has been played in the whole history of interleague.  The Fall Classic may display some of the unique characteristics each city, park and all of the fans to display to the rest of the world.  From the new tradition of the faithful Rangers fans joining in with players to do the antlers/claws celebration when powering up-or the entire Cardinal team taking the good luck pet squirrel-(both the real live one and the stuffed squirrel that was tossed into the Cardinal bullpen-and participated in the champagne celebration of the NL Champs,) this series will be entertaining.

First you have the Texas Rangers, formerly the Washington Senators, who moved to the state of Texas in 1972 only to wait for almost forty years for their first World Series appearance and have since gone back to the second time-to the Cardinals 3rd trip since 2004-and them trying to add to their 11 World Series titles already.  Ballpark fans will tell what to look for if you listen.

In Texas, and of course everything is always bigger in Texas, there will be sunny warm weather, plenty of cowboy hats and Stetsons, whereas the Cardinals fans will be decked out in their best red team shirts and jerseys.  The Ballpark in Arlington will play the ‘Natural’ movie theme song every time their player takes the ball yard, while St. Louis will cheer their players for a homer with the warmest of exuberance while the weather may surface near freezing temperatures.  The Rangers fans, with their loud and boisterous ways-will cheer for the Cardinals to fail at defense, meanwhile the Cardinals fans will always cheer a great baseball play even if it costs their team a chance to score and win the game.

There is plenty of tiered parking at ‘The Ballpark In Arlington.’  It is a price structure that is the fairest in the majors.  The more you are willing to walk, the less you have to pay to watch an event there.  Then you have the NL version of the ‘Yankees’, so much like downtown New York, in St. Louis you will be lucky to find a spot-and worst yet-you may miss your turn-offs from the highway.   Busch Stadium displays one of the best iconic visuals in the Arch for the back drop of the park, in contrast-The Ballpark in Arlington has the biggest space in the outfield bleachers with the corporate offices staring down at the field. That means that the like of Nolan Ryan will always be watching even if the Cards are just practicing. If that doesn’t intimidate you at all you can always see the 1.2 billion dollar Cowboys Stadium across the street.

The fans will sing ‘Deep in the heart of Texas’ after the seventh inning stretch in Arlington.  The Busch fans will probably blast ‘thank god I am a country boy, or cotton-eyed Joe’ on the loudspeaker.

After the games at Busch Stadium, the downtown district and especially Mike Shannon’s steakhouse, they will celebrate their team playing in the playoffs.  In Texas, the streets that lead to the highways will be jammed causing some of the people to carry-on the partying in the parking lots or wait for other form of ground transportation by celebrating with other fans.

This series represents the 29th and 30th ballparks I ever saw.  I had seen all other 28 ballparks in less than a month in 2008-and was delighted at the style and professionalism each ballpark displayed.  The staff at Busch Stadium had my dad and me on the field being interviewed by Fox Sports-Midwest.  It was an incredible gesture on their part.  As for attending The Ballpark In Arlington right after, I was blown away by the size and structure of this behemoth park.  I watched a game where the temperature soared into the 100’s, but don’t be afraid of attending the game-you can always cool off in centerfield by having an ice cream or smoothie in the little kids indoor concession stand that has air conditioning!  Just always know what the score is because the concourses are so big you can’t see the game or scoreboard from them

So sit back and watch the baseballs fly out of both parks with what may be the best ever NL offence, and the best AL offence since the 1927 Yankees.  I warn you, be prepared for all possibilities, I witnessed a 15 inning game at Busch in 2009 where they actually ran out of pop and the game ended at 1:15 Am in the morning, oh yeah and I witnessed a torrential down pour at the Ballpark In Arlington to add to my ballpark viewing resume.

The moral of the story is eat lots of food of water, be caught up in the parks different traditions-and finally stay until the final pitch is made.  If the game happens to be in St. Louis and the Rangers win the World Series-watch how the ‘classiest fans in baseball’ will show the nation yet again of how nice they are.  I am sure they would rather win still though.

DCB

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

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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.

The Texas Rangers are Heading Back to the World Series

 

Sunday October 16, 2011

 

 

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

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Six

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

MLB Playoffs: Improving and Revamping the System

Saturday October 15, 2011

 

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  I recently received a great e-mail from one of our readers.  The e-mail was a well written commentary piece on improving the MLB Playoffs structure.  So enthusiastic was I with the contents of the message, that I immediately suggested sharing the reader’s thoughts on our site.  I got an enthusiastic thumbs back in response!  Thus today on MLB reports, we are proud to present Guest Writer- Brian Corrigan, with his proposal to improve and revamp the MLB Playoffs:

 

Brian Corrigan (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The classic pennant chase prior to 1969 made sense.  It rewarded the team that performed consistently over a schedule of between 154 and 162 games.   In a given year, it is possible that one or two teams with the best records in Major League Baseball will win 60% of their games.  However, a team that wins 60% of their games, will routinely lose 3 out of 5 games several times in a season.  And the difference between a team that wins 55% of its games and 60% is almost unnoticeable in any given stretch of games, until you play out the full season.

As the two top seeds in each league have now just been eliminated from the championship games, does baseball really want to go the path of hockey, basketball and football- allowing wild card teams an ever-increasing role in the postseason?  Remember that those are sports where the best teams commonly win 67%+ of their games.  In football, the top teams win 75%+ of their games.  Baseball is a totally different creature.  It requires longer sifting for the really great baseball teams to emerge, although those teams are almost inevitably bewitched by periods of seasonal funks.

Does baseball really want to go in this direction?  Will games in April, May and June really count?  Will fans wait until postseason to tune in?  Will General Managers develop strategies to play on the cheap in the first half of the season, and then make the key acquisitions that will give them the best short-term shot at the postseason?   Do we really want baseball to degenerate in this direction?

I’m a pragmatic person.  I understand that baseball is business.  Given the fact that postseason play is more lucrative, I can understand wanting to expand the number of postseason games.  Ultimately, I’m not going to succeed in rolling back the clock, but I would like to propose a system that is much better than a 10 or 12 team playoff system.

 If I could deliver a postseason schedule that:

1)    Produced more games, and therefore higher revenues than the current system;

2)    Would produce a higher number of expected games, while taking less elapsed time, solving the World Series in November problem;

3)    Would do this even with the existing 8 team playoff structure;

4)    Would encourage the use of the top 3 starting pitching rotations, that fans prefer; and

5)    Decreases the probability that the series will come down to luck or streakiness…

Would I at least have your attention?

What I am proposing does all of this, as well as produce higher revenues for MLB teams and more excitement for the fans.

 

What I am proposing is essentially a best of 9 games “round robin” pennant series, where each of the 4 playoff teams in each league would potentially play each other 3 times – possibly more or less, with up to two tie-breaker games.  The pennant would not be won until one team had secured the best record in the pennant series, getting at least 6 wins.  Until a team took its fifth loss, it would still be playing meaningful games, until one team secured its sixth win.

Each 3-game set would consist of a first game, with the team that does not have home field advantage taking a day off, and then playing on the 3rd and 4th day against the team with the home field advantage.  The fifth day would be off; thus, the use of a 3 pitcher starting rotation would be encouraged.  One league would start one day later than the other, so that baseball games would played on each day. 

Home field advantage would go to the team with the best seed (best regular season record).

But isn’t there a possibility that some of the games wouldn’t count?  Yes, however by giving the postseason teams a share of postseason revenues, there is always a motivation to win.  At the point where two teams have been mathematically eliminated from the pennant series (this should not happen until every team has had a chance to play at least five games, and most likely more), then the two surviving teams would play the balance of the remaining 9- game tournament against each other, even if that means they play more than three times against one another.  For example, if two teams have won their first 5 games, and the remaining teams have lost 5 games each, then the teams that have won five in a row should play their last games against each other.  Effectively, this would create a best of five series for the surviving two teams, until one team gets its eighth win (allowing for a tenth game tie breaker if needbe). 

To increase the probability that the two best teams would play in the final 3 games, I would propose the following schedule:

First 3 games:  #1 seed plays #4 seed;  #2 seed plays #3 seed

Second 3 games:  winner of #1 vs. #4 plays loser of #2 vs #3 series; winner of #2 vs. #3 plays loser of #1 vs. #4.

Of the two teams that won the first series, they will go into the last series with no more than 4 losses (no more than 1 from the first series and 3 from the last series), meaning that at least the first game between those two teams will count for both clubs, since elimination could not yet have occurred for either one.

Taking this year’s National League Division series as an example:  the Phillies won the first two of three against the Cards, and so would have played their next three games against the D-Backs who lost 2 of 3 to the Brewers.  The Brewers would have played their next three vs. the Cards.  The final 3 games would have been Phils vs. Brewers, Cards vs. D-Backs, at least until two of the teams had been eliminated. 

 

In the event that only one team is eliminated, until a second team is eliminated, it is possible that 1 or 2 games will be played for the honor of baseball, or for a share of the postseason revenue.  But once two teams are eliminated, they would step aside and allow the two surviving teams to play up to the balance of the remaining 9 games head-to-head.

The following represents a hypothetical pennant season:

First 3 games:

Phils win 2 out of 3 against the Cards

Brewers win 2 out of 3 against the D-Backs

Second 3 games:

D-Backs win 2 out of 3 against Phils

Cards win 2 out of 3 against Brewers

Game 7 with Resulting records in parenthesis

Brewers (4-3) beat Phils (3-4)

Cards (4-3) best D-backs (3-4)

Game 8

Brewers (5-3) beat Phils (3-5)

Cards (5-3) beat D-backs (3-5)

Phils and D-backs are eliminated; Brewers and Cards play the final 9th game against each other to resolve the pennant.  Since the home field goes to the best regular season record in the 2nd and 3rd games of a 3 game set, the Cards would visit the Brewers for the 9th game.

 Let’s say that Game 8 had gone differently, let’s say  D-backs (4-4) beat Cards (4-4)

 The Phils would play game 9 against the Brewers for honor and bragging rights.

If the Brewers win their 6th game, they clinch; otherwise, there will be a two-way tie for the pennant to be resolved by a tie breaker game.  This system produces lots of wonderful and exciting and meaningful games for fans.

But isn’t there a chance of a tie in this system?  Yes, and you could still get a 10th and 11th game tie-breaker in; and in less time than the current system.  A three-way tie would pit the two worst regular season record teams against each other, and the winner would play the team with the best regular season record.  This could happen if three teams went 5-4, and one team went 3-6 or if three teams went 6-3 and one team went 0-9.  It should not happen that often, and if it does, it generates more games and more excitement for baseball. 

Are you sure this will take less elapsed time?  Yes, the current system must allow for a 5-game division series and a 7-game championship.  That is 12 games in total.  But you get fewer games because only two teams are playing in the last best of 7, and some teams may be eliminated after just 3 games.  In this revised system, no one can get eliminated until after playing a minimum of 5 games.  Even with a 3-way tie-breaker, you play less than 11 games in total vs. a schedule that must accommodate 12 games, as is the case in the current system (and 15 or more in the proposed new system). It works out that the 9th game would be scheduled for the day that the 5th league championship game is currently scheduled.  Since it takes 3 more days to play out the 7 game LCS, there’s enough time to squeeze in up to two tie-breaker games, and still finish up at least 1 day before the current system.  Given the rarity of the two game tie-breaker, the last tie-breaker game could be scheduled for a day before the World Series.

Can you really say that this series cuts down on the luck?  It could come down to the tie breaker game?  If you want to reduce the luck, use the regular season to determine the pennant winner.  The more games played, the less luck involved.  It will take some consistency to fight your way to that 10th game tie-breaker.   The bottom line is really that baseball gets the increased revenue, without opening the door to more and more teams in the playoffs, the way the other sports have gone, thus diminishing the value of the regular season.  In fact, with the suggested homefield advantage rules, the top seed gets 6 out of 9 games at home, and that makes the regular season count for more than the current system.

 

 ***Thank you to our Guest Writer, Brian Corrigan, for sharing his thoughts on the MLB playoffs today with us.  Please feel free to leave any comments and/or questions that you have at the bottom of this article.***

 

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.

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

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.

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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Tigers get the “Purr-fect” Comeback: Recap of Game 3 of ALCS

Wednesday October 12, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  After losing the first two games of the series to the Rangers, the Tigers headed home, needing a win. Thankfully, with the hometown crowd of 41,905 behind them, they got exactly that.  Here is a recap of ALCS Game Three: 

 

New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers:  ALCS Game Three

It didn’t start off good for the Tigers, however, as the Rangers started the game with three singles, the last of which was Josh Hamilton’s RBI single that scored Ian Kinsler.

While the Rangers then had the 1-0 lead, Victor Martinez didn’t let it stay that way in the forth as he crushed a home run to right field to tie the game.

In the following inning, the Tigers added some more with three 2-out hits, one of which was a 2-RBI double off the bat of Miguel Cabrera that scored Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago.

With Fister now in a groove, there was no looking back. Evidently, Jhonny Peralta thought so too, as in the sixth, he also belted a home run to left field. Still in the same inning, Austin Jackson scored Andy Dirk, and with that the Tigers had a 4-1 lead.

Cabrera wasn’t done yet, though, as in the seventh inning, he also hit a home run, the Tigers’ third of the game, and his third RBI of the game. With that the Tigers had a 5-1 lead.

The Rangers tried to catch up in the eighth when Yorvit Torrealba started off the inning with a double, and scored on Ian Kinsler’s groundout, but the damage had already been done.

Jose Valverde came in to pitch the ninth, allowing a leadoff double by Josh Hamilton, but nothing more, as the Tigers went on to beat the Rangers 5-2. They now trail 2-1 in the series.

Doug Fister earned the win, going 7.1 innings pitched, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out three. Rangers’ Colby Lewis, on the other hand, received the loss, going 5.2 innings pitched, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out six.

Tigers’ Rick Porcello hopes to have a similar fate as Fister with the hometown crowd, but Texas’ Matt Harrison is hoping for a different outcome.  Stay tuned as game four is coming up shortly.

 

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

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap for Monday October 10th

 

Tuesday October 11, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Monday was a fun day of baseball.  These two games had strong performances from superstar players who led their team to victory.  One team took a defining step forward by winning their 2nd game of the series, while one team fought to even their series up.  Let’s start with the first game of the day which was a thrilling ballgame in Texas.

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Two

The Rangers jumped out to an early lead thanks to Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre who both hit RBI doubles in the bottom of the first.  They both jumped on Max Scherzer‘s fastball, which he was consistently throwing early in the count.  Derek Holland showed the poise of a veteran, getting Ramon Santiago to ground out with the bases loaded in the second.  Things weren’t exactly easy for Holland on Monday, as evidenced as Ryan Raburn‘s three run homer in the third.  This was a crucial hit because it gave the Tigers an early 3-2 lead.  Ron Washington had a very short rope with Holland, he pulled him after Holland had only thrown 2.2 innings.  Holland really struggled to throw even two innings, he just didn’t have his command.  He did nothing to dismiss chatter of his inconsistency by throwing 76 pitches in his limited appearance.  Still, Scott Feldman played the role of dominant long reliever needing only 49 pitches to throw 4.1shutout innings in relief.  Scherzer surrendered a 1-2 fastball to Nelson Cruz who hit out to left field to tie things up.  Scherzer had just thrown three straight sliders and Cruz must have just been waiting back on the fastball.  Going into the season, Nelson Cruz was my dark horse MVP pick.  He is just a monster, i seriously believe he could have a .300 AVG, 45 HR, 100 Runs, and 100 RBI type season.  The main thing holding Cruz back for superstardom these past couple years has been injuries.  In particular, his hamstring injury stints have been lengthy and costly to his ballclub.

In the top of the ninth, Neftali Feliz escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting Victor Martinez to hit an infield fly.  Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers had the bases loaded with no outs!  The sometimes annoying, but overall effective, Jose Valverde got David Murphy to fly out to shallow left field, which was not enough for Beltre to tag up.  Next, he made a huge 2-2 pitch to get Mitch Moreland to ground into a double play to retire the side.  In the top of the 10th, the Tigers had a runner on second with only one out, but they just couldn’t drive the run in.  This game was really an offensive struggle for both teams, especially trying to drive runners in scoring position in.  In the bottom of the 11th, Ryan Perry came into the game to pitch for the Tigers.  He gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases.  Then he threw a 1-2 slider to Nelson Cruz who crushed it to left field to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the series.  This was the first ever walk-off grand slam in postseason history.  This was an amazing game, and i feel sorry for you if you missed the chance to witness history in the making at the Ballpark in Arlington.  The series will shift to Detroit where the two teams will face off Tuesday at 8:05 ET.  Colby Lewis will start for the Rangers while Doug Fister will start for the Tigers.  It should be a pretty fun game, and a vital game for the Tigers to get their first win of the series.

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Two

Fresh off a tough 9-6 loss on Sunday, the Cardinals came out and dominated the Brewers on Monday.  Albert Pujols got things started with a two-run home run in the top of the first.  Then, when Pujols faced Shaun Marcum again in the third, he ripped a two-run double off the center field wall.  In the top of the fourth, Nick Punto singled to center field scoring Yadier Molina from third.  The Brewers weren’t completely mute, Rickie Weeks belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.  Shaun Marcum had another rough outing, he has given up 13 runs in 8.2 innings this postseason.  He has been hit hard in both of his outings, but after the game Manager Ron Roenicke suggested that Marcum would pitch again this series if the Brewers needed him.  In the top of the fifth, Albert Pujols collected his third extra base hit of the day, an RBI double to score Jon Jay.  Pujols came around to score on a Marco Estrada wild pitch.  The Cardinals also strung together six straight hits in the 7th to really blow open the lead.  Prince Fielder hit a moonshot in the bottom of the eighth, and David Freese also homered in the ninth.  Edwin Jackson turned in another decent start.  Despite getting hit around a little bit, he only gave up two runs in 4.1 innings.  The real stud of this game was debatably the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols.  Pujols finished 4 for 5 with 5 RBI.  The series will move to St.Louis all tied up.  Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers against Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals. The game is Wednesday at 8:05 PM  ET.

 

 

***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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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap for Sunday October 9th and MLB Notes

Monday October 10, 2011

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  There turned out to only be one game on Sunday, nonetheless it was still an exciting, and important game.  Let’s get to the Recaps!

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Two

Major League Baseball actually called this game at 2:00 PM CT, more than four hours before the game even started.  MLB was obviously trying to the pitchers from a situation similar to Saturday night.  While MLB probably had good intentions, this was a very bad decision.  According to multiple weather reports, it never rained on Sunday at the Ballpark in Arlington.  If the decision makers had just waited a couple more hours we probably would have a game between these two teams on Sunday.  Now, because of MLB jumping the gun, these teams have to play four straight days of baseball.  As a result, Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Tigers this afternoon against Derek Holland for the Rangers.  Game time is 4:19 PM ET, assuming the skies stay clear in Arlington.

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game One

With all the trash talking leading up to this game, this proved to be a pivotal game for both teams.  Neither pitcher was very sharp, but both offenses showed up ready to battle.  In the top of the first, Matt Holliday had an RBI single off Brewers starter Zack Greinke to give up the Cardinals an early lead.  In the bottom of the first, the Brewers erased the Cardinals’ lead by scoring two runs, courtesy of Ryan Braun‘s 444 foot home run.  Both pitchers battled throughout the second and third innings, until in the fourth when David Freese hit a 3-run home run to give the Cards’ a 4-2 lead.  Freese is having a tremendous postseason, coming tough in the clutch for St.Louis.  In the top of the fifth, Lance Berkman drove in Rafael Furcal to make it 5-2.  In the bottom of the fifth, everything went wrong for Jaime Garcia.   The inning started off with a Corey Hart single, then a Jerry Hairston double.  Next, Ryan Braun jumped on the first pitch and hit a ground rule double to right field.  From there, Prince Fielder crushed Garcia’s first pitch, an 87 MPH fastball, to right center field.  ESPN’s Home Run Tracker had that bomb traveling at 119.2 MPH.  This would make it the hardest hit homer of the season.   A lot is going to be made about the Brewers celebrations after every home run they hit, but I really don’t have a problem with it.  If the Cardinals don’t like it, then maybe they just shouldn’t give up home runs!

Garcia’s main problem with this huge inning was that he stopped throwing his breaking ball.  Out of the 12 pitches he threw, not one was offspeed.  Things got worse for the Redbirds when Octavio Dotel came into the game, and gave up a 2-run home run to Yuniesky Betancourt, of all people.  The Cardinals scored once more in the 7th when Albert Pujols grounded into a double play, but the big 6th inning was enough for the Brewers.  Final score: Brewers 9 Cardinals 6, with Greinke getting the win, Garcia the loss, and John Axford nailing down the save.  These two teams will face off for game two tonight, Monday, at 8:05 PM ET.  Edwin Jackson will get the start for St.Louis, against Shaun Marcum for Milwaukee.

Editor’s Notes:

  • All the talk surrounding Zack Greinke’s comments turned out to be just that, talk.  Once the teams took the field yesterday afternoon, the focus centered on the game itself.  After getting hit fairly hard yesterday, I do not expect we will hear many more harsh words from Greinke during this series.
  • The Tigers are looking very susceptible offensively, especially after the loss of Magglio Ordonez to a broken ankle and Delmon Young to an oblique strain.  The Rangers have caught fire at the right time and should be making a second straight trip to the World Series.
  • The free agency talk won’t talk, even though we are still in playoff mode.  Possible destinations for C.J. Wilson and Prince Fielder have been speculated on for the past few days, as strong or stronger than they have all season.  The reality is the focus should be on the games ahead.  There will be plenty of time to have these discussions between the end of the playoffs and New Years. 
  • A story has come out indicating that the Reds are going to star taking offers for their star first baseman, Joey Votto.  Expect 29 other teams to submit their bids if this is true.
  • Epstein-gate continues to swirl, as the Cubs and supposedly Angels are interested in his services.  My advice if Theo was sitting in front of me?  Stay put.  You are considered a genius in Boston.  Move elsewhere and you run the risk of failing to replicate your magic.  If that occurs, your lustre will get tarnished.  Same advice to Billy Beane.  Stay home and keep your legacy.  The grass is always greener on the other side. 

 

***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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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: Recap Tuesday October 4th

Wednesday October 5, 2011

MLB reports:  While three teams on Tuesday could have moved on to the next series, only one team did. Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Tuesday’s games: 

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Four

With A.J. Burnett on the mound, Yankee fans were on the edge of their seat in anticipation for the game against the Tigers. They knew they needed a win, and a big one.

Well, they got exactly that.

Derek Jeter started the scoring in the third inning with a double that scored Russell Martin and Jorge Posada.

They would hold the 2-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth, when Victor Martinez launched a solo homerun to make it a 2-1 game.

That would, however, be the only run that the Tigers would score as the Yankees scored another run in the 5th, when Curtis Granderson doubled Brett Gardner. Later in the inning, Alex Rodriguez would score Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

And they never looked back.

In the top of the eighth, Al Alburquerque, facing Jesus Montero, balked which allowed Alex Rodriguez from second. Montero would later single to score Mark Teixeira. Daniel Schlereth would then come in for the Tigers, but it didn’t get any better, as he threw a wild pitch that scored Montero and then gave up a 2-RBI single to Robinson Cano. After a 6-run inning the score was 10-1.

Evidently, that would be the way the game ended as Boone Logan struck out the side in the ninth, as the Yankees forced a game 5. Burnett went 5.2IP allowing one earned run on four hits, three walks and one strikeout. From then on in, the collective bullpen pitching, including Rafael Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched 3 1/3 of no-hit baseball, allowing no walks yet striking out six.  Game five goes tomorrow night in New York, Fister vs. Nova for all the marbles.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampay Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Four

The Rays had been in this position not too long ago – one loss away from not being able to move on to the next step. Recognizing this, they sent Hellickson to the mound against Rangers’ Harrison.

That said, after already winning two games in a row, the Rangers were not going to go down easy as Ian Kinsler hit a home run in the first at-bat of the game.

In the 2nd, the Rangers added to their lead with another home run, one from Adrian Beltre, and already Texas was up 2-0.

In the bottom of the inning, the Rays cut the Rangers lead in half thanks in part to Matt Joyce’s RBI double.

Adrian Beltre, did not give up easy and in the forth, launched another solo home run. His 2nd of the game.

But again, the Rays fought back and again, Sean Rodriguez scored, this time off the bat of  Casey Kotchman.

Adrian Beltre though would not allow the Rays to catch up as, in the top of the seventh, he launched his THIRD home run of the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, with the score 4-2, Sean Rodriguez once again told his team he wanted to cross the plate once again. So sure enough, Casey Kotchman singled him in with one out in the ninth, making the score 4-3.

But the third Beltre homerun proved to be the difference, as Alexi Ogando got Matt Joyce to pop out and Desmond Jennings to ground out.

Harrison got the win, going five complete innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out nine.

With the win, the Texas Rangers move on to the next series, facing off against the winner of the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.

 

Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLDS Game Three

Everyone loves great baseball and that is certainly what was received when Phillies’ Cole Hamels faced off against Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

There was no score until the seventh inning as both pitchers were cruising along. Much like what occurred in all other aforementioned games, a home run proved to be the difference as after Shane Victorino singled and Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked, Ben Francisco was placed in to pinch hit and he did not disappoint – launching a three run home run to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead.

The Cards fought back in the bottom of the inning as David Freese hit an  RBI single that scored Allen Craig.

They would carry this momentum into the ninth inning as Albert Pujols led off the inning with a double off Ryan Madson. Pujols would later score off of a Yadier Molina single but that would be all they would get as Ryan Theriot grounded out to end the game, enabling the Phillies to win by a score of 3-2.

Cole Hamels got the win, going six complete innings without a run, allowing five hits and three walks, but striking out eight.  Game four goes tonight in St. Louis, Oswalt vs. Jackson.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Three

In a must-win game for the Arizona Diamondbacks, they sent Josh Collemeter to the mound against Brewers’ Shaun Marcum and Collemeter did not disappoint.

Arizona got on the board early against Marcum thank in part to a RBI double from Miguel Montero and an RBI single from Paul Goldschmidt.

Both of these scoring plays were fielder by centerfielder Corey Hart, so Hart felt he needed redemption. When he got up to bat in the third, he did exactly that, hitting a homerun to left field, and cutting Arizona’s lead to 2-1.

The damage, however, had already been done. In the bottom of the inning, Arizona added to their lead when Aaron Hill scored on Montero’s second RBI of the game. On the play, Nyjer Morgan got Justin Upton out on a close play at the plate.

With the score 3-1, Arizona knew they needed a few more runs to ensure a game four. Evidently, Paul Goldschmidt was thinking the same thing as in the fifth inning, he hit a GRAND SLAM (GOLDSCHMIDTTTTT!). Kameron Loe would then come in to pitch and replace Marcum, but Arizona was much too dominant, scoring another run in the inning from a Ryan Roberts RBI single, giving the Diamondbacks an 8-1 lead.

This evidently would be how the game would end as Milwaukee managed only three hits in the game. This can be attributed to Collemeter’s fantastic game as he went seven complete innings, allowing only two hits, one earned run on two walks and six strikeouts.

Marcum’s outing was not as great, as the ex-Blue Jay went 4.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three.  Game four is the late game tonight in Arizona, Wolf vs. Saunders.

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Monday October 3rd

Tuesday October 4, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  With the National League taking the night off, we were treated to game three in both ALDS series.  Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Monday’s games: 

 

New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers:  ALDS Game Three

It may not have been the pitching duel that everyone expected, but Monday’s game between Yankees’ CC Sabathia, and Tigers’ Justin Verlander was still an exciting one.

While Verlander pitched a strong 120-pitches-eight innings hitting 100MPH continually, striking out 11 and allowing four runs, six hits and three walks.  Sabathia, on the other hand, never made it through the sixth, allowing four runs and seven hits with six walks in 5 1/3 innings.

After the first inning, however, one would not have expected that outcome.  Derek Jeter hit the first pitch he saw for a single, scored on Curtis Granderson’s triple, who then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s groundout. T he Yankees had an early 2-0 lead.

The lead didn’t last long as Sabathia had control issues right away, walking four of the first six hitters he faced.  Double plays proved to be the Tigers’ Achilles though, as they grounded into a double play to end both the first and second innings.

In the third, however, things turned around for the Tigers.  Brandon Inge started the bottom of the inning with a double, Austin Jackson walked, Santiago scored Inge on a single, then Young singled, loading the bases for Miguel Cabrera – who homered in game 2.   He grounded into the Tigers’ third double play of the game, but still tied the game at 2 apiece.

While the Tigers were continuing to put numbers on the board and grabbing the 4-2 lead, Verlander was dominating.  He also proved his excellence on this night by striking out the side on 10 pitches in the fifth.

Yankees’ Brett Gardner finally got to the 24-game winner in the seventh, hitting a two-run double.  Delmon Young, who also homered in Monday’s game off Sabathia, allowed the Tigers to regain the lead with a home run to right field that gave Detroit a 5-4 lead.

That would be the way the game ended, as a shaky Valverde struck out Derek Jeter with runners on 1st and 2nd to end the game, giving the Tigers a 2-1 series lead.  In today’s must win game for the Yankees, A..J. Burnett is on the mound against Tigers’ Rick Porcello.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Three

The Rays and Rangers match was just as tight and nerve-wracking for the fans.  Tampa Bay’s David Price hit the mound against Texas’ Colby Lewis.  Both pitchers were dominant through seven, as the Rays held a 1-0 lead thanks to Desmond Jennings leadoff home run in the 4th.

But in the top of the 7th, the Rangers answered back.  Once Adrian Beltre got on with a leadoff single, Mike Napoli hit the next pitch he saw over the centerfield wall to take a 2-1 lead.  Josh Hamilton would later hit a 2-RBI double to increase their lead to 4-1.

But the Rays werenot going to go down without a fight.  They got a run back in the bottom of the inning, when Sean Rodriguez grounded out but scored Johnny Damon.  The Rays cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-3 in the eighth, when Desmond Jennings hit his 2nd home run of the game.

Neftali Feliz kept the score intact though in the 9th, inducing a Kelly Shoppach double play with Jennings on deck  to end the game, earning his 2nd save of the playoffs.  The Rangers took a 2-1 lead in their ALDS series.

In today’s game, Matt Harrison for the Rangers faces off against Tampa Bay and Jeremy Hellickson.  It is a must-win game for the Rays, but after their historic win against the Yankees to make it to the post-season, my gut says this series should go the distance.

 

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

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Sunday October 2nd

Monday October 3, 2011

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  The first Sunday of postseason baseball didn’t have any letdowns for viewers.  Starting at about noon, I watched and listened to roughly ten hours of baseball.  Usually after I spend one of my Sunday’s watching baseball, I wish I could have those hours back because I really didn’t have the free time to watch all those games.  The postseason is way different.  No matter what I have to do, I always try to make sure watching the games is my top priority.  After Jason Motte recorded the final out of the day, I felt like that was the best way I could’ve spent my day.  Albeit from my couch, there’s nothing like cheering on your favorite teams and players during October.  Enough rambling, let’s get to the games.

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Two

In the top of the first inning, Miguel Cabrera hit a 2-0 changeup from Freddy Garcia 337 feet into the right field bleachers.  Only at Yankee Stadium is that a home run, the short porch in right field gives hitters an almost unfair advantage.  Max Scherzer was terrific, not allowing a hit until Robinson Cano singled in the bottom of the sixth.  Scherzer finished the game after throwing six shutout innings striking out five.  Freddy Garcia didn’t pitch that bad he was just made a couple of mistakes and had some bad luck.  After six innings, the Tigers appeared to be in control.  Then, the rain started coming down.   I can’t believe that the Yankees spent 1.3 billion on a new stadium but they couldn’t even construct a retractable roof.  Anyways, Joaquin Benoit twirled two innings, just giving up a Curtis Granderson homer.  Jose Valverde didn’t make it look easy in the ninth, allowing a Nick Swisher dinger, then a Jorge Posada triple!   Nonetheless, “Papa Grande” got Robinson Cano to ground out with runners on first and second to end the game.  On the offensive side of this game the Tigers star was Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI.  Cabrera showed how versatile of a hitter he is hitting an opposite field homer, poking an RBI single up the middle, and pulling a single to left field.  Now the series will head to Detroit tied up 1-1.  Game time is Monday at 8:30 PM ET.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Two

Ryan Braun got things started with a two run homer off Dan Hudson in the first.  However, in the top of the 2nd Paul Goldschmidt took Zack Greinke deep.  I have no idea why Kirk Gibson didn’t start Goldschmidt in the first game, as he obviously deserves to be in there.  In spite of both teams starting talented pitchers, this was not a pitcher’s duel.  Milwaukee took a 4-1 lead in the third thanks to Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder driving in the runs.  By the sixth, Arizona had tied it up at 4-4 largely in part to Chris Young and Justin Upton going deep.  However, in the bottom of the sixth everything fell apart for the D-Backs.  The Brew Crew had runners on first and third when catcher Jonathan Lucroy shocked the Diamondbacks by laying down a suicide squeeze to score Jerry Hairston.  After that, things just fell apart from Arizona’s pitcher Brad Ziegler; he gave up three straight singles to Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Ryan Braun.  By the time Ziegler was pulled, the Brewers had a 9-4 lead.  The Brewers relievers combined to throw four shutout innings, and the Brewers won by the final score of 9-4.  When asked after the game, Willie Bloomquist A.K.A Willie Ballgame had this to say, “We’re going to come out fighting on Tuesday. It’s a tough position to be in, but you know what? We’re comfortable with the uncomfortable.” The series is now 2-0 Brewers and the two teams will meet in Phoenix on Tuesday at 9:30 PM ET.

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Two

To lead off the game Rafael Furcal tripled but then the Cards ran into Cliff Lee, who retired the 2-3-4 hitters without allowing a run.  The Phillies delivered a big blow in the bottom of the first, with Ryan Howard coming through with a bases loaded single.  Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days’ rest, had a rough day, only lasted three innings while giving up four runs.   In the fourth inning, the Cardinals scored three times, and would’ve scored four if it weren’t for it weren’t for Raul Ibanez gunning down Jon Jay at the plate.   Jay tied things up in the sixth with a single to score Ryan Theriot from second.  The Cardinals bullpen threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings baffling Phillies hitters.  I was impressed by Tony LaRussa’s methodical use of his bullpen.  Some games LaRussa looks like an idiot, some games he looks like a genius.  I guess that’s just the way he works.  In the top of the 7th Charlie Manuel decided to leave Lee in despite him being over 100 pitches.  The decision backfired when Shane Victorino misplayed an Allen Craig line drive.  Craig was in at third with a standup triple and he didn’t have to wait long before Albert Pujols drove him in.  Jason Motte needed only six pitches (all of which were over 90 MPH) to earn the save.  The Cardinals finished with thirteen hits to the Phillies six.  The series will switch to St.Louis all tied up.  The next game is on Tuesday at 5:00 PM ET.

***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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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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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.

 

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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Remembering Hideki Irabu: Japanese MLB Pitcher and Link to Donnie Moore

Sunday August 7, 2011

 

MLB reports:   Hideki Irabu was born on May 5, 1969 in Hirara, Okinawa.  Irabu played in Japan (Nippon Professional Baseball) from 1988-1996 and then again from 2003-2004.  In North America, we will most remember Irabu as a member of the New York Yankees from 1997-1999.  Irabu also played with the Montreal Expos from 2000-2001 and the Texas Rangers in 2002.  The baseball world sadly lost Hideki Irabu on July 27, 2011, an apparent victim of suicide.  A loss to the baseball world at the tender age of 42, Irabu was survived by a wife and two young children.

The story of Hideki Irabu is well-known in the baseball community.  He had his contract purchased by the San Diego Padres from his Japanese club, the Chiba Lotte Marines.  Irabu refused to sign with the San Diego Padres and stated his intention of only playing for the New York Yankees.  The Yankees were able to swing a deal for Irabu’s services, for a package of players including Ruben Rivera and cash.  Hideki Irabu ended up making his debut with the Yankees on July 10, 1997  and for his career pitched in 74 games for the Yankees over 3 seasons (64 starts).  Irabu won back-to-back World Series rings in New York in 1998 and 1999.  He was then traded to the Montreal Expos for Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook and Christian Parker.  A good haul for the Yankees considering the career spans of Lilly and Westbrook (had they stayed in New York).  Irabu then signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent and played out his last MLB season as a closer before returning to Japan to resume his NPB career.  After a stint in independent baseball, Irabu apparently had the intention of returning to Major League Baseball, but alas a comeback was not in the cards.  Reports have indicated that Irabu hung himself in his California home, with autopsy results to follow.  Today we look at the career of Hideki Irabu and the road that led to his untimely passing this year.

When joining the New York Yankees in 1997, Hideki Irabu was labelled the “Japanese Nolan Ryan”.  By the time he left New York, he was stuck with the moniker given to him by team owner George Steinbrenner “the fat toad”.  Looking at Irabu’s MLB numbers, he unfortunately fell short of the Nolan Ryan comparisons:

 

Year Tm W L ERA SV BB SO WHIP
1997 NYY 5 4 7.09 0 20 56 1.669
1998 NYY 13 9 4.06 0 76 126 1.295
1999 NYY 11 7 4.84 0 46 133 1.335
2000 MON 2 5 7.24 0 14 42 1.665
2001 MON 0 2 4.86 0 3 18 1.500
2002 TEX 3 8 5.74 16 16 30 1.426
6 Seasons 34 35 5.15 16 175 405 1.405
162 Game Avg. 11 12 5.15 5 58 134 1.405
               
NYY (3 yrs) 29 20 4.80 0 142 315 1.362
MON (2 yrs) 2 7 6.69 0 17 60 1.626
TEX (1 yr) 3 8 5.74 16 16 30 1.426
               
AL (4 yrs) 32 28 4.90 16 158 345 1.369
NL (2 yrs) 2 7 6.69 0 17 60 1.626
 

Injuries played a part in Irabu’s MLB career.  Irabu had both knee and shoulder surgeries after leaving the Yankees and blood clots ultimately led to his retirement from Major League Baseball following the 2002 season.  Bouts of heavy drinking, depression and rage also factored into Irabu’s career.  But despite all the distractions and factors that led to his unravelling in baseball, Irabu did show some glimpses of promise.  In addition to the two world series titles he earned in New York (despite playing in only one career post season game in 1999, giving up 7 ER in 4.2 IP to the Red Sox in the ALCS), Irabu had his best numbers during his time with the Yankees.  He earned both of his career shutouts in New York.  His best statistical season was 1998, where he went 13-9 for the Yankees, with a 4.06 ERA and 1.295 WHIP.  As a closer for the Rangers in 2002, Irabu earned 16 saves.  That unfortunately went together with a 3-8 record, 5.74 ERA and 1.426 WHIP.  For a proud young man who fought hard on and off the field, his major league career was taken from him much too early.  Despite attempts at a comeback, we never did see Hideki Irabu in a MLB uniform again after the 2002 season.

In our society, it is much too easy to write off the passing of another human being, especially a celebrity, without considering the person behind the name.  Granted Irabu faced many demons in his life and career.  But I think some people feel the need to label a player like Irabu an alcoholic and rageaholic and simply write him off when learning of his passing.  That is a tragedy in my estimation.  When I learned of Irabu’s passing, my immediate thoughts led to Donnie Moore.  For those of you not familiar, Moore was the Angels pitcher that gave up the tying and winning runs to the Red Sox in game five of the 1986 ALCS.  Many critics pointed to Moore as the reason that the Red Sox ended up beating the Angels and advancing to the World Series.  Moore was a popular target of Angels fans the following seasons and ended up shooting his wife and taking his own life.  A tragic story in itself, Moore like Irabu suffered from deep depression.  But without analyzing and comparing both men too much, I believe that it was the name calling and the reputations of each men that contributed greatly to their respective passings.  Victories and failures take place on baseball diamonds each and every day.  Moore in the playoffs and Irabu in New York, suffered their failures on some of the biggest baseball stages that you can find.  Had their losses been forgotten and each man allowed to continue fresh, they may have enjoyed longer and productive careers in baseball.  They may have also been able to enjoy their personal lives to a greater extent and still been with us today.  But the stigma of failure which was likely reminded to Moore and Irabu for most of their last days on this earth, was likely too much for each to bear.

Hideki Irabu, being of Japanese descent, was a very proud man.  Respect and reputation are considered very important in Japanese circles and criticism is often not taken very well.  Irabu, like Ichiro Suzuki after him, had a lifelong battle with the Japanese media.  Being of mixed descent, Irabu rarely discussed his background which was a difficult subject for him.  Before coming to North America, the Japanese media labelled him with very strong nicknames, including the “Shuwozenegga” and “Kurage”, which translates to jellyfish, for the sting of his pitches.  From there, being called the Japanese Nolan Ryan came with a set of expectations that Irabu could never live up to.  If that was not bad enough, the “fat toad” comment by George Steinbrenner stuck with him to his very last days.  It was my understanding that Irabu through most of his MLB career could not be in any baseball cities, especially New York without hearing some reference to the toad comment.  For a proud individual that did not take criticism well, such a nickname probably stuck within him like a dagger.  By no means do I directly blame Steinbrenner for Irabu’s suicide.  Far from it, as Steinbrenner lately expressed remorse for his comments and publicly apologized for his remarks.  But the choice of media and select fans to continue to remind Irabu of the nickname most likely helped contribute to his passing.  We cannot bring Hideki Irabu or Donnie Moore back.  But we can learn from their passings and help other athletes avoid similar fates.

I link the taunting of Irabu and Moore before him in public and media outlets to bullying in schools.  We have read stories of children and teenagers being harassed in schools and outlets like e-mails and Facebook to the point that they are driven to taking their own lives.   Words do hurt and a bully can be charged criminally.  For those people that went up to Hideki Irabu in a restaurant and called him a “fat toad”, or approached Donnie Moore in a shopping mall and called him a “choke” and “failure”, think about the result of those actions in retrospect.  Since athletes are in the public eye, that leads to many people feeling a sense of entitlement to judge and criticize players as they see fit.  Irabu by earning over $15 million over 6 seasons in Major League Baseball, was apparently fair game as a target to all forms of criticism that people chose to throw his way.  I have no issue with judging an athlete’s numbers on the field.  Analysis and discussion is what sports is all about.  But once we start with the name calling and viciousness, I feel that a line needs to be drawn.

Donnie Moore and Hideki Irabu chose to become professional athletes and were in the public eye.  That does mean that their wins and losses will be known to millions and discussed and analyzed by many.  But sports can go to extreme levels.  Homes vandalized.  Children harassed.  Even murders.  Critics and extreme “fans’ can go to dangerous levels in criticizing athletes.  While extreme situations, they do take place all too often.  These instances stem from bullying, which is not acceptable in schools with children but allowable in public forums with public figures.  We as members of society need to draw the line of what is acceptable in reviewing and criticizing athletes.  Although they choose to be in the public light, they are still human beings with real feelings and emotions.  Hopefully more people will remember that the next time they hurl disparaging remarks at an athlete, whether it be in a stadium, restaurant, radio talk show or newspaper.  Words do hurt and in the case of Donnie Moore and Hideki Irabu, they can also kill.

Donnie Moore, if you weren’t aware, played professional baseball for 13 seasons for 5 different teams.  He had a career 3.67 ERA.  His best season was 1985, where he has a 8-8 record, 1.92 ERA, 31 saves and 1.087 WHIP.  He followed up the following season with 21 saves.  He was an all-star in 1985, finishing 6th in A.L. MVP voting and 7th in A.L. CY Young voting.  Moore also pitched two perfect innings for the Braves in the 1982 NLCS.  But most people don’t remember those numbers.  When they hear the name Donnie Moore, they think of the 1986 ALCS defeat and suicide.  Hideki Irabu has now met a similar fate.  Many people do not remember that Irabu was the man responsible for the Japanese posting system.  By refusing to sign with the Padres, MLB helped institute the current posting system for Japanese players to come to North America.  If not for Irabu, the entire system of transferring NPB players to MLB could be much different today.  Irabu won two World Series rings and enjoyed some success in North America.  Before that, Irabu enjoyed great success in Japan on the baseball diamond.  But when people reflect on his passing, the main words that are spoken now are “fat toad” and suicide.  Even in death, Irabu and Moore continue to be criticized and bullied.  That is the saddest reality of all.

 

 

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday July 6th All-Star Edition

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 July 6, 2011

Q:  I enjoyed your article on the Home Run Derby this week.  Which players were selected to play in this year’s derby?  From:  Dave, Chicago.

MLB reports:    Thank you Dave.  So glad that you enjoyed our feature on the Home Run Derby.  As indicated in the article, captain David Ortiz has included Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez on the AL squad.  The NL team, which was announced yesterday by captain Prince Fielder, includes Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Rickie Weeks of the Brewers.  For the most part we have a very solid derby lineup.  The only criticism that I can offer each team is the choice of the respective second basemen.  While Rickie Weeks and Robinson Cano are fine players, there are far more powerful bashers that I would have preferred to see this upcoming Monday in Arizona.  Curtis Granderson in the AL and Ryan Braun in the NL are the first two names that come to mind.  It should be an interesting Home Run Derby regardless.  So enjoy it!

 

Q:    I am boycotting the All-Star game this year.  It is nothing but a glorified exhibition game.  I suggest you do the same.  From:  Sam, Vancouver.

MLB reports:  Ouch Sam, you really do not like the All-Star game!  As much as the game itself receives negative press, the truth is that all our readers are writing about in the last two weeks is the All-Star game.  They cannot get enough of all the All-Star game coverage on the Reports!  While the game itself may frustrate us, with the length of time it takes to play, number of substitutes etc, the truth is that the game has much merit.  The All-Star game does decide home field advantage for the World Series, which is a huge reward.  The players are playing for pride and in my opinion, the last few games have been exceptionally entertaining for the most part.  Lastly, most of us love debating which players should be included on the rosters and analyzing the exclusions.  Baseball is a sport of non-stop analysis and the All-Star game is no exception.  Rather than focusing on the flaws, take in what is good about the game.  With the glass-half-full approach, maybe you will become a fan again.

 

Q:  My fave part of All-Star week is the Prospects Game.  The up and coming stars get to play and I get to see them live.  Will we get reports on the Prospects Game?  From:  Jason, Los Angeles.

MLB reports:  Funny you should bring up the Prospects Game Jason, you have read our mind.  As part of our search for the MLB reports Intern, we have Rob- a candidate for the post, preparing his feature article on the Prospects Game as we speak.  We agree that the Prospects Game is a very important game, if not the biggest game of the break for many baseball fans.  For the diehards that subscribe to Baseball America and try to learn all the prospects, many do not have the opportunity to watch the prospects live.  For those of you that subscribe to mlb.tv, you may not know that you can add the Milb package as well for only a few dollars.  But otherwise, the top prospects in the game will be playing this weekend.  While MLB reports will have the game covered this weekend, we will be featuring Rob’s preview of the game starting tomorrow.  Stay tuned for this must read feature!

 

Q:  Do you see MLB ever getting rid of the All-Star game?  Perhaps replacing it with the WBC or Olympics some years?   From:  Bruno, Mexico City.

MLB reports:  Hello Bruno, great question.  I can answer your question with one word:  Never.  The MLB All-Star game is a huge event for baseball that will continue until the end of time.  The game itself is as much about pleasing the sponsors as it is the fans.  The game is a showcase of Major League Baseball to the sponsors and baseball’s chance to wine and dine the greatest financial contributors the game.  The All-Star game contributes a great deal of revenue and publicity for the home town sponsoring team and the battle to host the big event is fierce every year.  The WBC, as featuring in our recent article, will be back as part of the 2013 edition.  While experts have debated hosting the tournament during the middle of the season or at season’s end, the time and commitment required makes the logistics almost impossible.  For now the WBC is remaining as a pre-season tournament, with qualifying taking place in the fall of 2012 and the WBC in March 2013.  From the Olympics perspective, baseball is not even currently included as a sport.  In 2013, the IOC will vote on whether to include baseball as an Olympic sport in the 2020 games.  Baseball will be competing with karate, roller sports, softball, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu for one spot.  The Olympics will be discussed on a different day, as the exclusion of baseball by the Olympics is unforgivable in my opinion and simply a harsh tactic to force Major League Baseball to send professionals to the Olympics.  Baseball is strong in its stance though and even if baseball does rejoin the Olympics, it will not interfere with the All-Star game.  The mid-season game is simply to valuable to baseball to let go.  Ever.

 

Q:  The National League won the All-Star game last year, its first win since 1996.  Who will win this year?  From:  Tiffany, Miami.

MLB reports:  I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you Tiffany, but the AL will win this year.  Call it gut, call it bias.  I just can’t see how the NL can control the bashers in the American League.  Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson are just some of the big names representing the American League.  While the NL has Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp, Lance Berkman, Brian McCann etc, I think the AL has too strong of an offensive team.  The AL pitching is also stacked, led by Justin Verlander, David Prince, James Shields, Jered Weaver and company.  While the NL pitchers get much of the press, the AL has its share of star pitchers.  The game should be an interesting one, with the run total likely to be very high.  But when all is said and done, expect the AL to come out on top and giving the Rays home field advantage over the Phillies in the World Series (did I just make a prediction?)

 

 

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Expanding and Changing the MLB Playoffs: Time to Add More Wild Card Teams

Thursday June 9, 2011

 

MLB reports:  Ever since the players’ strike of 1994 and ensuing realignment of baseball and expanded playoff format (implemented as of 1995), continual debates have raged in baseball circles as to the next round of changes.  With everyone still talking today on the topic of wild cards and expanding the MLB playoffs, MLB reports is ready to take this topic head on to find the solution.

MLB realignment was already covered by us in a recent feature.  After 16 seasons under the current format, clearly changes are needed.  Our realignment post was just the beginning of the long process to reform and revitalize Major League Baseball.  The next step is expanding the amount of wild card teams and changing parts of the MLB playoffs format which will be discussed today.  From there, expansion is required to produce 32 total teams, 16 per division which will be covered on MLB reports on another day.  Stay tuned.

The current MLB playoffs structure essentially looks like this:

  • Eight total teams make the playoffs
  • Four teams per league
  • One wild card team per league
  • The Division Series (ALCS and NLCS) is a best of five games format
  • The winners from the ALCS and NLCS advance to the League Championship Series (ALCS and NLCS)
  • The ALCS and NLCS are both a best of seven games series, winner of each advance to the World Series
  • World Series is a best of seven, home field based on winner of All Star Game

As part of revamping the system, it is apparent from whispers around baseball that two more wild card teams are about to be added to the mix.  As a result there will now be ten total teams that make the playoffs, five per league.  Taking the home field talk out of the equation, which is an article in itself, the issue today is the number of teams to make the playoffs and the best format for each playoff series.

I am writing today’s article from a realistic point of view.  When I discussed realignment a couple of weeks back, it was from a hopeful and practical standpoint, but with the idea that baseball would be unlikely to accept most of my changes.  For a game known for its long-standing traditions, the winds of change blow very slowly through baseball.  I am presenting the revamped playoffs with the idea that Major League Baseball will not change too much.  While it would be nice to have anywhere for 12-16 teams to make the playoffs according to some fans and analysts, the chances of that happening are close to nil.  It was a big change to add the two wild card teams back in 1994 and only two more wild card teams will be added in the next year or so at most.  Period.  There are some that may want more, but it will not happen.

On the same token, the best of five vs. seven game series debating is raging as well.  Some people do not agree with the short five games series in the opening round, as it creates a scenario whereby a top team can be bounced early without the ability to play a full seven games series.  This topic will be addressed, but we will have to assume that likely the opening rounds will remain a best of five games series and only the League Championship and World Series would be a best of seven games series.  Again this may not be the best option for all, but it is what it is and baseball is unlikely to bend on this as well.

The last point to make before going through my playoff scenarios is the home field advantage debate, specifically awarding it based on the All Star game outcome.  Most traditionalists, yours truly included, despise this format.  The best team in baseball should be rewarded for a  seasons worth of games played and not have home field determined based on the results of a high-profile exhibition game.  After the All-Star game finished in a tie in Milwaukee during the 2002 season, baseball was left with egg on its face and scrambled to give the game more meaning.  The decision to award the World Series home advantage based on the winner of the All Star game has been argued by many to have failed to give the All Star game more meaning.  But assuming that this format stays in place, an injustice to the teams that finish with better records after season’s end will remain.

In adding two more wild card teams, an additional round of the playoffs will go into effect.  The opening round, which we can call the wild card round for simplicity, will have the two wild card teams in each league face-off (most likely a best of five).  The winner of the wild card round will advance to the Division Series.  From there, the current playoff format would remain in place, with the best of five games Division Series leading to the League Championship and World Series.  Part of me is inclined to allow the top seeded team in each league to have an automatic bye into the League Championship Series, with the wild card teams facing off in the Division Series and the 2nd and 3rd seeded teams in each league facing off as well in the Division Series.  Allowing each top seed to have a bye directly into the League Championship would reward the highest winning team in each league.  But issues would arise, including arguments that two byes for each top team would be too great of a reward and how to determine if there are ties for the top record in each league.

As a result, to keep things simple, baseball will simply have to institute a 4th round of playoffs.  In my estimation, the Wild Card Round can be a best of five games, with every other round moving to a best of seven.  While baseball unfortunately will likely keep the division series as a best of five games, a move to a best of seven would create more balance in making sure that the true “top” teams advance.  Major League Baseball will still have to consider a way to reward the top winning team in each league eventually and that will likely be by creating a first-round bye in a further expanded playoff format, when more wild card teams are added.  But until that time, the top winning teams will simply have to enjoy home field advantage.  That advantage should continue right into the World Series and it is the hope of this analyst that baseball will realize that one day.

So as we head into another new world of baseball changes, I can’t foresee that the game as we know it today will get completely blown up and redone.  Even though the game may need more fine tuning, most changes will come along very slowly.  The expanding of the playoffs will be a good thing ultimately for the game, as each team plays a whopping 162 regular season games plus spring training and more teams deserve to be rewarded with playoff berths.  An expanded playofs will give teams a better chance to make the playoffs and increase the number of cities and fans involved in the playoff races come September.  Adding two more wild card teams is the next logical step and it looks like it will go into effect as soon as 2012.  With so many of the other major sports in turmoil, it is good to see baseball alive and healthier than ever.  It looks like Major League Baseball has learned its lessons after 1994.  Hopefully the game will only continue to move forward and cement itself once again as the greatest sport in the world.

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