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Author Archives: blandy12

Mariano Rivera’s Injury: What Does it Mean to You?

Thursday May 10th, 2012


Rob Bland:  Last week, there was a bit of a disruption in the baseball world.  At first, I saw on Twitter as a few beat writers reported that Mariano Rivera fell to the ground during batting practice before a game against the Kansas City Royals.  They said it looked bad, and that three guys carried him to a stretcher to get carted off the field.  It seemed like the entire Yankees fan base collectively held their breath while awaiting news of their closer’s future.

Rivera had an MRI during the game on Thursday May 3rd, where it was discovered that he had torn his ACL in the freak accident.

I will admit that I am not a Yankees fan.  I am a fan of a team with far less championships and a smaller fan base in the same division as the mighty Yankees.  But reality is that the most storied franchise in all of baseball, and probably all of sport, lost one of their true greats. A sad moment for any fan of the game.  However, the good news is that even at 42 years old, Rivera has vowed that he would pitch again in 2013 after surgery and a grueling rehabilitation process. Mo will return. Read the rest of this entry

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Will Tim Lincecum Turn it Around in 2012?

Tuesday April 24th, 2012

Rob Bland:  Since he burst onto the scene as a 23-year-old rookie in 2007, Tim Lincecum has ranked 6th in fWAR.  Boasting a fastball that sat around 94 mph, and plus changeup, curveball and slider, Lincecum won back to back National League Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009 with the San Francisco Giants.  In his first four full seasons, Lincecum threw 881 2/3 innings.  Listed on baseball-reference.com at a generous 5’11” and 175 lbs, Lincecum’s delivery is a little bit on the herky-jerky side.  How he has been able to withstand such punishment is a bit of a mystery, as his wiry body hurls towards the plate in a violent action that result in a 94 mph fastball.

2012 has not been kind to Lincecum so far.  Now, I am not one to worry about small sample sizes, as baseball is a sport of random fluctuation in statistics.  Albert Pujols does not have a home run as I write this, more than 15 games into the season.  Chase Headley is currently 2nd in fWAR in all of baseball.  The LA Dodgers are already 8 games ahead of the San Diego Padres.  The Kansas City Royals are in an 11 game losing streak.  The season can change on a dime, and we are only 10% of the way through this season.  Lincecum’s story, to me, is a bit of a different story.  His fastball is averaging below 91 mph.  His sinker has less arm side tail; 5 inches in 2012 compared to over 7 inches in 2009.  Tim’s curveball and slider don’t have as much depth as they once did, also.  A good changeup usually has about 8-10 mph difference off of the fastball, which is where he was in 2009, 93 mph to 84 mph.  In 2012, his changeup is still 84 mph, but the biggest problem for Lincecum has been that he has lost velocity off his fastball.  He is sitting under 91 mph, so that changeup is not nearly as effective. Read the rest of this entry

Daniel Bard: Future Red Sox Ace?

Thursday March 15, 2012

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer):  With most of Red Sox Nation knowing that big time closer Jonathan Papelbon would be leaving the team via free agency after the 2011 season, many thought that it would be a seamless transition to throw Daniel Bard into the mix as the closer for the foreseeable future.  However, new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington surprised many when he announced that Bard would be stretched out as a starter in the spring.

Now, it’s not the first time a good reliever has been turned into a starter, and many of them have turned into useful starters.  C.J. Wilson is just one of these successful conversions, having been the Texas Rangers’ closer from 2007-2009, then shifting into the rotation for 2010 and 2011.  Wilson earned 46 saves in those 3 seasons, and after his move to the rotation, he went 31-15 and accumulated 10.5 WAR, putting him in the upper echelon of starters.

This year, another closer for the Rangers will be shifting to the rotation in Neftali Feliz.  Many believe that he will struggle. But if C.J. Wilson, who was a decent reliever can do it, why not Feliz?  Why not Bard?

Bard has an electric fastball, averaging over 97 mph over his MLB career.  He also has a solid slider that sits around 84 mph.  Bard has induced ground balls at an extremely high rate; 48.6% over 197 IP.  Bard has lowered his walk rate, as well as HR/FB while maintaining an extremely low BABIP over the last two seasons, .215 and .224, respectively.

Bard hasn’t started a game since 2007 when he was in single-A ball.  He threw 75 innings of 7.08 ERA, striking out 47 and walking 78.  Obviously a lot of those control issues are behind him, as evidenced by his shrinking BB/9; 4.01, 3.62, and 2.96 in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively.  Bard has been able to get guys out with a fastball that touches 100 mph, and a plus slider.  The problem here is that he only ever threw one inning at a time, and thus rarely needed a third pitch.  According to brooksbaseball.net, in 2011, Bard threw his change-up 83 times, which is only 7.5% of all his pitches, in contrast to 64% on his fastball, and 25% on his slider.  He also threw 46 sinkers, around 4.1%.

In such a small sample size of changeups, one should definitely not get too excited over the results.  However, in 2011, Bard fared pretty well with his change-up.  He was able to induce swings on 48.19% of his changeups, and 25% of those were swing-and-misses.  His changeup was put in play 23% of the time, and had a ground ball rate of 63%.

In no way does this mean it is a good changeup. However, it does seem promising.  It is also possible that Bard just throws them at the most opportune time, and delivers when necessary.  It could also mean that he is incredibly lucky.

With Bard having to throw 6+ innings every 5th day, how will his arm hold up moving to the rotation?  Most relievers have a limit in their first years starting as to how many innings they will throw.

Brandon Morrow was moved to the rotation full time when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, and was shut down after 146 innings in 2010, and threw only 179 innings in 2011. This year, there will be no limitations on the hard throwing righty, whose profile closely fits that of Bard.  Morrow can get his fastball in the upper 90s as well as having a devastating slider.  His success has been only moderate due to mediocre offerings in his curve ball and changeup.

Bard’s development as a starter rests mostly on the development of his changeup.  If he is able to use it more often and maintain success with it, he could be a solid starter this year and going forward.  The other extremely important thing to look at is whether new manager Bobby Valentine will limit his innings, or let him go for the full season, as the Rangers did with Wilson in 2010 (204 IP).

I see Bard throwing somewhere around 170 innings this year, and performing fairly well, getting acclimated to throwing every 5th day.  His changeup is developing, and if he harnesses it, he could be a deadly addition to a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.


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

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on FacebookTo 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 Free Agent Closer Carousel

Friday November 11, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  Every one of the MLB’s franchises will be looking for bullpen help, and most will be looking to add a major contributor to the back-end.  The closer position is one that is seen as the most underrated as well as the most overrated job in all of baseball.  On one hand, some people may over-value a closer’s “makeup” and poise, where others say “it’s the same as pitching at any point in the game.”  While I like to sit somewhere between these two concepts, most fans like knowing that their team employs a “proven veteran closer.”  All you have to do is look at the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 to notice that is not necessarily the case.  Their closer was Jason Motte, although Tony La Russa refused to officially anoint him so.  Motte had 12 career saves going into the postseason, 9 of which were in 2011.  However, the fireballer was dominant in the postseason, and helped to bring in another World Series title to St. Louis.

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox employed a closer by the name of Jonathan Papelbon, a 2nd year closer, and they went on to win the World Series.  There are several other times where a homegrown closer has led his team to a championship, Brian Wilson of the 2010 San Francisco Giants being another recent one.

There are many closers without a set home for 2012, with Papelbon headlining that list.  It has been said that Papelbon is looking for a 4 year contract, and could even get a 5th guaranteed year on the open market.  Much of the early talk about closers this off-season has surrounded Ryan  Madson, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was rumored that he had agreed with the Phillies to a 4 year, $44M contract with a 5th year as a vesting option.  It was said that the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was awaiting approval from team president David Montgomery.   It has recently come to light that Amaro Jr. has vehemently denied these rumors.

Frank Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero are all closers who may be looking for new homes in 2012.  Also available are Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, David Aardsma, and Takashi Saito.

The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Houston Astros are some of the teams who figure to be in the market for a closer, if not to upgrade.

Because of the Madson fiasco that has been taking place, I doubt he re-signs with the Phillies.  The Phillies seem to have moved on to their next target, Papelbon.   All Papelbon has done in his 6+ seasons with the Red Sox is accumulate 219 saves with a 4.43 K/BB ratio.  His career ERA sits at 2.33 while his FIP isn’t far off at 2.60, showing just how good he actually is.  I think a 4 year deal worth $51M and a vesting option of $15M would likely get the job done.

Madson’s early “almost signing” may have set the bar for Papelbon, and Madson will be looking for something in the same range. He may have to settle for a bit less as the Phillies look to get the signing done quickly.  Madson took over for Brad Lidge, who battled injuries in 2011 as the Phillies closer.  A 3.88 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate close to 50% ensured a very successful season where his FIP was 2.25.  4 years and $40M should get it done, and I see him going to the LA Dodgers.

Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn’t get an opportunity to close out games.  His displeasure with the situation was coming out, even though incumbent closer John Axford was performing extremely well, and the club was on its way to a playoff berth.  The Miami Marlins (still doesn’t feel right to say) are looking to be huge spenders this off-season, and I see no difference with K-Rod.  Rodriguez  has 291 saves in his career, including a single season record 62 in 2008 with the LA Angels of Anaheim.  I see the 30-year-old signing a 3 year deal worth $30M to usurp the incumbent Marlins closer, Juan Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez).

Heath Bell is a closer who has had tremendous numbers over the last three seasons, albeit in ultra spacious Petco Park as his home field.  His K rate dipped this year, and may have been a bit lucky with a .261 BABIP.  San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes has already said he would likely offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent.  Bell has also said in the past that he would accept arbitration, as he likes San Diego.  This presents a slight problem for the cash-strapped Padres, who prefer to keep their payroll lower.  Bell will be due a raise from the $7.5M he made in 2011, so a $9-10M 1 year deal will likely be in place here with the Padres.

Joe Nathan is a special case, because he had an option of $12.5M declined by the Minnesota Twins, who would still like to bring him back.  Nathan did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and threw 44 2/3 mediocre innings in 2011.  However, over his last 27 innings, he gave up only 20 hits, 5 walks and 10 runs, really finishing strong and proving he is healthy again.  The downfall is that by spring training, he will be 38 years old and clearly looking at the end of his career.  The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer to anchor a bullpen that will see a lot of turnover, and Nathan could be had for $4M and a club option for 2013.

Jonathan Broxton is another closer looking to establish his value.  The hulking 6’4” 300 lb closer had a disappoint 2011 season, and just had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in September.  His K rate has steadily declined from the career high of 13.50/9 IP in 2009.  His ground ball rate, BB/9, ERA and FIP have all suffered at the same time.  Broxton will likely get a one year, incentive-laden deal to prove he is healthy.  He will likely have to settle for a setup man role, and I think he could work with the Mets in spacious Citi Field.

Francisco Cordero has had a 13 year career that started in Detroit, then took him to Texas, Milwaukee then finally Cincinnati.  The Reds recently declined his $12M option, but GM Walt Jocketty has said he hopes to bring the closer back.  However, I don’t see him donning the Reds jersey any longer, as the soon to be 37-year-old will look to move on and close out his career.  While his fastball still averages 93 mph, it is 3 mph slower than Cordero’s prime.  Because of this, his K rate has dipped to 5.43/9IP from 12.22/9IP in 2007.  While his stats have declined, he has averaged 39 saves the last 5 seasons.  He will probably settle for a one year deal worth $6M, where the Minnesota Twins will sign him.

It’s a carousel in the closing world, as more teams are beginning to put less stock in having an established closer at the back of a bullpen.  Homegrown closers are becoming a more popular choice, but some teams look for that slight edge, and if it means overpaying for a pitcher who will throw roughly 5% of the team’s innings, they will do so. 

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

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

The Next MLB Commissioner: Who Will be Bud Selig’s Successor?

Wednesday November 2, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Allan H. Selig, or Bud, as he is known around baseball, will go down in history as the commissioner of baseball during one of its darkest times. Bud took over as acting commissioner for Fay Vincent in September 1992, and was almost immediately embroiled in controversy. With the collective bargaining agreement due to expire after the 1993 season, Selig knew that an agreement between the MLBPA and MLB owners was vital. The owners voted to implement a salary cap, eliminate salary arbitration and free agency would begin after four years instead of six. The MLBPA said that while this would solve parity problems in baseball, it would not benefit the players whatsoever. August 12, 1994 was set as a strike date by the players’ association if an agreement was not reached on the new CBA. When that day came, the players walked off the job. By September 14th, when no agreement was reached, the World Series was cancelled by Selig.

It wasn’t until most of Spring Training in 1995 was completed (with replacement players) that Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction against the owners. On April 2nd, the strike was over, which had lasted 232 days. This caused the 1995 season to be 144 games, as opposed to the regular 162 games. Baseball attendance declined by 20% in 1995, and it took a long time for fans to recover. Fans never recovered in Montreal, where their payroll had to be slashed due to losses and eventually the MLB took ownership of the team. The team was eventually moved to Washington for the 2005 season.

In 1998, baseball fans flocked to the baseball stadiums to watch a race of historic proportions. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were blasting balls into the stratosphere at alarming rates, and Roger Maris’ single season record of 61 home runs was being challenged. McGwire ended up with 70 and Sosa hit 66 as America and the rest of the world watched in awe as these two larger than life men hit prodigious home runs. Two expansion teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks proceeded to join the MLB.

Home runs over the next few years continued to climb, as in 2001, when Barry Bonds then broke McGwire’s record with 73 home runs of his own. Steroids were allegedly running rampant in the MLB and there was no legitimate testing protocol. In 2005, Selig met with US Congress on the issue. Amphetamines were also on the table to be banned. By March 2006, Selig appointed Senator George Mitchell to investigate the usage of performance-enhancing drugs in the MLB. The Mitchell Report, a 409 page document, was released in December 2007 after a 21 month investigation. It released names of many high-profile baseball players who used PEDs.

Because of this report, stricter policing and testing of PEDs has been put in place, as well as very strict penalties if players are caught. Selig has taken flak over the years for not being more proactive in the matter, however, early in the “Steroid Era”, it would have been almost impossible to know how widespread steroid use was.

Selig brought in two expansion teams, brought the MLB out of a dark time after the strike, has improved MLB’s PED testing and punishment policies.  Most importantly, there has been labor peace for 17 years.

Bud Selig never wanted to be the full-time commissioner, but he had been voted unanimously in 1998 when the acting commissioner title was changed to commissioner. In January of 2008, Selig wanted to retire, but after the owners begged him to stay, he signed a 3-year extension. His current contract is set to expire after the 2012 season, about a year from now. He has been adamant that this will be the end of his tenure as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He will be 78 years old. Since there has not been a search party constructed to find his successor, it can only be assumed that a short list has already been created, or the owners plan to attempt Bud to stay. Many have been on record of saying that they wish he would stay as commissioner for life.

Major League Baseball must at least entertain the notion that Selig will not be returning as commissioner, and thus, must include these people on their list of candidates:

Andy MacPhail
He has the lineage to succeed in this role. His father Lee was the GM and president of the Baltimore Orioles from 1958-1966. He then became president of the American League and is enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Andy’s grandfather, Larry, was a chief executive with the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. It has been said he was one of the main driving forces of televising baseball games regularly as well as playing night games. Andy has 2 World Series rings as a GM with the Minnesota Twins, and was the president and CEO of the Chicago Cubs from 1994 to 2006, when he took a job as the President of Baseball Operations with the Baltimore Orioles. He recently stepped down from this role, and has been suggested as a man who could succeed as the commissioner. MacPhail understands the history of the MLB and the commissioner’s role, and has been involved in baseball in many different facets.

Tim Brosnan
Brosnan is currently serving as the Executive Vice President, Business of the MLB. He has been in this role since February of 2000. Tim’s roles with the MLB include licensing, broadcasting both domestically and internationally, and special events. Since the MLB is making every effort to grow globally, it should be noted that Brosnan began working in the Commissioner’s Office in 1991 as Vice President of International Business Affairs. His work internationally would include the many trips to Asia for teams, as well as directly working with the World Baseball Classic.

Derrick Hall

Derrick joined the Diamondbacks in May 2005 after working in the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers for many years.  In September 2006, Derrick was named President of the Diamondbacks and later added the title of  Chief Executive Officer in January 2009.

The Diamondbacks are very fortunate to have one of the most progressive and dynamic baseball leaders at their helm.  Derrick developed the “Circle of Success” mission statement, the foundation for the management of the Diamondbacks.  A true ambassador to the game, Derrick Hall is a tireless worker in promoting and developing baseball in Arizona.  Derrick is often mentioned by many baseball commentators as a candidate to succeed Bud Selig as Commissioner. 

Rob Manfred
Selig’s right hand man’s role is Executive Vice President, Labor Relations & Human Resources. His main roles are to keep the peace between MLB and MLBPA, as well as HR work with the Commissioner’s Office. 17 years of labor peace as a direct participant in two rounds of collective bargaining with the MLBPA make him a great candidate for the commissioner’s position. He has also represented teams in salary arbitration and has provided advice to teams on salary negotiations with players.

Sandy Alderson
The New York Mets GM could potentially leave his current post to fulfill this role next offseason. Alderson has a career path unlike any of the other men on this list due to the fact that he has worked not only as a general manager, but has spent significant time working with the commissioner. Billy Beane’s mentor first began working for the Oakland A’s in 1981, and was the GM from 1983 until 1997. He then worked in the Commissioner’s Office as the Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations for 7 years. Most recently, after being the CEO of the San Diego Padres from 2005 to 2009, he was a liaison for the commissioner to address the issues of corruption in baseball in the Dominican Republic. Alderson is also a chairman of MLB’s Playing Rules Committee.

While Selig has been most adamant that he will be retiring at the end of the 2012 season, I believe that, once again, he will be convinced to stay on as commissioner. It would be in the best interest of baseball if he were to stay on, with a protégé being in place to learn the ropes from him. With Selig at the helm, the MLB owners have been happy, the players’ union has been happy, and the best product is displayed on the field. Baseball has been more exciting than ever, and I think we all owe a big thanks to Mr. Selig for being a big part of that.

 

A big congratulation goes out to Tony La Russa. On October 31, 2011, he announced his retirement just days after managing the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title. La Russa will surely be a Hall of Famer after his 33 year managing career that saw him compile 2,728 wins with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals. His teams reached the playoffs 14 times, and he won 3 AL pennants with the A’s, winning one World Series title. He also won 3 NL pennants with the Cards, winning two more World Series. Tony won 3 Manager of the Year Awards in the American League, as well as one in the National League. La Russa will go down as one of the greatest managers in the history of the MLB, and he went out on top. Congratulations, Tony, for a great career.

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

 

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

World Series Game Three Recap and Looking Back at the 2011 Home Run Leaders

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

MLB Reports – Sam Evans: Game three of the World Series was a crucial game for both teams as they both tried to take an early lead in the series. The Cardinals got off to a hot start thanks to an Allen Craig homer off of Matt Harrison in the top of the first. Up until the top of the fourth, both pitchers looked pretty strong, and it appeared that this would be a low scoring ballgame. Then, in the fourth, everything went wrong for the Rangers. It all started with an Albert Pujols single, then David Freese drove in two with a opposite-field line drive double. Next,  after Tony LaRussa made an interesting call to intentionally walk Yadier Molina to lad the bases, Jon Jay hit a slow grounder that brought Napoli into field it. Napoli took the right risk in throwing the ball home because the double play was out of the question with Jay’s speed. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Napoli rushed the throw and threw it to the backstop, allowing two runs to score on the play. Ryan Theriot singled, and before you know it the Cardinals lead had jumped to 5-0 just like that.

Neither pitcher lasted more than three innings in what became a slugfest between these two teams. In the bottom of the fourth, Michael Young and who else, Nelson Cruz homered to bring the score to 5-3. However, the Cardinals offense could not be stopped despite whoever Ron Washington had on the mound. In the fifth they added three more runs, and four in the sixth thanks to an Albert Pujols three-run homer. Pujols wasn’t done as he homered in the seventh and ninth as well. Pujols finished 5 for 6 with 6 RBI, which might be the best single game performance from any player in the World Series. He tied Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth for the most home runs in a World Series game. The reason Albert Pujols is such a great hitter is that there are literally no holes in his swing. He might have the most beautiful right-handed swing of all-time. After the game, Tony LaRussa had this to say, “There it is, the greatest night in World Series history. And we saw it.” Final score: Cardinals 16 Rangers 7. They play Sunday at 8:05 ET, with Derek Holland facing Edwin Jackson.

TOP FIVE REGULAR SEASON HOME RUN LEADERS IN EACH LEAGUE

Top Five RegUlar Season Home Run Leaders: American League Player Team #Of Homers
Jose Bautista TORONTO BLUE JAYS 43
Curtis Granderson NEW YORK YANKEES 41
MARK TEXEIRA NEW YORK YANKEES 39
Mark Reynolds BALTIMORE ORIOLES 37
Adrian Beltre, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ian Kinsler TEXAS RANGERS, BOSTON RED SOX, TEXAS RANGERS 32

Out of all the players on this list only Bautista, Texiera, and Reynolds hit more than thirty home runs last year. Jose Bautista proved that his 2010 season wasn’t a fluke by having an even better 2011 season, hitting 43 homers. Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixera both took advantage of Yankee Stadium’s favorable dimensions. Despite a slow start, Mark Reynolds hit 37 for the Orioles, who got what they needed with a middle of the order bat. Adrian Beltre hit 32 for the Rangers and Jacoby Ellsbury hit a huge breakout year, hitting 32 as well. The player I want to talk about is Ian Kinsler. I don’t think the average baseball fan realizes how good Kinsler has been. Despite only sporting a .255 average, Kinsler played above-average defense and stole 30 bases. He was probably the most valuable player on the Rangers this year. How many people knew that Kinsler was in the 30-30 club in 2011, for the second time in his career? He also had a .355 OBP and 121 runs over the course of 155 games. I think Kinsler is the most underrated second basemen in the league, and he deserves some respect.

TOP FIVE REGULAR SEASON HOME RUN LEADERS: NATIONAL LEAGUE NAME TEAM # OF HOMERS
Matt Kemp LOS ANGELES DODGERS 39
Prince Fielder MILWAUKEE BREWERS 38
ALBERT PUJOLS ST.LOUIS CARDINALS 37
Dan Uggla ATLANTA BRAVES 36
Mike Stanton FLORIDA MARLINS 34

Matt Kemp is the National League MVP, in my opinion. Other than the 39 homers, he stole 40 bases and reached base at a .399 clip. Prince Fielder definitely played like it was his contract year, hitting 38 homers. There’s close to none chance that he will stay with the Brewers next year. Albert Pujols is the least surprising, he is just so consistent every single year. Dan Uggla made this list largely due to his late season surge in which he hit ten homers in the month of August. Mike Stanton might be a surprise to some, but some scouting reports show him having 70-80 power on the 20-80 scale. This was a very impressive season for him, slugging .537 as a 21 year old. Next year, he should work on his defense and batting average and he might be an MVP candidate.

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.

Expanding the MLB Postseason: More Wild Card Teams Coming

Friday October 21, 2011

MLB reports – Rob Bland:  Expanding the playoffs has been a hot topic for many years now.  While the move will not be as drastic as when the MLB added the first wild card team in each league, it has drawn the ire from a lot of critics.  In 1994, MLB was to use the postseason system currently in place; however the season was cut short due to a player strike.  It was then that the MLB went to three divisions in each league (East, Central, and West) as well as a wild card team (the best non-divisional winner record in the league).  The American league Divisional winners would have been the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox in the Central and Texas Rangers in the West (with a record of 52-61).  Conversely, the Cleveland Indians would have been the wild card winners at 66-47.  In the National League, the East would have been won by the Montreal Expos, who had the MLB’s best record of 74-40.  The Central and West would have been won by the Cincinnati Reds and LA Dodgers, respectively, while the wild card winner would have been the Atlanta Braves.

However, due to the strike, which also shortened the following season, 1995 was the first year this system actually came into play.  This season saw a shortened 144 game schedule.  The NL East winners, Atlanta Braves had to go through the slugging Colorado Rockies; the first NL wild card team.  They then faced the Reds, and the eventual World Series Champions Cleveland Indians.  The Indians took a very peculiar path to the World Series.  After leading the MLB with a 100-44 record, the Indians faced the Boston Red Sox, winners of the AL East, who had the 2nd best record in the American League.  The Yankees were the wild card winners, who were defeated by the Seattle Mariners in the AL Division Series.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the commissioner, Bud Selig, with the MLB and its players’ union expires in December of this year, and an extension of five years is expected to be reached any day.  One of the main hold-ups to a deal is the addition of another wild card team.  The 2nd best non-divisonal winner would get into the playoffs.  This may not seem like much, where every other major sports league in North America has at least 3 “wild card” teams, but in baseball, tradition is always at the top of people’s minds.  Adding a team to each league’s postseason picture could lengthen the MLB season, which is something that is a major concern to most people involved in the process.

One option that was bandied around was to have the two wild card teams face off in a best 2 out of 3 series.  The advantage of this short series is that both teams that didn’t win their division would have to play extra games while the winners get a short break to recuperate their injured players.  Also, the extra games give opportunities to more teams to earn extra postseason revenue, which benefits the league.  However, the extra 2-4 days off that the other teams would have to endure could also cause a team to lose its momentum gained at the end of the season.

However, it is believed that the MLB will go to a one game sudden death playoff between the two wild card teams.  In my opinion, the biggest advantage to this is that it gives the winner of the game a monumental disadvantage going into the second round.  The wild card teams would be forced to pitch their ace in the playoff, and therefore would not be able to pitch until at least game 3 of the next round.  This means the team’s best starter would only get one start in a best of 5 series.  Not only would the team with the best record in the league have home-field advantage, but they would see their opponent’s best pitcher in only one game.

In the current state of the MLB postseason, ten wild card teams have made it to the World Series, out of a possible 34 teams going back to 1995, including 2011.  Roughly 29% of wild card teams make it into the World Series.  If you figure that 1 out of 4 teams in each league make it to the World Series, or 25%, then you have a better chance of making it as a wild card than as a divisional winner.  Four World Series have been won by wild card teams.  25% of World Series have been won by a team that should have a distinct disadvantage, but obviously do not.  It is due to this that MLB must make it a bigger hindrance for not winning your division.  Playing an extra game, extra travel and burning your ace are ways to weaken a wild card team’s chance of making it to the World Series.

With the union and MLB reps meeting every day trying to hammer out the extension for the CBA, you should see the added teams in the playoffs in 2012 or 2013.  It is widely expected that the deal will be reached in the middle of the World Series to take advantage or the added publicity it would gain.  I am fairly certain that the new playoff format will come into effect for the 2012 season, and there will be a lot of teams looking to push the envelope and make an appearance.

 

 World Series:  Game 2 Recap

Game 2 was a bit of a surprise, as Jaime Garcia, whom many picked to implode in this guy, had a great start.  Through 7 solid innings, he gave up only 3 hits and 1 walk to 7 strike outs.  Colby Lewis was equally as impressive until the 7th inning, where he was able to strike Matt Holliday out to lead off the inning.  David Freese then singled and Yadier Molina flew out.  Nick Punto then hit a ground ball towards first base that went off of Michael Young’s glove and into right field, moving Freese to third.  With runners on the corners and one out in the 7th, Alexi Ogando came in to face the hitter in the pitcher’s spot.  That hitter: Allen Craig.  The same hero of game 1 that hit a single to right field that scored the go ahead and eventual winning run.  Craig promptly lined a ball to right field to score David Freese, breaking the dead lock.

What would a playoff game be without drama? Jason Motte came in the 9th to close out the 1-0 game.  So far in the postseason, he had given up 1 hit in 29 plate appearances.  Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a bloop single off the end of the bat.  Elvis Andrus came up to the plate and looked to get a sac bunt on the ground, but Kinsler decided to take matters in his own hands, and stole second base by the smallest of margins.  Andrus then lifted a 2-2 pitch to center field for a single.  While Kinsler was held at 3rd, Cardinals CF Jon Jay threw the ball wide of the cutoff man, which allowed Andrus to slide safely into 2nd base.

Manager Tony La Russa then yanked Motte for lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Josh Hamilton.  On the first pitch, he hit a fly ball to right that scored Kinsler and advanced Andrus to third.  Even more like La Russa, he brought in Lance Lynn to face Michael Young, who hit a 3-2 curveball deep enough to center to scored Andrus, and the Rangers lead the game 2-1.

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz took the mound in the bottom of the 9th and walked Yadier Molina on 5 pitches 97 mph or faster, hitting 100 on the radar gun with the first pitch.  Nick Punto came to the plate, bunted two balls foul up around his eyes, then swung feebly to strike out.  Feliz then struck out Skip Schumaker and induced a fly ball off the bat of Rafael Furcal to seal the victory.

With the series tied at one game apiece, an off day tomorrow and game 3 slated for Saturday night in Texas, this series is only going to get better.  Keep checking MLB reports for your daily fix of updates on the World Series.

 

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

 

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

Theo Epstein Heads to the Windy City to Lead the Cubs

Thursday October 13, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  On October 12, 2011, Theo Epstein, former GM of the Boston Red Sox agreed to a 5 year deal worth more than $15M.  With the Chicago Cubs.  This all comes as no real surprise to anyone, as it had been speculated since the Cubs fired GM Jim Hendry in August that Epstein was their top target.  The real surprise is that Epstein and the Boston Red Sox’s falling out happened so swiftly.  Within two weeks of the Red Sox collapse, which has been widely discussed by everyone in baseball circles, manager Terry Francona and the team parted ways, as well as, now, their general manager Theo Epstein.

It has been well-documented that Epstein was able to overcome the “Curse of the Bambino” by employing a bunch of “idiots” in the locker room that went on to win a World Series in 2004.  This mentality has been a similar mantra of the Red Sox throughout his tenure.  Because they won in 2004, and also in 2007, it was completely acceptable for players to do what they pleased in the locker room.  Now that the epic collapse took place, the organization needed a change, and true accountability never took place for the Red Sox.

Epstein is a GM of great stature.  He is trusted and many people believe in his abilities.  He employs a “Moneyball” type strategy, which is also aided by having a large payroll, something he will also have the ability to create in Chicago.  Ownership of the Cubs have not been afraid to spend money, and most of the time have put themselves in unfortunate situations.

Two contracts come to mind when I think of the Cubs.  Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.  Prior to the 2007 season, Soriano inked a contract worth $136M over 8 years.  In 2007, Zambrano signed an extension for the 2008-2012 seasons, with a vesting option for 2013 worth $91.5M.  Epstein has a lot of work cut out for him with an aging, mediocre core, but finding a suitor for these two players, or finding a way for them to produce and not be distractions in the clubhouse is paramount.

Another major task for him is to figure out what he wants to do with incumbent manager, Mike Quade.  Quade was hired as the Cubs’ interim manager on August 22, 2010, and in October, the interim title was stripped.  Quade led the Cubs to a 71-91 record and a 5th place finish in the NL Central, only ahead of the lowly Houston Astros.  This record was tied for the 5th worst in all of baseball.  When Quade was hired, much to the dismay of Cubs fans, who wanted Ryne Sandberg to take the helm, he was highly regarded as a smart, methodical baseball thinker.  Was the year and month enough of a trial, or will Epstein want to bring in his own talent to manage this struggling franchise?

Epstein will also consider bringing in his own front office, using members from his group with the Red Sox.  With news breaking that Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Ben Cherington will take over as GM in Boston, Epstein will be fighting to bring his favorite guys over with him.

The last thing holding up this deal is compensation for the Red Sox.  Since Epstein had one year remaining on his contract with Boston, the Cubs had to ask permission to even speak with him.  Epstein had made it known to the organization that he would be leaving after 2012, so the Red Sox allowed talks to run smoothly, as they would have owed him $3M for the season, and a contract bonus of $4M.  Cash and/or prospects will easily get the job done.

The deal has not yet been completed due to some of these complications, but should be done by the beginning of next week.  Epstein will have a major challenge in Chicago, as they are not even close to competing.  Major decisions need to be made, and even with his high level of competency, it will take up to five years for the Cubs to be a major contender in the NL Central.

 

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

 

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

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

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

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

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

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

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

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

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

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

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

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

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

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

Phillies in 4

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

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

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

The Curious Case of Carl Crawford

Thursday September 23, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yu Darvish – 2012 MLB Savior?

Saturday September 17, 2011

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

The Hunt for Red Sox October

September 14, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Red Sox Nation is panicking. On September 1, the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Today, on September 13, they sit only 3 games ahead.  Since then, the Red Sox have gone 2-9, while Tampa has gone 8-3.  Many people believe that Tampa Bay has the pitching to get the job done.  Led by “Big Game” James Shields and David Price, they have a rotation that has been one of the top in the league all season.  As a team, they have given up the least amount of hits by 80 in the American League.  Their team ERA is also tops in the American League at 3.56.

Boston is limping into the end of the season, with 3 of their 5 opening week starters injured in some fashion in the last month.  Jon Lester has been every bit of the ace the Red Sox need him to be, with a 15-7 record and 3.07 ERA.  However, when the Sox leaned on him on September 11 against Tampa, he lasted only 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks.  John Lackey has been awful this year.  I cringe when I look at his stats.  6.30 ERA, 180 hits in 144 innings, and 18 hit batsmen to lead the league.  How has he won 12 games?  Buchholz was solid before going on the disable list, giving up only 76 hits in 82 2/3 innings, but hasn’t pitched since June 16.  It is believed he could be back as soon as next week, but in a limited bullpen role at best, so his impact won’t be felt much.  Josh Beckett has been great this year as well, but rolled his ankle in the 4th inning of his last start. At one point, after throwing a complete game, 1 hit shutout on June 15, his ERA sat at 1.86.  He is currently 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.985.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was a bust this year and required Tommy John Surgery in June.  In his place is knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who currently sits at 200 wins on his career.  Wakefield hasn’t made it look pretty this year, but has put in 139 2/3 valuable innings to date.

Tampa Bay boasts one of the top rotations in baseball, with Opening Day starter David Price pitching very solid, without much run support.  He has a 12-12 record but his ERA is 3.40 and has reached the 200 strikeout plateau for the first time in his young career.  Big Game James doesn’t need much of an introduction, as his 11 complete games and 4 shutouts lead the MLB.  He has already thrown 226 innings, a career high, with 210 strikeouts, also a career high.  Wade Davis has thrown 165 solid innings as a follow-up to being 4th in Rookie of the Year balloting last season.  Jeff Niemann is really blossoming into a dependable middle of the rotation pitcher, going 10-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 129 innings.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but doesn’t walk many either, shown by his 3 K/BB ratio.  One of the frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year is Jeremy Hellickson, who has been pretty much lights out all year.  With a 2.96 ERA and only giving up 135 hits in 170 innings, he will surely garner some votes.  The one wild card that the Rays hold, however, is Matt Moore.  Moore was just called up to fill a role similar to David Price in 2008.  He will be electric out of the bullpen after a minor league season that will rank him in the top 5 of all prospects going into next season.

Boston’s offense is abound with potential MVP’s and great hitters.  1 through 9, the Red Sox boast one of the best lineups I can remember.  Jacoby Ellsbury may win the MVP, but he will have to go through Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez first.  Also, David Ortiz is again proving the naysayers wrong, as he is hitting .313 with 29 home runs and 92 RBI.  When a player of JD Drew’s caliber can go on the disabled list and be replaced with Josh Reddick, who is hitting .298 and slugging .491 in 250 plate appearances, it gives a lot of confidence to a pitching staff.  Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally seems like the player who the Atlanta Braves envisioned when they drafted him in the 1st round in 2003.  Jason Varitek is also enjoying a fine season as a backup to Saltalamacchia, hitting 11 home runs in only 234 plate appearances.  This offense is one that no team will want to face in the final weeks of the season or the playoffs if they reach that far.

Tampa Bay may not have the “sexy” offensive players that the Red Sox do, but they have some players having mighty fine seasons.  Ben Zobrist has overlooked his mediocre 2010 season, and has put up numbers closer to his breakout 2009.  Although he probably won’t ever match that season, his 45 doubles lead the American League, and has a very good OPS of .820.  Casey Kotchman is still an on-base machine with little pop from first base.  He has hit at a .313 clip with a .382 on-base percentage, setting the table for the big run producers.  Evan Longoria may be having a down year by his standards, but most teams would be happy with a third baseman hitting 25 home runs and slugging .818.  Through May, Matt Joyce was an early favorite for AL MVP, but really tapered off in June and July, before turning it back up in the last month.  His .843 OPS leads the team, and he also has 12 stolen bases.  BJ Upton continues to be a low average, high power type of hitter, with 20 home runs and 27 stolen bases while hitting just .234.  The worst position in terms of offensive production has been shortstop, where Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez have handled most of the duties.  The Rays’ high-tempo style of offense has wreaked havoc on opposing batteries, as they have stolen 130 bases, good for third in the American League.

Both teams have completely different styles and techniques, but are successful in their own ways.  With the Rays aggressive style, and the Red Sox more reliant on taking pitches and making pitchers work, getting deep into bullpens early, this could be a battle to the bitter end.  The schedules they play the rest of the way will also dictate who is more likely to win the race for the Wild Card.

Boston:
1 vs Toronto
4 vs Tampa Bay
7 vs Baltimore
3 vs New York

Tampa Bay:
1 vs Baltimore
4 vs Boston
7 vs New York
3 vs Toronto

It is quite evident that Boston has a much easier schedule, and should win a fair number of them.  The Red Sox have gone 11-4 against the Yankees this year also.  Tampa has gone 5-6 against the Yankees, whom they see 7 more times.  Boston gets Baltimore 7 more times, and have beaten them 8 out of 11 games so far.  The pivotal series of all will be this weekend when the two teams square off against one another.  The game of the weekend may be on Friday September 16, where James Shields faces off against Josh Beckett.

I believe that Tampa Bay will come within a game or two, but the schedule differences give Boston a HUGE advantage.  The Red Sox 18-6 drubbing of the Blue Jays on Tuesday will be a catalyst for the team over the next two weeks, where they will produce runs and pitch just well enough to get into the postseason.

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

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

Jobless in 2012 – MLB Managers on the Hot Seat from 2011

Saturday September 10, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When a team has a disappointing season, the most likely candidate to lose his job is the manager.  So far in the 2011 season, there has already been three managers who have either resigned or been fired.  The Oakland Athletics fired Bob Geren on June 9th and replaced him with Bob Melvin.  A week and a half later, Edwin Rodriguez resigned from his post as manager of the Florida Marlins.  Jack McKeon became the oldest manager since Connie Mack at 80 years old.  Yet another week later on June 26th, Jim Riggleman of the Washington Nationals resigned and was replaced by Davey Johnson two days later.  With only a few weeks left in the regular season, who are the frontrunners to be replaced after the World Series?

With eight managers being new to their respective teams to start the 2011 season, one would think there can’t be too many jobs to lose.  The first criteria I look at in order to predict who will not be returning his club is if the team was expected to contend for the playoffs, and fell short.  Another thing I look at is the perception of the clubhouse, ie. if players get along, or if the manager is able to manage egos.  Of course, the manager’s ability to create a lineup and manage a bullpen is taken into consideration.  Other factors such as injuries and expectations of players are measured as well.  The list that follows are my top 3 managers who could be canned after this season.

Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs

It is not often that I would think a first year manager would be fired like this, but there are so many circumstances that make me believe he will be gone.  First, there has been grumbling since day one in Chicago that Quade was hired over franchise icon Ryne Sandberg.  The Cubs have been packed with talented players such as Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol.  Add in Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, and you would think they could at least come close in the terrible NL Central.  They are 22 games behind the streaking Milwaukee Brewers, and 21.5 behind Atlanta for the Wild Card.  Their record is 62-81 with a 35-40 record at Wrigley Field.

Bud Black, San Diego Padres

With 2011 being Black’s 5th season with the Padres, a 62-82 record and already 21 games behind Arizona for the NL West title, he could be on the way out.  The Padres have yet to reach the postseason under Black, however they were involved in a 1-game playoff with Colorado for the Wild Card title in 2007 that many of us will never forget as one of the most exciting games we have ever witnessed.  In 2010, the Padres held a 6.5 game lead over eventual World Series Champs San Francisco Giants on August 25th.  After a 10 game losing streak, the Padres were still in contention, and were not officially eliminated from the playoffs until the final day of the regular season with a 90-72 record.  Those were the only winnings seasons in Black’s tenure and his time in San Diego may be up.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

Is it really fair to say Gardenhire’s job is in jeopardy?  Probably not, but it definitely is possible.  Over his 10 year career with the Twins, he has amassed an 861-740 record and they have been in the playoffs 6 times.  However, they have only won 6 games, 4 of which were in one series, in Gardenhire’s first season; 2002.  The Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004, being swept in 2006, 2009 and 2010 in the American League Division Series.  This year, Gardenhire has had to deal with crippling injuries of former AL MVP’s Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.  Statistically, the best hitter has been Michael Cuddyer, hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI.  The best pitcher has been Scott Baker who is 8-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 131 2/3 innings.  Francisco Liriano has not been the same as he was before undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, and aside from his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3, he has been downright awful and is now on the 15-day disabled list.  When the best players don’t perform, or are hurt, the manager is forced to do the best he can with what he is given.  However a 59-84 record may just be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for Gardenhire.

This year, with 3 mid-season changes already, and eight new managers at the beginning of the season, shouldn’t see too much activity.  I do believe that with the Cubs’ search for a new general manager under way, Quade’s days are numbered in Chicago.  I also believe that Black’s inability to get the always promising Padres to the next level will leave him without a job by November.  Gardenhire has not proven to me that he can bring the Twins to the World Series, and that is what the job description entails.  Has it ever happened where both Managers of the Year from their respective leagues gets fired the following year? It could happen if Black and Gardenhire are let go.

 

 

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

 

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

 

Strasburg-mania Back With a Vengeance

September 6, 2011


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strasburg’s final line reads as follows:

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

My pre-game prediction was:

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

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

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



 

 

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

 

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

Strasburg-mania Returns to the Nationals September 6th

Saturday September 3, 2011

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

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

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

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

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

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

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

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Diamondbacks and Blue Jays Swap Second Basemen: Hill and McDonald for Johnson

Tuesday August 23, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  The Arizona Diamondbacks are in the middle of a pennant race in the National League West, and yet made a change with their second baseman, Kelly Johnson.  Statistics show that Johnson had been underperforming this year, and GM Kevin Towers said he wanted better defense and infield depth.  With that in mind, Towers got a hold of Toronto Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos to inquire on super utility infielder John McDonald.  McDonald can play 2B, SS, and 3B at an above average level, although he doesn’t do much with the bat. With regular shortstop Stephen Drew lost for the season due to injury, the D’Backs have been forced to start Willie Bloomquist the majority of the games in his absence.  That led to talks involving Toronto’s longest tenured player, second baseman Aaron Hill.  The end result was Arizona acquiring Aaron Hill and John McDonald, with Kelly Johnson going to Toronto.

Aaron Hill had a terrific start to his career, which so far has peaked in 2009 when he hit .286 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI.  He was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner that year.  He plays good defense and is a well-liked guy in the clubhouse.  His contract situation is an iffy one, in that he has 2 option years left worth $8M each.  By the end of 2009, it would have been a lock that those options would have been picked up, however, 2010 and 2011 have not been so kind to Hill.  Last year he hit .205 with a walk rate of only 7.1%.  He at least was able to club 26 home runs, which are numbers he has not been able to replicate this year.  Hill in 2011 is walking in 5.4% of his plate appearances, and has only 6 home runs to go along with his paltry .225 average.

McDonald is arguably the most beloved player in Toronto, after Jose Bautista.  He routinely gets standing ovations, and this writer can proudly say one of his favourite moments in MLB history was watching McDonald hit a home run in his first at bat after missing a few games.  The significance was that his father had just passed away, and McDonald promised to hit a home run for him.  So on Father’s Day of 2010, McDonald crushed a home run over the left field wall.  The teary-eyed McDonald crossed the plate and was embraced by every member of the Blue Jays.  McDonald is a phenomenal defender, often used as a pinch runner in key situations, but doesn’t hit much. In his 13 seasons, he has only 21 home runs, with 12 of them coming in his last 3 seasons.   His value comes as a player that will give everything for his team, playing every position imaginable and making highlight reel plays.

Johnson is only a season removed from a .284/.370/.496 slash line, and although scouts often say his defense is sub par, the advanced metrics tell a different story.  His UZR was 7.1 last year, and 3.9 this year, where 0 is average.  Johnson’s production, like Hill, has fallen off the table.  He is still hitting home runs; 18 this year compared to 26 last year.  He takes walks, just under 11% for his career.  But his main problem has been the strikeouts.  This year has been worse than usual, as he has struck out in over 27% of his plate appearances.  Johnson’s line drive rate is just a tick below his career numbers, so his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) being 50 points lower than his career average is probably a good indicator of why his numbers are so low.

All three players are free agents at season’s end.   McDonald and Hill both said during their press conference today that they are very open to returning to Toronto in 2012.  Until then, the Diamondbacks will look to add to their 1.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants with this move.  Should they be propelled to the playoffs, it is likely that an infield of Hill, McDonald, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Roberts (all former Blue Jays) could face off against another former Jay in Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series.

This deal seems strange from a Diamondbacks perspective, as Hill is a downgrade from Johnson, even with the poor season Johnson has been having in 2011.  The amount of upside the Dbacks get from having McDonald over Bloomquist at shortstop is completely negated by this downgrade.  However, the Dbacks get two great clubhouse characters, who will surely help the club defensively and in teaching the younger players.  For the Blue Jays, this trade makes complete sense.  Johnson is currently set to be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, and with a hot streak, could become a Type A.  As a Type B, he would net the team a supplemental draft pick if he signs a major league deal with another team.  But if Johnson reaches Type A status this offseason, he will also net a first round pick on top of the supplemental pick.  The Jays can use this time to better evaluate Johnson, and by showing him what the organization has to offer, Johnson may sign with the team at the end of the year.

Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson were two players that have been coveted by each team for the last couple of years, but no deal could have been struck.  However, with both players struggling so badly this year, both players were in need of a change of scenery.  A fresh start could do wonders for Hill as he could get back into the groove he was in before the 2010 season, while Johnson could return to his 2010 form.

So at the very worst, the Jays get an extra draft pick as part of this trade, and in many people’s opinions, they will also get McDonald back in 2012 to be their utility infielder.  For the Dbacks, Hill’s production could seriously limit their offense and push them out of a playoff spot.  Both teams are facing risks, but I believe Toronto’s level of risk was much lower, as they are not in a pennant race.  The upside potential of this trade for the Jays makes them the winner in my books.

 

 

 

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

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

Tyler Beede Chooses Vanderbilt over the Blue Jays

Saturday August 20, 2011

Before the 2011 MLB Draft, Auburn, Massachusetts native Tyler Beede signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Vanderbilt University.  In the months leading up to the draft, Beede made it known to MLB scouts and cross-checkers that he was going to attend Vanderbilt.  He felt as though the college experience and the education he would receive would be the best thing for him.

Vanderbilt is also a member institution of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).  The SEC is arguably the best conference in the NCAA for baseball as well as other sports.  There has been a long line of first round draft choices that have been Commodores.  In the last seven years, Vanderbilt has had 48 players drafted, while 6 of those have been in the first round.  Jeremy Sowers (6th in 2004), David Price (1st in 2007), Casey Weathers (9th in 2007), and Mike Minor (7th in 2009) are the pitchers taken in the first rounds of their drafts for the Commodores.  Vanderbilt also took part in their first NCAA College World Series in 2011, and hope to build upon that success.  Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin has said that Beede has been in Vanderbilt baseball camps since his freshman year of high school, so it is safe to say that Tyler is extremely comfortable with the staff and surroundings.

When a player with as much talent as Beede chooses a successful program, it is often to create leverage in negotiating with a drafting team.  There have been many players who sign with schools such as University of Texas, Louisiana State University, or University of California simply to earn a larger signing bonus in professional baseball.  The stronger the player’s commitment to school, the more leverage he has to get the MLB team to offer top dollars.  Since MLB teams generally don’t like to “waste” their pick and not sign a guy, they will often have to break the bank to make him sign on the dotted line.

When a player tells a scout that he wants X amount of dollars, it often scares teams away from that player, dropping him to later rounds, or out of the draft altogether.  Tyler was drafted in the 1st  round (21st overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, although he could have gone sooner if not for his demands.  The Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos were known to be planning an aggressive approach to this year’s draft, and even though Beede stated he wanted the big bucks, the Jays were confident that they could sign him.  So confident that many people in baseball were calling for investigations that the Blue Jays had worked out a pre-draft deal with Beede for around $2M.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Rob Bland, and like Beede, was a tall right-handed pitcher in high school.  I may not have thrown as hard as Beede but I routinely flashed 89-91 mph on scouts’ radar guns.  Scouts were behind the backstop for each one of my games from my junior year in high school on.  I played for a prestigious program in Team Ontario and graduated to the Canadian Junior National Team and had a ton of great exposure.  Before the 2002 MLB draft, I had signed with the University of Kentucky, also in the SEC, and told scouts I was going to school unless a lot of money was put in front of me.  I was ranked in Baseball America’s top 150 draft prospects list, and I was told by some teams I could go as high as the 7th to 10th rounds.  I went back and forth between school and professional baseball, but I felt I wasn’t ready to be a pro.  My parents, like Beede’s, thought that I was mature enough to make this life-altering decision on my own. Education has always been very important to my family, and ultimately I decided that unless I was blown away by an offer, I would go to school.  The fact that Beede has been on record of saying that he would have signed for $3.5M leads me to believe that he felt the same way.  He had a number in mind, and unless it was reached, he would be perfectly content in attending college.  I ended up requesting 3rd round money as a leverage tool (around $250,000 at the time).  I figured that I would improve so much over the next three years that I would easily be a 3rd round selection at worst in 2005.  Teams considered me “unsignable” and I was not selected at all.  I went to the University of Kentucky where I struggled with adjusting to college life and could not stay healthy, spending most of my time in the trainer’s room, until finally requiring Tommy John surgery.

I could look back and say I should not have declared lofty demands and just taken what could have been given to me, but the reality is that I genuinely wanted to go to college.  Beede has also been adamant that he wants to enjoy the college experience and step into a role where he can make a big difference.  I also thought at the time that when I worked hard, I could improve and be drafted higher in the future.  At the time I thought it was the right choice, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done in professional baseball.

I am not trying to compare myself with Beede, as he is obviously a much bigger talent, but there are some parallels.  If he gets injured, or if he struggles and cannot figure college hitters and metal bats out, he could be losing out on a lot of money and a career in professional baseball.

I have no doubt that Beede’s talent will shine in the SEC, and he will again be drafted in 2014.  However, I seriously doubt it will be as high of a selection, or that he will be offered the same $2.5M that the Blue Jays offered this year.  With the next Collective Bargaining Agreement sure to stop the huge spending on the draft, players will not have the same bargaining power.

I have heard many Toronto Blue Jays fans saying that Beede was foolish for turning down the money, or that they hope that he does not succeed and regrets his decision.  Some have said that he is immature, or that he doesn’t deserve to play professional baseball.  “Tyler Beede is greedy” and “Beede is a jerk” has been posted on Twitter .  All of these comments are completely unfair because he is an 18-year-old kid and decisions like these are not easy to make.  In my opinion, he made a very mature decision that 99.9% of us find easy to scoff at.  Who can turn down $2.5M to do something they love to do?  What people don’t realize is that he has a huge love for Vanderbilt and their program.  He feels more COMFORTABLE at Vandy than he does in the Toronto Blue Jays organization right now.  For a ballplayer, comfort breeds confidence, and Beede I am sure is brimming with confidence right now.

Is this a decision that Beede may regret in 10 years?  Maybe.  Is he dumb?  Absolutely not.  Beede will look to become the second Vanderbilt Commodore to be selected first overall in a future MLB Draft.   If that becomes the case, Beede will make a lot more money at that time than he was offered by the Blue Jays in 2011 and have a solid university education behind him.

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

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

2011 MLB Draft: Recap and Draftees who Didn’t Sign

Tuesday August 16, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Amongst all the madness that was the Draft Signing Deadline, I first have to say congratulations to Jim Thome for hitting the 599th and 600th home runs of his illustrious career.  He is only the eighth player in MLB history to reach that mark.

There were many signings that went down to the wire last night, and most players in the early rounds signed.  There were five Major League deals signed from this draft.  The Washington Nationals gave pitcher Matt Purke a 4-year, $4.4M deal out of the third round.  Second overall pick Danny Hultzen, the left-handed pitcher from Virginia University selected by the Seattle Mariners was given 5 years and a guarantee of $8.5M.  It was previously reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave RHP and third overall pick Trevor Bauer a 4 year, $7M deal.  High school pitcher Dylan Bundy was given five years and $6.225M from the Baltimore Orioles and Rice University’s Anthony Rendon was given four years and $7.2M as the most polished bat in the draft by the Washington Nationals.  Top pick Gerrit Cole was given an $8M bonus by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, there were three players in the first two rounds who did not sign, which will result in the teams who selected them receiving a compensation pick in next year’s draft.  First of those was RHP Tyler Beede.   Known to be extremely tough to sign, the Toronto Blue Jays selected him 21st overall.  Beede’s talent alone could have taken him into the top 10 picks, but his lofty demands as well as his desire to play for Vanderbilt University dropped him down to the Blue Jays.  It was reported that the final offer The Blue Jays offered was in the $2.3M range, but Beede did not budge from his demands.  In a tweet from his Twitter handle @TylerBeede, he said “g-d has plans for me and that is college first.”  Beede will look to follow in the footsteps of recent first round pitchers from Vanderbilt; David Price and Jeremy Sowers.   Beede was one of my picks that would come down to the wire, and I said that it would take close to $3M to sign him.  The Blue Jays will now pick 22nd in the 2012 draft.

North Carolina State University will get their coveted catching signee, as the San Diego Padres were unable to sign switch hitter Brett Austin.  The first supplemental round pick, 54th overall, has plus speed for a catcher, being clocked at less than 6.9 seconds in a 60-yard dash.  He has a quick release and routinely has a pop time (throwing the ball home to second as if a runner were stealing) under 2 seconds.  He has quick feet and a quick bat, although he has more bat speed from the right side of the plate.  With the Padres already locking up catcher Austin Hedges for $3M, they felt as though Austin was expendable, and did not offer a contract near his demands.  The Padres will choose 55th in the 2012 draft.

When the New York Yankees selected college junior Sam Stafford in the second round, 88th overall, it was widely believed that the University of Texas Longhorns had lost their top two pitchers.  Taylor Jungmann was selected 12th overall and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for $2.525M.  However, talks with the Yankees hit a snag over parts of his physical, and Stafford was never offered a contract around the slot value.  Stafford was 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA in 81 1/3 innings this past season at UT.  The left-handed pitcher has had consistency issues with fastball command, but pitches in the 90-93 mph range.  His curveball and change-up are both works in progress and he shows flashes of plus potential in both.  The Yankees will select 89th in the 2012 draft.

The biggest surprise to me was that the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to sign Josh Bell.  It did not take a Major League contract, and only $5M to pull him away from the University of Texas.  This was much less than originally predicted, and his huge demands seem to have just been posturing.  The Pirates signed both of their top picks for a total of $13M, which in itself would have been the most money spent by one team in draft history.

Other notable signings were second round pick LHP Daniel Norris of the Toronto Blue Jays at $2.5M, 14th round pitcher Dillon Maples of the Chicago Cubs at $2.5M, and 6th round catcher Nicky Delmonico of the Baltimore Orioles at $1.525M.

 

 

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

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan 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 Draft Signing Deadline: Who Will Sign By August 15th

Friday August 12, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):   With the August 15 deadline for all 2011 MLB draftees to sign, players and teams are getting down to the wire with negotiations.  Only two of the top ten picks have been signed, right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, and second baseman Cory Spangenberg by the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, respectively.  Of the 33 first round picks, 9 have signed, as well as 14 of the 27 picks in the supplemental first round.  It is expected that most of the picks from the first round will go down to the last hour, if not minute.  However, there is a lot of speculation about who will not sign, and the fans of each team are hoping and praying their team will get their guy.  Some players come into the draft with lofty expectations and high estimates of signing bonus money.  As a result, many of the lower budget franchises stay away from these players, and draft “safe” players, who will sign for a more reasonable price.

The Oakland Athletics’ GM Billy Beane was made famous through the book “Moneyball”, which portrayed the club as a bottom feeder organization financially.  They had to pick lesser talents in order to sign all their draft picks.  They shied away from the big “sexy” names on draft boards and targeted players with specific skill sets.  Other teams who have done this in the past to varying degrees of success are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals.  In the last couple of years, these organizations have turned their philosophies around, drafting tough to sign players with higher ceilings, and ending up signing most of them.  Today will highlight a few of the players drafted who will be tougher than others to sign.

From this year’s draft, one of the players who was known to be extremely difficult to sign was Josh Bell.  On talent alone, he was rated as an early first round pick, yet dropped to the second round to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He had sent a letter to Major League Baseball advising teams not to draft him on account that he wanted to attend the University of Texas.  Some have said this was just a bargaining tool to simply add more leverage to his situation, while others think he will not sign under any circumstances.  It has been predicted that it will take a minimum of $10M and a Major League contract in order to sign him.  I feel that the Pirates are an extreme long shot to sign Bell, and he will attend U of T and be a Longhorn for the next three years.

High school right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede could have been a top 10 pick, with his 95 mph fastball and devastating change-up.  Beede was widely known to be seeking a bonus upwards of $3-4M.  The Toronto Blue Jays and their new management have made it a point to take the best player available when they it is their turn to select a player in the draft.  So, when it came to their turn as the 21st selection, the Jays did not hesitate to choose Beede, who has said it will come down to money in the long run.  I believe the Jays will sign him in the final minutes for close to $3M.

With the 5th overall pick, the Kansas City Royals had a tough decision to make.  Outfielder Bubba Starling, a hometown kid from Kansas, was widely considered the top prep offensive talent in the draft was still on the board.  Starling has a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to play both football and baseball.  It is very likely that a bonus upwards of $8M will be what it takes for Starling to sign with KC on August 15.  Expect this deal to get done.

Gerrit Cole, the flame throwing right-handed pitcher from UCLA was taken by the Pirates first overall in the draft.  Cole has reached 102 mph on radar guns and routinely hits triple digits.  Cole has yet to sign, but is widely expected to join the Pirates.  A Major League deal for 4 years and $8M or so is likely.

Rice University has been known to producing top talent, as witnessed by having eight first round picks in the last 11 years, most notably when Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann went 3rd and 4th overall in the 2004 draft.  Another first rounder from Rice was Lance Berkman in 1997.  So when one of the top three candidates for the first overall pick came down to an infielder from Rice, who just happened to win the Dick Howser Trophy, (essentially the Heisman Award for college baseball players), nobody was surprised.  Anthony Rendon may not have above average speed or the best glove, but he has an above average arm and was considered by most to be the best hitter in the country.  Rendon dropped to #6 to the Washington Nationals due to signability concerns but should sign for $4M plus.

Shortstops with ultra talent often get huge signing bonuses and Cleveland Indians’ first pick (8th overall), Francisco Lindor will be no exception.  Lindor has the talent to warrant a $3M bonus, but should hold out for more.  The Indians tend to shy away from this kind of pick, but the talent speaks for itself and I believe the Indians will go as high as $3.5M to sign the talented shortstop.

There has arguably not been a better high school pitcher in the last decade than flame throwing Dylan Bundy.  The right-hander has reached 100 mph and has 2 plus secondary pitches.  His high school pitching numbers are straight out of a video game.  71 innings, 2 earned runs. TWO!  He also had 158 strikeouts to 5 walks. FIVE WALKS!  Good for a 31.6:1 K:BB ratio.  Oh, and the fact that he can also hit, as evidenced by his 11 home runs and 54 RBI in only 105 at-bats doesn’t hurt.  The University of Texas commit could command a Major League contract and $6-8M.  He should sign; my guess is $6.5M.

 

Here is the breakdown of the entire 2011 first round of picks, with players in bold having already signed:

1 Gerrit Cole RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Danny Hultzen LHP Seattle Mariners
3 Trevor Bauer RHP Arizona Diamondbacks – ML deal 4/$7M
4 Dylan Bundy RHP Baltimore Orioles
5 Bubba Starling OF Kansas City Royals
6 Anthony Rendon 3B Washington Nationals
7 Archie Bradley RHP Arizona Diamondbacks
8 Francisco Lindor SS Cleveland Indians
9 Javier Baez SS Chicago Cubs
10 Cory Spangenberg 2B San Diego Padres – $1.86M
11 George Springer OF Houston Astros
12 Taylor Jungmann RHP Milwaukee Brewers
13 Brandon Nimmo OF New York Mets
14 Jose Fernandez RHP Florida Marlins
15 Jed Bradley LHP Milwaukee Brewers
16 Chris Reed LHP LA Dodgers
17 C.J. Cron Jr. 1B LA Angels – $1.467M
18 Sonny Gray RHP Oakland Athletics – $1.54M
19 Matt Barnes RHP Boston Red Sox
20 Tyler Anderson LHP Colorado Rockies
21 Tyler Beede RHP Toronto Blue Jays
22 Kolten Wong 2B St. Louis Cardinals – $1.3M
23 Alex Meyer RHP Washington Nationals
24 Taylor Guerrieri RHP Tampa Bay Rays
25 Joe Ross RHP San Diego Padres
26 Blake Swihart C Boston Red Sox
27 Robert Stephenson RHP Cincinnati Reds
28 Sean Gilmartin LHP Atlanta Braves – $1.13M
29 Joe Panik SS San Francisco Giants – $1.116M
30 Levi Michael SS Minnesota Twins
31 Mikie Mahtook OF Tampa Bay Rays
32 Jake Hager SS Tampa Bay Rays – $963K
33 Kevin Matthews LHP Texas Rangers – $936K

 

I think that although you can’t be sure about these kinds of things, my gut feeling is that every first rounder this year will actually sign by August 15th.  I also predict that at least one signing will come minutes after the deadline, probably a Scott Boras client, and the league will allow the deal to pass.

 

 

 

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

 

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

New York Yankees: 6-Man Rotation and Implications

Tuesday August 9, 2011

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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.

On the Verge: Brett Lawrie Call Up by Jays is Imminent

Thursday August 4, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  The Brett Lawrie rollercoaster started December 6th, 2010.  Lawrie was sent to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s incumbent ace, Shaun Marcum.  Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos immediately said that Lawrie would be working out at third base, switching from second base.  This would be Lawrie’s third major position change in 3 years.  He was drafted out of Langley, BC by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 MLB draft.  That year, Toronto held the 17th pick, and it was said that they coveted him greatly.  They instead had to settle for college first baseman and current AAA prospect, David Cooper.

Lawrie hit .293 in spring training this year, while playing decent enough third base to warrant a discussion of keeping him on the roster.  However, Anthopoulos deemed he was not ready to play in the Major Leagues, and the fans in Toronto grumbled as the Blue Jays consistently put Edwin Encarnacion at third base to start the year.  Lawrie started off hot in AAA Las Vegas, and played good defense.  This still wasn’t enough, as the Jays asked him to be more patient and change his approach.  Lawrie did just that, and by May 31st, was hitting over .350 with power and walking more often than he had in the past.  When the Jays were on the brink of calling him up (see our Report from June 2nd), Lawrie was hit by an errant pitch on the back of his left hand.  Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath, and Lawrie declared it was a bruise.  Two days later when swelling subsided, it was found out that Lawrie had a non-displaced fracture.

When he finally returned to Las Vegas in the middle of July, Lawrie came right back to where he left off.  He is now hitting .352 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI.  More importantly, he has 26 walks and is playing much improved defense.  Now, the Jays’ faithful are continuing to call for him.  Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have repeatedly said “he’s close” and that they want to get him everyday at bats before rosters expand in September.

Now, when Lawrie gets the inevitable call (my guess being Friday, August 5th, before the beginning of a road series in Baltimore), where will he play?  The Jays have Jose Bautista, one of the top three players in baseball at third base.  Well, the plan that Anthopoulos has set out is that Bautista would shift back to his preferred right field, creating a logjam of young and talented outfielders.  Travis Snider is 23 years old and he will play every day at one of the corner positions.  Colby Rasmus is 24 years old and will be in center for the foreseeable future.  That leaves Eric Thames, also 24, the corner outfielder who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the love and admiration of many fans, on the bench.  You could say that Thames can just DH because he isn’t the best fielder of the bunch (although more than adequate and constantly improving), but where does Edwin Encarnacion play then?  Encarnacion is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball since the beginning of July.  He has 9 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI with 12 walks in 25 games over that span.  Thames most likely gets optioned to AAA to get every day at bats until rosters expand in September.  Here is how that lineup stacks up.

Yunel Escobar – SS
Colby Rasmus – CF
Jose Bautista – RF
Adam Lind – 1B
Edwin Encarnacion – DH
Travis Snider – LF
Brett Lawrie – 3B
J.P. Arencibia – C
Aaron Hill –  2B

If one of these players is traded, then there won’t be a problem.  The only other option barring a trade, is something that Anthopoulos has stated adamantly will not happen.  Moving Lawrie to second base and sitting former Silver Slugger Aaron Hill on the bench.  This could possibly be the best option available for both the short-term and long-term.  With Hill underperforming (ranked 20th out of 21 qualified 2nd baseman in WAR), and his $8M option for 2012 likely to be declined, Lawrie could slot into that spot for a very long time.  Anthopoulos has preached having talent and skill “in the middle of the diamond” and second base is a spot that sorely needs some stability after Hill’s last two years.  The only thing that could stop this movement is if Anthopoulos sees Hill, who is a good defender, as a guy who can turn his career back around.  If Hill were placed in the 9 hole, and changed his approach, he could be a very serviceable player there.  One idea that has been bandied around is that the Jays decline the option on Hill, and sign him to a much smaller deal to bring him back as the second baseman.

I honestly believe that Anthopoulos has the wheels turning, and with Encarnacion being so hot, many teams would love to take him on to make a push for the playoffs.  If Encarnacion is not in the picture, there is a spot for Thames as a full-time player.  He and Snider would probably split time between left field and DH, with Bautista in right, and Lawrie at third.

What gets lost in all of this, is that the Opening Day center fielder, might become a 5th outfielder.  Rajai Davis  has 33 stolen bases, and is playing better in a part-time role since Rasmus joined the team.  He will be reserved to being a pinch runner, and possibly a late inning defensive replacement for Thames.

The odd man out for this year seems to be Thames, even though the Blue Jays see him as a valuable asset for the long-term.  Whether that means for him to be on the field, or using him as a trade chip remains to be seen.  Lawrie will likely end up playing third base every day, proving why the Jays gave up Marcum for an unproven “troubled” prospect. 

 

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

 

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Boston Red Sox: Who is on Their Radar? Jimenez to Indians and Trade Deadline Summary

Saturday July 30, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):   With the deadline only a day away, I expect a flurry of moves in the next 24 hours, and the Boston Red Sox are sure to get involved.  With injuries to Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, combined with the inability of John Lackey to get outs, the BoSox have been in on every rumored starting pitcher being moved.  Here’s a look at Boston’s targets, and who they would have to give up in order to consummate a deal.

 

Hiroki Kuroda

The Japanese import could bring a good haul for the LA Dodgers, and it is believed that they are looking for a young catcher or a starting pitcher in return.  I don`t believe the Red Sox would give up Anthony Ranaudo for him, but it is the Red Sox, and their system is fairly stacked.  Kuroda isn`t a top line starter, but could fit in nicely behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester right now.  In his last 10 starts, Kuroda is 1-8 with a 2.66 ERA, giving up more than three runs in a start only once.  He is on pace to break the 200 inning mark for the first time in his MLB career.

Prospects

I could see the Dodgers wanted a package that could involve Kyle Weiland, who has been at AAA, including a couple of underwhelming starts for the Red Sox.  He has been dominant in AAA, and while his ceiling might not be very high, Weiland could be a piece used to obtain Kuroda.

Former top pick Andrew Miller could be involved as well, as he has shown flashes of the potential that the Tigers saw to draft him 6th overall in the 2006 draft.

 

Jason Vargas (SEA), Aaron Harang (SDP), Jeremy Guthrie (BAL), Erik Bedard (SEA)

Vargas is another pitcher who hasn’t had much luck this year, going 6-9 with a 4.09 ERA.  He too is on pace to break the 200 inning plateau for the first time in his career.  He gives up a lot of fly balls and home runs, so he might not be the best fit for Fenway Park.

Harang has made the most of his move to spacious Petco Park.  In the pitcher’s haven, his ERA is 2.92, as opposed to 4.31 on road games.  Harang in Boston might not be a good fit due to his propensity to give up the long ball, but, whether it is due to the park or not, he has only given up 9 homeruns so far this year.

Playing the last five years in Baltimore will never help your win-loss record, but Guthrie has been a reliable arm for the Orioles over that time.  His career ERA of 4.16 while mostly pitching in the AL East proves that he could be a capable pitcher for the Red Sox.  Although he is 5-14, he has pitched fairly well this year, and could be great addition to the back-end of the Red Sox rotation.

Bedard’s once promising career has been derailed by injury after injury.  He has always possessed tremendous stuff, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  In his last ten starts, he has thrown 58 2/3 innings, striking out 64.  Bedard has never amassed 200 innings, and his career high is 196, in 2006.

All of these pitchers are available and the Red Sox are in talks with each of the respective teams.  Many of the prospects mentioned in this article will be in play, as well as Bryce Brentz, a powerful outfielder in high-A.  He needs to cut down on strikeouts but he is a solid right fielder for the future.

 

Reed Johnson

The Cubs` outfielder could bring a spark of energy to the club.  J.D. Drew is on the DL, again, so they do need an outfielder if they want to upgrade over Josh Reddick or Darnell McDonald.  Johnson plays great defense and is hitting the ball pretty well this year, so he could slot into right field well at Fenway.

23-year-old catcher Ryan Lavarnway could be involved in a deal. He is a young catcher that isn`t too far away from the big leagues.  Lavarnway has a lot of power as shown by his 27 home runs already this year.   He is known as a good game caller and a smart catcher.

 

Ubaldo Jimenez 

Ubaldo Jimenez has tremendous upside and is signed to a team-friendly contract through 2014.  The Colorado Rockies are asking for a prospect haul that most teams can’t even match.  At this point, only the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, together with the Red Sox are involved in talks with the Rockies.  Although just 6-9 this year with a 4.20 ERA, he has made some great strides in the last couple of months.  In his last 10 starts, he is 5-4 with 3.47 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.  Jimenez has lowered his ERA almost a full run during that time.  Although some teams worry about his delivery, the big righty has been durable, throwing at least 198 innings in the last three years, and is on pace to break that mark again this year.

Prospects

Anthony Ranaudo, a supplemental 1st round pick in 2010 started this season in A-ball, but could quickly shoot up the system in Colorado if moved.  He possesses three above average pitcher and has front of the rotation stuff.  He has good control and has great makeup and poise.

Will Middlebrooks is a prototypical third basemen with a good glove.  He hits for average, and for power, evidenced by his 17 home runs so far this season.  He also has 7 stolen bases.  He possesses a good baseball IQ and he should have a long career in the big leagues.

Lars Anderson was once considered the top bat in the Red Sox system, and with Adrian Gonzalez in the mix, there doesn`t seem to be a spot for Anderson.  He has good vision at the plate, sees a lot of pitches, and has gap power.  As he continues to fill out, he will get stronger.  I expect 20 home runs and 30 doubles a year out of Anderson when he finally does make it to the Show.

 

I think that the Red Sox win the Ubaldo Jimenez sweepstakes, sending uber-prospects Ranaudo, Middlebrooks, Anderson and maybe one or two players to be named later.  This gives the Red Sox a fearsome top three starters in Beckett, Lester and Jimenez.  If Buchholz comes back healthy, they have an incredible rotation for years to come.  Reed Johnson is also a great fit for the team, and I see them making a move for him.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  Please feel free to leave comments and to welcome Rob aboard.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

 

Editor’s Notes and Trade Deadline Summary:

A great article by our intern Rob Bland.  As the trade deadline has shown already, as much as we think we can predict what will happen- surprises will always occur.  Today was the last day before the non-waiver trade deadline, Sunday July 31st.  Here is a rundown of all the trades that took place today in Major League Baseball:

Rich Harden (A’s) for Lars Anderson and Player to be Named Later (Red Sox):  Yet to be announced.  This deal has not yet been finalized and may fall through.  Likely Billy Beane is pushing strong for this one.  Boston gets Harden, a talented but very injury prone pitcher that cannot be counted on.  Oakland would get a top young hitting prospect in Anderson and a PTBNL.  Oakland wins if this one does happen, stay tuned.

Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride (Indians):  What a difference a year makes.  The Indians are going for it and have beefed up their rotation with the addition of Jimenez.  When on his game, Ubaldo is one of the best in baseball.  Further, Ubaldo continues to be under team control, so the Indians don’t simply acquire a summer rental here.  The keys to this deal for the Rockies are Pomeranz and White.  Considered to be the Indians two best pitching prospects, the Rockies add to their farm while losing their ace.  While Pomeranz is considered highly in baseball circles, I would have expected to see the Rockies get more major league ready talent.  Considering that they were supposed to get Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova from the Yankees or Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and/or Homer Bailey from the Reds, I give the Indians the edge on this deal.  Ace pitchers do not grow on trees and the Indians got one without giving up any of their major league talent or some of their other finer prospects, including Nick Weglarz.  Competing with the big boys, the Indians get the prize of the trade deadline and likely a division title as well.

Derek Lee (Orioles) for Aaron Baker (Pirates):  The Pirates are going for it and while Lee is an aging first baseman, he is an upgrade offensively over incumbent Lyle Overbay.  Baker is a Class A first baseman that is not considered a top prospect.  This trade is a draw, as the Pirates beef up for their playoff run and the Orioles auction off an impending free agent to stock their system.

Orlando Cabrera (Indians) for Thomas Neal (Giants):  This deal came out of left field, as the Indians are still contending and were expected to hold onto Cabrera.  With many young infielders on their roster, the Indians were prepared to sacrifice their utility man for one of the Giants higher rated prospect bats.  Speaking to Neal on several occasions, he is one of the nicer young men you will ever want to meet in the game.  Considered a great tools player, both offensively and defensively, the Indians have added another piece to their offensive puzzle while sacrificing a veteran that was expandable.  The Giants, with injury and offensive woes, took a chance on Cabrera, a good luck charm for each of his respective teams in the postseason.  While Neal was a big price to pay, the Giants are in win-now mode.  A draw, as both teams will away happy from this exchange.

Koji Uehara (Orioles) for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis (Rangers):  This is a good old-fashioned baseball trade.  The Rangers pick up a veteran reliever, who is enjoying his finest campaign in the big leagues and could be a setup man or closer.  The Orioles continue to stockpile prospects and add a starter and first baseman to their mix.  Davis has one of the most explosive bats in the game when he gets hot and the Orioles could have their cleanup hitter for the next 5-7 years.  Hunter should be a good #3 or #4 starter for the team.  A draw as both teams achieve their respective goals in this deal.

Jason Marquis (Nationals) for Zach Walters (Diamondbacks):  I am a fan of what the Diamondbacks are doing in Arizona, but this trade doesn’t work for me.  Marquis will pitch in Arizona, but I don’t see him being the effective starter the team needs to fight the Giants for a playoff berth.  Walters is a prospect shortstop who could have been Stephen Drew‘s replacement one day when he left the team.  Walters has a good offensive bat and was not worth the price of Marquis.  Advantage Washington for adding another prospect to its growing farm while dumping a veteran pitcher that had no place on their roster.

Mike Aviles (Royals) for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz (Red Sox):  The Red Sox get some sort of infield insurance, which was unnecessary in my estimation with both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie on the roster.  If Lowrie is out beyond early August as projected, then this deal makes sense.  Otherwise, to give up two decent prospects for a player who has struggled this season and is unlikely to hit much in Boston does not equate for me.  Advantage Royals for dumping a player who did not fit on the team and continuing to stock their system.

Jerry Hairston Jr. (Nationals) for Erik Komatsu (Brewers):  The Brewers get depth for their playoff run and the Nationals get a marginal prospect back.  A draw.

Doug Fister and David Pauley (Mariners) for Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush and a PTBNL (Tigers):  For a Tigers team that was considered early in the day to be in the hunt for Ubaldo Jimenez, this one is a bit of a let down.  Fister will be a #4 or #5 starter for the Tigers, good but not great.  Pauley was having an incredible season for the Mariners in their pen and should do well in Comerica.  Wells will likely slot immediately into the Mariners outfield and the rest of the players are prospects to their stock their farm.  While I’m not excited about what Detroit received, I am equally not impressed by what they gave up.  Call this one a draw.  Middle of the road players for players at this point.

Denard Span (Twins) for Drew Storen and ? (Nationals): Yet to be announced.  This one is a real head scratcher for me.  I consider Span a good, but not great outfielder.  This trade is not completed although many outlets are reporting that this deal will get done.  The Nationals would give up their young closer if this deal happens and considerably weaken their bullpen.  Span, while playing a strong centerfield is not the offensive bat the Nationals are looking for.  After taking the Twins to the cleaners a year ago in trading Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos, this trade would be payback for the Twins.  If Storen is part of this deal, advantage Twins.  If the Nationals hang on to their closer, consider it a draw.

Rafael Furcal and cash (Dodgers) for an unknown player (Cardinals):  Yet to be announced.  With Dee Gordon in the minors and money woes being an issue, this trade for the Dodgers is about getting younger and saving money in the process.  The Cardinals are pushing for a playoff spot and if healthy, Furcal should give the team a spark offensively.  Personally, I would not trust Furcal based on his injury history.  It also remains to be seen which player the Cardinals get back.  But overall, without all the specifics, if the Dodgers can unload Furcal and have the Cardinals pick up most of his contract, I will label this trade a Dodgers win.

Ryan Ludwick (Padres) for an unknown player (Indians):  Yet to be announced.  The Indians are looking to make a strong playoff run and former Indian Luckwick would fit well in their offense this year.  It remains to be seen what the Indians have to give up, but for a player in as strong demand as Ludwick, as long as it is not too much, give the edge to the Indians.

 

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B.J. Upton: Rays’ OF Trade Destinations and Recap of Beltran Trade to the Giants

Thursday July 28, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Trade Deadline.  More speculation.  Teams out of the playoff race sending their valuable veterans to contending teams for prospects.  This is a time of year that baseball journalists make a living out of contemplating where there is a fit.  The Tampa Bay Rays have quite a decision to make as to what to do with the frustrating yet ultra-talented Melvin “BJ” Upton.  Upton was the 2ndoverall pick in the 2002 MLB draft, and quickly rose through the ranks with the Rays.  In his first full season in 2007, he belted 24 home runs and stole 22 bases while maintaining an OPS of .894.  Every season since that breakout year, his BABIP has dropped, and he has been unable to replicate the type of power he previously displayed.  Upton is a good fielder in center field and a good base runner, with the ability to steal 30-40 bases a year.  This year, Upton has struggled at the Trop, where he is hitting .171/.250/.312/.562.  On the road, the numbers are much better at .284/.364/.481/.845.

The Rays would be wise to move B.J. Upton now as they could net a tremendous return from a team who may be desperate to make a push for the playoffs.  There have been close to a dozen teams who have at least called to check in on GM Andrew Friedman’s asking price.

 

Here are five teams who would be wise to make a big push for the outfielder:

San  Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are looking to repeat as World Series Champs and look poised to make the postseason, even with one of the worst offenses in baseball.  They do have RHP Zach Wheeler ranked as MLB.com’s preseason #33 prospect.  The 2009 1st rounder has done very well this year in the California League, but does need to refine command.  Offering Wheeler would probably force the Rays to make the deal, however, the Giants seem to be looking at Carlos Beltran and Colby Rasmus as their main targets.** (NOTE: Since preparing this article, Rasmus has been traded to the Jays and Beltran appears to be on the move to San Francisco.  It is a likely safe bet that Upton is not headed anytime soon to San Francisco.)

 

Atlanta Braves
With none of their regular outfielders hitting over .234, the Braves are getting pretty desperate for help.  Even though they are currently three games up in the wild card race in the National League, they need to bolster their line-up in order to do some damage in the playoffs.  The Braves have a ton of pitching prospects to get the deal done.   Arodys Vizcaino is one of these top prospects, who has shot up to AAA from A-ball this season.  With great command and a plus fastball and curve, Vizcaino could be used to bring Upton to Atlanta.

 

Philadelphia Phillies
With the aging Raul Ibanez and youngster Dom Brown struggling to hit in the corner outfield spots, Upton could be ushered in to fill one of those spots.  Incumbent Shane Victorino likely wouldn’t be moved from center, but could shift to left for Upton.  I could actually see the Phillies going with a young athletic outfield of Victorino, Upton and Brown.  Ibanez then becomes a decent weapon off the bench.  Still only 19 years old, Jonathan Singleton has drawn a lot of interest from other teams.  The Phillies have stated they will not move Singleton for Beltran, but I could see it happening with Upton.  Singleton has an advanced approach at the plate, and as he matures, will surely hit for power.

 

Cleveland Indians
With Grady Sizemore seemingly always on the disabled list, Cleveland needs to shore up the center of their outfield.  Michael Brantley has performed admirably, however if they really want to contend in the shaky AL Central, they need a difference maker.  Shin Soo Choo has underperformed this year and with the addition of Upton, I can see him being able to turn his season around.  Joe Gardner, a right-handed pitching prospect could be moved in this deal.  Gardner is an extreme groundball pitcher that needs work on secondary pitches, but along with Cord Phelps, a 2B/3B who played 19 games with the Indians this year, a deal could be struck. 

 

Pitsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ string of losing seasons could soon be over, and they’re in the hunt for the NL Central crown.  Only a game back, they may make a push for a complement to Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.  With Jose Tabata struggling and spending time in AAA, Upton to play right field for the Pirates could be a great idea.  Starling Marte, a speedy outfielder who may remind some a bit of Upton, could be dangled with an arm such as Colton Cain, a lefty who can throw in the mid 90s but needs work on his secondary stuff.

 

The most likely spot for Upton to land is Philadelphia.  With the package that Philly could put together to obtain him, they are capable of pulling the trigger.  If the Pirates do make a move, and don’t make the playoffs, they risk possibly setting the organization back again, as rushing their success could cause a tremendous fallout.  Slow and steady usually wins the race.  Hopefully the Pirates remember that. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  Please feel free to leave comments and to welcome Rob aboard.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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

 

 

Editor’s Note:  The Giants acquisition of Carlos Beltran looks to be complete.  As proposed last week on the Reports, Carlos Beltran is on the move from the Mets to the Giants in exchange for top Giants pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.  The trade simply needs a rubber stamp, as Beltran needs to go through the formality of waiving his no-trade clause.  His agent, Scott Boras, worked diligently to land Beltran with a NL contending team and did not disappoint with the trade to San Francisco.  The 21-year old Wheeler was the 6th overall pick in the 2009 draft.  The Giants gave up the top pitcher in their system, no doubt.  But with a major league rotation consisting of Matt Cain, Tim LincecumMadison Bumgarner, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Jonathan Sanchez on the mend, the Giants could afford to part with pitching to acquire hitting.  The Mets are also sending $4 million dollars of salary relief to the Giants as further consideration in obtaining a top prospect back.  Expect Beltran to be the middle-of-the-order slugger the Giants so desperately crave, especially with top hitting catcher Buster Posey out for the year.  I can see Beltran carrying the Giants into the playoffs and advancing quite far, given his previous playoffs heroics and incentive to land one more big free agency contract in the offseason.  Beltran is also likely to re-sign with the Giants, so this is a win-win all around.  The Giants get run production this year and in possible future years and the Mets add a much needed building block for their future which just got brighter.

Jair Jurrjens: Braves Ace of the Future or Trade Candidate?

Wednesday July 20, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Now that the trade deadline is fast approaching, teams in contention are scrambling to find the pieces they desperately need to reach the playoffs.  Teams that are out of contention are scouring other teams’ minor league affiliates in search of suitable trade partners.  One man who is terribly busy fielding on calls on one of his biggest talents is the GM of the Atlanta Braves, Frank Wren.  Opposing GMs have coveted his ace pitcher, Jair Jurrjens over the past few years.   But now that Jurrjens has developed into a solid dependable pitcher who has exceeded his potential, Wren’s phone will be ringing right up until the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

 

Why Atlanta should hold on to their ace

Jair Jurrjens is young and controllable with an inexpensive contract.  He is an inning eater, and a dependable arm that will give 6+ innings per game.  Jurrjens is in his fourth full season, with the key variable that many people forget is that he is only 25 years old.  At the halfway mark of this season, Jurrjens has a 12-3 record with a sparkling 2.26 ERA.  Jair also induces a ton of ground balls, with a GB% of 48.2.  When a guy can throw strikes consistently, it makes it much easier to be successful.  Three walks per nine innings is a pretty good career mark, and he has seemingly improved almost every year, as Jurrjens currently sits at a 2.10 BB/9 for 2011.  A young, controllable ace that is continually improving might be something that the Braves want to hold onto.  Further, the Braves should even consider giving a long-term extension to Jurrjens given what he means to the ballclub.

 

Why Atlanta should trade Jurrjens

Why would a contending team trade their ace, you might ask?  Well, a guy like Jurrjens might be overachieving for a few reasons.  First of all, the velocity on his fastball has dipped every season since his rookie campaign.  His average fastball was once 93 mph, whereas it sits at 89 now.  Now this could mean a couple of things, such as he has learned how to pitch and doesn’t need the velocity.  However, his extra reliance on his change-up and slider; each of them up in usage about 3% over previous years, tells me that he knows his fastball isn’t quite as effective.  Jurrjens doesn’t strike many guys out, and there is almost no way that he can maintain a 4.1% homerun per fly ball rate.  His xFIP is exactly a run and a half higher than his ERA at 3.76, so a measure of his performance has been attributed to luck.  Numbers can be sometimes be deceiving and in Jurrjens case, he might not be as good as his statistics appear to show.  Sometimes its good to maximize a return when the market is at its peak and Jurjjens may very well be sitting at the top of his ceiling of potential.  Otherwise, if Jurrjens does regress, he value will never be higher than it is at the moment. 

 

Which teams could trade for Jurrjens

If the Detroit Tigers are willing to give up a ton of prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez, I believe they would do the same for Jurrjens.  Same goes with the Red Sox and Yankees. Detroit has at least kicked the tires on many starting pitchers, including Derek Lowe, Aaron Harang, and Jeremy Guthrie.  I see Jurrjens as an upgrade over those pitchers, so it would take a decent package to steal him away.  The Rockies covet four top prospects for Jimenez, so I don’t see why the Braves wouldn’t try to get at least three top prospects for Jurrjens.  He may not have the electric stuff that Ubaldo has, but he certainly has a track record of success.

Another fit to trade for Jurrjens that may fly under the radar could be the Indians.  Mitch Talbot and Fausto Carmona have underperformed, and they desperately need an upgrade if they are to contend.  This could cause a bidding war for Jurrjens.  I can see righty Alex White, lefty Drew Pomeranz and outfielder Nick Weglarz being involved in such a deal.  Prospects Jacob Turner (RHP), Andy Oliver (LHP) and Nick Castellanos (3B) may be included in a potential deal with Detroit.

In the NL, if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to make a push in the wide open Central Division, they may be looking at starting pitching help.  Kyle McLellan and Jake Westbrook have both struggled, so it could be a possibility they get in the mix.  Third baseman Zack Cox and starting pitcher Shelby Miller are possible candidates to be moved in such a scenario.

 

Verdict

Atlanta doesn’t appear to be actively shopping Jurrjens, but it would be in their best interest to at least gauge the interest of other teams.  The Braves could get a return for Jurrjens that would be impossible to refuse. With some of the prospects named, the Braves could still contend, and restock their system for years to come.  Until then, we expect Jurrjens to remain a Brave unless Frank Wren gets blown away a trade proposal.  With the active trade winds blowing this year and numerous contending teams desperate for starting pitching help, anything is possible. 

 

 

Editor’s Note:  Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  Rob was selected from the many candidates who applied to write for MLB reports.  Please feel free to leave comments and to welcome Rob aboard.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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

Vernon Wells Trade Discussion: Midseason Winners and Loser

Sunday July 17, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  January 21, 2011 is seen as a bit of a turning point in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays.  General Manager Alex Anthopolous traded away long-time face of the franchise, Vernon Wells.  Wells had been with the Blue Jays since he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall by the Jays in the 1997 amateur draft.  After making his debut in 1999, he played in a Toronto uniform through the 2010 season.  His name is littered across franchise record books, and he was a beloved figure in the clubhouse.  On December 15, 2006, Wells signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension, which at the time was the 6th largest contract in MLB history.  Over the next few years, Wells’ lack of production and time spent on the disabled list, made his contract “unmoveable”.

That was of course until Alex Anthopolous took the helm as Jays GM, and was able to find a taker for Wells and the four years and $86 million remaining on the contract.  Into the picture came Tony Reagins, GM of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  It has been said that Reagins approached Anthopolous about Wells.  One would think that in order for a deal to work, the Blue Jays would have had to send a large sum of cash to the Angels in order for the deal to go through.

The deal that was finally consummated was to send Wells and approximately $5 million to the Angels in exchange for OF Juan Rivera, and C/1B Mike Napoli.  Rivera was seen as a throw-in, as his $4M contract was more than the Angels wanted to pay.  Napoli had fallen out of favour in manager Mike Scioscia’s eyes; despite hitting at least 20 home runs in each of the three previous seasons despite receiving limited playing time.  Toronto then flipped Napoli to the Texas Rangers for standout reliever Frank Francisco.  The Rangers received the powerful, right-handed versatile hitter they coveted, and the Blue Jays thought they received the closer they needed.

It is quite obvious that no matter how any of those players perform, the Blue Jays are the big winner because of the payroll space they have cleared and can use to extend their star players, see Jose Bautista.  However, this deal has not been so cut and dry.  While Napoli has swung the bat with authority, Juan Rivera has been traded to the LA Dodgers, and Francisco has been awful out of the Jays bullpen.

Let’s take a quick look at each player’s production and how their respective teams have fared so far.

 

Mike Napoli

Again performing as a part-time player at three positions, Napoli has been very solid for the Rangers.  He has hit 13 home runs and driven in 34 RBI in only 187 plate appearances.  While his average leaves something to be desired, he makes up for it in his ability to take walks and hit the ball to the gaps.  With his OPS at .906, he has proven that he is a tremendously underrated player.  His WAR through half the season is at 1.7, and he is on pace to break his career high of 2.6.

 

Juan Rivera

Because he was seen as a salary dump for the Angels, the Blue Jays took him on and saw him as the everyday left fielder and DH out of spring training.  He was never able to get it going, and quickly fell out of favour in Toronto.  His OPS sat at .666 when traded, with a limited ability to get on base and very little power.  This on top of the fact that he played atrocious defense led to his -1.2 WAR.  He was traded to the LA Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations on July 12, 2011.

 

Frank Francisco

Seen as a pretty successful power arm for the late innings, Francisco was picked up from the Texas Rangers along with cash.  He continues to strike out a ton of batters, (10.1 K/9), but he is giving up more hits than he has in the past.  However, part of this is due to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .359.  His xFIP is actually almost two runs lower than his ERA, 3.56 as opposed to 5.40.  I think that Francisco has been unlucky, and when it all evens out, it will show that he is at least a competent late inning reliever.

 

Vernon Wells

Wells was obviously the big fish in this trade.  He has the ability to be an MVP-caliber player (see his 2003 and 2006 seasons).  He has two gold gloves in center field, as well as three All-Star appearances in his career.  He has hit 30 home runs three times and driven in 100 RBI three times.  Wells’ production in 2011 has been nothing short of horrendous.  He has 14 home runs so far, but other than that, hasn’t done anything particularly well.  His OPS is .671 with an OBP of .254.  Wells is striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances, and walking in less than 4%.  Now, you could look at his BABIP (.228) and think he has been unlucky, but it is that low because of his awful 10% line drive rate.  With a flyball rate of 47% and by hitting a ton of infield flies, his BABIP won’t likely rise much.  It is unlikely that Wells will ever return to being the player he once was.

 

VERDICT: 

Taking a look at these stats, we can see that the Rangers were an instant winner.  They gave up an expendable reliever, and gained a valuable bat off the bench.  The Angels are the big losers in the deal, as they owe Wells over $60M over the next 3.5 years.  That kind of production out of a left fielder is unacceptable for a team trying to contend for the playoffs.  Toronto knew that with the trades they made, they would not be as good of a team without Wells.  They are in a rebuilding mode, and the money they save can be used on drafting and developing young talent.  Francisco could be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, so another draft pick could be theirs. 

**The grand winner in this series of moves is the Blue Jays, as with the departure of Wells, they have been able to extend Jose Bautista with a five-year, $65M contract.  They have been aggressive in international signings this month as well, and look to pour more resources into the draft. ***  

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the Vernon Wells trade.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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

Wednesday July 13, 2011

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

W: T. Clippard

L: C. Wilson

S: B. Wilson

 

National All-Stars

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

National All-Stars

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

American All-Stars

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

American All-Stars

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

 

 

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

 

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Final Results and Recap: 2011 MLB Home Run Derby and All-Star Futures Game

Tuesday July 12, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):  The MLB Home Run Derby is one of the greatest events in comparison to the All-Star games of any sport.  Fans flock in droves to watch the event, hoping to catch an amazing feat such as Josh Hamilton hitting 28 in the first round in 2008, only to come in 2nd place, and Bobby Abreu hitting 41 total home runs on his way to winning the title in 2005.

When the teams were announced, the fans booed both Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks.  Fielder was chastised for his selection of Weeks, as most casual fans were not aware of the pure power that he possesses.  Weeks was chosen over Justin Upton, who would have been great in front of his Arizona hometown crowd.

Early on this Derby lacked excitement, save for Robinson Cano’s first round, in which he had his father, former major leaguer, Jose Cano, pitching to him.  Cano blasted a number of balls deep into the right center field bleachers, his longest being 472 ft. Jose Bautista was a bit of a disappointment, smashing only 4 home runs and ended up being eliminated in the first round of the derby.  Other disappointments included the aforementioned Rickie Weeks and Matt Kemp, who hit 3 and 2 home runs, respectively.

There was some excitement at the end, as both David Ortiz and Fielder hit 5 home runs a piece to tie Matt Holliday, forcing a 3-player swing-off for 3rd and 4th place.  In this swing-off, each player received 5 swings in which to hit as many home runs as possible. Holliday led off with 5, Ortiz hit 4, and Fielder hit a perfect 5, two of which were mammoth shots.

The second round started off with Ortiz, and he began to show his age.   Ortiz was likely tired after the first round plus enduring the sudden death swing-off.  Ortiz hit only 4 home runs in the second round, and his average distance was 426 ft.  Then came the Robinson Cano Show again.  Cano launched 12 home runs in the second round, averaging 436 ft.  His swing was picture perfect, and it seemed as though any time he didn’t hit a home run, his dad would be upset with him.  Robinson’s dad knows his son’s strengths, and was confident he could hit that many.  That is likely why Cano was named Robinson by his father, after the late and great Jackie Robinson.

Gonzalez was also able to put on a show in the second round, consistently pounding the ball 430+ft.  He put on a display, hitting theball to the opposite field, and straightaway center field on his way to finishing with 11 in the round, and 20 total, tying him with Cano.  Fielder was up next, and aside from his first swing, that he hit 474 ft, he was not able to do much else.  He finished with 4 in the round, 9 in total.  So, it came down to the Yankees and Red Sox again.  Cano and Gonzalez square off in the finals.

Gonzalez immediately impressed, hitting 8 home runs in his first 3 outs.  He cooled off and finished with 11 in the finals.  With the most impressive rounds of the night, Cano hit 10 in his first 16 swings, needing only 1 more to tie Gonzalez.  The crowd erupted as he hit a home run over 470 ft to tie it up.  The very next swing was the one that did it, as he hit it out to right center field.  Gonzalez had a record 11 home runs in the last round, and Cano was clutch in beating that.

What started off as a slow, uneventful night, wound up being a compelling night of watching the Yankees battle the Red Sox in a pure power slugfest.  Robinson and his dad embracing by the mound.  The American League beating the National League.  All in all, this year’s edition of the Home Run Derby was nothing short of spectacular.

 

 

Chase Field, Phoenix — AL 76 defeats NL 19
Player Team Round 1 Round 2 Subtotal Finals Total
Robinson Cano Yankees 8 12 20 12 32
Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox 9 11 20 11 31
Prince Fielder Brewers 5 4 9 9
David Ortiz Red Sox 5 4 9 9
Matt Holliday Cardinals 5 5 5
Jose Bautista Blue Jays 4 4 4
Rickie Weeks Brewers 3 3 3
Matt Kemp Dodgers 2 2 2

 

2011 ALL-STAR FUTURES GAME RECAP
 
 

 

In a game showcasing most of baseball’s brightest shining up and coming stars, there were several players who stood out from the pack.  Although Bryce Harper (WAS) stole the spotlight in both the pre-game and post-game festivities, he did not shine quite as bright during the game.  He was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts and 2 ground outs to first.  One of which was hit fairly hard but a nice play by Yonder Alonso got the out.

Aside from two big innings, a 4-run 6th inning by the World Team hitters off of Drew Pomeranz, and a 3-run 8th inning off of Kelvin Herrera by Team USA, this was a game largely dominated by flame-throwing pitchers.

For the US Team, my standout hitters were Jason Kipnis, (CLE) who led off the bottom of the 1st with a home run over the right-centre field wall, and Grant Green (OAK).  Green crushed a double off the top of the wall in straight-away center that I thought would have been gone in any other park.  He also stroked another double, going 2 for 2 with 2 doubles, a run scored and RBI on his way to earning MVP of the game.  On the mound, I was blown away by Matt Moore, Tampa Bay’s mega pitching prospect.  He threw 11 pitches, 9 of which were strikes.  His fastball was clocked consistently between 94 and 98 mph, and he was also throwing a devastating slider at 86 mph.  Phillies prospect Jared Cosart was also very impressive.  He racked up 2 strikeouts and a fly out on 10 pitches; 8 strikes.  Sitting at 96 with the heater, he also displayed a plus change-up.

Jose Altuve (HOU) is a guy that doesn’t get much credit, because he stands at about 5’6”.  However, the Venezuelan native has hit everywhere he has played.  He was 2 for 3 with a single and a double, and I came away impressed with the diminutive infielder.  Jurickson Profar (TEX) may have been the youngest player there, but he was not overmatched, as he stroked a triple off Drew Pomeranz and displayed his impressive speed.  On the bump, Canadian James Paxton stood out to me.  The University of Kentucky product threw 6 pitches; all fastballs, and induced 3 quick outs. He was between 94 and 96 and showed better control than I remember the last time I saw him.  Henderson Alvarez (TOR) was also impressive, with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph, and getting Harper to ground out to first on a 95 mph sinker.

The US team jumped out to an early lead thanks to the leadoff home run by Kipnis in the first, and an RBI fielder’s choice by Wil Myers (KC) in the 2nd inning.  Team USA then made it 3-0 in the 5th on Green’s first double, which scored Gary Brown after he singled and stole second.  In the top of the 6th, Drew Pomeranz (CLE) struggled, and gave up 4 runs.  Alfredo Silverio (LAD) homered to left, scoring Dayan Viciedo (CWS) who had singled 2 batters prior.  A walk to Chih-Hisen Chiang (BOS) and a double to Sebastian Valle (PHI) spelled the end of the night for Pomeranz. With the score knotted at 3, Profar then hit his triple off Kyle Gibson (MIN), scoring Valle in the process.

Green led off the 8th with a double, and Tim Beckham (TB) drove him in with a double of his own to tie the game at 4.  After an Austin Romine (NYY) single and a Nolan Arenado (COL) double to right field, the damage was done, and the US had a 6-4 lead.  Jacob Turner (DET) and Matt Harvey (NYM) split duties to close out the game for the US Team.

The US has now taken a 7-6 lead in the all-time series.  A good number of these players will be on Major League rosters by season’s end, so be sure to check in on the minor league squads of your favorite teams for updates.

 

U.S. Futures 6, World Futures 4
July 10, 2011
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
World Futures      0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 4 8 0
U.S. Futures      1 1 0 0 1 0 0 3 x 6 10 0
World Futures AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Marte, CF 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 .333
  c-Fuentes, PH-CF 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000
Altuve, 2B 3 0 2 0 0 0 1 .667
  Schoop, 2B 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1.000
Alonso, 1B 2 0 0 0 2 1 1 .000
Viciedo, DH 3 1 1 0 0 1 4 .333
  d-Martinez, F, PH-DH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000
Liddi, 3B 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000
  Marte, J, 3B 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
Silverio, RF 4 1 1 2 0 1 0 .250
Chiang, LF 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .000
Rosario, W, C 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  a-Valle, PH-C 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 .500
Lee, SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
  b-Profar, PH-SS 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 .500
  Teheran, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Hendriks, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Paxton, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Martinez, C, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Perez, M, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Alvarez, H, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Vizcaino, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Herrera, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Marinez, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 34 4 8 4 3 7 11 .235

a-Doubled for Rosario, W in the 6th. b-Tripled for Lee in the 6th. c-Flied out for Marte in the 6th. d-Popped out for Viciedo in the 7th.

BATTING
2B: Altuve (1, Skaggs), Valle (1, Pomeranz).
3B: Profar (1, Gibson).
HR: Silverio (1, 6th inning off Pomeranz, 1 on, 2 out).
TB: Marte; Altuve 3; Schoop; Viciedo; Silverio 4; Valle 2; Profar 3.
RBI: Silverio 2 (2), Valle (1), Profar (1).
2-out RBI: Silverio 2; Valle; Profar.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Liddi; Viciedo; Fuentes.
Team RISP: 1-for-5.
Team LOB: 6.

BASERUNNING
CS: Schoop (1, 2nd base by Gibson/Romine).
PO: Schoop (1st base by Gibson).

FIELDING
DP: 2 (Liddi-Altuve-Alonso, Lee-Altuve-Alonso).

U.S. Futures AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG  
Kipnis, 2B 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 .500
  a-Green, PH-2B 2 1 2 1 0 0 0 1.000
Machado, SS 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  b-Beckham, PH-SS 2 1 1 1 0 1 1 .500
Harper, LF 4 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000
Goldschmidt, 1B 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000
Mesoraco, C 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1.000
  Romine, C 2 1 2 1 0 0 0 1.000
Middlebrooks, 3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 .500
  Arenado, 3B 2 0 1 1 0 0 1 .500
Darnell, DH 3 0 0 0 1 1 3 .000
Myers, RF 3 0 0 1 0 1 2 .000
Brown, G, CF 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 .500
  Szczur, CF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Skaggs, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Peacock, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Miller, S, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Moore, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Thornburg, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Pomeranz, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Gibson, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Cosart, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Turner, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Harvey, M, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 32 6 10 6 1 6 11 .313

a-Doubled for Kipnis in the 5th. b-Struck out for Machado in the 5th.

BATTING
2B: Green 2 (2, Perez, M, Herrera), Beckham (1, Herrera), Arenado (1, Herrera).
HR: Kipnis (1, 1st inning off Teheran, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Kipnis 4; Green 4; Beckham 2; Mesoraco; Romine 2; Middlebrooks; Arenado 2; Brown, G.
RBI: Kipnis (1), Myers (1), Green (1), Beckham (1), Romine (1), Arenado (1).
2-out RBI: Green; Romine; Arenado.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Beckham; Darnell.
GIDP: Middlebrooks; Myers.
Team RISP: 4-for-10.
Team LOB: 4.

BASERUNNING
SB: Brown, G (1, 2nd base off Perez, M/Rosario, W).

FIELDING
Pickoffs: Gibson (Schoop at 1st base).

World Futures IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA  
Teheran 1.0 1 1 1 0 1 1 9.00
Hendriks 1.0 2 1 1 0 0 0 9.00
Paxton 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Martinez, C 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Perez, M 1.0 2 1 1 1 1 0 9.00
Alvarez, H (H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Vizcaino (H, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Herrera (BS, 1)(L, 0-1) 0.2 4 3 3 0 1 0 40.50
Marinez 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Totals 8.0 10 6 6 1 6 1 6.75

 

U.S. Futures IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA  
Skaggs 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00
Peacock (H, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Miller, S (H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00
Moore (H, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Thornburg (H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Pomeranz (BS, 1) 0.2 3 4 4 1 1 1 54.00
Gibson 1.1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Cosart (W, 1-0) 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00
Turner (H, 1) 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Harvey, M (S, 1) 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Totals 9.0 8 4 4 3 7 1 4.00

Balk: Perez, M.
HBP: Mesoraco (by Martinez, C).
Pitches-strikes: Teheran 19-13, Hendriks 18-10, Paxton 6-4, Martinez, C 11-6, Perez, M 23-11, Alvarez, H 11-6, Vizcaino 6-5, Herrera 23-14, Marinez 11-8, Skaggs 17-11, Peacock 9-7, Miller, S 20-12, Moore 11-9, Thornburg 10-7, Pomeranz 23-14, Gibson 16-11, Cosart 10-8, Turner 9-6, Harvey, M 3-1.
Groundouts-flyouts: Teheran 1-1, Hendriks 2-1, Paxton 2-1, Martinez, C 1-0, Perez, M 1-0, Alvarez, H 2-1, Vizcaino 2-0, Herrera 0-1, Marinez 0-0, Skaggs 1-1, Peacock 1-0, Miller, S 2-0, Moore 2-0, Thornburg 2-1, Pomeranz 0-0, Gibson 0-2, Cosart 0-1, Turner 0-1, Harvey, M 1-0.
Batters faced: Teheran 4, Hendriks 5, Paxton 3, Martinez, C 3, Perez, M 5, Alvarez, H 4, Vizcaino 3, Herrera 6, Marinez 1, Skaggs 5, Peacock 3, Miller, S 5, Moore 3, Thornburg 4, Pomeranz 6, Gibson 5, Cosart 3, Turner 2, Harvey, M 1.
Inherited runners-scored: Marinez 1-0, Gibson 1-1.
Umpires: HP: Ben May. 1B: Will Little. 2B: Jimmy Volpi. 3B: Scott Mahoney.
Weather: 74 degrees, roof closed.
Wind: 1 mph, Varies.
T: 2:38.

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the 2011 Home Run Derby and All-Star Futures Game.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

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