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Giants and Dodgers: Who Will Take the N.L. West Crown?

Thursday August 2nd, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: Now that each team is for the most part set going into the final stretch, the NL West is up for grabs. The Dodgers were the most prominent buyer this year and the Giants didn’t stand idly by. Los Angeles acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brandon League, and the Giants got Hunter Pence. Before any deals were made, I would say the Giants had a better overall team. But after getting some of the best talent that was made available at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers might have grabbed a slight edge. Both teams may still make more moves before the year is done, but at this point the N.L. West race will be coming down to the wire.

The Giants

With arguably the best pitching staff in the whole National League, the Giants have a great advantage in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. This year with Tim Lincecum in a bit of a funk, Matt Cain leads the strong staff including Ryan Vogelsong, Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito. Heading into this season, Barry Zito was the weak link, going 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA in 2010, and 3-4 with a 5.87 ERA in 2011. Zito was left off the playoff roster in the Giants’ World Series-winning season in 2010. This year has been a good one for Zito—he’s 8-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 20 starts. The weak link in the pitching staff this year has been Tim Lincecum. He is 5-11 with a 5.62 ERA, but has shown some signs of coming out of his season-long slump. If he can replicate some of last season or his performance in the 2010 playoffs, the Giants will have no problem making the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry

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2012 Trade Deadline Update #8 7/31: Final Deals: Victorino, Pence, and More

Tuesday July 31st, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  What a busy day! Here are the last of the major deals that led up to the 4:00 p.m. eastern time deadline:

Hunter Pence to the Giants

The Giants and Dodgers are in a tie for first in the NL West as of today. Leading up to the deadline, the Dodgers have acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brandon League. With the Dodgers making such big moves to add to their offensive lineup, the Giants needed to get a big bat. Hunter Pence is the solution the Giants were looking for, hitting .271with 17 homers and 59 RBI. For Pence and cash considerations, the Giants sent outfielder Nate Schierholtz, minor league catcher Tommy Joseph, and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin. This year, Schierholtz hit .257 in 196 plate appearances. Joseph hit .260 in 335 plate appearances in Double-A, and Rosin held a 4.31 ERA in 56.1 innings in Single-A. I love this move for the Giants. Already with Pablo Sandoval (on the DL now but expected back soon), Melky Cabrera, and Buster Posey in the lineup, the Giants look good. Now with Hunter Pence, they will put up some serious competition to the Dodgers for the NL West crown. The Phillies also get some good talent. Nate Schierholtz never really made it with the Giants, so hopefully he will get a fresh start in Philadephia. Tommy Joseph also was a highly regarded prospect in the Giants organization, and he looks like he will be the catcher of the future. Read the rest of this entry

The Cardinals Are Going to the World Series

Monday October 17, 2011

 

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

 

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

 

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

 

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

Saturday October 15, 2011

 

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

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Five

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

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

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

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

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

Friday October 14, 2011

 

 

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

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Five

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

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

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Four

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

 

MLB Notes:

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

 

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

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

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

 

Thursday October 13, 2011

 

 

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

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Four

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

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

 

 Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Three

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

 

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

Sunday October 9, 2011

 

 

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

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers: ALCS Game One

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

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

 Preview of Sunday October 9th:

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

 

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

Saturday October 8, 2011

 

 

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

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Five

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

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

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Five

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

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

 

 

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

Friday October 7, 2011

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

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Five

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

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

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

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

 

Robin Ventura Named Chicago White Sox Manager

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

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

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

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap of Wednesday October 5th

Thursday October 6, 2011

 

 

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

Philadelphia Phillies at St.Louis Cardinals: NLDS Game Four

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

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

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

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

Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks: NLDS Game Four

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

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

 

 

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

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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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Summary of all Trades- 2011 MLB Trade Deadline Report and Analysis

Monday August 1, 2011

 

 

MLB  reports:  Another hectic MLB trade deadline is in the books.  This year’s trade market was just as much about the trades that were not made as the ones that were.  For all the speculation leading up to the deadline, star players like James Shields, B.J. Upton, Heath Bell and Carlos Quentin stay put.  The trades that did go down included Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Adams, Doug Fister, Colby Rasmus and much more.  Here is a rundown of all the trades that took place in Major League Baseball as part of the non-waiver MLB Trade Deadline, which was 4:00p.m. on Sunday July 31st:

 

Michael Bourn and cash (Astros) for Jordan Schaefer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu (Braves):  The Braves get a solid leadoff hitter, center fielder and base stealer from the Astros for four average prospects.  Without having to give up any of their top prospects and filled a huge hole in their lineup and outfield, top marks goes to the Braves.

 

Hunter Pence and cash (Astros) for Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later (Phillies):  A win for the Phillies, as they get one of the top outfield bats in the game in Pence, who remains under team control going into next year.  I like the return of Singleton, one of the top hitting prospects in the minors.  But still, the Astros should have received a higher return for Pence who was the face of their franchise.  A win for both squads but give the edge to the Phillies.

 

Mike Adams (Padres) for Joseph Wieland and Robert Erlin (Rangers):  A win for both sides.  The Rangers get one of the top relievers in baseball (Adams), who remains under team control after the season.  For a team that is a World Series contender, Adams and Uehara give the Rangers a suddenly formidable pen.  Wieland and Erlin were two top pitching prospects in the Rangers system and give the Padres much more depth.  For a team that acquired what it needed most without giving up any of its top prospects, the Rangers can chalk this trade up to a huge win.  The Padres did not do badly either, as Adams was a luxury they did not require and the Padres farm system all of a sudden became much stronger.

 

Brad Ziegler (A’s) for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto (Diamondbacks):  A deal that works for both teams.  Ziegler is a useful reliever that strengthens the Dbacks pen in a push for the NL West crown.  Allen is a highly considered first base prospect who should slot well in Oakland plus Noberto is another arm in the A’s organization.  It is too bad for the A’s that the Lars Anderson plus prospect for Rich Harden deal fell through with Boston, but Allen is a good runner-up prize.

 

Erik Bedard and Josh Fields (Mariners) for Trayvon Robinson (Dodgers) and Chih-Hsien Chiang, Tim Federowicz, Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife  (Red Sox):    Red Sox get Bedard and Fields (the reliever, not third baseman currently in Japan, Mariners get Robinson and Chiang, while Dodgers get Federowicz, Rodriguez and Fife.  Confused?  Good.  This was one of those three-way deals that when all is said and done, you are left scratching your head.  The key to this deal is Erik Bedard for the Red Sox.  If he stays healthy, and that is a big if, the Red Sox might have a valuable addition to their starting rotation.  Fields should also slot in well in the Red Sox pen.  Both Robinson and Chiang are considered to be good prospects and should have a very good chance at cracking the Mariners’ outfield.  The trade of Robinson came as somewhat of a surprise and the Dodgers have received a great deal of negative press on the deal.  The team however was looking for a prospect catcher and believe they have found it in Federowicz and the additional parts in Rodriguez and Fife.  The Mariners are the big winners in this deal, while the Red Sox play with fire and the Dodgers likely just got burnt.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mike Cameron (Red Sox) for player to be named later or cash (Marlins):  Cameron was not hitting in Boston but could be a valuable veteran presence in Florida.  I like this move for the Marlins as Cameron is solid player and person, perfect for their clubhouse.

 

Felipe Lopez (Rays) for cash (Brewers):  Lopez still has pop in his bat and could be useful for a playoff push.  There was no room for the Rays on their roster and they will happily take the financial relief.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Wil Nieves (Brewers) for cash (Braves):  Yawn.  An average catcher for cash.

 

Francisco Rodriguez and cash (Mets) for two players to be named later (Brewers):  A good trade for both teams.  The Brewers strengthen their pen with the addition of K-Rod, who could close or set up for the team and is a free agent at season’s end.  The Mets get salary relief and likely two decent prospects back.

 

Colby Rasmus, P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet (Cardinals) for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen (White Sox) for Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson and Zach Stewart, three players to be named later or cash (Jays):  The good news with this trade is that I will not have to struggle to spell Rzepczynski anymore.  But in all seriousness, this was the first three-way deal of the deadline and probably the most interesting trade that went down.  The White Sox shed the contract of Teahen (to the Jays) and acquire Frasor and Stewart.  The Cardinals get Jackson for their rotation and Dotel/Rzepczynski for their bullpen, as well as three more PTBNL or cash from the Jays.  The Jays get the biggest prize, Rasmus to play center and bat second, as well as Miller, Tallet and Walters for their pen.  The Jays in our opinion win out, as they get a rare top prospect bat and only give up three middle relievers.  The White Sox did well in getting salary relief, a prospect arm in Stewart and a useful bullpen arm in Frasor.  The question marks surround the Cardinals, who give up the top player in the trade and might get left with very little more than adqueate playoff rentals as both Jackson and Dotel might not be with the team in 2012.

 

Nick Green and cash (Orioles) for Zach Phillips (Rangers):  Marginal reliever for marginal shortstop.  A push.

 

Ryan Langerhans (Mariners) for cash (Diamondbacks):  A depth player at best, the Diamondbacks hope to get one or two big hits out of Langerhans in the push for a playoff berth.  It looks like this was the best the Mariners could do in dumping another salary.

 

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

 

Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) for Alex Castellanos and cash (Cardinals):  With Dee Gordon in the minors and money woes being an issue, this trade for the Dodgers is about getting younger and saving money in the process.  The Cardinals are pushing for a playoff spot and if healthy, Furcal should give the team a spark offensively.  Personally, I would not trust Furcal based on his injury history.  The Dodgers get back a marginal prospect in this swap.   The fact that the Dodgers unloaded Furcal and got the Cardinals to pick up a large portion of his contract, I will label this trade a Dodgers win.

 

Juan Rivera (Jays) for player to be named later or cash (Dodgers):  Considering the Dodgers just released Marcus Thames, I am not sure why they chose to acquire Rivera.  They are very similar players, although I would give the edge to Thames for his better defense.  A win for the Jays, dumping a player that had no role on their team and was not hitting very much.

 

Jonny Gomes  and cash (Reds) for Bill Rhinehart and Christopher Manno (Nationals):  Gomes should be a good bat for the Nationals but with the team out of the playoff picture, it is a little curious why the team would give up prospects at this point.  Reds get the advantage as there was no room in their outfield for Gomes, they acquire two prospects and open up space for Yonder Alonso to play everyday.

 

Carlos Beltran (Mets) for Zack Wheeler (Giants):  One of the best trades of the year that will benefit both teams.  The Giants get the top bat they so badly needed after Buster Posey went down.  Together with salary relief (the Mets will kick in about $4 million), the Mets get one of the top pitching prospects in the game.   The Giants had to go for it and could not afford to waste their top pitching rotation without providing offense.  With Beltran an impeding free agent, the Mets strengthen their rotation for years to come.

 

Jeff Keppinger (Astros) for Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel (Giants):  The Giants get more bench depth for the playoffs and the Astros get back decent prospects.  Another boring but necessary trade for both.  Consider a draw.

 

Ryan Ludwick (Padres) for a player to be named later (Pirates):  The Pirates are looking to make a strong playoff run and former Indian Luckwick would fit well in their offense this year.  It remains to be seen what the Pirates have to give up, but for a player in as strong demand as Ludwick, as long as it is not too much, give the edge to the Pirates.  This one will hinge on the quality of the prospect going to the Padres.

 

Kosuke Fukudome and $3.9 million (Cubs) for Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith (Indians):  This trade is all about the Indians going for it in a year when the AL Central is ripe for the taking.  Fukudome, largely considered a disappointment in Chicago, is sent with cash to the Indians for their stretch run.  Good to get on base with the occasional pop, the hope is that the change of scenery will do Fukudome good.  The prospects the Cubs received back are marginal at best, as this trade was mostly about a salary dump.  Credit to Chicago for ridding itself of one its huge mistake contracts, with more such contracts to go.  The Indians hope they catch lightening in a bottle, but likely will get only decent production out of their latest Japanese import.

 

Wilson Betemit (Royals) for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez (Tigers):  The first trade in the deadline dealings, the Tigers upgrade their third base situation over Brandon Inge.  The Royals shed a contract and get two decent prospects.  We will call this one a draw.

 

 

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Hunter Pence to the Phillies: Breaking Down the Trade

Friday July 29, 2011

 

MLB reports:  The past week in Houston has seen Hunter Pence rumors flying fast and furious.  Analysts pegged Pence to be headed to many destinations, ranging from Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  As early as this morning it appeared that there was maybe a 30% chance of the Astros getting a deal done.  The Phillies were seen as the favorites, having offered a package of prospects to the Astros including Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart.  With the Phillies offer being rejected, word had Philadelphia out of the Pence sweepstakes.  With Domonic Brown apparently sought by the Astros, it was unclear if a fit existed between the teams to get a deal done.  With the Braves apparently unwilling to trade any of their top pitching prospects, including Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, there appeared to be a good chance that Hunter Pence would stay in Houston as the face of the franchise.  That all changed this evening and as the news continued to spread quickly, Hunter Pence as of this evening is officially a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.  The cost?  Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later.  The Phillies also get $1 million from the Astros to cover salary.

 

What the Phillies Receive:

Along with the $1 million as mentioned, the Phillies get Hunter Pence, one of the brightest young outfielders in the game.  The 28-year old Pence was a 2nd round pick of the Astros in 2004.  Pence made his MLB debut in 2007 and has been a consistent performer for the Astros ever since, with exactly 25 home runs per year from 2008-2010.  The right-handed outfielder finished third in NL ROY voting in 2007 and was an All-Star in 2009 and this past season.  Although his home run totals are down this year, Pence has displayed some of his strongest numbers this season.  Along with his .309 AVG, Pence has a .828 OPS.  The Phillies in need of a right-handed bat in their lineup jumped on Pence when given the chance.

The Phillies at 66-39 currently have the best record in baseball.  With the Braves 5.0 GB, the Phillies could not afford to let a division crown slip through their fingers.  With one of the deepest and best rotations in baseball history, Philadelphia is in win-now mode and anything less than a World Series championship will be considered a failure.  With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt starting for the team, the Phillies definitely look and feel like a strong contender.  From there, the team has its offense paced by Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  With Hunter Pence on board, the Phillies all of a sudden have a more balanced offense and become that much more dangerous.  The outfield with Pence has become a little crowded, with Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco, Ross Gload and John Mayberry.  But too much talent can be a good problem to have and the Phillies have made themselves into a stronger contender by acquiring Hunter Pence.  In the Phillies lineup and ballpark, the sky is the limit as far as the numbers Pence can reach.  He is also under team control for two more seasons as an added bonus for a team that is trying to maintain continuity in contending for years to come in the NL East.

 

What the Astros Receive:

I was calling Jonathan Singleton “Ryan Howard Jr.” during his time in the Phillies organization.  Watching him play, Singleton has one of the sweetest strokes in the minors and has the potential to be a big time masher when finally getting the call to play in the bigs.  The 19-year old Singleton was an 8th round pick of the Phillies back in the 2009 draft.  That is what you call great scouting.  Considered one of the best, if not the best prospect bat in the Phillies organization, Singleton was drafted as a first baseman but later moved to the outfield with Howard standing in his way.  With the Astros playing Brett Wallace at first, its likely Singleton’s stay in the outfield is a permanent one.  Playing in high A ball this season, Singleton was showing that his game was taking time to develop.  Singleton at the time of the trade was hitting .282 with an outstanding .386 OPS.  While the power numbers are down, with 11 home runs and .411 SLG, it is key to remember that Singleton is young and will take time to develop as a hitter.  The Phillies were very happy with him in their system and the Astros had to work diligently to get the Phillies to part with him.  The Astros farm system instantly shot up with the acquisition of Singleton.  Combined with Wallace he should pace the Astros offense for years once he gets the call one day.

Jarred Cosart is a 21-year old pitcher who is also playing high A-ball in the Phillies organization.  Another draft steal, Cosart was drafted all the way in the 38th round in 2008.  Cosart so far in his career has pitched fairly well, with a lifetime 3.67 ERA and 1.159 WHIP.  Standing 6’3″, the right-handed Cosart was highly considered as well in the Phillies organization.  With the Astros sitting at 35-71, by far the worst record in baseball and new ownership coming in, the Astros had no choice but to continue to tear down their team and start over.  With Hunter Pence far and away their most desired and sought after bargaining chip, the Astros had no choice but to move him and continue to stock their farm.

In addition to a player to be named later, the Astros also received today Josh Zeid, a 6’5″ right-handed pitcher who has started and worked out of the pen throughout his Phillies minor league career.  A 10th round pick in the 2009 draft, Zeid is again a late round gem discovered by the Phillies’ incredible scouting staff.  The 24-year old Zeid excelled in his first two seasons but hit a road bump this year in AA.  With a 5.65 ERA and 1.414 WHIP, Zeid had a down year in 2011 and clearly has ways to go before coming to the majors.  But for a pitching staff in need of pitching depth, Zeid becomes another arm in Houston.

 

Verdict:

If we go on the measure that the team with the best player wins the trade, we have to give this one to the Phillies.  They received Hunter Pence, an All-Star outfielder in the prime of his career, under control for two more seasons.  In return, the Phillies gave up three players that were all late round picks for the team and a player to be named later.  Jonathan Singleton will be a star in my mind one day, no question.  But he is still a very young player playing in the lower ranks of the minor leagues and has a long way to go before coming to the majors.  That is the funny thing about prospects: their future can seem so bright, but between injuries, confidence and the ability they display by their play, it is quite often a gamble.  The Astros do well in this trade if Singleton becomes a number or three or four hitter in the majors and turns into the home run hitter that he is projected to be.  Cosart and Zeid are arms that may turn out to be great or average.  The Astros may get two additions to their rotation one day, or perhaps just two more middle relief arms in their pen.  As difficult as it is to project prospects, pitchers are the toughest of the bunch as they are more likely to face injuries and wear and tear on their arms compared to any other position players.

For a team in the basement of major league baseball, the Houston Astros needed to rebuild.  But to trade the last star player on their team for one solid prospect and two uncertain arms was not necessarily the route I would have taken.  But this trade was as much financially driven as it was about talent.  The Astros are about to be sold and the new owner already ordered a massive payroll cut.  With Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez still on the team, the Astros most tradeable player was Hunter Pence.  Considering that the Blue Jays got Colby Rasmus for three middle relief arms essentially, the Astros went young and with more upside in this trade.  Personally, I think very highly of Singleton having watched him play in the past.  As one of the best young hitters in the minors, the Astros got themselves likely a future superstar.  But the key word is likely.  For what the Astros received back in potential, they gave up in certainty.  Hunter Pence is a current star player that will fit immediately in the Phillies lineup with no cost off the team’s major league or AAA rosters.  Until one or more of the prospects the Phillies receive produce at the major league level, which could be years away, the winner of this trade is the Philadelphia Phillies.  Our preseason pick to win the World Series just got that much stronger.  The rest of baseball has taken notice and competing teams will need to beef up their rosters over the next two days if they hope to have a shot of catching the Phillies in the postseason.

 

 

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James Shields to the Reds for Alonso and Grandal: July 31st MLB Trade Deadline Rumor

Saturday July 23, 2011

MLB reports:   We are now only eight days away from the MLB non-waiver trade deadline and the rumors continue to fly fast and furious.  Along with the Carlos Beltran and Heath Bell sweepstakes, the names Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Willingham, Brandon League, Hunter Pence and Hiroki Kuroda have been tossed around as possible candidates to be moved next week.  Another big time name has recently been thrown into the mix that we will be looking at today.  James Shields, “big game James”, one of the top starting pitchers on the Tampa Bay Rays may very well be playing for a new team very soon.  The Cincinnati Reds are apparently calling and with big prospect bats sitting on the farm, the Reds may very well have the necessary bait to haul in one of the biggest fishes on the trade market.

The 29-year old James Shields was drafted by the Rays in the 16th round of the 2000 MLB draft.  Shields made his major league debut in 2006.  Here is a quick rundown of his lifetime statistics:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 6 8 4.84 124.2 141 38 104 1.436
2007 12 8 3.85 215.0 202 36 184 1.107
2008 14 8 3.56 215.0 208 40 160 1.153
2009 11 12 4.14 219.2 239 52 167 1.325
2010 13 15 5.18 203.1 246 51 187 1.461
2011 9 8 2.53 156.1 118 40 151 1.011
6 Seasons 65 59 4.02 1134.0 1154 257 953 1.244
162 Game Avg. 13 12 4.02 224 227 51 188 1.244

 

A definite innings-eater, James pitched almost 1000 innings over his first five seasons, making him one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers in the game.  A lack of run support has definitely hurt Shields over the years, as he had the numbers to obtain more wins had the Rays offense been able to support him better.  I have watched too many instances of Shields pitching complete or near complete game losses, despite only giving up 2-3 runs per game.  2009 and 2010 were not kind to James in some ways, as some analysts viewed Shields as having hit his peak and starting to decline.  Going into 2011, nobody knew what James Shields the Rays would be getting.  The steady ace that the team enjoyed for the majority of his career or the 2010 inconsistent version.  Looking at Shields at the halfway mark of the season, he is enjoying by far his greatest season in the majors.  A sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.011 WHIP, Shields has been everything that the Rays could have expected more.  But with success comes many questions, with the most pertinent being what the Rays should do with James.

The whispers and talk has been growing by the day that the Rays may be looking to move Shields by July 31st.  The Reds have been the team most linked to the Rays, given their desire to bolster their rotation and the deep farm of prospects they can offer the Rays.  The Reds are sitting on some of the top prospects in the game that are currently blocked at the major league level.  Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF is considered one of the best hitters not at the major league level.  Alonso would represent the centerpiece of a potential Shields deal.  Born in Cuba and having attended the University of Miami, Alonso is often compared to his friend Alex Rodriguez, based on his combination of power and patience at the plate.  Not bad company at all.  The 24-year old Alonso was drafted 7th overall in the 2008 draft by the Reds and has quickly advanced in their system.   Currently in AAA, Alonso sits at a .297 AVG, .871 OPS, with 12 home runs and 46/59 BB/K.  The Rays, desperately in need of bats, currently have Casey Kotchman manning first.  Alonso would be a perfect fit in taking over the first base job for the next decade.  He is a special hitter that does not come along very often.  While a pitcher of Shields stature is not easy to replace, the Rays would be filling a huge void in their lineup by adding Alonso.  Dealing from strength to fill a need is smart baseball management and the reason why we are discussing the trade of Shields today.

In addition to acquiring Yonder Alonso, the Rays would be adding a number one catcher to their system in either Yasmani Grandal or Devin Mesoraco.  I have seen both names thrown around, but my gut is that the Rays will end up receiving Grandal.  Mesoraco was featured by us back in June.  The likely Reds catcher of the future, Mesoraco is expected to get the call either this year or next at the latest to replace incumbent Ramon Hernandez.  With a solid backup in Ryan Hanigan, the Reds have an abundance of catchers, a strength considering that few major league teams have potential superstar backstops playing in their lower levels.  The 22-year old Grandal was born in Cuba and played in Miami, similar to Alonso.  Drafted 12th overall in the 2010 MLB draft, Grandal recently got the call to AA.  Mesoraco on the other hand, is 23-years of age and was drafted 15th overall by the Reds in the 2007 MLB draft.  Mesoraco is back for his second tour of duty in AAA, hitting a solid .309 and .895 OPS, with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs.  After battling injuries in his career, Mesoraco hit a combined 26 home runs over 3 levels last season and has not slowed down since.  The Rays would be thrilled to receive Mesoraco in a Shields trade, but Grandal is considered by many to actually be the more talented backstop.  A win-win either way for Tampa Bay.

But why trade Shields and especially, why now?  Many Rays fans are asking themselves those questions right now.  On the surface, Shields and the Rays look like a perfect fit.  He is young and still in the prime of his career.  Shields has proven to be healthy and durable since joining the Rays.  He is signed through this year, with team friendly options through 2014 at $7, $9 and $12 million per year respectively from 2012-14.  In baseball they say you can never have too much pitching.  If that is the case, then some feel the Rays should consider stockpiling their pitchers and building their team from strength.  But that is a narrow view of major league teams and how they operate.  Let’s take a look at our five top reasons for the Rays to trade James Shields right now:

1)  Sell at the Peak

You never know what the future will bring, so sometimes it is important to live in the moment.  Shields, while a steady and consistent pitcher, is currently pitching at the highest level of his career.  The Rays will need to determine if he has truly broken out or merely playing above his head.  The value for Shields may never get higher than it is today.  As well, teams contending for the playoffs may be willing to pay more at the deadline than the offseason for Shields.  The Rays, if feeling especially lucky, could request the addition of either Mike Leake or Travis Wood to the trade mix from the Reds.

2)  Numbers Game:  Rotation Log Jam

The Rays have been known for acquiring, developing and stockpiling pitchers in their system.  This past offseason was no different, as the Rays traded away top starter Matt Garza to the Cubs for a package of prospects, including Christopher Archer and Sam Fuld.  With Jeremy Hellickson ready, willing and able to join the big club, the Rays needed to clear room for their next future star pitcher.  Hellickson, combined with David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann form a formidable one through four punch in the rotation.  Based on their age and salaries, none of these starters will likely be going anywhere soon.  While Alex Cobb has been brought in for temporary measure to the majors, Matt Moore just got the call to join AAA Durham in anticipation of joining the Rays rotation soon.  Moore, one of the top-five pitching prospects in baseball, will not likely be kept on the farm too long given his dominance over minor league hitters to-date.  That is how the baseball system works.  Prospects are developed and either traded for veterans or take over for departed veterans from major league teams.  As the Rays have no intention of trading Moore, a spot will have to open up for him.  Unfortunately for James Shields, he is the veteran most likely to go.  From there, it will only be a matter of time before Archer is ready to join the big club and the cycle will continue.

3)  Dollars and Cents

It is no secret that the Rays are on a very tight budget.  Low attendance figures, despite continued recent major league success including a World Series appearance in 2008, has meant that the Rays cannot afford to hang onto high priced veterans.  Shown the door in recent years were Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano, among others for financial considerations.  While James may have what is considered a team friendly contract, paying him close to $10 million or so per year for each of the next three seasons does not work for the Rays budget.  Moore, combined with Alonso and Grandal, would fill three positions for the Rays at a combined salary that will be a fraction of what Shields makes.  In other words, Shields is a luxury that the Rays cannot afford and can fill quite adequately within at a cheaper cost.  While we do not like to think about the economics of the game, it can drive roster decisions on the same level as talent and ability.

4)  Innings- Wear and Tear

James Shields is starting to enter a zone that many MLB teams dread.  The 200-innings per season for over five seasons club.  While an informal group, there has been much talk in baseball circles that most pitchers after their first 1000 innings pitched have a high risk of injuries and decline.  Pitchers like Brandon Webb and to a lesser extent Ben Sheets, are shown as examples of modern pitchers that have arm/shoulder problems after pitching many major league innings over a span of 5+ years.  While Shields has not shown any risks yet of developing injuries, his numbers going into this season were of concern for the Rays.  So while Shields is having a Cy Young caliber season, the Rays may be fearful that he will be susceptible to injuries or declining performance very soon.

5)  Pitchers Need Run Support

In the same way a fast car needs a powerful engine and reliable tires, a major league team needs both offense and strong pitching.  The current build of the Rays is starting to mirror the San Francisco Giants.  Great young pitching but not enough hitting.  The Rays can stockpile as much pitching as they like, but if they cannot score runs they will have a difficult time making the playoffs, let alone win a World Series title.  Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal are two superstar bats in the making that the Rays desperately need and do not have in their own system.  The expression goes that teams “develop pitching and buy bats.”  In this case, the Rays will be taking to buying the bats that they themselves cannot produce.  With a starting lineup of nine hitters, that Rays will be instantly filling over 20% of their lineup by way of this trade.  The hit the rotation by losing Shields would be absorbed by the addition of Matt Moore to the major league club.  But the boost to the team’s offense as a result of the addition of Alonso and Grandal is invaluable.

Verdict:  The bottom line is that the Tampa Bay Rays are in a quandary.  James Shields is the heart and soul of their pitching staff, the go-to guy who has earned his nickname of “big game.”  But as the most expensive starter on the staff, with the team’s top prospect almost ready to receive the call to the show and the team desperately needing good young hitting, the Rays have no choice but to consider moving Shields at the trade deadline.  As the team is still in contention, management will have to be careful of not sending a message that they are throwing in the towel on the season.  But to get the biggest reward, the team will have to pay a big price.  It will be difficult in the short-term to accept the trade of James Shields from Tampa Bay.  But considering the hitting that the Reds would be sending to the Rays, this is a deal that the Rays cannot afford to miss out on.  Keep an eye on Tampa Bay as the team will continue to improve, get younger at a competitive payroll come deadline day and still remain in contention.  If this is truly James Shield’s last week in a Rays uniform, please be sure to catch his last start live or on television from Oakland this coming Wednesday July 27th.  With Desmond Jennings and Dane De La Rosa just recalled by the Rays from AAA, the cycle of player and prospect replenishment has already begun again in Tampa Bay.

 

 

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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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