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Time Has Come For the Royals to Trade Soria

Tuesday November 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phillies Sign Papelbon Over Madson: The Stare Arrives in Philadelphia

Saturday November 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

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

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

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

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

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

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

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

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

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

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

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

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

Phillies in 4

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

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

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J.P. Arencibia vs. Travis d’Arnaud: Who is the Jays Catcher of the Future?

Saturday September 24, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  Two weeks ago, I posted that the toughest question Blue Jays’ fans are dealing with right now is figuring out whose comeback, whether that of Dustin McGowan or Adam Loewen, is more impressive. Today I pose a question that some would say is equally hard to answer: who is the Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher of the future – J.P. Arencibia or Travis d’Arnaud?

What they have in common:

Interesting, while many people do not realize this, both catchers share their origin in common – the 2007 MLB first-year player draft. In fact, Arencibia was drafted 21st overall by the Blue Jays out of the University of Tennessee. As the 37th pick overall, the Philadelphia Phillies went with Travis d’Arnaud, out of Lakewood High School. At the time it was believed that the Jays were interested in d’Arnaud’s potential and would pick him with the 38th pick and move Arencibia to first base. Yet the Phillies chose the young star from Florida one slot before, forcing the Jays to choose left-handed pitcher, Brett Cecil. That said, a persistent GM, Alex Anthopoulos, would get his player; as the Blue Jays acquired Travis d’Arnaud two years later in the well-known Roy Halladay trade.

How they differ:

Defense

It is difficult to compare these players, as Arencibia has already made the jump to the majors while d’Arnaud just finished his season in AA New Hampshire. Arencibia has more professional experience having been drafted out of college, while d’Arnaud came out of high school. Here is a graph to compare how each player performed during their time at AA New Hampshire:

JP received the promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire half-way through the season; his stats have been doubled to receive a more accurate comparison.

Both players are pretty evenly matched. Nevertheless, d’Arnaud has the slight advantage on errors committed, fielding percentage, and passed balls. Meanwhile, Arencibia has a higher caught-stealing percentage.

Despite one player being in the majors and the other in the minors in 2011, an interesting comparison can be depicted if we compare both catchers’ stats for this season:

With each player in their fourth year of professional baseball, these stats show how close their defensive game truly is. Having committed the same amount of errors, the same fielding percentage and only one passed ball being the difference between them, the biggest distinction is that d’Arnaud has the slight advantage throwing out base runners.

Don Wakamatsu, a former catcher himself, and now the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach has admitted that he has seen a drastic improvement in Arencibia’s defensive abilities. Wakamatsu credits the improvement to a significant amount of practice and hard work. He stated: “Arencibia has done a phenomenal job trying to understand how to get the most out of our pitching staff.”

Defensively, Arencibia has a good arm, but he struggles at times with blocking pitches in the dirt. In his minor league career, Arencibia threw out close to 30% of base stealers, though charged with 60 passed balls in 357 lifetime games.

In regards to his defense, Arencibia stated, “Defense is obviously first, and I know that, and whatever comes with the bat is secondary.” He continued:I feel like my biggest thing is getting that pitcher through that game and I feel like I’m starting to get a real good understanding of my staff and giving us opportunities to win.” Since making these comments, Arencibia has improved his defense considerably in the second half of the season. For example, in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay, JP was able to throw out Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.

Comparatively, Travis d’Arnaud’s defensive skills are stronger. He has a great game-calling abilities and he has a strong arm. While his career caught-stealing rates have suffered due to inexperience, he has also improved his game by working on his footwork behind the plate. At 22 years old, d’Arnaud is already one of the better defensive catchers in the minors and he has plenty of time to develop into a premier defender in the big leagues. This was proven when he was named the Catcher’s Captain Award recipient for 2011 by Baseball America. The award is given to the catcher who displays strong defensive qualities, including leadership and dedication.

Offense

There is no denying that both players are also solid offensively. In 409 games in the minors, JP hit .275 with 121 doubles, 83 HR and 290 RBI. That said, he has also proven what he can do at the plate at the major league level as well. There is not a Blue Jays fan who does not remember J.P. Arencibia’s major league debut last year against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he launched the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a home run. He later singled and doubled and capped the day with a home run to right field. That game showcased Arencebia’s talents and his ability to hit the ball for power.

Offense is where Arencibia and d’Arnaud differ most. Essentially, while JP hits for power but not average, d’Arnaud is a more complete player at the plate, as he hits for average and power. This year with the Fisher Cats, d’Arnaud was named the Eastern League MVP after hitting .313 with 20 homers and 77 RBIs. Here is how their 2011 numbers compare:

Prior to the 2011 campaign, many fans and analysts alike were not sold on d’Arnaud as anything more than a defense-first catcher. However, as his numbers this season have indicated, Travis experienced a bit of a learning curve early on in his career, as he made the jump from high school to the minor leagues. With his bat coming around this season, the offensive edge at this stage goes to d’Arnaud. It is evident that both players (as can be seen from the table above) need to work on the amount of times they strikeout, but other than that, both look solid at the plate and behind it.

Overall

Although both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud came from the same draft class in 2007, it appears that d’Arnaud has the greater upside. In essence, Arencibia has received the call to the majors quicker because he was able to develop in college before jumping to the professional ranks. As displayed through various charts, d’Arnaud appears to be more efficient both with his glove and bat. His numbers indicate that he could make the jump to the MLB as early as next year.  In a recent interview with Fisher Cats beat reporter, Dave Gershman, d’Arnaud showed that he has the confidence to make it to the big leagues, as he stated: “Hopefully one day I can get up to Toronto, and play like I’m playing now. And who knows what will happen? Maybe I’ll be a good player.”

At the same time one cannot discredit J.P. Arencibia, as despite his quick progression to the MLB, he is still learning at the age of 25.   Arencibia recently stated as much when he admitted, “On both sides of the plate I’ve been maturing and making adjustments in different things,” Arencibia says. “But it’s still a work in progress. You’re always trying to get better.” With catchers requiring the most seasoning from all the positions, Arencebia can still be considered to be at this stage ahead of the curve.

Whoever is chosen as the lead catcher, one thing is certain: the Blue Jays are blessed with two young catchers – both at the plate – and behind it!  If the team’s worst problem is having two number one catchers on its roster within the next two years, then that is a great dilemma to have.  It is very possible that one of the above (likely Arencibia) will be moved when both catchers have proven themselves at the major league level.  Until then, with injuries and slumps being a reality of the game, the Jays will enjoy their abundance of talent behind the dish and lets the cards play themselves out.

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

 

 

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

Tuesday August 23, 2011

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 Wednesday August 10, 2011

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

   

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Thanks for the e-mails and keep them coming!  mlbreports@gmail.com

 

 

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Colby Rasmus and Mark Teahen to Jays, Jason Frasor and Zack Stewart to White Sox, Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel to Cardinals

Wednesday July 27, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We first discussed a Colby Rasmus trade to Toronto about a week ago here on the Reports.  The trade as we proposed would have included Rasmus to the Jays and Travis Snider and Jason Frasor to the Cardinals.  It looks like we got half of the players right, as a Rasmus to Jays deal is complete and ready to be announced.  However, in typical Alex Anthopoulos fashion, the trade is a 3-way deal.  Going to the Jays is pitcher Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen in return for reliever Jason Frasor and pitcher Zack Stewart to the White Sox.  The Jays are then flipping Jackson, outfielder Corey Patterson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynskias well as three players to be named later or cash to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller.  From there, Miller may be on the move to the White Sox to complete the Jackson swap.

 

Here is how the trade breaks down team by team:

 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Kenny Williams can never sit on his hands come trade deadline time.  As hard as he may try, Williams loves to tinker with his team and this year is no different.  Speculation had Williams eyeing Rasmus for himself.  But with the need to maintain a strong bullpen, it appears that the White Sox are adding Frasor while keeping Matt Thornton.  As the Sox are also deep in the rotation and Jackson was essentially redundant for a team that is unlikely to make the playoffs.  Frasor is having a solid year, with a 2.98 ERA and 1.252 WHIP.  The White Sox may choose to hold onto him or let him go and receive compensation as a type “B” free agent.  Teahen, at one more year and $5.5 million left in salary was an expensive backup at best.   Zack Stewart, one of the Jays better pitching prospects, is currently at 24-year old AA starter with a 4.20 ERA and 1.410 WHIP.  Stewart, who came to Toronto in a package for Scott Rolen, showed very solid numbers until this year, with a lifetime 3.05 ERA in his minor league career with a 1.343 WHIP over four seasons.  The White Sox wanted to stock up their system and Stewart should be a bright addition.

VERDICT:  White Sox win their end of the deal.  Although the addition of Colby Rasmus would have been nice, he was likely a luxury that the team could not afford.  The White Sox end up freeing salary, receiving a useful reliever that could turn into a draft pick and a prospect starting pitcher in a system screaming for prospects, in exchange for two spare parts from their team.  They may even get Trever Miller to boot.   

 

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays wheeling and dealing GM, is quickly becoming the master of the 3-way trade.  AA’s first big move was trading Roy Halladay as part a of a three-way move with the Phillies and Mariners, with the Oakland A’s joining in shortly after in the Michael Taylor and Brett Wallace swap.  The Houston Astros then traded Roy Oswalt that summer to the Philadelphia Phillies for a package including Anthony Gose, who was then flipped to Toronto for Wallace.  Vernon Wells then this offseason  went to the Angels and a couple of days later the Rangers were involved in the Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco trade.  AA is now back in a big way.  With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline a mere four days away, AA has shocked the slow-moving trade market with the biggest swap of the season.  Toronto parts with Jason Frasor to Chicago along with Zack Stewart and then move recently acquired Edwin Jackson with relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, as well as outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named later or cash  to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, as well as relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller.  Mark Teahen then stays in Toronto from Chicago as a backup infielder.

Breaking down the deal for Toronto, they move three middle relievers in Dotel, Rzepczynski  and Frasor.  Dotel and Frasor could have either stayed in Toronto next year or been type “B” free agents with compensation picks coming back.  Rzepczynski, a former starter has been steady in the Jays pen this season but does not project to be more than a middle reliever.   With the Jays having such strong starting pitching at the majors and minor league levels, Jackson was a pitcher who actually would not have been able to crack the Jays rotation.  Teahen, whose last decent season in the majors was 2007, is another Juan Rivera salary dump pickup for the Jays who could hang around for season or be cut loose with salary eaten.  At the end of the day, the Jays at most have traded away three middle relievers/draft picks, a prospect in Zack Stewart to the White Sox and about $5.5 million in salary to acquire Colby Rasmus.  With the logjam in the outfield, Corey Patterson was expandable.  We are not sure yet who are the three players to be named later but apparently the Jays may move cash to the Cardinals instead.  The three relievers received by the Jays, Walters, Tallet and Miller are all spare parts at best, with Miller apparently on his way to the White Sox.  Tallet though enjoyed his best years in Toronto and a Jays reunion may give his numbers a boost.

How good is Colby Rasmus?  Best prospect in baseball good before getting the call to the majors.  A first round pick of the Cardinals in 2005, the 24-year old Rasmus has not seen eye-to-eye with manager Tony LaRussa for some time and a change of scenery was in order.  Once he realizes his potential, Rasmus has Gold Glove and Silver Slugger potential.  He is really that good.  Under team control for another three seasons, Rasmus gives the Jays the center fielder they have desired for so long and a top of the order bat.  Rasmus will perfectly slide into the second spot of the batting order and give the Jays power, speed and the ability to get on base. 

VERDICT:  If the measure of a trade is by the team receiving the best player available, then the Jays win this trade overall hands down.  They have acquired Colby Rasmus, one of the best young outfielders in the game by giving up essentially middle relievers, a prospect starting pitcher and taking on salary.  While Zack Stewart may develop one day into a solid number 2 or 3 starter, for a team that is filled with pitching prospects, Stewart was an arm that the team could afford to move.  AA could actually get arrested for stealing Rasmus from the Cardinals.  This is what you call buying low at the right time.  The Jays should thank LaRussa for his recent comments that Rasmus was not listening to the Cardinals coaching staff.  Playing for John Farrell, with Jose Bautista as a teammate and Cito Gaston as a Jays advisor, Rasmus should be able to quickly realize his potential in Toronto.  Even with the trade of three of their middle relievers, the Jays are still left with Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch in the pen with more call-ups available at AAA.  With the Jays bullpen blowing saves at an alarming rate this year, moving some of the relievers for a star outfielder is a no-brainer.  This trade will also increase the Heath Bell to Toronto rumors, as the Jays continue to pursue the Padres star closer.

 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

There aren’t many positives to say here.  The Cardinals if they make this move, would be trading away one of their best players for not so magic beans.  The 27-year old Jackson, while filled with potential has never performed fully to his capabilities at the major league level.  Now on his sixth major league team and eligible for free agency at the end of the season with Scott Boras as his agent, the Cardinals will need to overpay to retain his services.  With a 3.92 ERA and 1.422 WHIP on the season, Jackson is as middle-of-the-road as they come.  The Cardinals are hoping that Dave Duncan can work his magic but with less than half a season left, there may only be so much that their pitching coach can do.  The 37-year old Dotel has also been steady this season, sitting at a 3.68 ERA and solid 1.091 WHIP.  The team will also have an option to bring Dotel back next year.  Rzepczynski at 25-years of age broke out this year with a 2.97 ERA and 1.093 ERA.  He remains under team control for four more seasons.   Good numbers, but not enough in my estimation.  For a player of the caliber of Colby Rasmus, I would have expected the Cardinals to receive a top starter and closer back.  Rather, the Cardinals are esentiallly receiving a number four or five starter and two middle relievers.  For a team in dire need of pitching, I would have expected a much greater return.  Corey Patterson is at best a fourth oufielder for the Cardinals and the trio of relievers they sent to Toronto, Miller, Tallet and Walters are of little consequence.

Verdict:  GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony LaRussa must really dislike Colby Rasmus to be giving him away in this fashion.  After both Rasmus and his dad have spoken out by the team in recent years, the LaRussa comments the other day likely sealed the deal.  As the team likely does not want to face Rasmus as an opponent, a move to the American League makes sense.  One would think that other teams, including the Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers could have offered more.  But it appears that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous was in the right place at the right time and is on the verge of acquiring the Cardinals’ outfielder.  The Cardinals are the big losers in this trade and it is not even close.  In the  event that both Dotel and Jackson are type “B” free agents and leave St. Louis at the end of the season, the Cardinals will be left with two months worth of rental players, a middle reliever and two draft picks as compensation.  That is all they will have to show for trading away one of the best young hitters in the game.  Considering the prospects the Tampa Bay Rays have in their system, if Toronto can pull this swap off, it will be a loss felt in St. Louis for many years to come.

 

 

 

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Ubaldo Jimenez to the Yankees? Rockies May Move Ace to the Bronx

Saturday July 16, 2011

MLB reports:   As an unbelievable as it may seem, there has been talk in baseball circles that the Rockies are taking calls on their ace pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez.  Start after start, game after game last year, Jimenez for the majority of 2010 was as unhittable as they come.   Despite coming back down to earth in the 2nd half, Jimenez last year appeared in his first All-Star game and finished 3rd in the NL CY Young voting.  He also pitched the very first no-hitter in Rockies history on April 17, 2010.  With a young Rockies team that was expected to contend in 2011, the 27-year old Dominican Jimenez was expected to anchor the team.  Now sitting with a 45-49 record, 8.5 games out of 1st in the NL West, the Rockies are on the fence as to whether they still have playoff aspirations this year.  Further, the team’s brass needs to decide whether Jimenez is a part of those aspirations and future playoff runs.  Media outlets have speculated that the Yankees are quietly making a run at Jimenez.  There is a strong probability the trade could happen, but in my estimation, the Rockies would be making a colossal error if they do.

There is no denying the strength and ability of Ubaldo Jimenez.  As the pitcher has slowly improved every year, especially noting his strong 2009 and 2010 campaigns, the hurler clearly has a world of potential.  Taking a look at his numbers, the results speak for themselves:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 0 0 3.52 7.2 5 3 3 1.043
2007 4 4 4.28 82.0 70 37 68 1.305
2008 12 12 3.99 198.2 182 103 172 1.435
2009 15 12 3.47 218.0 183 85 198 1.229
2010 19 8 2.88 221.2 164 92 214 1.155
2011 5 8 4.08 110.1 101 43 99 1.305
6 Seasons 55 44 3.60 838.1 705 363 754 1.274
162 Game Avg. 14 11 3.60 212 178 92 191 1.274

With pitching at such a shortage, many baseball analysts are scratching their heads as to how the Rockies could possibly think about trading Jimenez.  The San Francisco Giants proved last year that the World Series could be won almost exclusively on the strength of pitching.  Tim LincecumMatt CainMadison BumgarnerJonathan Sanchez.  The Giants had so many weapons to throw against its opponents every night and good young pitching at the end of day beats good hitting much of the time.  The Rockies, ravaged by injuries and inconsistent performances, are unlikely to reach the postseason this year.  But in the management of the team, the present and future must be considered.  Look at Felix Hernandez on Seattle, Roy Halladay on the Phillies and Lincecum on the Giants.  Every team that is trying to build a winner needs a stud pitcher at the top of its rotation.  Jimenez is that guy for the Rockies and losing him on the roster will be a hole that will be difficult, to impossible to fill.

So given the positives that Jimenez brings to the table, the issue remains how and why the Rockies could possibly consider moving him.  There are a couple of main reasons in my estimation.  Part of the equation is the performance of Jimenez this season.  While he has been good, Jimenez for the most part has not been great.  His record this year is far off from his most recent seasons, despite a strong rebound in his last few starts.  Given his inconsistencies in 2011, the Rockies may be getting a little worried and looking to sell high before Jimenez starts to decline and/or injured.  But given his strong resume to date, young age and rebound recently, I would like to think the Rockies are more intelligent than that.  Players have their ups and downs, at all levels.  It happens.  Without a larger body of work for reference, it is almost impossible to reason that Jimenez is on his way down.  His recent numbers tend to show otherwise.  So while Jimenez may not be the same pitcher that we saw in early 2010, he is still the ace of the team.

So why the reports of trade talk with the Yankees?  I will give you two words.  Cliff Lee.  The same Cliff Lee that was all set to be traded last year from the Mariners to the Yankees in a package including Jesus Montero.  The deal was completed to the level that major media outlets were announcing the trade as fact.  As the story goes on that one, the Mariners played the Yankees against the Rangers and took a package from Texas built around prospect Justin Smoak at the very last-minute.  The Yankees were fuming to the level that they contacted the higher-ups in Seattle to complain about the conduct of their GM, Jack Zduriencik.  The fallout was the Rangers making it to the World Series and the Yankees left at the altar without their prize.  As a further dagger, Lee in his decision to sign with the Rangers or Yankees this past offseason, ended up going to the Phillies at the last-minute.  Again, the mystery team coming at the last second out of the woods and the Yankees were left standing with egg on their face.

Do not underestimate the New York Yankees.  They are the strongest and one of the proudest teams in baseball.  The Yankees and their fans do not like to be left disappointed in the constant search for top talent.  With Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia sitting in their rotation, the Yankees are clearly itching to make a move to bolster their rotation.  While names like Jeremy Guthrie, Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo being thrown around, it starts to shed some light as to where the Jimenez talk is coming from.  This is the Yankees and they do not like shopping at the Ford dealership.  This is a team built on Mercedes and BMW’s.  The problem is that the top cars, i.e. ace pitchers, are not readily available.  After making runs at Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano, the Yankees are still in search of a strong #2 to compliment ace CC Sabathia.  Considering that Sabathia can opt out of his contract during the coming offseason and possibly leave New York, the pressure is even greater to land a top starting pitcher.  From all the names that have been tossed around, the one that makes the most sense is Ubaldo Jimenez.

When Jimenez is on his game, he is as Cliff Lee-like as you can get.  Jimenez is a horse that has the potential to pitch a complete game shutout almost every game out.  This is the type of numbers that the Yankees are looking for.  Rather than waiting to what comes in free agency, the Yankees are trying to hedge their bets and make a run now.  Any package for Jimenez will be built around uber-prospect Jesus Montero.  Considering his strong bat, Montero could move from catcher to first base to replace the aging Todd Helton.  The Rockies still have faith in their own young catcher, Chris Iannetta, who has taken longer to develop than expected.  Montero would be great insurance and an almost guaranteed monster bat, in addition to the other prospects that would be headed to Colorado.  A win-win for both teams if it happens, considering the bodies that would be moving as part of the trade.  But still not quite if you consider the value of Jimenez to the Rockies.

Other teams  will sniffing around Jimenez as well.  The Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Angels and Rangers could all be considered in the mix.  Jimenez would not come cheap and if the Rockies are smart, they will auction him off to the highest bidder.  At the end of the day, this is a trade that the Yankees have to make.  With little to no other options on the market, the Yankees have to overpay for Jimenez or risk failing to win a World Series despite the highest payroll in business.  The Yankees lost out twice on Cliff Lee and need to do everything in their power to land an equivalent pitcher to their fold.  While Ricky Romero or Jered Weaver would be nice acquisitions, realistically neither one will be made available by their respective teams.  With Carlos Zambrano overpriced and inconsistent and Johan Santana a question mark for the season, at this point it is Jimenez or bust for the Yankees.

In considering this trade from a Rockies perspective, think how long the organization suffered from a pitching perspective.  Despite always having strong hitting, the Rockies as an organization have been challenged to develop and maintain reliable pitching.  Now that the Rockies have an ace in place, the team should be focusing on building around Jimenez rather than moving him.  If the Rockies build their core of hitters and fail to have a deep and consistent starting rotation, the team will mean little come playoff time.  The team will simply fall back into old habits and fail to adapt to the new Major League Baseball.  With the steroid era past us, baseball is built around pitching and defense now for the most part.  The Rockies, like every other team, needs good young pitching to contend.  Jimenez has the potential to give them a high level of pitching for at least the next five years.  If the Rockies feel they have a chance to contend during that time, they must hold onto him or risk setting themselves back even further.

Knowing that this is a trade that Yankees must make and the Rockies should pass on, the final question is whether this trade will happen.  My heart says no, but my brain says yes.  Despite all the reasons that the Rockies should hold onto Jimenez, it appears in my estimation that the Yankees will make an offer that Colorado cannot refuse.  In fighting for World Series titles in New York, all necessary resources have to be acquired at any cost.  Considering that the Yankees will include Montero and 2-3 more top prospects, the Rockies will have a hard time saying no.  Perhaps the Yankees will include a couple of top pitching prospects in the package that will allow for a smoother transition for Colorado.  But the reality is, that while prospects are intriguing and desirable, they are far from a sure thing.  For every Derek Jeter that is drafted, developed and becomes a future Hall of Fame player, there are 1000’s of Todd Van Poppel clones that come highly touted and burn out just as quick.  Ubaldo Jimenez has the experience and numbers that are proven.  While I am always skeptical of pitching, based on injury risk (see Stephen Strasburg), the potential risk in this case by keeping Jimenez is worth the reward of the potential for future playoffs.  This will be the one case where I advocate that a team hold onto their starting pitcher rather than cash in for prospects.  But it is also the case where there is extreme speculation and rumors and I foresee the trade occurring.  The Yankees are the Yankees for a reason.  They usually get what they want.  They want Ubaldo Jimenez and before July is done, he very well could be in pinstripes.

 

 

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Welcome Back Dontrelle Willis: D-Train Comeback with the Reds

Friday July 15, 2011

  

MLB reports:   The D-Train is back baby.  Kind of.  It’s too early to tell.  Dontrelle Willis burst onto the scene and looked to be a star in the making once upon a time.  After four solid campaigns in Florida, 2007 was seen as an off-year for the ace of the Marlins.  Drafted originally by the Cubs in the 8th round in the 2000 draft, Willis was shifted in a package of players including Julian Tavarez for Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca.  Willis became an instant star in Florida and throughout the MLB community.  He had his own television commercials promoting the sport and was considered one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors.  In his 2003 NL ROY campaign, Willis made the All-Star team and won a World Series.  Not a bad way to start a career.  From there, Willis made his second and last appearance at an All-Star game in 2005 and finished second in the NL CY Young voting for top pitcher.  With such a solid start to his career, few observers blinked when Willis was relatively ineffective in 2007.  However, the misery was the sign of things to come.  The road became bumpy and full of twists and turns that few expected.  From the majors to the minors, back and forth, until few expected to see him back.  Until this past Sunday, July 10th, when Dontrelle Willis returned to the major leagues, this time in a Reds uniform.

Although the blip in 2007 may not have scared off most observers, it was enough to put the Marlins in a tailspin.  On December 5, 2007, the Marlins shipped off their franchise hitter and pitcher in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers, in exchange for prospects Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and four others.  As legend has it, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski approached the Marlins and gave a list of available prospects.  The Marlins made their selections and the trade took no time to put together.  Shortly after, Willis signed a 3-year, $29 million contract and Cabrera signed his monster contract to make him one of the top paid players in the game.  The move of Cabrera was seen at the time as partially motivated by the clearing of Willis’ salary off the Marlins’ books.  Despite off-field incidents involving alcohol related arrests and domestic abuse, Cabrera has been a perennial MVP candidate since joining the Tigers.  Miller and Maybin, the centerpieces of the deal for the Marlins, have not played to expectations and have since moved on to the Red Sox and Padres respectively.   Then there was Willis.  While viewed at the time as giving the Tigers a top-of-the-rotation starter, Willis proved to be anything but.  As the story goes, when Willis came to Detroit, he did not bring his fastball or his control and was run out-of-town in 2010 as a result.

Willis suffered for two and a bit seasons in Detroit, receiving his walking papers officially on May 30, 2010.  During his stay in Detroit, Willis played for three different minor league teams in two years, making it all the way down to A-ball at different points.  While a demotion to A-ball may have benefitted Roy Halladay in his younger years, the same could not be said for Willis.  The jumping started, from the Diamondbacks to the minor league levels pitching for the San Francisco Giants organization.  Then Willis signed with the Reds this past off-season a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.  Despite playing well in spring training, Willis was still sent to pitch in AAA for Louisville to start the 2011 season.

Here are the career numbers of Dontrelle Willis as they stand today:

Year Tm W L ERA G GS IP H BB SO
2003 FLA 14 6 3.30 27 27 160.2 148 58 142
2004 FLA 10 11 4.02 32 32 197.0 210 61 139
2005 FLA 22 10 2.63 34 34 236.1 213 55 170
2006 FLA 12 12 3.87 34 34 223.1 234 83 160
2007 FLA 10 15 5.17 35 35 205.1 241 87 146
2008 DET 0 2 9.38 8 7 24.0 18 35 18
2009 DET 1 4 7.49 7 7 33.2 37 28 17
2010 TOT 2 3 5.62 15 13 65.2 72 56 47
2010 DET 1 2 4.98 9 8 43.1 48 29 33
2010 ARI 1 1 6.85 6 5 22.1 24 27 14
2011 CIN 0 0 3.00 1 1 6.0 4 4 4
9 Seasons 71 63 4.11 193 190 1152.0 1177 467 843
162 Game Avg. 13 11 4.11 34 34 205 209 83 150
                   
FLA (5 yrs) 68 54 3.78 162 162 1022.2 1046 344 757
DET (3 yrs) 2 8 6.86 24 22 101.0 103 92 68
ARI (1 yr) 1 1 6.85 6 5 22.1 24 27 14
CIN (1 yr) 0 0 3.00 1 1 6.0 4 4 4
                   
NL (7 yrs) 69 55 3.84 169 168 1051.0 1074 375 775
AL (3 yrs) 2 8 6.86 24 22 101.0 103 92 68

 

Since leaving Florida, Willis at best has been inconsistent to unusable.  A starting pitchers that cannot consistently throw strikes and get hitters out will not last in the majors.  Dontrelle Willis proved this in 2007, when his shrinking talent led him to a ticket out of Florida as he continued to bounce around, until last week when Willis pitched for the Reds.  Quite a performance for a pitcher not expected to ever pitch again in the minors.  Willis proved last Sunday he was back, if only for one shining moment.

On July 10, 2011, Dontrelle Willis made his first MLB start in over a year against the Milwaukee Brewers.  Willis pitched 6 innings, giving up 2 hits, 4 earned runs and a 4/4 BB/K.  Willis gets his next kick at the can this coming Monday, July 18th vs. the Pirates and James McDonald.  Should be a powerhouse game, keep an eye on it if you can.  This is no surprise, given how well Willis pitched for the Bats this year.  In 13 starts, Willis had a 5-2 record, 2.63 ERA, 67 SO in 75.1 IP and only 20 walks, good for a 1.2o8 WHIP.  Considering that Willis struggled at both the major league and minor league levels from 2008-2010, his strong start in AAA was seen as a possible sign of a comeback.  Now after having his first MLB start under the belt, Willis can go out and simply pitch his game. 

Willis was seen as battling an anxiety disorder during his time in Detroit and many experts were ready to write him off.  Believe it or not, Dontrelle Willis still isn’t even 30 years-old yet, with his birthday coming up on January 12 2012.  He is still young and has the potential inside of him.  Without any major physical injuries or setbacks, Willis still has a good arm and has many innings in him to pitch.  This year, watching Willis in spring training, he looked to have his head back on straight.  He was playing the game the right way.  Strong pitching and timely hitting to boot. But despite his spring success, Reds management decided to send Willis to AAA until his recall last week.  It looks like Willis has undergone a transformation as far as simplifying his delivery and avoiding his non-traditional leg kick.  From the Reds point of view, they may have landed the steal of the year with Willis in their rotation. 

This story till boil down to the confidence and mental health of Dontrelle Willis.  As long as the man can think positive thoughts and do his thing on the mound, good things will happen.   As long as Willis stays healthy, he will succeed provided he keeps his head on straight.  With more and more MLB players admitting  to depression and anxiety disorders, it is clear that today’s game is as much mental as it is physical.  One great thing about sports, especially baseball, is that fans love an underdog that makes a comeback.  For a guy with a ROY, World Series ring and two All-Star appearances, you don’t see many comebacks bigger than that of Dontrelle Willis.  With one start under his belt and another one coming back next Monday, Willis is making baby steps.  Given his age and track record, the potential is there.  Here is hoping that Willis can fulfill it.

 

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

Wednesday July 13, 2011

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

W: T. Clippard

L: C. Wilson

S: B. Wilson

 

National All-Stars

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

National All-Stars

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

American All-Stars

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

American All-Stars

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wednesday July 6, 2011

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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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.

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday June 29th

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

 

Wednesday June 29, 2011

Q:  Money aside, who do you sign Prince or Pujols?  From:  Barry, New York.

MLB reports:    The debate that has been raging from the last off-season continues.  Going into the year, most would have chosen Albert Pujols.  Great track record, monster numbers to the point of being a cut above Prince Fielder.  Now with the Pujols injury and Fielder strong season, many are starting to lean towards Prince.  Regardless of money, if I had a crack at either superstar first baseman, I would go with Pujols.  Despite being older and having to come back from injury, Pujols is still Pujols.  He is this generation’s Babe Ruth in my estimation and at his peak, brings a higher level of play than Fielder.  Both will get their money, no doubt.  Based on historical performances, I expect Pujols to still receive the higher payday unless he cannot return successfully from injuries.  The ironic part is that the Cardinals will most likely retain Pujols, while Fielder will depart Milwaukee as a free agent.  But if I had to choose one, Pujols on my team please. 

 

Q:    Will my Orioles ever contend?  You live in Toronto so you know what I mean.  From:  Gary, Baltimore.

MLB reports:  I hear ya Gary.  I hear the moans and groans throughout the Rogers Centre on many nights about the inability of the Toronto Blue Jays to compete with the money of the Yankees and Red Sox.  But often lost in the discussion is the Tampa Bay Rays.  Last I checked, the Rays have been contenders for some time on a minimal budget.  Yes, your Orioles can compete, even in the AL East.  But the team will need to be built around strong homegrown prospects.  With all the young Orioles players coming up and in place, the future is bright.  Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and company will complement Adam Jones and Nick Markakis well.  Plus you have young pitching coming up in every level.  The future is bright in Baltimore and the team is being built the right way.  Give it time, hope is there. 

 

Q:  When are the All-Star team rosters announced?  I can’t wait!  From Liz, Toronto.

MLB reports:  The All-Star game will be played in Arizona on Tuesday July 12th.  The rosters for the AL and NL squads will be announced on Sunday July 3rd.  Then from July 3-7, fans will be able to vote on-line for the final player for each squad.  Ballots need to be in by tomorrow so make sure to vote for your favorite players soon!  

 

Q:  Are you a Phillies fans?  You talk about the team ALOT on twitter!  From:  Mary, Florida.

MLB reports:  Hi Mary.  Thanks for the question.  I am a baseball fan in general (thus the “MLB reports” name).  As far as favorite teams, as most of the readers know, I tend to lean towards the Tigers.  I also show the Jays love as well.  I talk about the Phillies quite a bit because they are very good.  Look at their record.  From there, I tend to focus on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.  What the two of them could accomplish in the playoffs together is scary.  I have never seen a 1-2 punch at the top of a rotation like this ever.  Halladay may be the best pitcher of our time and Lee is unhittable when he is on.  My heart may not be in Philadelphia, but my respect surely is. 

Q:  How do I join MLB Reports?  I love baseball and writing.  Please help!  From Catherine, Seattle. 

MLB reports:  Thank you for the inquiry Catherine.  We have people contributing to MLB reports in many ways.  We are looking at taking on a couple of Interns.  Click here to learn about the position and to apply.  We also encourage readers to e-mail us about writing guest spots.  As part of the MLB reports mandate, we look to help develop and assist young baseball writers in developing their craft.  You can also “like” us on Facebook and contribute posts/pictures on our wall.   We love our readers to get involved, as the Reports should be for the fans and by the fans.  Let me know and we will get you involved!  If any readers are also interested in applying for the Intern positions or contributing to MLB reports, please see our contact information below.

 

 

Thanks for the e-mails and keep them coming!  mlbreports@gmail.com

E-MAILBAG ARCHIVE:  Click here for the Archives of Ask the 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.

Opening Day 2011: No-Hitter?

MLB reports: With the 2011 MLB season commencing today, I started to think about milestones and achievements.  Recalling Doc’s no-hitter in last year’s playoffs, I started to blend no-hitter and opening day in my mind.  What did I come up with?  The only man to throw a no-hitter on opening day, the one and only Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians.

On April 16, 1940, in the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, Feller and the Indians beat the White Sox by a 1-0 score.  A tight pitchers duel, Feller and Eddie Smith of the Sox were on their games that day.  A cold and blustery day, the hitters could not get their bats going.  But Feller at the tender age of twenty-one made in his mark in history.

Bob Feller went on to throw two more no-hitters in his career, during the 1946 and 1951 seasons.  Just imagine in that perspective what Roy Halladay was able to accomplish in 2010.  Roy threw a perfect game against the Marlins in Miami at the start of the year and then the second no-hitter in post-season history, joining Don Larsen.  A perfect game and no-hitter in the playoffs.  Boggles the mind doesn’t it?  Another entry in the history book is the back-to-back no-hitters thrown by Johnny Vander Meer in 1938 against the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers. It is doubtful that we will ever see that feat again, although I’m sure many pitchers will continue to try.

Halladay broke new ground last year by throwing a no-hitter in the playoffs against the Reds, ensuring that Don Larsen would forever have company in the record books.  Vander Meer’s record is likely to remain intact until the end of time, as the probability of a pitcher in this day and age throwing back-to-back no-hitters is likely nil. Thus the next record to go is the opening day no-hitter.  Feller, who passed away last December at the age of 92 was a great pitcher and one of the best of all time.  Will any pitchers join him this year in the record books?  The story will unfold today and tomorrow.  Although very unlikely, there a couple of pitchers going who have a chance.  The truth is that on any given day, everyone has the chance to be great.  That is part of why we all love baseball so much.  Enjoy opening day and thank you for walking down memory lane with me.  Lets play ball!

 

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