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Did Braun and Verlander Deserve Their MVP Awards?

Wednesday November 23, 2011

Sam Evans: Over the last two days, Major League Baseball announced their 2011 MVPs. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers took home the award in the American League while Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers won the National League award. Now that the voting is over, we can look at who really deserved the awards.

American League MVP: In August, Buster Olney sparked discussion on the AL MVP, when he said on Twitter that if he had a vote it would go to Verlander. At the time, I thought that the award was Jose Bautista‘s to lose. However, after watching Verlander dominate team after team, it became clear to me that this was the most valuable player in the American League. He meant more to his team than any other player in the league. Verlander finished with a with a 2.40 ERA in 251 innings. Verlander threw more innings than any other pitcher in the majors, and to have that strong of numbers in those innings makes it even more impressive.

Verlander also threw his second career no-hitter this year, and led the majors in strikeouts. Jacoby Ellsbury and  Jose Bautista are not shabby candidates either, but they didn’t have the effect Verlander did on his team. The Tigers expected to win every single time that Verlander was on the mound. Overall, even if the BBWAA made this decision based on Verlander’s twenty-four wins, it was the right choice. Verlander became the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

National League MVP:  In somewhat of a surprising decision, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was awarded the NL MVP award, receiving 20 out of 32 first place votes, and a total of 388 points. Finishing a close second was Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who received 10 first place votes, and a total of 332 points.

First of all, these were obviously the top two candidates. They both had amazing years that should not go unnoticed despite who actually won the award. What I think it came down to was that Braun made the playoffs and Kemp didn’t. This is somewhat understandable because you can make the argument that if a certain player had such a big impact on their team then they should have made the playoffs. The real question is did Braun really make his team that much better, or did he just play on a much better team? Also, did the distractions surrounding the Dodgers and its ownership affect Kemp’s chances of winning the MVP? It definitely did not help his case.

To truly compare these players first you have to evaluate their defense. Kemp played a much harder position then Braun and he had to cover more ground. Kemp had a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat used to show how much ground a player covers) of -4.6. Braun had a UZR of -3.8. Neither of these is very impressive, so I guess we can just call this comparison a draw.

As for offense, in my own opinion, Kemp had a stronger year. Both players were very similar in normal statistics. Braun hit .332 with 33 HR and 111 RBI. Kemp hit .324 with 39 HR and 126 RBI. What impresses me is that Kemp scored more runs than Braun despite not having Prince Fielder batting behind him. Also, Kemp had a harder ballpark to hit in, and plays in a stronger pitching division. Kemp was really the only dangerous hitter in the Dodgers lineup, so pitchers could avoid him more than Braun.

According to Baseball-Reference WAR, Kemp was by far the more valuable player. Kemp led the NL with 10.0 WAR, which make Braun’s 7.7 seem miniscule. Kemp also led the National League in total bases, with 353, and Adjusted OPS + with 171.

These two players had almost identical years. If I had a vote, it would have gone to Kemp. But I don’t think Braun winning is anything to get worked up about.  A strong case could have been made for him, as shown by Braun being the winner of the 2012 NL MVP award.

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

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

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Projecting MLB Sluggers: The Top 5 in 2012

Tuesday November 22, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Accompanied with my projections and analysis, I profile the top-five fantasy baseball sluggers to target for 2012. I encourage your thoughts and feedback!

1. Ryan Braun

2012 Projections: .321 38 HR 119 RBI 108 R 32 SB

Given that he is at the prime of his career having just turned 28 on November 17, Ryan Braun ranks at the top of the list. He is the complete package and enjoyed a 2011 season that had fantasy owners drooling and was named the 2011 NL MVP today! He was a machine in all five of the standard fantasy categories with a .332 average, 33 home runs, 111 RBI’s, 109 runs and 33 SB’s. The exciting thing is that the will only continue to get better. The home run total has the potential to reach 40 and I don’t see reason why Braun won’t steal 30 bases again. Braun is by no means one of the speediest players baseball, but he is truly one of the smartest base runners. He steals at a career success rate of 80% and was only caught 6 times in 2011. Some people wonder about the effect that Prince Fielder’s potential departure will have on Braun, but I am not overly concerned. Braun is truly a special and hall of fame caliber player because he not only possesses all of the physical tools, but also is one of the game’s smartest players. He continually makes adjustments and just has such an impressive knowledge of the game that allows him to better utilize his talents than others.

2. Albert Pujols

2012 Projections: .312 39 HR 120 RBI 117 R 12 SB

Albert Pujols has been the best fantasy player in baseball since he emerged onto scene in 2001. Ten Ruth-like seasons later, the slugger might find himself in a new uniform. Furthermore, his somewhat “down” season in 2011 has caused concern for many fantasy owners.  But before we expect an A-rod-like decline, lets take a closer look at the numbers. Through the Cardinal’s first 54 games, Pujols batted .257 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI. That means in the team final 108 games, which included the time missed with the wrist injury, he batted .322 with 29 home runs and 71 RBI’s. That is the Pujols that we have all been accustomed to over the last decade. I will not go into detail explaining just how good Pujols has been throughout his career because you should already know by now. Last year was the first season he did not put up .300 30 HR and 100 RBI. He missed this feat by one RBI and one point of average, in a season that included an uncharacteristic 50 game stretch (contract issues?).  I expect Pujols to be back in St. Louis next season, and all though he well on the back nine of his career, he is still too good and has a lot left in the tank. Expect the usual numbers, the type that he continued to put up despite his slow start to the season in 2011.

3. Miguel Cabrera

2012 Projections: .336 34 HR 122 RBI 109 R 2 SB

Did you know that Miguel Cabrera is only 28 years old? I sure didn’t. He has been an offensive force for almost a decade. In my mind, he is the game’s best pure hitter and will only continue to get better. He managed to have another elite season in 2011, despite all the controversy and off the field issues he had to deal with.  He continues to improve at the plate and BB right is on the incline while his K rate declines. For these reasons, and his career .317 average, there is no reason to not expect his average to hover around .330. He is an average anchor for your lineup that will also exceed 30 HR and 100 RBI’s and runs. The only thing he does not do is steal bases. However, refer to my article last week, Cabrera is the type of average and power anchor that can allow your team roster a space for the one-trick ponies, i.e. Michael Bourn. Overall, just expect more of the same from Cabrera: which means elite production in four of the five standard fantasy categories, average, runs, home runs, and runs batted in.

4. Matt Kemp

2012 Projections: .296 33 HR 108 RBI 103 R 34 SB

At 27 years of age, Matt Kemp is also just entering his prime. He missed a 40/40 season by just one home run and batted .326 and drove in 126 runs, which led to being the runner-up for the 2011 NL MVP award. However, he is easily the most difficult to predict on the list. If I expected him to improve upon or even just repeat his 2011 season, he would be at the top of the list. We simply cannot expect Kemp to be this fantasy-tastic again in 2012. Matt Kemp’s .380 BABIP lead all of major league baseball, however he does hold a career .352 clip, which is tops in baseball. Therefore, expect regression in his batting average in the .290-.300 range. Kemp also strikes out a lot, not like in 2010, but he still struck out in 23 percent of his at bats in 2011.  When you are not putting the ball in play at a high rate, there is potential for a lot of volatility. Given his skill set, 2011 was essentially a best-case scenario for Kemp.  The other four guys on the list make contact much more consistently and therefore have been more consistent throughout the career and are easier to project forward. Furthermore, I am not encouraged by the line up around built around Kemp. He is still elite, but it is unwise to expect him to repeat 2011. He will come down to earth but still provide across the board value for your team.

5. Joey Votto

2012 Projections: .316 32 HR 112 RBI 115 R 11SB

At 28 years of age, Joey Votto is also in the prime of his career. His 2011 season, with heavy expectations after an MVP season, was a down season for Votto. A down season in which he batted .309 29 HR 103 RBI 8 SB. And if this type of season is Votto’s worst-case scenario, you can live with it! However, given his age and peripheral stats, all signs point to an improved season for Votto in 2012. Votto is a pure hitter who continues to gain better command over strike zone, as his walk rate his increased steadily in each of the four last seasons. The average will always be there for Votto, just a notch below Cabrera. The biggest concern for fantasy owners was the drop in power, form 37 to 29 home runs. However, Votto hit the ball in the air more often in the second half of the season and hit 16 post all-star HR’s in 260 at-bats, compared to just 13 in his 339 at-bats before the break. Furthermore, his .222 ISO was well below his 2010 season (.276) and career average of .237. Therefore, expect him to bounce back to the 35 HR territory with elite average. The true wildcard for Votto is what he does on the basepaths. He stole just 8 bases in 2011, but if he puts a greater emphasis on running like he did in 2010, with 16 stolen bases, then he has the potential to provide extreme five-category value to your roster.

Honorable Mention:         

Jacoby Ellsbury: His .230 ISO in 2011 (career .152) explains his surprise 30-home run season. Ellsbury’s peripheral indicate he will be more of a .300 20 HR 80 RBI 40 SB type players, making him a notch below Braun and Kemp.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  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 Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

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

The Cardinals Are Going to the World Series

Monday October 17, 2011

 

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

 

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

 

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

 

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

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

Saturday October 15, 2011

 

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

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Five

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

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

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

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

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

Friday October 14, 2011

 

 

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

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Five

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

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

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Four

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

 

MLB Notes:

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

 

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

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

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

 

Thursday October 13, 2011

 

 

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

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Four

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

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

 

 Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Three

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

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap for Monday October 10th

 

Tuesday October 11, 2011

 

 

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

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Two

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

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

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Two

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

 

 

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

 

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

Monday October 10, 2011

 

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

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Two

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

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game One

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

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

Editor’s Notes:

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

 

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

 

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

Sunday October 9, 2011

 

 

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

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers: ALCS Game One

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

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

 Preview of Sunday October 9th:

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

 

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Brewers and Cardinals Advance to 2011 NLCS, Plus Recap of Carpenter vs. Halladay

Saturday October 8, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  In what had been shaping up to be very tight league division series, MLB fans were treated to not one or two, but rather three game fives this year.  With the Tigers advancing last night to face the Rangers, it was time for the National League to decide its championship series competitors.  The Diamondbacks were in Milwaukee to face the Brewers, while the Phillies were at home to host the Cardinals.  Both games ended in on run leads, with the Cardinals and Brewers pulling out the wins.  Let’s recap the MLB action from Friday night:

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Five

The best way that I can sum up this game is as follows.  Chris Carpenter was taking the mound, facing off against ex-Blue Jays teammate Roy Halladay.  This was a game that had a great deal of hype and buzz and excitement surrounding it.  Games of this nature usually end up disappointing.  I have seen all too often two great pitchers matchup, with one of the starters leaving early or getting hit hard.  This one was one of those games though that ended up exceeding expectations.  Carpenter won it, pitching a complete game shutout, three hitter, no walks and three strikeouts.  About as good of a performance as you will see in baseball, let a lone the playoffs.  Halladay on the other hand was just as strong, finishing with 8 IP, 6 hits allowed, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 strikeouts.  Ryan Madson came in for a clean 9th inning, striking out a pair.  The only blemish for Halladay came in the first, when he gave up a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who proceeded to score on a Skip Schumaker double.  An Albert Pujols intentional walk- otherwise, an almost perfect day as well for Halladay.  The Cardinals stranded more runners on base (7), while the Phillies only left 4 on base.  Carpenter did hit Chase Utley, but managed to complete the game unscathed.  Carpenter was very efficient in this outing, requiring only 110 pitches for the complete game.  Halladay on the other hand needed 126 pitches to get through six.  It is rare to get only one run in the 1st inning and to make the lead stick.  But Chris Carpenter did just that.  Now the Cardinals advance and continue their Cinderella run (blame the rally squirrel).  Given the importance of the game and intensity, you would be hard-pressed to find a better pitched baseball game.  Hats off to both starters, as each had an incredible outing last night.  But Carpenter was the better arm on this day and as a result, the Cardinals break through while the Phillies stun the baseball world by exiting the playoffs in the first round.   

Howard to have MRI:   After the game, the baseball world was buzzing about Ryan Howard.  Requiring help to get off the field, Howard was on crutches.  Reports indicate that he may have tore his Achilles tendon.  Howard will have an MRI today to confirm the severity of his injury.  This type of injury can typically take 6-9 months approximately of recovery time.  With the Phillies possibly losing their top star for a good portion of next season, things just back to worse for the one time heavy favorite to win the 2011 World Series.  Roy OswaltJimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson may all not be back, and Cole Hamels also has an impending free agent status that will need to be dealt with.  For a team that was expected to do so much, greater uncertainly lies ahead as the team attempts to recover and figure out what went wrong.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Five

 The second battle of the aces of the day featured Yovani Gallardo opposing Ian Kennedy.  Both pitchers did their jobs in this one, going six inning apiece.   Kennedy giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, Gallardo 1 run on 6 hits.  Both walked 2 and struck out 5.  Gallardo’s only blemish on the day was a solo home run to Justin Upon in the 3rd.  The Brewers led this one from the 6th on, until the 9th.  Saito and Rodriguez each earned holds with a clean inning of work each.  With closer John Axford on to pitch the 9th, he gave up the tying run to send this one to the 10th.  Axford ended up pitching 2 innings for the win.  After setup man David Hernandez pitched 2 clean innings, it was up to closer J.J. Putz to hold the Brewers in check in the 10th.  The unlikely hero was Nyjer Morgan, who got the game-winning hit to score Carlos Gomez to send the Brewers to a 3-2 win and a meeting with the Cardinals in the NLCS.  While the Diamondbacks were the feel-good team of this year’s playoffs, the clock struck midnight on them.  The Brewers, stocked to make a run this year, fulfill a part of their destiny by advancing.  The Diamondbacks go home feeling good about themselves.  A team that was expected to continued rebuilding grouped together, and made a run that few if any in the baseball world could have expected.  Kirk Gibson and his boys should proud when reflecting their on season.

The Cardinals are Flying in:  The Brewers get to stay home for game one of their NLCS matchup with the Cardinals.  Zack Greinke is set to go for the Brewers, with the Cardinals starter still TBD.  The Brewers are the favored squad, with their balance of sluggers, top starting pitching and lockdown bullpen.  The Cardinals now take on the role of the Diamondbacks, the underdogs that everyone is rooting for.  With the Rally Squirrel being the talk of the town (don’t ask…), do the Cardinals have the firepower to match up with the powerful Brewers?  This series will come down to managing.  Tony LaRussa vs. Ron Roenicke.  While Roenicke has an extensive coaching resume, he is still a fairly raw manager.  LaRussa is as crafty as they come and my money is on St. Louis making a return trip to the World Series.  The Cardinals have a strong offense, led by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.  The team has received good to great starting pitching and their bullpen gets the job done.  The Brewers are the favorites on paper.  I see this one going the full seven games, with the Cardinals moving on to face the Rangers in the World Series.  The road to the World Series begins tonight in Arlington, as Detroit and Justin Verlander take on C.J. Wilson and the Rangers.  A great postseason so far, that only promises to get better.

 

 

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Tigers advance to ALCS, Yankees Go Home and Ventura Named White Sox Manager

Friday October 7, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  Thursday was an exciting day in the world of Major League Baseball.  The Detroit Tigers were set to face-off against the Yankees in New York.  Game five of their ALDS series, all tied up 2-2.  Winner moves on to face the Texas Rangers, loser goes home.  The Yankees has their AL ROY candidate Ivan Nova on the mound, with the Tigers relying on Doug Fister.  In the wake of the only game on Thursday’s schedule, Kenny Williams and the Chicago White Sox shocked the baseball world by naming Robin Ventura their new manager.   A wild and crazy day indeed.

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Five

 The highly anticipating pitching matchup never took place in this one.  Fister did his part for the Tigers, tossing 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks while striking out 5.  Max Scherzer and Joaquin Benoit earned holds while Jose Valverde earned the save with a lockdown 1-2-3 9th inning.  Ivan Nova lasted only 2 innings, giving up 2 runs (back to back solo home runs in the first to Don Kelly and Delmon Young), while allowing 3 hits and striking out 3.  Not taking any chances, Joe Girardi was active with his bullpen all night, sending out Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, C.C. Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera.  This game boiled down to execution and squeaking out runs.

The Tigers, underdogs going into the series, were able to pull out a 3-2 win.  Fister got the win while Nova took the loss.  Sabathia, ironically enough, ended up giving up allowing the game winning run in the 7th.  Despite getting more hits than the Tigers (10-8), the Yankees left a whopping 20 men on base last night, while the Tigers left 13.   The Tigers did lose Delmon Young during the game to injury (apparent oblique strain), making his status for the immediate future uncertain.  Young, along with Fister, were the difference makers in this game.  Both mid-season acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowski, helped the Tigers win the Central and advance to the ALCS.  Brian Cashman and the Yankees stood pat at the trade deadline, and were left standing in the wings once again in the playoffs. 

The game marked the likely end of Jorge Posada‘s Yankee (and possibly major league) career.  The future hall-of-famer endured his toughest year ever in the majors.  But for all his troubles in the regular season, Posada ended up shining in this year’s playoffs- finishing with a .429 average.  The game also possibly marked the last game of C.C. Sabathia’s tenure in New York.  With his opt-out clause looming this off-season, there is a chance that Sabathia may jump ship to another team.  Highly unlikely, given his apparent love for New York and the Yankees dire need for his arm.  But as Alex Rodriguez proved yet again this year (.111 AVG in the playoffs, with 3 strikeout on the night, including the game ending at-bat), big contracts do not necessarily guarantee victories.  With 6 years and approximately $143 million left on the books (excluding incentives), the Yankees will likely be eating A-Rod pie for some time to come.

With this game in the books, questions now centre on the immediate future of each team.  The Tigers move on to the ALCS, to face the Texas Rangers.  This will be an exciting series and a big challenge for the Tigers.  With the Texas-sized offense in place, the Tigers’ pitching staff (led by AL pitching triple crown winner and likely Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander and Fister) will need to be stellar.  Both teams have strong bullpens that will be relied upon heavily in the series.  This series will boil down to whether the Tigers offense can muster enough runs to compete with Texas, and on the same token, how well the Texas rotation can contain Detroit.  The Tigers have enjoyed a great run to-date, but my crystal ball is showing a Texas return trip to the World Series.  One year wiser and more experienced, Ron Washington’s team should be able to win this out in six games.  But keep one thing in mind:  whenever Jim Leyland is involved, anything can happen.  The Tigers made it this far for a reason and in a short series…. you never know. 

 

Robin Ventura Named Chicago White Sox Manager

The talk of the day yesterday was the White Sox big announcement.  GM Kenny Williams announced that the team had hired former third baseman, Robin Ventura as the White Sox new manager.  Ventura, 44, spent 10 years with the White Sox as a player.  Most recently he was retained by the team as a “Special Advisor”.  Now, Ventura with no managerial experience to his resume, takes over control of the team on the field.  Many names were thrown around as possible candidates, including former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, former players and currently employed coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dave Martinez, as well as hall of famer and current minor league manager Ryne Sandberg.  Personally, I expected the White Sox to hire Martinez or Sandberg.  Given the success of the Rays, Martinez as bench coach to manager Joe Maddon is highly considered in the game.  Sandberg, on the other hand, has a proven track record managing in the minors and has strong ties to Chicago (obviously).  Why then the choice of the inexperienced Ventura?

A couple of reasons come to mind.  Firstly, the White Sox endured a very difficult 2011 season in missing the playoffs, despite heavy preseason expectations.  Nothing distracts a fan base better than brining in a well known and loved name.  Ventura was one of the most popular White Sox players in his day, and his hire at some level will help appease the fans.  As well, a shocking signing of this nature has an effective way of masking the results of the season gone by, as well as steering the press to focus on 2012 and how Ventura will perform as a manager, rather than analyze the season that had just been completed.  A stroke of genius in my book.  Another reason to consider, which is a guess on my part, is that Williams is not interested in hiring a big and powerful name that will overshadow him.  After enduring years of arguments and power struggles with former manager Ozzie Guillen, Williams was looking for a manager that would first and foremost listen to him and know his role in the organization.  While Ryne Sandberg is my book is a far more qualified individual for the job, his stature in the game (as well as Chicago) would have relegated Williams to the back seat, had Ryno been named the new White Sox manager. 

The ironic part is that while hiring Ventura clearly solidifies Kenny William’s place in the White Sox food chain, it may have the strongest effect of sweeping him out of town soon.  The lustre of the White Sox 2005 World Series championship has long faded.  With a large payroll and unsuccessful ballclub, it is “put up or shut up” time for Williams and the White Sox.  If the team gets off to a slow start, and/or has another failed campaign, I fully expect Kenny Williams to be reassigned or dismissed from his post.  If results on the field are the most important factor for Williams to keep his job, then he should have looked for the best candidate to guide his team.  The Ventura signing may make White Sox fans feel all soft and cuddly at the onset.  But losing games will change that in a hurry.  With Frank Thomas being discussed as a possible candidate for a role on the squad, the 2012 White Sox coaching staff may look like a reunion from years gone by.  I enjoyed watching Ventura as a player and had he been groomed as a coach for this position, perhaps he would have been prepared to succeed.  But coming in raw, the new manager will have to learn quickly on the job.  A move made by Williams’ ego, but not his sensibility in my estimation. 

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap of Wednesday October 5th

Thursday October 6, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Wednesday was a fun night of playoff baseball.  We saw two close games for teams on the verge of elimination, and unusual players stepping up to take the spotlight and assist their team to victory.

Philadelphia Phillies at St.Louis Cardinals: NLDS Game Four

Going into the game, I thought that the superior team, the Phillies, would win and advance to the ALCS.  However, in baseball the best team doesn’t always win.  What the Cardinals showed tonight is that they weren’t ready to have their season come to an end.  They’ve come so far this year and they weren’t going to go home without a good fight.  What was impressive to me is how clean of a ballgame they played.  Nobody wanted to make a mistake, as evidenced by the Cardinals zero errors.  They just seemed upbeat and confident that they’d win.

The Phillies got off to a fast start in the top of the first with a double, followed by a triple, followed by a single.  However, Lance Berkman came through in the bottom of the inning with a two out RBI double.  Edwin Jackson turned in an impressive performance going six innings while only giving up two runs.  Jackson only gave up two hits, singles, after the big first inning.  In the fourth inning, Oswalt walked Berkman then hit Matt Holliday.  To make things worse, David Freese crushed a one out double down into the left field corner to put the Cardinals up 3-2.  You could tell Oswalt didn’t have his best stuff tonight.  Sometimes pitchers have those days where it looks like they are only seventy percent of what they should be.  Well, Oswalt had one of those days.

Then, in the fifth inning something magical happened.  If you missed it, on Tuesday a squirrel ran across the field at Busch Stadium in St.Louis.  Well today, either the same squirrel or one of his relatives made another unwelcome appearance.  This time, the squirrel actually ran across home plate during Skip Schumaker‘s at bat.  When asked about the incident after the game, Charlie Manuel had this to say,” “There’s not too much I can do about a squirrel running across the field, I don’t know what I can do about that. Of course, being from the south and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have done something. I’m a pretty good shot.”  Hopefully, the Busch Stadium squirrel family will make a surprise appearance Friday in Philadelphia, where most likely, they’ll be booed.

Even after his RBI double, David Freese’s day wasn’t done yet.  In the bottom of the sixth, Freese got a 0-1 fastball, which he belted to center field to add two more runs to the Cardinals lead.  Guess you could say he really iced the Phillies chances, eh? Anyone?  Moving on, the Phillies scored one more run in the eighth off of a Fernando Salas wild pitch but the Cards held on for a 5-3 win.  The series moves back to Philly for Game 5 Friday at 8:30 PM ET.  Roy Halladay takes the mound against Chris Carpenter tomorrow in a one of the better pitching faceoffs in baseball.  It’s sure to be an exciting, pressure packed game which will determine which team will continue their season in the NLCS.

Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks: NLDS Game Four

Out of all of the first round matchups this year, there’s no doubt that this one has been my favorite.  Both teams play with such crazy energy and enthusiasm unmatched by any other two teams.   If you like watching offense, this was the game for you.  These teams have some pretty interesting stories of how they got to this point in the playoffs, but I can’t put enough emphasize on much fun these teams are to watch.  Both teams have a player the fans love, in Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Roberts, and great position players to build their team around.

The Brewers led things off with a Ryan Braun RBI double in the top half of the first.  When the Diamondbacks came up to bat, everything went wrong for Randy Wolf.  He loaded up the bases and with two outs, Ryan Roberts A.K.A Tatman poked a grand slam just over the left field fence.  Then the next at-bat, on a 3-1 pitch, Chris Young homered.  The rest of the game was a slugfest, with D-Backs players crushing the Brewers pitchers.  Aaron Hill homered and Colin Cowgill brought in two runs with a single.  Chris Young finished 2 for 3, with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and 1 BB.  In my opinion, the hero of the game was Ryan Roberts.  His grand slam gave the D-Backs an early lead and their pitchers a nice cushion to work with.  Even though the Brewers scored six runs, it wasn’t enough to get the win.  Final score: D-Backs: 10 Brewers: 6.  The series is tied up 2-2 and will head back to Milwaukee where Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy will face off in a battle of two of the game’s top righties.  Game time on Friday at 5:00 PM ET.

 

 

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

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.

2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Tuesday October 4th

Wednesday October 5, 2011

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

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Four

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

Well, they got exactly that.

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

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

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

And they never looked back.

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

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

 

Texas Rangers at Tampay Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLDS Game Three

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

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

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

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

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

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Sunday October 2nd

Monday October 3, 2011

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

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Two

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

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Two

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

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Two

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

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

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.

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.

Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News

 

Sunday September 4, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and of course, our opinions:

 

I am about to finish the latest baseball book that I am reading and will be posting a review this week.  “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames”, by Ballpark Chaser extraordinaire, Doug Booth.  I don’t want to give away much of my report, that will be saved for the review.  Needless to say, the book has inspired me to fulfil my goal of seeing all thirty MLB ballparks.  While it takes me ordinarily a couple of days to a week to complete a baseball book, this particular book has taken me much longer.  I have read and re-read this book over and over, going back to read favorite sections.  For any baseball fan who loves baseball road trips or is thinking of taking one, this book is the perfect travel companion.

One of the biggest topics on the lips of Yankees fans is the contract status of C.C. Sabathia.  After Ivan Nova, the Yankees have several question marks as to their rotation going into the playoffs.  Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are all in the mix.  But if Sabathia were to hypothetically opt out of his deal and test free agency, the Yankees pitching staff could collapse like a house of cards.  It appears that Sabathia has enjoyed his time thus far in New York and plans to continue pitching as a Yankee.  Although Sabathia will likely opt out, both player and team will do everything possible to keep the big guy in pinstripes.  Sabathia will become even richer on a new deal, as Alex Rodriguez was on his decision to opt out and sign a new Yankees deal.  For the team with the highest payroll in baseball, to contend it will re-sign its ace in the offseason.

Rumors are circulating that many MLB General Managers will be wooed to change teams in 2012.  Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox are all apparently in demand, as is Billy Beane in Oakland and Mike Rizzo in Washington.  From all the best GMs that will be considered for the Cubs position, the only one I could see is Cashman.  With his contract up in New York and the Steinbrenner regime exercising control in decision-making (see the Rafael Soriano deal), Cashman may have had enough and makes the move to the Windy City.  All of the other GMs are in great positions, with little or no incentive to make the leap.  Some have called for the Astros to make a strong play for Friedman, but I see him staying put in a great situation with a strong talent base.  Friedman will see his team through to an eventual World Championship.

I had several conversations with baseball people about the World Baseball Classic, with the third edition coming up rapidly in 2013.  As discussed in a previous article, there are some changes to the WBC that have been instituted, including a qualifying tournament in the fall of 2012.  New countries in the mix include Great Britain, France, Israel and Brazil.  In all there will be 12 new countries, together with 4 holdover countries vying for 4 open spots into the tournament.  From the 16 existing WBC countries, 12 were granted automatic berths into the tournament.  The challenge facing MLB and WBC officials is to have eligible players play for their respective countries.  One particular country I discussed was Israel.  Imagine a team lead by Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis.  Quite the powerhouse offense.  To have this tournament ultimately succeed, star players that are eligible for new and less known baseball countries need to play for these countries and increase the exposure of the sport in those regions.  That is really what the WBC is all about.

For fans in Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, please be patient.  Your teams will be better.  It might be hard to believe and some of you must be sick of hearing it, but your teams have great young talent and each will be a contender one day.  The only variable against you is time.

With their victory over the Giants last night, the Diamondbacks now hold a six game lead in the NL West.  How Kevin Towers remained on the market so long before being hired in Arizona is beyond me.  Derrick Hall and company have put together a nice young team, with strong management on the field and in the front office.  Towers has put together the team and manager Kirk Gibson has molded them into a contender.  It goes to show that a bleak situation can be transformed almost overnight, if you have the right people in place.  Baseball, as much as any other sport, starts with the people in charge.  A solid management foundation flows through the whole organization and can make or break a major league team.  Arizona is the team of destiny in the NL West in my mind and while they will have a very difficult time passing the Phillies if they make the playoffs, just playing in October this year will be considered a huge victory for the team.

Outside of New York and Boston, many baseball fans are apparently sick of talking about the Red Sox and Yankees.  For as much as fans may despise the teams, as baseball fans they should still respect them.  Baseball, without the history and tradition of the Red Sox and Yankees, would have a large void.  During my recent trip to Cooperstown (with a full report on my experiences coming soon), I was fascinated by the Babe Ruth exhibit and all the features on the two powerhouse squads.   There are no guarantees that either the Red Sox or Yankees will be in the World Series this year.  But having the teams in baseball is a good thing.  Attendance figures on the road when either team in town shows the demand.  You may hate the Red Sox and Yankees.  But you love to hate them.  For those of you that are either Red Sox or Yankees fans (can’t be both), you are some of the most passionate and knowledgable fans in baseball and I salute you.

I have been speculating since spring training that Jonathan Papelbon will leave Boston and join the Phillies this offseason.  I read some speculation this week that the Yankees may look to add him as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  I could only imagine the feeling in Fenway the first time Papelbon would step foot on the mound in Pinstripes.  Unlikely to happen in my opinion, but speculating can be fun sometimes.  Until I hear otherwise, I am predicting Papelbon to the  Phillies.

With the playoff races in baseball almost completed, it is time to turn our attention to October and thinking about the teams that will play in the World Series.  My picks at this point are the Rangers and Phillies.  Call it a hunch.  Call me crazy.  I am seeing a Texas Philadelphia matchup and one of the best fall classics in recent history.

Finally, I made a point on Twitter yesterday that the regular season is almost done.  If you have not made it a live game yet this year or even if you have gone to twenty or more games, try to attend as many September games as you can.  When November hits, the winter can be quite a sad time for baseball fans.  Unless you can make it out to Arizona or Mexico, chances are that you will not be able to watch winter ball.  With the internet, those games can be found to be viewed on your computer.  But as fans can attest, nothing beats a live ball game.  Enjoy as many of those games as you can now. 

 

 

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MLB Home Run Leaders: A Look at the Leaderboard

Monday August 29, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are coming to the last month of the MLB season.  Readers are often requesting updates as to the hone run leaders and to handicap who will be the leading sluggers by year’s end.  Taking a look at the current top 10 home run hitters in baseball, we find many familiar faces and some surprises.  Here is our updated look at the mashers and bombers of baseball:

 

T-1:  Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees (38)

Oh yes.  The Grandyman can.  The baseball world has gone Granderson crazy.  From what appeared to be a hitter on the decline when he joined New York, Curtis Granderson has reinvented himself into an MVP candidate in 2011.   Watching Curtis in Detroit, most expected him to be a 20 something home run hitter at most.  Imagine that he has already hit 38 home runs with a month to go.  It goes to show that baseball can be a very unpredictable sport and that New York still has the power to create miracles.  I do not expect to see him on this board for the next five years, but for 2011 at least, Granderson has shot up to the top of the baseball mountain.

 

T-1:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (38)

A regular on this list all season, Bautista has picked up from where he left off last season.  While unable to maintain the Ruthian pace he was on in the first half of the season, Bautista has maintained his strong numbers throughout the year.  With his 38 home runs, Bautista has already walked 107 times and has a 1.098 OPS.  MVP voters will have much to consider at the ballots this year.

 

3rd:  Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (35)

There are some certainties in life.  Death, taxes and Teixeira home runs.  This man is as steady as they come and despite the lack of flash and glitter, he always seems to get the job done.  No surprise to see him this high up on the list.  Teixeira is simply money in the bank.  You never have to worry about him.

 

T-4:  Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (31)

For all the talk of doom and gloom, Albert Pujols still made the top five list.  A “down” season for Sir Albert is a .895 OPS and 31 home runs.  Numbers that most players would die for, but not anywhere close to his high standards.  As an impending free agent, I fully expect Pujols to remain in St. Louis.  But with his statistics not at his norm, the Cardinals might be able to sign him at a slightly more realistic price tag.  $22 million per season rather than $25 million perhaps.

 

T-4:  Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (31)

Matt Kemp, or Baby Manny as he was called as a young prospect (the second coming of Manny Ramirez) has blossomed this year.  Together with his 31 home runs, Kemp has already driven in 100, has a .964 OPS and a .320 AVG.  Getting much press as a NL MVP candidate, Kemp is finally beginning to fulfill on the potential he had shown in his career leading up to this season.  People thought for some time he was good, but I don’t think many expected such a strong campaign.  A young player on the rise, Kemp might only be scratching the surface on many productive seasons to come.

 

T-4:  Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles (31)

Our generation’s Rob Deer keeps plugging away with the long balls.  Reynolds has a respectable 31 home runs thus far, but have come with a whopping 157 strikeouts.  More disturbing though his .226 AVG.  An all-or-nothing slugger throughout his career, Reynolds is not showing any signs of improvement.  The signs are showing for him to bounce around baseball, eventually ending up as a platoon player or even to Japan.

 

T-7:  Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins (30)

One of the youngest and brightest stars in the game, Stanton has exploded in Florida in a big way.  Heralded as the next Dave Winfield, Stanton has not disappointed in 2011.  With 30 home runs to go along with a .889 OPS, Stanton is showing that the promise and hype is for real.  Rumored to be requested by the White Sox as part of the Marlins hoping to land Ozzie Guillen as a manager, the Marlins are surely happy they held onto their young slugger.  Together with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, expect Stanton to blossom into a top ten player in baseball very soon.

 

T-7:  Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (30)

Once considered a top hitter in the game, Berkman had many question marks surrounding him after a down season last year.  While many analysts thought the Cardinals were taking a risk by signing him, the Cardinals brass were confident in Berkman’s ability to rebound.  Back in the NL Central and surrounded by Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup, Berkman has not disappointed.  With 30 home runs, 77/75 BB/K, .289 AVG and .975 SLG, Berkman is getting MVP consideration as well as a lock as the NL Comeback Player of the Year.  While Berkman cannot continue like this forever, expect at least 1-2 more solid seasons out of the seasoned veteran.

 

T-7:  Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (30)

What a journey Uggla took this year.  With a .232 AVG, one expect Uggla to be considered to be having an off-year.  But with 30 home runs a 33-game hitting streak, Uggla has had his moments this year.  Considered one of the best hitting second basemen in the game, power is a big part of Uggla’s repertoire.  While the rest of the numbers are down, the long balls have remained constant.  With his first year on a new team out of the way, expect a rebound from Uggla next season.

 

T-10:  Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (29)

Considered to be one of the biggest prizes in the offseason free agent derby, Prince Fielder is having a fantastic campaign for the Brewers.  Together with his 29 home runs, Fielder scored 81 runs, driven in 102, has 87/84 BB/K and hit .295, with a .955 OPS.  The questions on people’s minds is whether he will stay in Milwaukee and if the biggest free agent contract this year will go to Fielder or Pujols.  With Scott Boras as his agent, my money is on Fielder moving to greener pastures and commanding the top contract as a free agent.  Together with Ryan Braun, Fielder gives the Brewers a strong team going into the playoffs in what is likely his last season in Milwaukee.  Although number ten on this list, Fielder has shown the consistency this season to be considered one of the top hitters in the NL this season.

 

 

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MLB All-Star Futures Game 2011: World Team Preview

Thursday, July 7, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):   Since its inception in 1999, the Futures Game, now sponsored by XM Satellite Radio, has grown steadily in popularity.  The players involved are split into two squads:  USA and the World team. The rosters comprise of 25 players each, with every MLB organization represented, and no more than two players from each team.  This year’s game will be played at Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field on Sunday, July 10th, a day before the MLB All-Star Homerun Derby.

Previous editions of the Futures Game has been littered with immense talent, and this year is no exception.  The MVP of the inaugural event was Alfonso Soriano, and in other years it was Jose Reyes (2002), Grady Sizemore (2003), Aaron Hill (2004), and Billy Butler in 2006.  Other notable past participants were superstars Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Robinson Cano of the NY Yankees, and Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers.

This year’s game is no different, as 14 of MLB.com’s Preseason Top 50 Prospects List will be participating in the event.  That number could very easily be higher, but more than a dozen of those 50 are currently playing in the MLB.  This year’s USA crop is highlighted by Mike Trout, #1 on the top 50 list, (LAA) and Bryce Harper, #3, (WAS) sharing the same outfield.  The World team boasts a strong pitching staff, led by Julio Teheran, #10, (ATL) and Henderson Alvarez of the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Let’s take a close look at the featured players that will be respresenting this year’s World Team:

 

WORLD TEAM

 

PITCHERS

Henderson Alvarez – RHP -Venezuela– TOR –New Hampshire Fisher Cats – AA – Eastern League

Alvarez is a right-handed starter who is in his second turn at the Futures Game. He has always possessed plus command, walking only 1.8 batters per 9 innings in his 5 year minor league career.  An increase in weight over the offseason has also helped increase his velocity, as he touches 98 mph.

 

Liam Hendriks – RHP -Australia – MIN –New Britain Rock Cats – AA – Eastern League

Had an appendectomy just days before last year’s game, so this is a reprise for him.  Not unhittable, but throws a ton of strikes; just 18 walks in 90 innings so far.  Sits in the 87-91mph range with average secondary offerings.

 

Kelvin Herrera – RHP -Dominican Republic – KC – Northwest Arkansas Naturals – AA –Texas League

Diminutive right-handed reliever who has been almost untouchable this season. Since his call-up to AA early in the season, he has walked 2 batters to 35 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.  He sits around 95-96mph with a plus change-up.

 

Gregory Infante – RHP -Venezuela – CHISox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League

Another flame-throwing righty, he has managed to lower his walk rate and raise his strikeout rate in getting to AAA this year.  He gets enough groundouts and doesn’t give up many homeruns.  His lack of a consistent second pitch is holding him back, although his curve shows flashes of brilliance in the low 80s.

 

Jhan Marinez – RHP -Dominican Republic –FLA –Jacksonville Suns – AA – Southern League

Another righty reliever that can touch 98, with an exceptional 2-seamer that sits at 92.  His problem, as most young arms, is control.  Over his career he has average 6 BB/9, and has so far managed 7.9 BB/9 this year.  He has struck out almost 12 per 9 innings though.

 

Carlos Martinez – RHP – Dominican Republic – STL – Palm Beach Cardinals – A – Florida State League

A Latin pitcher, thin and wiry who sits mid 90s with his fastball which has a good late cut.  He has given up only 31 hits in 44 2/3 innings pitched, and is able to induce a lot of ground balls.

 

James Paxton – LHP -Canada – SEA – Jackson Generals – AA – Southern League

A tall, strong lefty, who didn’t sign after being selected in the supplemental first round in 2009, got a later start on his professional career after three years at the UniversityofKentucky.  He sits 92-95mph with an above average curve, a power slider and average change-up.  As a starter this year, he has struck out 81 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

 

Martin Perez – LHP -Venezuela –TEX – Frisco RoughRiders – AA –Texas League

A left handed starter with a fastball that sits around 92mph, his bread and butter is his sharp, hard-breaking curveball.  His command is average, as he walks close to 4 batters per 9 innings.

 

Julio Teheran – RHP -Colombia – ATL – Gwinnett Braves – AAA – International League

It’s not often you see a 20-year old in AAA with his numbers. 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 90 2/3 IP.  He possess a plus fastball that sits 92-94, with a plus plus change-up with great sink.  Projects to be a #2 starter, if not a true ace in the big leagues.

 

Arodys Vizcaino – RHP -Dominican Republic – ATL –Mississippi Braves – AA – Southern League

Strong, well developed legs allow him to sit in the 91-94 range, topping at 95. His curve and change have yet to fully develop, but show flashes of promise.  He has the ability to miss bats, as he has compiled 76 K in 78 2/3 IP.

 

CATCHERS

Willin Rosario – C -Dominican Republic –COL -Tulsa Drillers – AA –Texas League

He possesses 30+ HR power, but lacks discipline and doesn’t walk.  He has power to all fields but strikes out in almost 20% of his at bats.  If he can learn some patience, he could be one of the top young catchers in the game.

 

Sebastian Valle – C -Mexico – PHI –Clearwater Threshers – A –Florida State League

Valle is a catcher who has hit at every level so far, yet still lacks patience, which is very common with young backstops.  If he can raise his walk rate, and keep hitting the ball to all fields, he could be a special catcher in the Phillies organization.

 

 

INFIELDERS

Yonder Alonso – 1B/OF -Cuba – CIN –Louisville Bats – AAA – International League

Alonso is a very polished hitter.  He has begun to play more innings at left field, because the Reds have Joey Votto as a lock at 1B.  He hits to all fields, with some pop, and he walks a fair amount, which has led to his .861 OPS in AAA.

 

Jose Altuve – 2B -Venezuela – HOU – Corpus Christi Hooks – AA –Texas League

Listed at 5’7”, but plays as if he was 6’3”.  Altuve is currently hitting .362 with 4 HR and 22 RBI in 31 games in AA after starting the season in A-ball, where he hit over .400 in 52 games.  He doesn’t walk much, but when he is hitting everything thrown at him, he doesn’t really need to.

 

Hak-Ju Lee – SS -South Korea – TB – Charlotte Stone Crabs – A –FloridaState League

He is a plus defender at shortstop with good speed.  Lee needs to work on his base stealing to better utilize that speed.  He is having the best offensive season of his career, and is really looking like a steal in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs.

 

Francisco Martinez – 3B -Venezuela – DET –Erie Sea Wolves – AA – Eastern League

Martinez is a prototypical third baseman with a quick bat and strong arm.  Once he fills out his athletic frame, he should develop plus power.  He still strikes out too much as he adjusts to AA pitching.

 

Alex Liddi – SS -Italy – SEA –Tacoma Rainiers – AAA –PacificCoast League

As the first Italian position player to sign a professional contract, he was seen as a bit of a project back in 2005.  He has begun to develop his power, bashing 15 HR so far this season, but strikes out a ton; around 30% of his plate appearances end with him walking back to the dugout.

 

Jeffry Marte – 3B –  Dominican Republic – NYM – St. Lucie Mets – A –Florida State League

Marte has good gap power and has a decent eye at the plate, as well as being smart on the base paths.  May not be able to stay at 3B long term, but as long as his bat continues to progress, could make it to the big leagues as an outfielder.

 

Jurickson Profar – SS – Curacao –TEX –Hickory Crawdads – A –South Atlantic League

Premium defender at shortstop, with speed and the ability to drive the ball all over the field.  He walks more than he strikes out, and once he fills out his 165lb frame, he could eventually become a 20/20 shortstop in the big leagues.

 

Jonathan Schoop – 3B – Curacao – BAL –Frederick Keys – A –Carolina League

Possesses the skills to play anywhere in the infield, his long term future looks to be 3B.  He has quick feet and a good arm, with a quick bat.  As he gets stronger, he could be a 20 HR guy that can drive in a ton of runs.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Chih-Hsien Chiang – OF -Taiwan – BOS –Portland Sea Dogs – AA – Eastern League

After five years of mediocrity in the minor leagues, he seems to have put it together this year.  Hitting in the middle of Portland’s line-up, he has not only driven in 58 runs and hit 14 homeruns, but also hit 26 doubles, giving him a .618 SLG.  Over half of his hits have been for extra bases, with gap power, he could prove that Boston’s roots in Asia are only getting stronger.

 

Reymond Fuentes – CF – Puerto Rico – SD –LakeElsinore Storm – A –California League

One of the pieces in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, he should be able to man center field at Petco Park for years to come with his speed.  He already has 34 stolen bases, and he gets on base quite frequently.  He may never hit for power, but could be a leadoff type hitter in the big leagues.

 

Starling Marte – CF -Dominican Republic – PIT –Altoona Curve – AA – Eastern League

There aren’t many players in baseball that could push Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position, but Marte could be one of them.  He possesses the speed to cover a lot of ground, and although his power hasn’t quite developed, he could be a 10-15 HR player with a good OBP if his discipline continues to progress.

 

Alfredo Silverio – LF -Dominican Republic – LAD –Chattanooga Lookouts – AA – Southern League

Silverio has always seemed ready to be the power/speed combination outfielder the Dodgers envisioned when they signed him in 2003, and almost eight years later, he may finally be hitting his stride.  If his discipline can improve, he could be in the big leagues quickly.  Lacks a good arm, so he is basically destined for left field.

 

Dayan Viciedo – RF -Cuba – CHI Sox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League

Finally moved to the outfield this year, he has a solid arm for right field, and he flat out mashes.  Many see a 30 HR player in the near future, as he uses all parts of the field with a quick compact stroke.

 

The World team is comprised of players from twelve countries: eight from the Dominican Republic, five from Venezuela, two from Cuba and Curacao, and one each from Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Stay tuned for analysis on the US roster.

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Futures Game, preview of the World Team.  You can 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.

 

 

Final Rosters are Announced: 2011 MLB All-Star Game Vote Totals and Time for the Final Vote

Monday, July 4, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The day has finally arrived.  After weeks of voting in stadiums and on-line, the 2011 final rosters for the All-Star game are set, coming up Tuesday July 12th from beautiful Arizona, hosted by the Diamondbacks.  Barring injuries and players pulling out, we now know the starting lineups, pitching staffs and reserves representing the American League and National League in the All-Star game.  After the fans voted in the starting lineups, the All-Star managers, Ron Washington for the AL and Bruce Bochy for the NL, filled out the rest of their rosters.  There were some surprises in the announcements to say the least.  We saw some last-minute changes in the voting by the fans to the starting lineups.  From there, the All-Star managers made some very interesting selections as well.  On the whole, the rosters are fair and well deserved.  But some spots are debatable.  Then once you account for the selections by the managers, we enter the realm of a week-long debate.  Let’s take a look at the rosters for each league, including the starters, the pitching staffs and the reserves.  From there, we will analyze the candidates for the coveted “Final Vote” spot as chosen by the fans on-line, between now and 4:00p.m. on July 7th.

American League All-Star Roster:

AL Starting Lineup:
Pos Player
C Alex Avila,Tigers
1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
2B Robinson Cano, Yankees
3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
SS Derek Jeter, Yankees
OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
OF Curtis Granderson, Yankees
OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers
DH David Ortiz, Red Sox

The American League starting lineup as voted by the fans took shape as projected the last few days.  The infield remains with Adrian Gonzalez at first, combined with Yankees Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.  Despite late pushes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Beltre could not garner enough votes to make the starting lineup, although both are on their way to Arizona as reserves.  David Ortiz joins Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton in a very heavy Yankees/Red Sox lineup.  Jacoby Ellsbury also did not attain enough votes to start but will be a reserve.  Hamilton, the former AL MVP, proved to be too popular on this day.  The one major upset though was Alex Avila, who through very strong play and Tigers fans voting is starting next Tuesday ahead of the reserve Russell Martin.  Considering that Martin held onto the spot for the majority of the voting, Tigers fans were very successful in sending the deserving Avila to Arizona.

AL Pitching Staff:
Pos Player
P Josh Beckett, Red Sox
P Aaron Crow, Royals
P Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
P Felix Hernandez, Mariners
P Brandon League, Mariners
P Chris Perez, Indians
P David Price, Rays
P Mariano Rivera, Yankees
P James Shields, Rays
P Jose Valverde, Tigers
P Justin Verlander, Tigers
P Jered Weaver, Angels
P C.J. Wilson, Rangers

An incredible pitching staff to say the least, but not without its omissions.  Despite such a strong selection, C.C. Sabathia, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Jeremy Hellickson, Ricky Romero and Bartolo Colon all were left off the roster.  Other pitchers deserving consideration with Jordan Walden, Sergio Santos, Kyle Farnsworth and Jonathan Papelbon.  The selections of Aaron Crow, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon League and Jose Valverde will receive the most criticism in the coming days.  While decent picks, there appears to be more deserving players that were cast aside for the above all-stars.  A dilemma every year, I make the submission that the AL pitching staff is one that needs a second opinion given the candidates left on the board.

AL Reserves:
Pos Player
C Russell Martin, Yankees
C Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2B Howard Kendrick, Angels
3B Adrian Beltre, Rangers
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
OF Michael Cuddyer, Twins
OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
OF Matt Joyce, Rays
OF Carlos Quentin, White Sox
DH Michael Young, Rangers

Notable absences are Paul Konerko of the White Sox and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees.  Despite strong power numbers for each, the AL is only carrying two active first basemen, with Michael Young available as well.  Apparently the limit of Yankees was reached and a spot could not be found for either one.  Konerko though will get a second kick at the can, who together with Victor Martinez are the strongest candidates for the Final Vote spot.  While credit should go to Ron Washington in the selection of Joyce and Quentin, the selection of Cuddyer will be considered curious by some.  His roster spot relates more to the representation of a player for each team than being a top all-star.  So as a result, deserving candidates like Konerko, Teixeira and Martinez may not be in Arizona for the big game.

National League All-Star Roster:

NL Starting Lineup:
Pos Player
C Brian McCann, Braves
1B Prince Fielder, Brewers
2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers
3B Placido Polanco, Phillies
SS Jose Reyes, Mets
OF Ryan Braun, Brewers
OF Lance Berkman, Cardinals
OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers

We are now in the senior circuit and begin with the starting lineup.  The fans were very active in the final week of voting here as four members of the starting lineup were last-minute winners.   Prince Fielder is in over Albert Pujols, Rickie Weeks beat out the reserve Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes is in while Troy Tulowitzki is out of the lineup and on the bench and Matt Kemp beat out Matt Holliday for the starting position.  All four were very deserving winners and represent a case where the fans pushed hard and got it right.  Together with Brian McCann, Ryan Braun, Placido Polanco and Lance Berkman, the NL has a strong offensive lineup.  The Polanco selection was not one of my favorites but more of a result of a very weak third base class in the NL than anything else.

NL Pitching Staff:
Pos Player
P Heath Bell, Padres
P Matt Cain, Giants
P Tyler Clippard, Nationals
P Roy Halladay, Phillies
P Cole Hamels, Phillies
P Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
P Jair Jurrjens, Braves
P Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
P Cliff Lee, Phillies
P Tim Lincecum, Giants
P Jonny Venters, Braves
P Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
P Brian Wilson, Giants

The NL pitching staff is certainly controversial and as debatable as the AL squad.  Absent are pitchers Craig Kimbrel, John Axford, Drew Storen, Kevin Correia, Tommy Hanson, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, among others.  It is hard to argue with many if not most of the NL pitchers selected, although Ryan Vogelsong and Brian Wilson are two selections which are likely to cause the ire of the rest of the baseball world.  How Correia and Hanson in particular were omitted is beyond me.   But again this is part of the All-Star process.  An issue that is coming up every year is the selection of too many of a team’s own players by the league manager.  While Ron Washington was fair in his picks, I see Bruce Bochy as favoring his staff a little too much in this case.  Hopefully this issue gets settled out soon once and for all.

NL Reserves:
Pos Player
C Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
1B Joey Votto, Reds
2B Brandon Phillips, Reds
3B Chipper Jones, Braves
SS Starlin Castro, Cubs
SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
OF Carlos Beltran, Mets
OF Jay Bruce, Reds
OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals
OF Hunter Pence, Astros
OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

 Names that are missing off this list are Ryan Howard, Danny Espinosa, Mike Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, among others.  Looking at the selections overall, Chipper Jones was the one that most stands out.  But given the weak third base crop and Jones lifetime contributions to the game, this is actually a fairly classy move in what could be Jones swan song.  But overall I am satisfied with the NL reserves.  Not as many issues as the pitching staff from my standpoint.

With the All-Star rosters in place, fans now get to select the 34th roster spot for each league.  A dog fight is definitely in store for Thursday.

MLB Final Vote Candidates:

AL Nominees:

While Alex Gordon is a feel good story this year and Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist deserve consideration, this spot will come down to a popularity contest between AL Central rivals Paul Konerko and Victor Martinez.  While both are very worthy candidates, it is a question of to which direction the fans will push.  My pick is Paul Konerko but given the success of Alex Avila, I am forecasting Victor Martinez as the Final Vote victor here.

NL Nominees:

Another set of worthy candidates, this one will boil down to the Phillies faithful pushing of Shane Victorino, the hometown Diamondbacks selection of Ian Kennedy or the push for Andre Ethier of the Dodgers.  My selection is Ethier but I can see Victorino landing the spot based on the passion and push of his local fans.  Call it gut on this one, although I can see the worthy Kennedy squeaking in as an option.

***Get ready for a week’s worth of All-Star reporting, as MLB reports has everything All-Star covered between now and the big game on Tuesday.  We will be keeping an eye on the All-Star game itself, as well as the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and everything in between.  The All-Star game is a little over a week away and we will bring you all the latest All-Star game news as it develops.***

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.

2011 MLB ALL-STAR GAME FINAL VOTING RESULTS:

Here are the final numbers as voted by the fans for the starting lineups in the All-Star game:

American League

CATCHER — 1, Alex Avila, Tigers, 4,144,384. 2, Russell Martin, Yankees, 3,646,033. 3, Joe Mauer, Twins, 2,308,436. 4, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox, 2,183,113. 5, Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers, 1,810,755. 6, Carlos Santana, Indians, 1,501,053. 7, J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays, 1,024,020. 8, A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox, 963,463.

FIRST BASE — 1, Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, 6,034,533. 2, Mark Teixeira, Yankees, 4,174,690. 3, Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 3,473,849. 4, Mitch Moreland, Rangers, 1,680,462. 5, Paul Konerko, White Sox, 1,323,853. 6, Adam Lind, Blue Jays, 860,203. 7, Justin Morneau, Twins, 781,717. 8, Matt LaPorta, Indians, 750,953.

SECOND BASE — 1, Robinson Cano, Yankees, 6,679,976. 2, Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 4,391,835. 3, Ian Kinsler, Rangers, 2,729,450. 4, Orlando Cabrera, Indians, 1,538,135. 5, Ben Zobrist, Rays, 1,245,709. 6, Howie Kendrick, Angels, 1,079,227. 7, Will Rhymes, Tigers, 671,674. 8, Aaron Hill, Blue Jays, 587,179.

THIRD BASE — 1, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 5,277,823. 2, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, 4,036,191. 3, Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, 4,018,641. 4, Evan Longoria, Rays, 2,804,004. 5, Brandon Inge, Tigers, 1,113,787. 6, Maicer Izturis, Angels, 666,828. 7, Mike Aviles, Royals, 602,091. 8, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, 505,015.

SHORTSTOP — 1, Derek Jeter, Yankees, 4,536,386. 2, Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians, 4,073,992. 3, Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 2,698,902. 4, Jhonny Peralta, Tigers, 2,301,524. 5, Marco Scutaro, Red Sox, 1,642,606. 6, Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays, 1,104,761. 7, J.J. Hardy, Orioles, 956,073. 8, Alexei Ramirez, White Sox, 946,442.

DESIGNATED HITTER — 1, David Ortiz, Red Sox, 6,324,793. 2, Michael Young, Rangers, 3,072,467. 3, Victor Martinez, Tigers, 2,302,988. 4, Jorge Posada, Yankees, 1,998,551. 5, Johnny Damon, Rays, 1,303,471. 6, Travis Hafner, Indians, 1,206,971. 7, Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles, 1,136,364. 8, Billy Butler, Royals, 891,940.

OUTFIELD — 1, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 7,454,753. 2, Curtis Granderson, Yankees, 6,683,877. 3, Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 4,646,394. 4, Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, 4,609,667. 5, Carl Crawford, Red Sox, 3,213,581. 6, Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 2,704,249. 7, Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, 2,528,532. 8, Nick Swisher, Yankees, 2,277,856. 9, Brett Gardner, Yankees, 2,064,372. 10, J.D. Drew, Red Sox, 2,009,877. 11, Matt Joyce, Rays, 1,597,334. 12, Jeff Francoeur, Royals, 1,505,399. 13, David Murphy, Rangers, 1,458,420. 14, Grady Sizemore, Indians, 1,283,993. 15, Austin Jackson, Tigers, 1,254,267. 16, Carlos Quentin, White Sox, 1,218,968. 17, Melky Cabrera, Royals, 1,201,982. 18, Shin-Soo Choo, Indians, 1,158,749. 19, Alex Gordon, Royals, 1,120,683. 20, B.J, Upton, Rays, 1,081,270. 21, Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, 1,008,145. 22, Torii Hunter, Angels, 927,271. 23, Sam Fuld, Rays, 916,219. 24, Michael Brantley, Indians, 878,556.

National League

CATCHER — 1, Brian McCann, Braves, 4,698,838. 2, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, 2,972,786. 3, Buster Posey, Giants, 2,418,923. 4, Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers, 2,271,498. 5, Ramon Hernandez, Reds, 2,056,263. 6, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, 1,864,675. 7, Ivan Rodriguez, Nationals, 1,225,342. 8, Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks, 1,149,461.

FIRST BASE — 1, Prince Fielder, Brewers, 4,864,523. 2, Joey Votto, Reds, 4,254,305. 3, Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 4,171,094. 4, Ryan Howard, Phillies, 2,563,736. 5, Freddie Freeman, Braves, 957,816. 6, Brandon Belt, Giants, 917,044. 7, Ike Davis, Mets, 824,681. 8, Todd Helton, Rockies, 761,928.

SECOND BASE — 1, Rickie Weeks, Brewers, 4,460,395. 2, Brandon Phillips, Reds, 4,273,079. 3, Chase Utley, Phillies, 3,345,845. 4, Freddy Sanchez, Giants, 1,627,733. 5, Dan Uggla, Braves, 1,583,903. 6, Neil Walker, Pirates, 993,369. 7, Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks, 862,204. 8, Skip Schumaker, Cardinals, 856,658.

THIRD BASE — 1, Placido Polanco, Phillies, 4,410,701. 2, Chipper Jones, Braves, 2,849,578. 3, Scott Rolen, Reds, 2,251,425. 4, Pablo Sandoval, Giants, 2,213,057. 5, David Wright, Mets, 2,106,800. 6, Casey McGehee, Brewers, 1,877,744. 7, Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, 1,192,220. 8, Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, 1,137,696.

SHORTSTOP — 1, Jose Reyes, Mets, 4,707,976. 2, Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, 3,932,000. 3, Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, 2,311,689. 4, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers, 1,695,431. 5, Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks, 1,523,919. 6, Alex Gonzalez, Braves, 1,476,368. 7, Miguel Tejada, Giants, 1,265,544. 8, Paul Janish, Reds, 1,168,551.

OUTFIELD — 1, Ryan Braun, Brewers, 5,928,004. 2, Lance Berkman, Cardinals, 4,345,766. 3, Matt Kemp, Dodgers, 4,293,626. 4, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, 3,948,268. 5, Jay Bruce, Reds, 3,218,003. 6, Andre Ethier, Dodgers, 3,013,030. 7, Carlos Beltran, Mets, 2,631,991. 8, Shane Victorino, Phillies, 2,370,351. 9, Corey Hart, Brewers, 1,875,897. 10, Justin Upton, Diamondbacks, 1,845,385. 11, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, 1,733,281. 12, Jason Heyward, Braves, 1,715,925. 13, Raul Ibanez, Phillies, 1,641,389. 14, Drew Stubbs, Reds, 1,572,673. 15, Carlos Gomez, Brewers, 1,508,939. 16, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, 1,343,144. 17, Hunter Pence, Astros, 1,315,276. 18, Jonny Gomes, Reds, 1,310,142. 19, Martin Prado, Braves, 1,296,763. 20, Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, 1,282,608. 21, Aubrey Huff, Giants, 1,240,980. 22, Chris Young, Diamondbacks, 1,151,443. 23, Ben Francisco, Phillies, 1,124,361. 24, Jason Bay, Mets, 1,114,574.

2011 MLB All-Star Game: Current Vote Totals Before Final Rosters Announced

Thursday, June 30, 2011

 

 

 

MLB reports:  The All-Star rosters for the MLB All-Star game will be announced this Sunday, July 3rd.  With the polling stations set to close shortly, we are nearing the end of the voting process.  After weeks of fan voting on-line and at all MLB stadiums, decision day is upon us in three short days.  But for those of you that don’t like to wait, we have the current vote totals for the AL and NL All-Star rosters by position.  We also prognosticate based on the current numbers as to who will win out and make the final squads.  Let’s begin in the NL, where some open races still exist:

 

2011 NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STAR BALLOTING (as of June 26)

CATCHER
Brian McCann, Braves: 3,062,884
Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 2,271,887
Buster Posey, Giants: 1,849,984
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: 1,451,280
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: 1,392,944

Prediction:  Brian McCann kept his lead and deserves this spot.  He will be behind the plate in Arizona for the NL squad.  Despite missing most of the season due to injury, Buster Posey still sits in 2nd place.  The state of NL catching is weak this year to say the least.  With no competition in the field, McCann is your first named starter.

FIRST BASE
Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 3,358,432
Prince Fielder, Brewers: 2,903,584
Joey Votto, Reds: 2,832,857
Ryan Howard, Phillies: 1,881,711
Freddie Freeman, Braves: 702,911

Prediction:  Despite his injury and guarantee to miss the game, Albert Pujols will be voted in as a starter (in name only).  Prince Fielder has been enjoying a remarkable season and deserves a better fate.  While Prince will go to Arizona, it will be as a substitute for Pujols.  The lead is just too large and Pujols has too strong of a name recognition for Prince to overcome.

SECOND BASE
Rickie Weeks, Brewers: 2,869,583
Brandon Phillips, Reds: 2,791,186
Chase Utley, Phillies: 2,406,965
Dan Uggla, Braves: 1,223,812
Freddy Sanchez, Giants: 1,184,145

Prediction:  This one is very close to call.  Based on his late push, our money is on Rickie Weeks winning out over Brandon Phillips.  A recent return by Chase Utley has created a mini-push for him as well.  In any other year this position would be Utley’s position to lose.  But clearly fans have determined that Utley has missed too much time and Weeks is deserving of his recognition.

THIRD BASE
Placido Polanco, Phillies: 3,261,718
Chipper Jones, Braves: 2,040,594
Pablo Sandoval, Giants: 1,584,671
David Wright, Mets: 1,497,778
Scott Rolen, Reds: 1,417,248

Prediction:  The Phillies fans have spoken and Placido Polanco will be starting at the All-Star game.  David Wright’s free fall from stardom has paved the way for new/old faces to emerge.  This has been Polanco’s spot to lose from the beginning and has steady play has been enough to win out.  Sometimes slow and steady does win the race.

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: 2,955,609
Jose Reyes, Mets: 2,710,777
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: 1,724,166
Alex Gonzalez, Braves: 1,142,470
Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers: 1,131,078

Prediction:  Another very close race that is difficult to handicap.  The gut feel on this one is that Jose Reyes has received enough publicity and media attention to garner the necessary votes to beat out Troy Tulowitzki.  Reyes has enjoyed quite the comeback year and a starting role in Arizona would be the icing on the cake.

OUTFIELD
Ryan Braun, Brewers: 3,932,100
Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 3,208,183
Matt Holliday, Cardinals: 2,935,965
Matt Kemp, Dodgers: 2,743,927
Andre Ethier, Dodgers: 2,264,640
Jay Bruce, Reds: 2,119,267
Shane Victorino, Phillies: 1,742,128
Carlos Beltran, Mets: 1,639,362
Jason Heyward, Braves: 1,302,127
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: 1,253,728
Raul Ibanez, Phillies: 1,239,678
Corey Hart, Brewers: 1,217,629
Justin Upton, D-backs: 1,141,296
Carlos Gomez, Brewers: 1,016,685
Martin Prado, Braves: 1,012,084

 Prediction:  Ryan Braun and Lance Berkman have been foregone conclusions for some time.  It is the battle for the 3rd and final outfield position that remains.  For a while it was Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier on the heals of Matt Holliday.  While Ethier has bowed out essentially, Kemp continues to get his push.  But will it be enough?  MLB reports says yes.  In his breakout year, Kemp is getting the respect and attention he deserves.  It appears that the fans would agree as well.

2011 AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR BALLOTING (as of June 28)

CATCHER
Russell Martin, Yankees: 2,779,592
Alex Avila, Tigers: 2,345,065
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,699,604
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: 1,505,143
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 1,309,802

Prediction:  Detroit fans have made a solid plea for the inclusion of Alex Avila as the starting catcher for the AL squad.  But the Yankee faithful have spoken otherwise and continue to lead, together with the Boston Red Sox in most spots.  Catcher is one of them,  with Russell Martin looking to be a lock for Arizona.  The one item of note is that  Joe Mauer will not be voted in.  Mauer when healthy is one of the best, if not the best catchers in baseball.  But this year has been a nightmare for Mauer health wise.  It looks to be a chance for more new/old blood to shine.

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 4,014,722
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 3,077,242
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 2,184,480
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 1,209,258
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 932,422

Prediction:  Taking a look at the numbers, 3 million votes for Mark Teixeira and 2 million votes for Miguel Cabrera is very respectable.  But 4 million+ votes takes the cake in this race for Adrian Gonzalez.  The current leading candidate for AL MVP according to many MLB followers has earned his start in Arizona.  The Red Sox faithful are certainly not complaining.

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano, Yankees: 4,724,816
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 2,979,181
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,896,259
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 1,127,840
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 963,481

Prediction:  Looking at the numbers, it is all Robinson Cano in this one.  No AL second baseman has come close to matching his production and it shows in the voting.  A well-earned spot for the maturing Cano who is graduating to complete superstar status in New York.

THIRD BASE
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 3,735,406
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 2,935,373
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 2,724,286
Evan Longoria, Rays: 2,000,379
Brandon Inge, Tigers: 633,519

Prediction:  Alex Rodriguez will have yet another All-Star game appearance.  While Adrian Beltre got a sudden surge, it is the popularity and steadiness of A-Rod that will win out.

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter, Yankees: 3,392,128
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 2,885,778
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 1,971,514
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: 1,178,114
Marco Scutaro, Red Sox: 1,099,744

Prediction:  Another fairly weak field, similar to that of third base in the NL.  Derek Jeter has slumped and/or been injured all season long.  But the name will win out and Yankee fans are excited to see their future hall of fame shortstop going to the All-Star.  Does Jeter deserve this spot this year?  Probably not.  But without a strong Indians base to campaign for Cabrera, the Yankees captain will start.  Just too much of a lead at this point.

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz, Red Sox: 4,237,014
Michael Young, Rangers: 2,235,504
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 1,453,385
Victor Martinez, Tigers: 1,234,879
Johnny Damon, Rays: 1,028,366

Prediction:  When you think DH, think David Ortiz.  He is his own universe in voting this year.  The DH market is starting to thin out and Ortiz has stood head and shoulders above the rest this year.

OUTFIELD
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 5,263,840
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 4,582,419
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 3,173,000
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 3,051,675
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 2,294,337
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,912,783
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 1,912,062
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 1,648,599
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 1,499,367
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 1,428,367
Matt Joyce, Rays: 1,226,439
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 1,061,445
David Murphy, Rangers: 1,057,887
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 1,033,014
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 924,326

Prediction:  The first two spots in the AL outfield have been set for some time.  Jose Bautista leads all All-Stars in voting and together with Curtis Granderson will definitely be in Arizona on July 12th.  Josh Hamilton has held onto the 3rd spot for some time, despite missing part of the season due to injury.  Jacoby Ellsbury has narrowed the gap significantly in the last couple of weeks and looks to be a starter by the time the rosters are announced on Sunday.  Ellsbury has enjoyed a solid campaign this year and Red Sox nation is making the push for his inclusion in the big game.  That is usually a recipe for success.

Get ready for July 12th, as the New York Red Sox (aka the AL All-Star team) takes on the NL squad on Tuesday July 12th to determine home field advantage for the World Series.  The rosters will be announced this Sunday July 3rd and MLB reports will bring you all the final details.  Stay tuned!

 

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Latest AL and NL Vote Totals: 2011 MLB All-Star Game

Thursday, June 23, 2011

 

 

 

MLB reports:  With the MLB All-Star Game less than three weeks, the race to finalize the lineups is starting to tighten up.  The majority of the starters have fairly significant leads and will be in Arizona, barring injury or declining the invitation.  However, some of the races have started to tighten up, with the positions up for grabs until the final votes are in.  Let’s take a look at the current leading vote getters per league and position:

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR (as of June 21)

CATCHER
Russell Martin – Yankees: 2,226,797
Alex Avila – Tigers: 1,730,511
Joe Mauer – Twins: 1,341,474
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Red Sox: 1,135,617
Yorvit Torrealba – Rangers: 980,697

Verdict:  Martin is in unless Avila gets a huge spike in votes at the end.  While many are pushing for Avila to get the nod, Martin has the numbers and the fan base to likely win out.

 

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez – Red Sox: 3,017,960
Mark Teixeira – Yankees: 2,407,665
Miguel Cabrera – Tigers: 1,771,893
Mitch Moreland – Rangers: 890,468
Paul Konerko – White Sox: 676,194

Verdict:  A-Gonz will be starting in Arizona.  Take it to the bank.  He has been one of the best players in the AL this season and plays in Boston.  The fans will continue to vote for him until he is announced as the winner.

 

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano – Yankees: 3,664,498
Dustin Pedroia – Red Sox: 2,239,172
Ian Kinsler – Rangers: 1,452,880
Orlando Cabrera – Indians: 910,941
Ben Zobrist – Rays: 828,771

Verdict:  Cano continues to lead the pack by a country mile.  His season totals justify his position.

 

THIRD BASE
Alex Rodriguez – Yankees: 2,876,537
Adrian Beltre – Rangers: 2,307,380
Kevin Youkilis – Red Sox: 2,025,438
Evan Longoria – Rays: 1,639,405
Brandon Inge – Tigers: 490,734

Verdict:  A-Rod is still A-Rod.  Beltre is getting closer though and could make this one interesting.

 

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter – Yankees: 2,654,040
Asdrubal Cabrera – Indians: 2,242,157
Elvis Andrus – Rangers: 1,513,929
Jhonny Peralta – Tigers: 875,371
Marco Scutaro – Red Sox: 813,888

Verdict:  Jeter, the New York Yankees captain, continues to lead the way.  However, an injury and poor play this season have led Cabrera to get closer in the voting.  If Cabrera has a few more strong games, there is a chance he could be in Arizona as the starter.  Either way, expect Cabrera to represent the Indians at the All-Star game. 

 

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz – Red Sox: 3,116,578
Michael Young – Rangers: 1,760,195
Jorge Posada – Yankees: 1,120,830
Victor Martinez – Tigers: 932,711
Johnny Damon – Rays: 864,535

Verdict:  Papi picked a great year to have a strong campaign.  A free agent at year’s end, he is a worthy All-Star pick.

 

OUTFIELD
Jose Bautista – Blue Jays: 4,156,940
Curtis Granderson – Yankees: 3,473,227
Josh Hamilton – Rangers: 2,400,408
Jacoby Ellsbury – Red Sox: 2,249,323
Carl Crawford – Red Sox: 1,789,097
Ichiro Suzuki – Mariners: 1,537,101
Nelson Cruz – Rangers: 1,462,426
Nick Swisher – Yankees: 1,271,843
Brett Gardner – Yankees: 1,120,179
J.D. Drew – Red Sox: 1,112,720
Matt Joyce – Rays: 1,038,098
Jeff Francoeur – Royals: 906,983
Grady Sizemore – Indians: 867,281
David Murphy – Rangers: 785,630
Shin-Soo Choo – Indians: 764,817

Verdict:  Bautista and Granderson continue to lead the AL outfielders in voting and deservedly so.  Hamilton and Ellsbury are battling it out for the final spot in a competition of what have you done for me lately vs. last year’s statistics.  Depending on where you sit in the debate, the 2010 MVP Hamilton or the 2011 resurgent Ellsbury should be the third AL outfielder.  With Hamilton banged up and Ellsbury playing so well for a first place Boston squad, expect Ellsbury to win out.

 

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STAR (as of June 20)

CATCHER
Brian McCann – Braves: 2,301,252
Yadier Molina – Cardinals: 1,836,490
Buster Posey – Giants: 1,573,484
Jonathan Lucroy – Brewers: 1,098,507
Carlos Ruiz – Phillies: 1,095,081

Verdict:  McCann is the best catcher in baseball, not just the NL.  He has received the justified votes and will be starting for the NL squad.

 

FIRST BASE
Albert Pujols – Cardinals: 2,806,864
Joey Votto – Reds: 2,270,211
Prince Fielder – Brewers: 2,066,327
Ryan Howard – Phillies: 1,477,478
Freddie Freeman – Braves: 559,762

Verdict:  Pujols was the leader and remains so despite being placed on the shelf recently.  With Pujols out of the picture, Votto and Fielder will continue to duke it out for top spot.  The power and flash of Prince will likely rule over the steadiness of Votto.

 

SECOND BASE
Brandon Phillips – Reds: 2,286,378
Rickie Weeks – Brewers: 2,094,502
Chase Utley – Phillies: 1,827,194
Dan Uggla – Braves: 1,012,370
Freddy Sanchez – Giants: 987,606

Verdict:  Phillips and Weeks are neck-in-neck in one of the closest positional battles.  Based on Weeks recent play, my money is on him to get the starting role.

 

THIRD BASE
Placido Polanco – Phillies: 2,599,925
Chipper Jones – Braves: 1,558,895
Pablo Sandoval – Giants: 1,302,098
David Wright – Mets: 1,228,710
Scott Rolen – Reds: 1,102,626

Verdict:  Polanco of the NL leading Philadelphia Phillies appears to have this one locked up.  Without much in the way of competition, Polanco has been the best of the bunch according to the fans.

 

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki – Rockies: 2,385,991
Jose Reyes – Mets: 1,972,820
Jimmy Rollins – Phillies: 1,354,896
Alex Gonzalez – Braves: 928,992
Yuniesky Betancourt – Brewers: 860,163

Verdict:  Reyes of the Mets is making a late charge but Tulo might have too big of a lead to overcome.  Expect this one to go to the wire as Reyes has been getting much of the press and attention in the past few days.

OUTFIELD
Ryan Braun – Brewers: 3,034,057
Lance Berkman – Cardinals: 2,562,428
Matt Holliday – Cardinals: 2,390,118
Matt Kemp – Dodgers: 2,062,667
Andre Ethier – Dodgers: 1,889,298
Jay Bruce – Reds: 1,681,613
Shane Victorino – Phillies: 1,357,115
Carlos Beltran – Mets: 1,261,308
Jason Heyward – Braves: 1,059,581
Raul Ibanez – Phillies: 982,046
Justin Upton – D-backs: 950,047
Carlos Gonzalez – Rockies: 944,666
Corey Hart – Brewers: 910,550
Martin Prado – Braves: 830,105
Alfonso Soriano – Cubs: 804,303

Verdict:  Braun has the top spot locked up with Berkman almost guaranteed a starting spot in Arizona as well.  The third outfield position will come down a battle between Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  Kemp is narrowing the margin but based on the vote numbers, St. Louis will likely have 2/3 of the starting All-Star outfield come July 12th. 

 

MLB reports will continue to keep you up-to-date as the voting for the MLB All-Star game comes to a close.  We will announce the starting lineups and rosters as they are made available and let you know on any injury replacements.  This year’s field will be a competitive one and we look forward to catching all the action in Arizona, as the American League and National League battle for home field advantage in the World Series.

 

 

 

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2011 MLB All-Star Game Ballots: National League Vote Totals

Monday June 13, 2011

 

MLB reports:  The MLB All-Star Game is coming up on July 12th from Phoenix, Arizona.  With home field advantage on the line, fans literally start debating in April who should appear as the “best of the best” representatives for each league.  With the American League dominating the All-Star game for so many years, I decided to start with the NL and find out who are the current vote leaders.  Looking at the fan votes, the arguments center on whether the most deserving or most popular players end up being voted in.  Some people question on whether first-half stats weigh too much in the voting, as the previous year’s body of work should possibly be factored in more.  Home parks are also considered, given that teams that have high attendance rates will often see sharp spikes in All-Star Game votes for its players.  Let’s take a look at the NL vote totals as of today to consider if the fans are getting it right:

 

CATCHER
Brian McCann, Braves: 1,646,822
Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 1,345,260
Buster Posey, Giants: 1,309,521
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: 807,588
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: 797,450

Verdict:  McCann is the best catcher in the NL, if not all of baseball.  His numbers have been consistently there throughout the years and 2011 has been no different.  Bravo to the fans, they scored well in the first position reviewed.  Posey, despite his season ending surgery, is still sitting at 3rd.  Surprising is that Lucroy is in 4th place, showing that Brewers fans know how to vote for their own.  With such a void of quality catchers behind McCann and Molina though, it is apparent based on the vote totals that the NL catching situation needs an influx of new talent soon.

 

FIRST BASE
Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 2,081,590
Joey Votto, Reds: 1,773,348
Prince Fielder, Brewers: 1,371,296
Ryan Howard, Phillies: 1,109,487
Freddie Freeman, Braves: 457,926

Verdict:  Always the most debated position, 2011 is no different for the NL first basemen.  Albert Pujols is the 2nd highest vote getting in the NL and based on his past track history, deserves it.  Many others at his position have had stronger seasons, including Votto and Fielder.  Based on numbers alone, including this year and 2010, Votto should be leading the votes at first base and should have the highest totals of any player overall in the NL.  This vote shows how much the All-Star Game is a popularity contest, as Fielder is over 700k votes behind Pujols at this point.  Albert Pujols is a solid player and an All-Star, but not the best player at his position at this point in his career.  Votto’s time will come, but not this year according to the fan.  Thumbs down from this analyst.

 

SECOND BASE
Brandon Phillips, Reds: 1,754,872
Rickie Weeks, Brewers: 1,461,383
Chase Utley, Phillies: 1,281,190
Dan Uggla, Braves: 833,610
Freddy Sanchez, Giants: 791,457

Verdict:  The best way that I can describe the second base vote situation is a “mess”.  Utley has been injured for most of the year, Uggla has slumped all year and Sanchez is injured again, likely gone for the year.  Yet these three players consist 3/5 of the top vote getting at second base.  Phillips and Weeks are neck-in-neck for top spot.  Based on numbers alone, I think Weeks should have a higher total.  But a strong case can be made for Brandon Phillips, who has been very consistent for years.  Again a fairly feeble crop of players overall to choose from, but the fans did not make a bad choice with their top two choices.  One thumb up here as Phillips is a good choice, but not the best selection.

 

THIRD BASE
Placido Polanco, Phillies: 1,822,129
Chipper Jones, Braves: 1,197,332
Pablo Sandoval, Giants: 1,029,380
David Wright, Mets: 934,636
Scott Rolen, Reds: 824,656

Verdict:  One word:  huh?  Is the NL third base crop this weak?  I hate…no, loathe this top-five list.  Between slumping and injured players, I don’t see an all-star in the bunch.  But with Zimmerman injured, Aramis slowing down, Alvarez developing…there really isn’t much to choose from here.  Pick your poison in this case but based on track history alone, I could have seen Wright easily taken here.  Polanco is on top mainly based on Philadelphia Popularity.  While a .300 average is nice, Polanco is steady but not a superstar.   The All-Star Game is meant for the games elite players and Placido is not it.  Another thumbs down.

 

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: 1,828,509
Jose Reyes, Mets: 1,241,553
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: 999,537
Alex Gonzalez, Braves: 744,786
Stephen Drew, D-backs: 639,204

Verdict:  An extremely difficult decision for the fans to choose their NL starting shortstop.  Jose Reyes has been one of the best players in baseball this year, but has battled injuries and inconsistency for the last couple of seasons.  Troy Tulowitzki on the other hand has been one of the steadiest shortstops in the game, when healthy.  Tulo has shown better health and far better consistency than Reyes and deserves the nod in the category.  Kudos to the fans.  Kudos.

 

OUTFIELD
Ryan Braun, Brewers: 2,230,505
Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 1,878,314
Matt Holliday, Cardinals: 1,855,416
Andre Ethier, Dodgers: 1,468,537
Matt Kemp, Dodgers: 1,372,804
Jay Bruce, Reds: 1,201,224
Shane Victorino, Phillies: 1,001,749
Jason Heyward, Braves: 883,068
Carlos Beltran, Mets: 875,339
Justin Upton, D-backs: 719,937
Raul Ibanez, Phillies: 712,577
Martin Prado, Braves: 676,791
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: 674,282
Corey Hart, Brewers: 652,737
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: 649,093

Verdict:  The criteria for All-Star voting has its greatest upheaval in the last position:  the outfield.  Lance Berkman, the 2nd highest recipient of votes in the position has been one of the best hitters in the NL for years.  But last year Berkman had some very pedestrian numbers, to the point that some questioned how much he had left in the tank.  The same goes with Carlos Beltran at #9, who was injured for so long that many expected him to never return.  While Beltran has displayed a strong comeback, it is debatable if he is worthy of being an all-star.  Matt Holliday has been an excellent player for years, but missed much of the 2011 campaign with an appendectomy.  Yet Holliday sits as the #3 vote getting in the NL outfield voting.  Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have both excelled this year in Los Angeles, yet are only the #4 and #5 vote getter.  Having Ryan Braun at the top spot is undisputable.  The man has done it for years and deserves to be the king of the castle.  I may not agree but respect Berkman getting a starting spot.  But Matt Kemp should be starting in Arizona and is not even the highest vote getter on his own team in the outfield.  Two thumbs up for Braun, one thumb up for Berkman and two thumbs down for Holliday.  Digging further, the level of votes for the often-injured Heyward, decent Victorino and declining Ibanez are signs of voting popularity by the fans, not a reward for production by the players.

 

 

 

Overall, we found that the fans made decent selections in voting for its NL all-stars.  But with better options on the board, it appears that in too many cases the local hero won out over more deserving players.  Also, the 2011 statistics often weighed heavily in favor of the voting, ahead of the total body of work of a player including the previous year’s worth of statistics.  Looking at the current vote leaders in the National League, I would give one thumb up and the other thumb down.  In tomorrow’s edition of the Reports, we will review the American League Vote totals and analyze the projected All-Star Game starters.  All coming up, stay tuned!

 

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Top Home Run Hitters: The MLB Leaderboard

Sunday June 12, 2011

MLB reports:  Another week goes by and we find that there are more changes on the MLB Home Run Leaderboard.  Jose Bautista finally has some competition and the proven long ball hitters of seasons past have finally made the list.  Let’s take a look at the home run leaders in Major League Baseball as of today:

Tie 1st:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays:  20

Jose Bautista hit #20 on May 28th.  Since then, he has remained stuck on 20 while the rest of baseball starts to catch up.  For a man in a home run draught, he still has 58/35 BB/K on the season, with a .338 AVG, .490 OBP and .692 SLG.  As Bautista works to recapture his early season form, Adam Lind has come back to the Jays as a man on a mission.  Lind is hitting .327 on the season with 11 home runs of his own, a beneficiary of the protection that Bautista can afford him in the lineup.  Realistically speaking, Bautista was never going to hit 80 home runs this season.  But he remains on pace for 50+ and Bautista may still match or exceed his 54 long balls from last year.

Tie 1stCurtis Granderson, New York Yankees:  20

There is a 2nd sherif in town and his name is Curtis Granderson.  One of three Yankees on our list, Granderson has enjoyed a rejuvenation at age 30.  Granderson is close to matching his 24 home runs from last year and well on his way to exceeding his career high of 30 home runs from 2009.  Granderson’s 27/65 BB/K ratio tell me that he has not necessarily changed his free swinging ways at the plate and a “market correction” may be in order here.  But despite his .267 AVG, Granderson has not shown any slow downs in the power department.  2011 has been Curtis Granderson’s coming out party and if Bautista isn’t careful, we may have another home run king on the season very soon.

Tie 3rdMatt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers:  19

Matt Kemp (“The Bison”) at the age of 26, has finally started to cement his place in the book of baseball superstardom.  With 19 home runs on the year, to go along with his incredible .331 AVG, .408 OBP and .632 SLG, Kemp has gone from prospect to star seemingly overnight.  After hitting 26 and 28 home runs over the last two seasons respectively, Kemp is on pace to hit 40-50 home runs this year.  Hitting in the heart of the Dodgers lineup with Andre Ethier, Kemp has been the heart and soul of the team this year.  As he matures as a person and leader, so has his game developed on the field.  The sky is the limit for this young superstar, who has future MVP written all over him.

Tie 3rdMark Teixeira, New York Yankees:  19

The last two spots on our top-five list should come as no surprise, starting with Yankee slugger Mark Teixeira.  With 39 home runs in 2009 and 43 in 2005, Teixeira has showcased his home run strengths in previous years.  A consistent 30+ home run threat, Teixeira is on his way to setting a career high in the category, showing his enjoyment playing in Yankee Stadium with its short porch.  Teixeira, with his smooth swing, home run park and protection in the lineup, has all the factors in his favor.  By season’s end, I expect him to remain near the top of this list and could very well finish at the #1 position.

5thPrince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers:  18

The final spot goes to Prince Fielder, the impending free agent slugging first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Prince has literally done it all this season.  He has shown a great eye, with 36/31 BB/K in 2011, to go along with his .300 AVG, .410 OBP and .614 SLG.  The man hit 50 home runs in 2007 and 46 in 2009.  With a BIG payday ahead (rumored to be in the $200 million range), Fielder is showcasing his skills this year.  At 27-years of age, Prince will be able to write his own ticket when picking his next home.  He has certainly ensured to give himself the best chance to make the big bucks in the future by his strong play in the present.  Fielder’s agent?  None other than Scott Boras.  Expect Fielder to continue to explode on the field all season with teammate Ryan Braun as the Brewers make one more giant push with its hulking first baseman steering the ship.

After looking at such an impressive top-five list, the rest of the sluggers represent the who’s-who of baseball.  Bruce, Braun, Quentin, Pujols, Cabrera, A-Rod…yes, they are all here.  Mike Stanton with 16 home runs has come together quickly in his 2nd season to become one of the top home run hitters in the game.  As we discussed several times to start the season, the cream always rises to the top as the months go by.  As we sit at almost the halfway mark of the season, the proven home run sluggers have proven just that.

The Best of the Rest:

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds:  17

Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox:  17

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals:  16

Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox:  16

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox:  16

Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins:  16

Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers:  15

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers:  14

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals:  14

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers:  13

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies:  13

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees:  13

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MLB Top Home Run Hitters 2011: Updated

MLB reports:  Here at MLB reports, we consistently get fan requests for features on the top home run hitters in the game.  We recently ran a feature looking at the top power hitters and appreciate the feedback and responses.  As a bonus, for all those of you that dig the long ball, here is a look at the current MLB leader board and analysis on each of the top long ball threats.  Some surprises to this point for sure.

T1)  Curtis Granderson, Yankees:  11

For all the talk of the Tigers winning the Granderson trade in obtaining Austin Jackson, Granderson has really made the Yankees look good this year.  At 30 years of age and healthy this season, Granderson has really enjoyed his second year with the Bronx Bombers.  He has hit 11 home runs, to go together with his .283 AVG, .359 OBP and .646 SLG.  Add in 2 triples for good measure as Granderson has done it all for the Yankees in 2011.  Hitting higher in the order, Granderson will continue to have increased chances of scoring and driving in runs.  With a career high of 30 long balls recently in 2009, Granderson is on pace for a new personal best this year.  With his lineup and ballpark, the chances are very good if he stays healthy.

T1)  Alfonso Soriano, Cubs:  11

Left for dead by many experts, Soriano has come out of seemingly nowhere to rejuvenate his career… power-wise.  On pace for 50+ home runs, Soriano is hitting long balls, driving in and scoring runs at a high pace.  However note the key red flag:  4 walks to-date with a .273 OBP.  These kinds of numbers are simply unacceptable and with 31 strike outs, Soriano better find some plate discipline soon if he hopes to continue to receive regular at-bats.  At his late age, Soriano is slowly morphing into an all other nothing home run hitter and his free swinging ways is actually hurting more than helping the Cubs this season.

T2)  Lance Berkman, Cardinals:  10

At the age of 36, Lance Berkman has reclaimed his spot as one of the top hitters in the game for the Cardinals.  Healthy and playing like the Puma of old, Berkman has a 1.191 OPS to go together with his 17/16 BB/K ratio.  To say that he is paying outstanding baseball would be an understatement.  I really liked this signing at the time and playing with Pujols and Holliday has done wonders for Berkman’s bat.  With LaRussa as his manager and strong team along for the ride, I see 40+ home runs in the Big Puma’s future…provided he remains healthy of course.

T2)  Ryan Braun, Brewers:  10

The Hebrew Hammer just doesn’t let up.  The 27-year-old Braun already has 138 career home runs and continues to pile them on.  With Prince Fielder protecting him in the lineup, Braun will just continue to be Braun in 2011.  Mark him down for 30+ home runs and don’t think twice.

T2)  Jose Bautista:  10

As time goes by, Bautista’s numbers slowly but surely are silencing many of his critics.  Despite missing games this season with a neck strain and personal leave, Bautista has managed 10 home runs in 88 at bats.  Combined with his 30/17 BB/K ratio, .352 AVG, .521 OBP and .773 SLG and you have one of the best, if not the best player currently in the game.  Bautista has also produced with Adam Lind and very little else for support in the lineup.  The Toronto slugger is proving that he is not a one-hit wonder and here to stay on the MLB home run leader board.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitters in baseball.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com

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Top Home Run Hitters: MLB 2011

MLB reports:  For pure fun today, I wanted to scan the major league baseball leaderboard and evaluate the top home run hitters of 2011.  While this list can change at a moment’s notice, looking at the board with over three weeks into the season is always fun.  At least my idea of fun.  I originally planned to make a top ten list, but that was going to prove to be futile.  Six hitters sit at the top of the list with seven home runs a piece and eight hitters tied for second with six home runs each.  Let’s take a close look at the top fourteen then and see which hitters are likely to remain on the list and which have caught lightning in a bottle for a few games.

First Place – Seven Home Runs

Jose Bautista:  Toronto Blue Jays

After 54 home runs last year, is anyone still waiting for a slowdown?  With 19 walks already, .359 AVG and 1.256 OPS, Bautista continues to build on the momentum of last year.  Living up to his large contract extension signed in the off-season, it appears that the new Jose Bautista is here to stay.  At 30 years of age, Bautista is showing that he has enough juice in his bat to approach another 50 home runs this year.

Adrian Beltre:  Texas Rangers

Another big contract signing entering 2011, Beltre has made good on the promise of his bat hitting in Arlington.  Inconsistent throughout his career, analysts have often said that if healthy and playing in a hitters park, the sky is the limit.  Beltre hit 48 home runs back in 2004 playing for the Dodgers and have never approached those numbers since.  At 32 and playing in one of the best hitters park in a stacked lineup, big numbers could come his way.  I see somewhat of a regression, but 30-35 home runs is a safe bet at this point.

Ryan Braun:  Milwaukee Brewers

The Hebrew Hammer has 128 career home runs in four seasons going into 2011.  He has Prince Fielder in the lineup with him.  At 27, Braun is this generation’s Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg.  No slowdowns ahead for this Brewer as he shoots for his first 40+ home run season.  The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year is a future MVP and his time could come this year.

Curtis Granderson:  New York Yankees

The only surprise in the top home run hitters category, Granderson has always shown glimpses of brilliance but injuries and slumps have slowed his path.  The 20/20/20/20 season in 2007 was impressive, as was the career high 30 home runs that Granderson hit in 2009 for the Tigers.  Even though he missed 26 games last year to injury, he still was able to amass 24 home runs.  Now healthy and with the short porch in Yankee stadium, Granderson has a good chance at equaling and besting his career best power numbers.  Given the Yankees lineup as well, I would not count him out.  Granderson is unlikely to remain among the league leaders in bombs, but a solid 30+ home run season is definitely in order.

Albert Pujols:  St. Louis Cardinals

Coming into this season, the Great Pujols hit a Ruthian 408 home runs in 10 seasons.  Truly our generation’s Babe Ruth, Pujols has to be considered one of the best home run hitters of all time.  With an .806 OPS, Pujols hasn’t even begun to heat up.  Pujols has Holliday and a resurging Lance Berkman for protection and going into his first free agency year, expect legendary numbers by seasons end.  This is Albert Pujols we are talking about…I do not have to say anything else.

Troy Tulowitzki:  Colorado Rockies

Still only 26 years old, Tulowitzki is working towards becoming the best player in baseball.  Missing significant time in 2008 and 2010, Tulo still has 99 career home runs going into today.  Playing in the home run haven called Colorado, all Tulo has to do is to stay healthy to succeed.  As this is an odd year, history is shown that he will likely play close to a full season.  His career high of 32 home runs is well within reach and I can see a 40+ home run season this year.  The talent and circumstances are all there…all he needs is health.

Second Place:  Six Home Runs

Lance Berkman:  St. Louis Cardinals

Going into the second tier of top home run hitters, we find some resurgent players, surprises and expected studs.  Berkman was an uncertainty coming into season.  The 35-year-old Big Puma has seen 40+ home run seasons in his career.  2010 was an injury shortened season and after getting traded to the Yankees and faltering in New York, critics began to write him off.  I was a big fan of his move to St. Louis, back to the NL Central and the opportunity to play with Pujols and Holliday.  Defense aside, Berkman’s 9 walks and league leading .725 SLG show that the Puma is back.  With the occasional days off and prime spot in the lineup, 35 home runs is my predicted total for this superstar.

Jonny Gomes:  Cincinnati Reds

The man has seem to been around forever but is actually only 30 years old.  Gomes has seen several 20+ home run seasons in his career, including 18 in 2010 playing in a career high 148 games.  With 18 walks, Gomes has disguised his poor .212 avg this season with a .386 OBP and .530 SLG.  The owner of a lifetime .332 OBP and .463 SLG, Gomes will get a fair amount of playing time this year.  While he is not the second coming of Adam Dunn, Gomes has clearly found a home in Cincinnati.  His lower average and 19 strikeouts concern me at this point as he will need to become a steadier hitter to continue to receive steady playing time.  Part of the surprises of this list, expect a return to form in order for Gomes.  Despite lofty totals, I cannot foresee a 30 home run season coming, even though he plays in that ballpark.  He is too streaky and Dusty Baker is not patient enough to stick with him.

Howie Kendrick:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Not one of my favorite players to cover, I have always soured on Kendrick for his inability to take walks.  With a career high of 10 home runs (twice), low stolen bases totals and inability to consistently get on base, I have rarely seen the upside of Kendrick at the plate.  This season, apparently as light switch has gone off inside his head or bat, as Kendrick is well on his way to shattering his previous power numbers and already has 10 walks on the season (last year he set a career high of 28).  Does a leopard change its spots…or does a Kendrick learn patience?  I will believe it when I see it.  I have watched Kendrick for too long to be sold on what I have seen thus far.  if he is still able to keep up this approach going into July, maybe I will cut him some slack.  Until then, I expect to see Kendrick off this list by mid-June at the latest.  A nice run, but a run is all this is at the end of the day in my opinion.

Russell Martin:  New York Yankees

The second Yankee on our list has found a new home and new lease on life in the Bronx.  Martin had a career high 19 home runs in 2007 playing for the Dodgers, earning a Silver Slugger award that year.  With an OPS of 1.099, Martin is the early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.  Playing nearly every game this season and enjoying a healthy hip, Martin apparently has renewed drive and focus that was previously lacking in Los Angeles.  At 28 years old and continuing our trend of young superstars on the list, all Martin really has to do is stay healthy this year.  In the loaded Yankees lineup and with the short porch, Martin has a chance at 25 home runs this year.

Jorge Posada:  New York Yankees

Yankee #3 is on the downside of his career, or so we are led to believe.  The 39-year-old Posada is a full-time DH for the full-time in his career.  While his .153 AVG and .711 OPS, his 6 home runs (of his 9 total hits) is outstanding.  Too many factors are against Posada staying on the leaderboard.  Health is always a concern and despite no longer playing the field, any tweaks at this point could send the elderly Posada to the DL.  Further, his numbers are showing that when he is not hitting home runs, he is simply not hitting or getting on base.  As Posada continues his best Rob Deer impersonation, I don’t foresee great things ahead for the future hall of famer, nearing the end of an outstanding career.

Carlos Quentin:  Chicago White Sox

Both Chicago teams are represented, with the powerful Quentin starting off for the White Sox.  The likely pick for MVP had he stayed healthy in 2008, Quentin has a laundry list of injuries and ailments his entire career.  But when healthy, Quentin is always a home run threat.  With a 1.023 OPS and having Rios, Dunn, Konerko, Ramirez and Beckham in the lineup for protection, Quentin looks to best his career high of 36 home runs in 2008.  I am sitting on the fence on this one.  The potential is there, but so are the injuries.  Expect at least a couple of trips to the disabled list but assuming reasonable health, I will take 30+ home runs for Carlos.  The Adam Dunn factor cannot be discounted, as he will prove to be great protection for Quentin all season long.

Alfonso Soriano:  Chicago Cubs

A 20+ home run hitter for nine straight seasons, Soriano was written off for dead by many experts, yours truly included.  2009 was a dismal season for Soriano and although he had a steady return last year, at the age of 35 and with knee issues, little was expected from the talented Dominican.  Despite his .513 SLG this season, there are several reasons to expect a continuing decline for Soriano.  His BB/K rate this year is an abysmal 3/21, as his .244 AVG and .272 OBP.  If you ask me, I see Soriano slowly decaying into the next Yuniesky Betancourt.  Soriano is still a lock for another 20+ home run year but with the rest of his game on such a rapid decline, don’t expect much else.  If the Cubs have any other options, I expect Soriano to see more time on the bench or even a trade in order.  But at his salary, I cannot foresee any team taking a chance.

Mark Teixeira:  New York Yankees

The last player on our list and Yankee #4, Teixeira clearly did not get the memo that we are in April and not August.  A notorious slow starter, Teixeira is already up to twelve walks, .402 OBP and .621 SLG.  For the 31-year-old Teixeira who has 281 career home runs, his career high of 43 home runs in 2005 could be broken.  Considering that Teixeira has the ability to hit 10-12 home runs per month in the summer, I see a clear breakout year for this superstar first baseman.  The Yankees went out and got him for a reason.  In addition to his gold glove defense, I am smelling a possible silver slugger and MVP award in 2011.

What is the future of this list?  Hard to tell without a crystal ball, as so many factors can arise.  Injuries, playing time, lineup position…things can change.  But a trend is clear from the early season home run leaders.  Most are in the 27-30 year-old age bracket and are proven home run hitters in their careers.  I expect most of the above hitters to remain on the list, with some surprises to fade away and new players to emerge.  Other superstars, like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez will join this list very soon.  But even in the short span of three weeks into the season, it is clear that even with only a few games played, the home run hitting cream is already rising to the top.

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