September 2011

2011 MLB Awards

The First Annual Baseball Haven “I’m Always Right Before the Media Figures It Out” Awards are officially ready, just one day after the season.  These guys may not win the awards below, but they certainly SHOULD.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers

.344/.448/.586, 111 R, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 89/108 K/BB

Cabrera may not win because his votes may be split with Justin Verlander, but he is the reason why the Tigers won the other 71 games that Verlander didn’t win.  His production has been elite for a number of years and he is still just 28 and in his prime.  Jose Bautista could win this based on production, but his team fell so short of the playoffs and they weren’t ARod in 2003-level, but Cabrera should be the choice.

NL MVP: Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers

.332/.397/.597, 109 R, 38 2B, 6 3B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, 93/58 K/BB

Braun and the Brewers powered their way to a 56-24 home record on their way to a 96-66 overall record.  Along with Prince Fielder, Braun destroyed the opposition, flashing power, speed and an amazing all-around game, including gold glove calibur defense.  While some will want to toss this award to Matt Kemp, who, like Jose Bautista, posted amazing numbers on a bad team, Braun’s overall dominance in 2011 can’t go unnoticed.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers

24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 251 IP, 250/57 K/BB, .192 BAA

Like it would be anyone else?  Verlander won the AL Triple Crown for pitching, he led his team to the AL Central title, and he will garner MVP votes.  Lock it down.  This guy is going to be doing this for the next six years or so, get used to it.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers

21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 233 1/3 IP, 248/54 K/BB, .207 BAA

Kershaw won the NL Triple Crown, even while tying for the NL lead in wins with Ian Kennedy.  He took major strides this season in becoming a year in and year out Cy Young candidate.  The fact that he is just 23 years-old is absolutely nuts.  If the Dodgers get a clue in ownership, they have their staff anchor for a building block.

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Rays

91-71, AL Wild Card winner

The Boston collapse helped but getting a team who lost, quite possibly, the greatest player in franchise history and still compete and make the playoffs while spending less than $50 million on payroll is worth something.  Maddon and his sweet glasses have worked miracles in Tampa.  Too bad he can’t do anything about the fanbase and stadium.

NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks

94-68, NL West Division winner

Gibson’s first full season as manager couldn’t have gone much better.  He has put together a staff of former players, including: Don Baylor, Alan Trammell, Charles Nagy, Matt Williams, and Eric Young.  This group has a young core of talent in the rotation and on the diamond.  In a division where teams continue to fall off after winning, it’ll be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks hold steady atop the division next year.  Justin Upton and Paul Goldschmidt will help quite a bit.

AL Rookie of the Year: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals

.293/.334/.465, 27 2B, 3 3B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB, 82/34 K/BB

Just 21-years-old, Hosmer established himself as a potential superstar in his first go-round in the bigs.  He will lose votes to a strong AL class, which includes Jeremy Hellickson and Michael Pineda, but Hosmer showed Ryan Braun-like production at a young age.  His ceiling rivals a cathedral right now.

NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Braves

4-3, 2.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 77 IP, 127/32 K/BB, 46 saves

Take a 23-year-old, put him in the closers role, your team wins 89 games and falls just one win short of the playoffs due to a huge collapse…it doesn’t make the numbers that Kimbrel put up any less dominant.  His 15.4 K/9 IP over his first 100 appearances is absolutely sick.  He and Neftali Feliz, if he stays a closer, could be the next 600 save closers.  They have amazing stuff and, if they stay healthy, are dominant enough to reach that level.

MLB Comeback Player of the Year: Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, Cardinals

2010: .248/.368/.413, 23 2B, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 85/77 K/BB

2011: .301/.412/.547, 23 2B, 31 HR, 91 RBI, 93/92 K/BB

The Astros were pissed off about Berkman’s conditioning and he showed up this season in shape.  They may want some of their money back $14.5 million salary back after he showed up as the old Berkman this season.  Having Pujols behind you is nice, but don’t we all have a Pujols behind us?  Berkman took advantage of it to the tune of a $12 million salary for 2012.  A nice revival for someone who looked dead at times in 2010.  Nice job “Big Puma.”

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New York Cheap Shots

Starting Eduardo Nunez, Brandon Laird and Dellin Betances against the David Price led Rays as they battle for their playoff lives is one thing, but taking Jose Reyes out of, what could be, his last game as a Met to help him win a batting title, that’s another.  New York had some interesting approaches to the game of baseball today, a game that is so honorably held by some as a gentleman’s game.  As the Baseball Writer’s Association sinks their feet into the “holier-than-thou” approach to the Steroid Era and the likes of Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire, you probably won’t see a whole lot of outrage over these moves today.

Certainly, Boston fans are questioning the so-called effort that the Yankees are making, but what about the Mets move to Ryan Braun?  Braun has played all season, not taking a couple of stops on the Disabled List like Jose Reyes always seems to do.  Braun’s possible percentage point shortage to Reyes is disgusting, especially when you see that Braun had 625 plate appearances to Reyes’ 585.  Braun’s overall production had him in the top of the National League in average (2nd, .335), homers (6th, 33) and RBI (4th, 111).  Now, Reyes, who was pulled from the game after getting a hit in his first at bat (ya gotta pad those stats, right?) is the front-runner for the title.

As a fan of baseball, I enjoy the Rays run to the Wild Card.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the small market beat out Boston, but baseball and ESPN would hate that, as would the ratings.  New York and the other major markets suck the life out of fans in Tampa, Kansas City, and Oakland with their spending, but they shouldn’t suck the life out of the game.  Minor injuries aside, the Yankees should be doing everything they could to knock the Rays out of the playoffs.  They should WANT Boston in the playoffs after they have been choking themselves for the entire month and will be entering the playoffs with no pulse.  You want to get at the Red Sox fan base?  Let them into the playoffs to get swept!  You don’t want any part of a hot Tampa team in the playoffs.  The same goes for Reyes.  It will be interesting if Braun goes 3 for 4 tonight and wins the batting title all because Reyes and the Mets didn’t pad the stats enough.  Cheap ways to end the season.  Cheap shots to the gentleman’s game.  We’ll see if anyone has the balls to rip New York apart on the major networks, though.  It wouldn’t be good for ratings.

Trading Spaces

Getting ready for the ladies of Miami

Ozzie Guillen was traded from the Chicago White Sox today to the Florida Marlins for SS Osvaldo Martinez and RHP Jhan Martinez.  Trading managers is a rarity in sports, as reported here by ESPN: http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=7026341 :

MLB:
• After the 2002 season, the Mariners allowed Lou Piniella to become manager of the Devil Rays. In return, they got outfielder Randy Winn from Tampa Bay.

• Prior to the 1977 season, the Athletics permitted Chuck Tanner to become manager of the Pirates, in return for catcher Manny Sanguillen.

• In 1960, Joe Gordon was the manager for the Indians and was traded to the Tigers for their manager, Jimmy Dykes.

NFL:
• After the 2001 season, the Raiders allowed head coach Jon Gruden to sign with the Buccaneers in exchange for first- and second-round draft picks in ’02, a first-round pick in ’03 and a second-round pick in ’04, plus cash.

• A day after Bill Belichick was hired to replace Bill Parcells as head coach of the Jets in January 2000, Belichick quit. Later that month, the Patriots signed Belichick to a five-year deal as their head coach, but they gave the Jets their first-round draft pick in 2000, a fourth-rounder in ’01 and seventh-rounder in ’02. The Jets gave the Patriots a fifth-rounder in ’01 and a seventh-rounder in ’02.

• In February 1997, the Jets tried to hire Parcells as head coach, but the Patriots wouldn’t let him out of the last year of his deal with New England. The Jets tried to name Belichick, then a Parcells assistant, as head coach and Parcells as a consultant (the Jets were going to give up two first-round picks in ’97 for Parcells), but commissioner Paul Tagliabue rejected the deal. Six days later, the teams came to an agreement making Parcells head coach of the Jets (with Belichick as an assistant). The Patriots received the Jets’ third- and fourth-round picks in ’97, a second-round pick in ’98 and a first-round pick in ’99. The Jets also contributed $300,000 to a Patriots charity.

NBA:
• In June 2007, the Heat allowed Stan Van Gundy to leave the team and become head coach of the Magic in exchange for a second-round draft pick in ’07 and another second-round pick in ’08.

 

Sometimes these things work.  Piniella couldn’t work miracles for the Rays but he was closer to home before going to the Cubs.  It worked out nicely in the world of football, as Gruden and Belichick won championships with the Bucs and Patriots, the Patriots becoming a dynasty under Belichick’s watch.  We’ll see what happens with Guillen in Miami.  His personality and Latino nationality allow him to “attach to the public” there, but he still doesn’t have much to work with, and no one knows if fans will show up, even if there is a new stadium.

 

Wild, Wild Card Races

Boston is currently up 7-4 in the 7th against Baltimore.  Tampa is up 5-3 in the 8th.  They were tied heading into tonight’s games.  Atlanta was up by one game and they were losing 7-0 in the 9th, while the Cardinals were back just one game and were tied with baseball’s worst, Houston, 5-5 in the 4th.  It has truly been a crazy season and September has been nothing short of exciting for baseball fans.

The Boston collapse will rival those of the Mets under Willie Randolph, as their 6-19 record, along with the Rays 15-10 record, in September has allowed for the most excitement.  As usual, the fact that the Red Sox are in the larger market and have the “Red Sox Nation,” that race has been getting the higher amount of attention, but Atlanta’s collapse is also pretty impressive, if not unimpressive.

Atlanta is also 9-16 this month while the Cardinals are 16-8, playing the best baseball that they have all season.  Baseball should love to have the chaos that Tony LaRussa and his complaining crew could bring to the TV ratings, it would give most people outside of St. Louis a team to loathe during the month of October.  Atlanta’s slide is due to their sudden youth movement and struggles with injuries, including to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson in the rotation.  Chipper Jones right knee has been irritating him all season, but probably not as much as Jason Heyward has irritated those who thought he was the next superstar.  Atlanta would be making their 2nd playoff appearance in 6 seasons after making it 14 of the previous 15 years.  Their fans can’t really complain if they don’t make it based on their previous success…BUT…LaRussa is awful to watch and listen to complain and moan.  More than an ex-spouse, teenager or anyone else in the world.

2011 All-Suck Team

Maybe these guys have had terrible years, maybe they have always been terrible.  They are players who we may despise after drafting in fantasy baseball, or, even worse, players we have to watch on TV in our home markets.  These are the best of the worst for the 2011 MLB season to this point…which is more than enough sample size for those judging, who, in this case, is me.

C: Miguel Olivo, Mariners

.224/.255/.386, 18 2B, 18 HR, 60 RBI and a 138/20 K/BB in 459 AB

I would love to put Joe Mauer here but he didn’t qualify and Olivo has reasons to be here.  You can love his power output.  You can love that he plays nearly 5-6 games per week to help get that production.  You CAN’T love the hole in his swing (138 K’s) or the hole in his glove.  Olivo led MLB in passed balls in 2009 and 2010 with 10 each season.  This season, Olivo isn’t leading the league but he still has 11 passed balls.  His .987 fielding percentage is below the catcher league average of .992.  He would be a good Mike Napoli-type of 1B/DH who can catch if you need him to, but his days as a regular catcher, despite his offense, could be numbered due to his inefficiencies.

1B: Matt LaPorta, Indians

.239/.290/.406, 21 2B, 11 HR, 48 RBI and a 84/21 K/BB in 335 AB

He’s running out of time and the Indians should be running out of patience in the main chip in the CC Sabathia deal.  LaPorta will be 27 on Opening Day of 2012 and he may be a part-time player as the Tribe puts Carlos Santana at first to rest his knees.  He still has the potential to be productive based on his ability to drive the ball, but he needs to put it in play more frequently.

2B: Gordon Beckham, White Sox

.232/.297/.335, 22 2B, 9 HR and 43 RBI

Beckham whet our appetites in 2009 as a rookie, posting an OPS of .808 at the age of 22, but it’s been all downhill from there.  Hitting just .242 in 918 at bats since the beginning of 2010, Beckham is just one of the several White Sox players who have devastated the team’s chances at contending this season.  He’ll be 25 for almost all of the 2012 season so buy-low and hope that he and the rest of his squad will rebound.

 

3B: Casey McGehee, Brewers

.227/.284/.351, 23 2B, 13 HR and 67 RBI

McGehee homered 3 times in a game on August 3rd and it probably saved his season.  His .941 fielding percentage is well-below the league average for 3B, which stands at .955.  He has been getting replaced recently by Jerry Hairston, Jr.  He isn’t anywhere near as productive as he was in his first two seasons, when he averaged 29 2B, 19 HR and 85 RBI.

SS: Alcides Escobar, Royals

.251/.287/.337, 20 2B, 8 3B, 3 HR, 44 RBI and 24 SB

You have to decide how much someone’s glove is worth.  Escobar’s fielding percentage is .979, while the league average for SS is .972.  His 15 errors are impressive when compared to, say, the 24 that Derek Jeter made in 2000.  He can also get to more balls than Jeter can now and possibly then.  BUT…he isn’t much with the bat, the eye, or offensive production.  If he isn’t well-above the average shortstop defensively, should he be a starter in the Majors?  Teams need to figure out the risk/reward of this, just as “Moneyball” changed how teams thought 10 years ago.

LF: Vernon Wells, Angels

.223/.254/.416, 15 2B, 4 3B, 23 HR and 61 RBI

When you sign a contract worth $126 million, you’re expected to post better numbers than a .670 OPS.  Some, including myself, wonder how Wells was ever considered a player that was worth $18 million per season.  He’ll be 33 for all of next season.  He is in Anaheim.  He isn’t pointing up going forward, regardless of his 42 extra-base hits in 2011.

CF: Alexis Rios, White Sox

.223/.262/.331, 22 2B, 11 HR, 41 RBI and 11 SB

Ugh.  $12-12.5 million per season through 2015, Rios is quickly becoming one of the worst “values” in baseball.  A season after hitting .284/.334/.457 and establishing himself in Chicago with a .791 OPS, he has the LOWEST OPS among regular qualifiers in baseball.  That’s not what the White Sox were expecting and a bounceback would be very useful for the Southside, and he’ll get a chance due to his contract.

RF: Jayson Werth, Nationals

.230/.329/.388, 26 2B, 19 HR, 56 RBI and 16 SB

Werth signed the same deal that Vernon Wells did this past season, banking $18 million per season over 7 years, stealing $126 million from the Nationals as the team looks to create an identity in their construction of the franchise.  It just hasn’t worked out.  The biggest issue with Werth is that he was 32-years-old in his first year of his contract.  It probably won’t work out well and it may not get better for Washington.  He averaged 29 doubles, 29 homers and 84 RBI from 2008-2010.  We’ll see if he ever reaches that plateau again.

DH: Adam Dunn, White Sox

.167/.296/.291, 16 2B, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 165/69 K/BB in 395 at bats

Dunn has started just 7 games in September, a clear protection from the record books, keeping Dunn from breaking the worst average in a full season by not allowing him to qualify for the record.  At $14 million per season through 2014, Dunn, like Alexis Rios, will get another chance next season.  For a man that averaged 40 homers, 101 RBI and a healthy OBP (while striking out in bunches), Dunn’s season is one for the ages.  “Big Donkey” has a lot to look forward to in 2012.  He may quit if he has another season like this, something he told reporters in the middle of the summer.

SP 1: J.A. Happ, Astros

6-15, 5.23 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 149 1/3 IP, 129/79 K/BB

What a difference being on a winning team makes.  Ruben Amaro, Jr. STOLE Roy Oswalt by having Happ as the centerpiece of the deal.

SP 2: Derek Lowe, Braves

9-15, 4.94 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 176 2/3 IP, 132/68 K/BB

Lowe is a sinkerball pitcher who doesn’t seem to get many groundballs anymore.  He has a ton of talent coming up behind him in the Braves system and it would benefit the team to use that talent and get out from under the $15 million that Lowe is owed next season.

SP 3: A.J. Burnett, Yankees

10-11, 5.28 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 182 1/3 IP, 167/81 K/BB

A headcase in New York was never going to work and it really hasn’t.  Burnett is now a combined 33-35 with a 4.85 ERA in 97 starts for the Yankees.  He is due $16.5 million through 2013.  Enjoy Steinbrenner Family.

SP 4: Bronson Arroyo, Reds

8-12, 5.34 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 182 IP, 100/44 K/BB, 44 HR allowed

Arroyo has been serving up homeruns like they are Chipotle burritos on a college campus.  The man signed an extention through 2013 paying him $11.75 million per season.  He’ll be serving up more in Great American Ballpark for Cincinnati, but we’ll see if he is still in the front of the rotation when 2012 rolls around.

SP 5: Brian Duensing, Twins

9-14, 5.29 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 156 2/3 IP, 111/51 K/BB

After going 8-2 in 13 starts with a 2.76 ERA, Duensing was a nice flier candidate for a Twins team that was supposed to have a healthy Mauer and Morneau in 2011.  He didn’t match those numbers and he didn’t have the M & M boys backing him.  That wasn’t a good combination.  He will probably find himself in relief next season as Twins prospects start climbing the ladder.

Closer: Kevin Gregg, Orioles

0-3, 4.61 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 56 2/3 IP, 51/40 K/BB, 7 blown saves

Gregg being terrible was just what Baltimore needed.  Paying him $5 million in 2011 and 2012, Gregg could be trade bait if he starts the first half off well for the O’s.  The fact that he has allowed 96 baserunners in less than 60 IP goes to show that he isn’t one to protect leads.  It’s been a rough year in Baltimore again.

Hot 2nd Half

There are some guys you wouldn’t expect who are absolutely dominating in the 2nd half of 2011.  Could it be a preview of a continued breakout for 2012, or is it just a tease of an eventual bust?  You be the judge.

Mike Carp, LF/DH, Mariners

.305/.349/.509, 15 2B, 11 HR and 44 RBI

Carp is playing very well for the Mariners, using the gaps and developing into an interesting talent.  He could be another version of Raul Ibanez, a player who quitely hits about .280 with 30-35 doubles and 20 homers per season.  He needs to keep playing LF to maintain value, though, which may not happen in the long-term.

Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels

.256/.285/.493, 15 2B, 12 HR and 46 RBI

Sure the slash is a bit ugly, especially the .285 OBP and his 49/9 K/BB, but Trumbo, a 25-year-old rookie, has 30 2B and 29 homers on the season.  His 114/25 K/BB is even uglier than his 2nd half breakdown, but you can take the power numbers as a sign of future value.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals

.329/.369/.514, 15 2B, 10 HR and 41 RBI

To say that Hosmer has had a coming out party in the 2nd half would be an understatement.  In fact, to say that his rookie season is anything less than outstanding would be blasphemy.  Hosmer’s great second half puts his overall numbers at .300/.343/.474 with 26 doubles and 18 homeruns.  At 21-years-old, Hosmer’s ceiling is vaulting higher each day.

Dexter Fowler, CF, Rockies

.289/.386/.508, 18 2B, 10 3B, 5 HR and 25 RBI

Fowler’s 2nd half is going to allow the Rockies to put Tim Wheeler in Triple-A at the start of next season, it may even make Wheeler move to a corner.  Why?  Because since Fowler was re-called on July 15th, those numbers above are his production.  A Minor League stint that got the message through.  Fowler still strikes out a lot (125 this season), but he has managed to walk 66 times, too.  He has skills and will be just 26 on Opening Day of 2012.

Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays

.289/.380/.498, 9 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 18 SB and 23 RBI

Jennings has been outstanding for the Rays.  You have to wonder: Where would they be if they had Jennings playing LF instead of Fuld and Ruggiano earlier this season, especially with the Rays just a game out of the Wild Card race right now.  I still don’t know how real the power is, but even if he ends up as a 15 HR/30 SB-type, he’ll have a ton of fantasy value.

Mike Napoli, C, Rangers

.389/.475/.689, 15 2B, 14 HR, 35 RBI and 43/31 K/BB

Salivation…that was my reaction to Mike Napoli landing in Arlington.  Anaheim isn’t really a hitter’s paradise and Napoli ripped 92 HR in 1,549 AB in his five seasons there, or roughly 30 per 500 at bats.  So…given regular playing time (no Jeff Mathis) and a hitter-friendly environment, Napoli is finally getting the chance to show what he can do.  His 26 HR tie his career high, set last season, and his 1.034 OPS is a whopping .303 higher than his five-year average as an Angel.  He is arbitration eligible and he has earned a raise.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants

8-3, 2.43 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 89 IP, 89/19 K/BB

At the tender age of 22, Bumgarner is becoming the ace that the Giants envisioned.  He won’t turn 23 until next August and he has thrown 193 2/3 innings this season, easily a career high.  While he may not win more than 15 games in a season due to the Giants offense, he is still a great bet to be one of the best left-handers in baseball going forward.

Ian Kennedy, RHP, Diamondbacks

11-1, 2.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 87 2/3 IP, 88/19 K/BB

Kennedy has broken out this season.  He’ll be 27 on Opening Day and is a very capable innings eater and dominant starter going forward.  His 194/53 K/BB in 216 IP are nice additions to his current 20-4 record and 2.88 ERA this season.  Kennedy is settling in nicely in the National League, where he is 29-14 with a 3.31 ERA over 64 starts.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers

11-1, 1.23 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 95 1/3 IP, 95/18 K/BB

We all knew he was good.  I just wanted to make sure everyone understood just what Kershaw was capable of.  I was a doubter.  I questioned Kershaw due to his control issues, as his 172 walks over 375 1/3 IP in 2009 and 2010 made me wonder what he could do long-term.  Well…I was wrong.  He is 20-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 242/53 K/BB over 226 IP.  It is more impressive because his BB/9 IP is down to 2.1, when he averaged 4.8 in 2009 and 3.6 in 2010.  Top five starter in baseball going forward and he will be 24 on Opening Day.

Luke Hochevar, RHP, Royals

6-3, 3.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 79 1/3 IP, 68/24 K/BB

If only because his career ERA still stands at 5.29, Hochevar actually looks impressive.  We can’t consider this something that makes him worthy of a top pick by any means, but he is someone to fill out a roster with in 2012.  His K/9 is 7.7 and his BB/9 is 2.7 in the 2nd half, which is much better than his 5.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 career averages.  He is eligible for arbitration this offseason but he has saved himself from being non-tendered, though we’ve probably all cut him at some point from our fantasy teams.

Create a Pitcher – The Best Pitches in Baseball

If you could take the best pitches by the best pitchers and create a monster, whose pitches would you take?  Below are the best pitches in baseball.

FastballJustin Verlander, RHP, Tigers

His average fastball velocity is 95.0 this season and I have seen him hit 98 mph on the gun in the 9th inning this season.  While others break 100 mph consistently, the fact that Verlander can maintain the velocity that he does at 90-110 pitches is incredible.

*Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals, 97.4 mph (career); Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds, 98.2 mph; Michael Pineda, RHP, Mariners, 94.3 mph; David Price, LHP, Rays, 94.7 mph; Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Indians, 95.6 mph (career);

CurveballAdam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals

Sure, he isn’t pitching this year, but if he comes back with half of his usual stuff, it is filthy.  His 91 mph fastball, 82 mph change and 74 mph curve give him enough to leave batters guessing and struggling.

* Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (82.2 mph for his career, devastating power-curve); Gavin Floyd, RHP, White Sox; Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, Astros;

SliderZack Greinke, RHP, Brewers

Greinke’s 28.4% K-rate in 2011 is the best of his career and he is also throwing his slider a career high 19.1% of the time.  Not a coincidence.

* Honorable Mention: Ryan Dempster, RHP, Cubs; Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds;

CutterMariano Rivera, RHP, Yankees

Like it would be anyone else.  No one else is going to be on this list.  When a guy has ONE PITCH and they still can’t hit it, you know.

ChangeTim Lincecum, RHP, Giants

Lincecum’s unique delivery and 9 mph difference between his fastball and change are part of the reason why he is 69-39 in his career.

* Honorable Mention: C.C. Sabathia, LHP, Yankees; James Shields, RHP, Rays; Johan Santana, LHP, Mets (would have ranked higher if his shoulder didn’t look like a butcher shop);

Knuckle/Knuckle-CurveTim Wakefield, RHP, Red Sox

He’s been doing it for 19 years and he has perfected it to win 200 games in his career.  Wake has thrown his floater 93.4% of the time since the start of 2007.

*Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay (Knuckle-Curve), RHP, Phillies; R.A. Dickey, RHP, Mets;

Sinker/SplitterDan Haren, RHP, Angels

A 47.5% groundball rate over his career, Haren is different from other sinker/splitter pitchers in that he racks up a high number of strikeouts, too.

* Honorable Mention: Fausto Carmona, RHP, Indians; Justin Masterson, RHP, Indians; Chien-Ming Wang, RHP, Nationals;

What the Buc?

Remember when the Pirates mattered?  At the All-Star break they made a couple of deals to load up for their playoff push, adding Ryan Ludwick and Michael McKenry…yikes.  Ludwick has hit .244/.354/.317 and McKenry, who was added due to injuries at catcher, has hit .227/.276/.326.  Not like these two were actually going to make a big difference, but maybe if they both hit .700 after being acquired the Pirates wouldn’t be 13-29 since the trade deadline and 20-39 in the 2nd half.

Now, currently sitting at 67-82, the Pirates are guaranteed to have a losing record for the 19th straight season.  It was so cute how they were 47-43 in the first half and shared first place into July.  It gave fans in Pittsburgh a reason to show up to PNC Park for something other than the nice stadium with a Grade F baseball team running around on it.

There isn’t much hope when a team loses 67% of their games after a great start, right?  Well, they still have Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker.  They still have James McDonald, Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Karstens, who all showed signs of life this season before the team collapse.  They need to have a hump-buster, rush a prospect or something, to show that they are serious.  It’s not like they have had any luck developing talent over the last 19 years, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this situation.  Jameson Taillon, Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, and Josh Bell are great building blocks to add to those listed above; however, the culture of continued failure could be all that it takes for these guys to become just another group of bums who didn’t change anything for Pirate fans.  Congratulations on seeing reality and becoming meaningless once again, Pirates.  At least the Rooney’s are in town.

Bucknering Another Season Away

The Boston Red Sox may have thought they had things locked down at the beginning of September.  They were 83-52 and the closest team to them, the Rays, were 74-61.  Things have changed since the Saux have lost 10 of 13 and are just 2-9 to start the month, especially while the Rays ride their young stars to a 25-13 record since August 1st.  It shouldn’t come as a great surprise considering some of the aging, injuries, and under-performing that they have gone through this season.

When Boston fans look back on the season, they’ll wonder how a team with a $166.7 million payroll can give 32 starts to Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield.  The two have combined to post a 12-9 record, 5.19 ERA and a 121/77 K/BB in 201 innings.  Wakefield has been around and his experience and rubber-armed knuckler are nice for reflective purposes, but is he someone to rely on?  Andrew Miller is 26 and on his third organization, basically cut by the Marlins.  He has potential to thrive but he also has the potential to blow up and walk ten guys in three innings.

The injuries have piled up like crazy this season.  J.D. Drew has *shockingly* played in just 77 games, a guy who has never played in more than 146 games in his 14 seasons and has SOMEHOW managed to earn over $94 million in his mediocre career.  Kevin Youkilis has battled hip and hernia issues to post his lowest OPS since his first full season, with his lowest batting average since his rookie campaign of 2004.  Carl Crawford is easily having the worst season of his career after getting a monster contract.  Clay Buchholz has battled a devastating back injury all season and John Lackey has battled sucking to the tune of a 12-12 record and 6.30 ERA over 25 of the ugliest starts you’ll ever see from someone not named A.J. Burnett making $15.25 million.  Josh Beckett sprained his push off ankle and may have to become the next Schilling to make the Red Sox matter.  David Ortiz was pulled from tonight’s game with back spasms.  It is hideous and nothing short of surprising that the Red Sox are still three games up on Tampa Bay with their 85-61 record.

Boston doesn’t have a lot of depth that is serviceable.  Their top backups are Conor Jackson, Ryan Lavarnway, Mike Aviles, Darnell McDonald, and the recently signed Joey Gathright.  If anyone else gets hurt and these guys have to step in, there is no way that they are going to hold onto the Wild Card.  Especially not with 60% of the rotation sporting a combined 5.66 ERA in Miller, Lackey, and Wakefield.  Especially when you don’t know what or if you’re going to get out of Beckett or Buchholz down the stretch.  Especially when the Rays have nothing to lose, they have Desmond Jennings, and they just called up Matt Moore.  Suddenly, football can take a seat to a pennant race.  Suddenly, baseball is going to be fun to watch again.  Add in the fact that the Rays play the Red Sox Thursday through Sunday in what could be the most interesting four-game series of the season.  If the Rays make it through that series, though, they still have the Yankees for seven games before the season is up…Don’t give up on baseball yet!

September 11th, 2011

On this page, I typically mock or praise a baseball player or rip apart a toothpick doting Cincinnati manager that I love to hate.  I enjoy doing that because it takes my mind off of reality, a reality that was forever changed 1o-years ago this weekend.  The reality is…sports don’t matter.  As much as some of us put our heart and soul into the numbers that others produce, we realize that it is just a game, albeit, a game that we love.

September 11th is my generation’s Kennedy assassination.  We all know exactly where we were and just how beautiful that day was.  I had just flown from Florida the day before, having spent a week with a group of friends.  At the age of 20, it was still a big deal to be that far away, especially since I was the oldest person in the group.  I walked into my retail phone sales job and turned on the satellite dish (sweet gig, I know) and CNN had the flames from the first tower on the screen.  Minutes later, the second tower was hit.  I watched in amazement, I cried, my mother was frantic since I flew the day before.  My company decided to go with the “now more than ever, you need a phone” slogan after so many people called home when they were about to die.  Classy, right?  I didn’t work there much longer.  I remember I couldn’t get gas anywhere in town unless I was ready to run out while waiting in the lines, and I remember hearing of people screaming and picking fights with the Middle Eastern gas station clerks around Cincinnati.  Also very classy…

That day changed America forever.  We become reflective individuals each year around this time, yet, never really change our daily patterns.  We still buy our $4 coffee from Starbuck’s, we still bitch and moan about security checks in airports, and we still forget the faces of the soldiers who die still defending our freedom.  It’s the same way that many Christians get around Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, only to toss a middle finger to the guy who cut him off at 12:01 AM on December 26th and celebrating the end of Lent by eating 8 pounds of M & M’s after GRACIOUSLY giving up chocolate because that is equal to a man dying on the cross for you.

I am going to take this moment to thank those who defend us with their lives and hearts.  So many people have died for our country’s emotional response to the terror attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we can’t forget that.  We also can’t forget those brave souls who went back into the towers to help save lives or even one life.  While watching “The Today Show” this morning, the re-visited kids they had interviewed 10 years ago after one of their parents died in the attacks.  It was heart breaking.  Now, as a married father of one, I can’t imagine leaving for work and not returning home.  Not knowing I may have told my wife I loved her for the last time.  Not getting that amazing Elise, my daughter, hug before I leave for work or wherever I am going.  To actually feel and see that moment is what makes this day worth remembering…every day…forever.  Never forget those who gave their lives or lost theirs on September 11th.  Take a minute from seeing if Arian Foster played or if the Yankees are resting their starters for the playoffs to remember that the world is still spinning and someone isn’t on it because of the disgusting acts that we all witnessed 10 years ago.

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