November 2012

Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

The 2013 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class is one for the ages. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro highlight the first major group of synthetically-enhanced superstars to reach the ballot since the introduction of steroid testing in baseball. There are several names on the list that I would include, but one that I struggle with is that of Curt Schilling.

Courtesy: azsnakepit.com

Schilling was a six-time All-Star and he won 216 games in his 20-year career. A three-time World Series champion, Schilling shared the spotlight in rotations with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez in his career, finishing second in Cy Young voting to both, while finishing second a third time to Johan Santana.

With Roger Clemens and his 354 wins and seven Cy Youngs on the ballot, how can anyone look at Schilling as a Hall of Famer?

Schilling compares more favorably to Jack Morris. Morris was a five-time All-Star and he won 254 games in his 18-year career. Morris was also a three-time World Series champion and he, also never won a Cy Young award. Schilling received Cy Young votes in four seasons (1997, 2001, 2002, 2004), while Morris received votes in seven season (1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992).

Morris is not in the Hall of Fame. He has more wins, he had more seasons where he earned appreciation for his success on the field, and he is still waiting for his enshrinement in Cooperstown after being eligible for the first time in 2000.

Courtesy: ESPN

Schilling may get a lot of credit due to his bloody sock, his dominating strikeout totals, and his personality, but how great was he?

The bigger question is: How great COULD he have been? Schilling missed 424 days of baseball due to injuries, but most of those were the shoulder surgery that he had in 2008 (221 days). At this point in his career, Schilling was 41 years old and his once dominant stuff was deminishing, as evidenced by a 6.0 K:9 in 2007 (8.6 career K:9).

Curt Schilling was great for a short period of time. From 1997 through 2004, Schilling was 132-71 with a 3.24 ERA in 1,824.1 innings, while posting a 1,945:345 K:BB. Schilling is the only player in baseball history to reach 3,000 strikeouts while walking fewer than 750 batters. He helped bring a championship to Boston, he was a part of two of the best 1-2 tandems in baseball history with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, and he ran a video game company into the ground in Rhode Island…not that the last one matters.

20 years. 216 wins. Is it enough? It hasn’t been enough for several other players, but Schilling will get a lot of votes on ballots in 2013. You have to wonder if those same voters are marking off Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Kenny Lofton, Edgar Martinez, and even David Wells, whose 239 wins over 21-seasons warrant consideration.

Is it all about the wins or quality of performance. The WAR values show that Schilling was much more valuable in his career than the players mentioned above, but baseball is a game of numbers. Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

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Who is the Odd Man Out?

When the Cincinnati Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal on Wednesday, it did a couple of things. It solidified the back end of the bullpen for 2013, the same ‘pen that finished 2012 as the best in baseball, and it opened the door in moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation.

The opportunity to see what Chapman can do as a starter is very enticing, but due to his success in the bullpen the last couple of seasons, you have to wonder if this is the right decision. One could even mention the fact that the 2012 Cincinnati rotation did not miss a start and all five men are supposed to be back in 2013.

So, while some fans may question Chapman’s move to the rotation, you now have six starting pitchers, a gluttony in baseball, capable of pitching well above average…if healthy. What do you do now?

Courtesy: Dayton Daily News

Johnny Cueto is the ace. 28-14 with a 2.58 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP since the start of 2011, with his peripheral stats showing positive tendencies. In 2012, Cueto finally reached 200 innings in a season, and while there were some bumps in the road toward the end of the season, he posted a 1.35 ERA over his final three starts of the season. He is the anchor of this rotation and is signed through 2015.

Mat Latos was the huge acquisition prior to the start of 2012. It cost the Reds a pretty penny as far as their future, but Latos showed his worth, finishing 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He proved that he could pitch anywhere, even after moving from San Diego’s spacious Petco Park to Great American Ballpark. Latos is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and his 41 wins prior to the age of 25 will surely drive up his price. Luckily, he is under team-control through 2015, giving the Reds an Ace A and Ace B option for the next three seasons.

Bronson Arroyo is the crafty veteran of the group. In Arroyo’s three best seasons in Cincinnati, he is 43-31 with a 3.62 ERA and in his three worst seasons, he is 34-38 with a 4.68 ERA. Considering he has been around for seven seasons, which pitcher is he? Arroyo thrives on being able to mix his offspeed arsenal in with his fastball, changing speeds and leaving batters guessing. With power pitchers surrounding him in the rotation, it is possible that Arroyo will be able to capitalize on his stuff, dropping in his loopy curve and average fastball to one more successful season in Cincinnati. He turns 36 years old in February and reaches free agency after the 2013 season.

Homer Bailey has been driving Cincinnati fans crazy since 2007, never capitalizing on his stuff and potential…until 2012. Bailey finally put it all together and went 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA, tossing a career high in innings with 208. His masterful seven inning, ten strikeout start against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS was one for the ages, and he will probably receive a huge amount of support the first time that he toes the rubber at GABP in 2013. Bailey turns 27 next May and he is team-controlled through arbitration until reaching free agency in 2015.

Mike Leake is just 25 years old and he doesn’t reach free agency until 2016. Leake is a rare breed, a player who is in the majors without ever having played in the minors, a pretty short list of players can say that. He has a career 28-22 record and a 4.23 ERA over 83 games and 485 career innings. Leake wasn’t very impressive in 2012, posting a 4.58 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. His stuff is very similar to Bronson Arroyo‘s, in that he thrives on location and changing speeds. He could very well become the crafty, mid-rotation starter that Arroyo is upon Arroyo’s eventual departure.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that the Reds have Daniel Corcino and Tony Cingrani ready or near-ready to contribute as starting pitchers at the major league level.

However, are any of these pitchers worth booting from the rotation? How would Bailey do as a setup man, being able to throw his fastball at increased velocity for short outings? Should Arroyo or Leake be removed from the rotation to step in as a long-man, possibly shadowing Aroldis Chapman every fifth day to limit his innings throughout the season? Or, are one of these pitchers trade bait now? Could the team upgrade in centerfield or find a leadoff man by including Leake in a deal for someone like Denard Span?

The Cincinnati Reds have a good problem right now, but if they started the season tomorrow, they probably won’t be using a six-man rotation. How do you see this, realistically shaping up?

To Start or Not to Start?

Courtesy: mlbreports.com

 Chapman has made 137 appearances in his brief major league career, all of them out of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. He has posted a ridiculous 212:69 K:BB in 135 career innings, allowing just 68 hits and compiling a 2.33 ERA and 14.1 K:9 in those 137 appearances.

What more could Chapman do, though? Could he dominate in the same way as a starting pitcher?

Chapman started four games in spring training prior to the 2012 season. He compiled a 1.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and a 15:1 K:BB in 15 innings. While it was a small sample size, the focus on location and being smart with his pitch count may have led to his increase in strikeout rate (44.2% in 2012 vs. 34.3% in 2011) and his dramatic decrease in his walk rate (8.3% in 2012 vs. 19.8% in 2011). Chapman’s average fastball also dropped from 98.1 in 2011 to 98.0 in 2012, which isn’t as dramatic as the drop from 99.6 in 2010.

Chapman started 13 games in 2010 when he was coming up through the minors, but he was brought up for the 2010 postseason push, making 15 appearances out of the bullpen in September and another two in the NLDS loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He then “started” three more games in 2011 in the minors, but those were games that he was in the minors working on his command issues, not legitimate starts to develop arm strength or to stretch him out.

Aroldis Chapman was an All-Star in 2012. He finished 8th in NL Cy Young voting, while finishing 12th in NL MVP voting. Is he replaceable as a closer?

Ryan Madson is coming back from Tommy John surgery and the Reds could sign him at a discount, hoping that he returns to his 2011 form. Madson, after all, posted a 2.89 ERA over 329.2 innings with a 314:97 K:BB from 2007 to 2011 before missing all of the 2012 season.

Courtesy: BleacherReport.com

The Reds could also try to sign Jonathan Broxton, whom they acquired from the Kansas City Royals at the trade deadline in 2012, now a free agent, as well. Broxton posted a solid 2.82 ERA over 25 appearances for the Reds down the stretch. While he doesn’t strikeout nearly as many as he used to (a K:9 of 13.5 in 2009 but just 7.0 in 2012), he is also not issuing as many walks, posting a career best 2.6 BB:9 in 2012.

So, the Reds could have other external options at closer, while possibly handing over closer duties to in-house candidates J.J. Hoover, Logan Ondrusek, Sean Marshall, Nick Massett, or Jose Arredondo. While some fans may worry about how some of those mentioned would handle stressful situations, you never know until they are given the chance.

If Chapman were to move to the rotation, the Reds would have Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, and Mike Leake to work around him. Could the club shop a starter for a leadoff hitter if they go ahead and count on Chapman, or could they move Leake to closer? Maybe his off speed junk would confuse opposing hitters late in the game?

Then…you have the reasons for concern. One name jumps out for the transition from closer to starter: Neftali Feliz. In his first 154 appearances in the majors, Feliz saved 74 games and posted a 2.55 ERA over 162.2 innings with a 164:56 K:BB. The Texas Rangers then tried to move him to the rotation in 2012, trying to get the most out of their 24-year-old star, but it didn’t go well. Feliz lasted all of eight games, seven starts, and 42.2 innings before being shut down with elbow soreness in May before having Tommy John surgery on August 1.

The Reds have Chapman under team control until after the 2016 season. Is it finally time to see how much he could dominate over 170 to 200 innings, or is he too important at the end of games? Reds fans were, at times, terrified when Danny Graves or Francisco Cordero came out to close games, but, with Chapman, things seemed safe.

Chapman is a fantastic talent, and even if he “only” throws 95 miles per hour as a starter, he still has the stuff to make opposing hitters look foolish. However, are those 32 starts and abundance of innings more valuable to the Reds and their $25.25 million investment than the 70 games that he finishes?

After watching, or not watching, what happened to Neftali Feliz, the Reds should probably keep him in the closer’s role. He has dominated there and there isn’t anything saying Chapman is guaranteed to become Justin Verlander as a starting pitcher. It isn’t like the Atlanta Braves are thinking about moving Craig Kimbrel to starting pitcher this offseason. Some pitchers are designed for certain roles. Chapman has proven that he is a lockdown, shutdown closer. Keep him there and keep your bullpen, which was best in baseball (based on their 2.65 ERA), intact.

With the respectable rotation of Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Arroyo, and Leake, the Reds can afford to keep Chapman in that role. And with Tony Cingrani and Daniel Corcino ready to step into the rotation from the minors, there really isn’t a reason to tamper with the makeup of what worked so well in 2012.

Jeff Loria Has to Go!

Marlins Owner, Jeff Loria; Courtesy: Yahoo Sports

After gaining ownership in 2002, the Marlins have done some crazy stuff with their payroll.  Look at their payroll and payroll ranking since Jeff Loria became owner in 2002:

2002: $ 41,979,917 – 25th

2003: $ 45,050,000 – 25th

2004: $ 42,143,042 – 25th

2005: $ 60,408,834 – 19th

2006: $ 14,998,500 – 30th

2007: $ 30,507,000 – 29th

2008: $ 21,811,500 – 30th

2009: $ 36,834,000 – 30th

2010: $ 47,429,719 – 26th

2011: $ 57,695,000 – 24th

2012: $ 118,078,000 – 7th

Keep in mind that in 2006, when the payroll was under $15 million, the Marlins received $31 million in revenue sharing…POCKETING $16 million while Loria was demanding a new stadium to help draw fans, while he wasn’t giving the fans a team worth seeing AND still making money.  Shocking.  The new stadium…publicly funded at nearly 75 percent.  Nice job, Loria.

After using the expected revenue from the new stadium, and possibly, the money that he pocketed over the years in revenue sharing, the Marlins added quite a bit of payroll prior to the 2012 season when they signed Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. The club had Hanley Ramirez under contract at shortstop and moved him to third base before moving him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, while adding to Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez in the rotation with Buehrle before dealing Sanchez to Detroit on July 23.

After one season of fielding a potential contender, Loria is working on another fire-sale, which could, potentially, leave the Miami Marlins with a payroll of around $30 million in 2013.

The reported deal between the Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays:

Marlins deal SS Jose Reyes, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, INF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck, and $4 million to the Blue Jays.

Blue Jays deal SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Henderson Alvarez, INF Adeiny Hechavarria, C Jeff Mathis, minor league OF Jake Marisnick, and minor league pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony Desclafani.

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated

Reyes was due $96 million between 2013 and 2017 and either a $4 million buyout or $22 million in 2018, Josh Johnson was due $13.75 million before reaching free agency after the 2013 season, and Mark Buehrle was due $48 million between 2013 and 2015.

After finishing 69-93 in 2012, the group that the Marlins had put together for the inaugural season in Marlins Park was deemed a disaster. While the Boston Red Sox dealt Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers to free up payroll to start over, the Marlins seemed to make this deal to go an entirely different route. A total rebuild and focus on youth with a minimal payroll, and this is happening one year after the team signed Reyes and Buehrle while STILL trying to add Albert Pujols along with them, before losing out to the Angels. Could you imagine if this deal was going down with Pujols in it, too?

Jeff Loria has made the Marlins look like a complete joke, once again. However, bigger than that, he played the city of Miami into funding a new stadium for him to continue fielding a losing team while pocketing revenue from teams that actually spend money and create revenue by winning and having a desire to win.

Jeff Loria is bad for baseball. Jeff Loria is possibly worse than any performance-enhancing drug, the lack of replay, or Scott Boras. There are only 30 teams in Major League Baseball and there is certainly a millionaire or billionaire out there who could provide Miami and Marlins’ fans with a better, more respectable product. Bud Selig should step in.

Matt Moore – Remember Him?

How quickly you can be forgotten. With the Rookie of the Year announcements on November 12, the world was, once again, focused on Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. While Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, and Wade Miley got lost in the shuffle, some names seemed to be totally thrown out during the 2012 season.

While Trout had, quite possibly, the greatest season EVER by a rookie, it is understandable that others, specifically in the American League, were overlooked. Darvish and Cespedes were the highlights of voter ballots, but Wei-Lin Chen and Jarrod Parker were the only other players who were put on the ballot by voters.

While Matt Moore didn’t have a tremendous season, could the domination that other rookies had in the 2012 season create a lack of buzz for Moore going into the 2013 season?

Matt Moore turns 24 in June of 2013 and he has a nice resume to this point in his career. Prior to the 2012 season, Moore was rated as the No.2 prospect in baseball by Baseball America – Harper was No.1 and Trout was No.3. In the minor leagues, Moore was a combined 28-21 with a 2.64 ERA and a 700:212 K:BB in 497.1 innings, including a 12-3 record with a 1.92 ERA and 210:46 K:BB in 155 innings in 2011.

Moore arrived in Tampa late in 2011, appearing in three games, when he posted a 15:3 K:BB in just 9.1 innings, including his 11-strikeout start on September 22 against the Yankees (his only start). When the Rays were in the playoffs, Moore started Game One of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, tossing seven shutout innings. Moore tossed three relief innings in Game Four, allowing one run, as the Rays lost the series in four games to the Rangers, who went on to the World Series and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 2012 season was not fantastic for Moore, but there is little reason to doubt his ability to become an ace for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA, posting a 175:81 K:BB in 177.1 innings. Moore battled location issues, which increased his WHIP to 1.35 in 2012, something that never seemed to be an issue at any point in his minor league and brief major league career before the 2012 season.

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Moore had a period when he seemed to put everything together, though, which was a pretty significant time of the season. From June 1 through the end of August, Moore was 9-3 with a 2.89 ERA over 99.2 innings (16 starts) while posting a 94:41 K:BB and 1.25 WHIP. He struggled mightily in September (1-3, 5.48 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), but he may have been tired, as he had reached 156 innings and 26 starts prior to the start of the month.

(While Moore ended up tossing a combined 174.1 innings between the minors and majors in 2011, the dramatic nature of tossing more innings per start and pitching every fifth day for a team fighting for a playoff spot for most of the season may have played a role in his fatigue.)

Regardless, Moore had an up and down season in 2012 with the Rays, but he shouldn’t be an afterthought when talking about the top young players in baseball, especially in the American League. Darvish, Chen, and Cespedes played professionally in their respective countries prior to drawing Rookie of the Year votes in 2012. Though their early success shouldn’t be discounted, the success of actual rookies, like Parker and Moore, shouldn’t be tossed aside, either.

For example…

Once upon a time, there was a pitcher named David Price, who came up in September of 2008 and made a similar impact on the team from Tampa Bay, making five appearances during the season and another five in the playoffs. In his first full season, 2009, Price was 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA and a 102:54 K:BB in 125.1 innings. Price had an ugly WHIP of 1.35 in his 23 starts in 2009.

David Price, a 2012 AL Cy Young finalist, has gone 51-24 with a 2.93 ERA over 644 innings, with a 1.14 WHIP and a 611:201 K:BB in 96 starts since his rookie season.

While his rookie season was underwhelming, David Price was not on the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year ballot, just like Moore. Could Matt Moore have a parallel career  to Price? It looks pretty similar at this point, and the sky is the limit with the young left-hander with dynamic stuff.

Winning the Rookie of the Year is not the be-all-end-all to a baseball career. Just look at the careers of Ben Grieve, Marty Cordova, Pat Listach, and other one year wonders. Matt Moore is on his way to stardom, Rookie of the Year or not.

10 Players to Watch in 2013

Whether they are rookies, players who may have had a surprising second half in 2012, or a feeling, here are players you will want to look out for in the 2013 MLB season.

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Texas Rangers

Jurickson Profar posted an amazing season at the age of 19 in Double-A in 2012, compiling a .281/.368/.452 line with 26 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, and 16 stolen bases for Frisco. He had 17 at-bats with the Rangers at the end of the season. Profar is about as ready as any prospect could be, even though he will be just 20 in February. The question will be: where does he play? With Ian Kinsler at second, Elvis Andrus at short, and Adrian Beltre at third, will the Rangers move Profar or make a deal? Perhaps moving Kinsler to left if or when Josh Hamilton leaves via free agency is an option. Regardless, Profar is a hitting machine who can get on base, a rarity for someone so young.

Darin Ruf, 1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Ruf was “old” for Double-A in 2012, but you still have to appreciate his .317/.408/.620 line and his 38 home runs. Fans should be aware of the fact that he hit three home runs and posted a 1.079 OPS in 33 at-bats for the Phillies at the end of the season. More importantly, he is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, learning to play the outfield, and he is still raking, having hit nine bombs with a .994 OPS in 76 at-bats. With Ryan Howard locked in at first base, the 6’3″, 220 pounder out of Creighton will need to play elsewhere. As the Phillies make changes with their roster after dealing Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino in 2012, it will be interesting to see how much of an opportunity Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Company will provide the slugging right-handed hitter.

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins

Stanton is an absolute freak. Standing 6’5″, 245 pounds, the slugger just turned 23 at the beginning of November and he already has 93 career home runs. Stanton hit 37 home runs in 2012 in just 449 at-bats, including 18 in just 43 games and 164 at-bats in the second half of 2012. Stanton’s 1.057 OPS in the second half was only behind Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, both players worthy of their league MVP awards. I felt that 2012 was the year that Stanton could get to 50 home runs, and had he not missed 39 games, he very well could have reached that total. If he keeps his knees healthy, Stanton could be on his way to catching asterisks, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, or any other slugger in history.

Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres

San Diego is where pitchers go to revive their careers and where hitters go to die, but don’t tell Headley that. The 28-year-old switch-hitter erupted in the second half of 2012, hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 289 at-bats, while posting a career best .875 OPS, 31 home runs, and an NL-leading 115 RBI. Headley’s name was mentioned all over the place at the 2012 non-waiver trade deadline, but with the Padres moving the fences in at Petco and Headley under team control for two more years, it would take a significant haul to pry away the star third baseman. However, the Padres have dealt the likes of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, and Adrian Gonzalez in the past due to salaries, so Headley may only be more impressive if he ends up playing elsewhere in 2013.

Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals

Wil Myers has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. In 2012, Myers hit .314/.387/.600 between Double-A and Triple-A, mashing 37 home runs and driving in 109 runs. Myers doesn’t even turn 22 until December, so the future is bright. The Royals, brilliantly, have Jeff Francoeur signed through 2013 in right, Alex Gordon signed through 2016 (counting the team option) in left, and Lorenzo Cain in center. Myers played 87 games in center in 2012 but he profiles better in a corner. With Billy Butler entrenched at DH and Eric Hosmer needing a bounce-back in 2013, where will the Royals find room for this future All-Star? Another trade is possible, but, more likely, Frenchy could be headed to the pine.

Courtesy: Hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics

The A’s won the AL West in 2012 and shocked the world. After trading away Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals for a load of prospects, Billy Beane and Oakland ownership won the 2012 offseason by landing the Cuban-defector, Cespedes. While he was a free-swinger (102 strikeouts), Cespedes could also take a walk (43 BB, .356 OBP), becoming an immediate impact player for the A’s. Cespedes exploded in the second half of 2012, posting a .909 OPS, 14 doubles, 14 home runs, and even stealing 10 bases. The overall line, .292/.356/.505, was enhanced down the stretch, .311/.376/.533, so this could be the beginning of a fantastic career. The pure power and speed that Cespedes offers makes him a potentially elite outfielder, MVP candidate, and a superstar, which the A’s needed so badly.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals

When you go 14-0 with a 0.08 ERA in your senior year of high school, you must have some solid stuff. Odorizzi still has the stuff, a broad repertoire that had many linking his pitches and command to Greg Maddux when he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. A major part of the Zack Greinke deal, Odorizzi went 15-5 with a 3.08 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012 before making two starts for the Royals in September. Odorizzi has the stuff to become a solid No.2 starter for the Royals, and with Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy working their way back from elbow surgery, and only Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Ervin Santana, Will Smith, and Luke Hochevar in front of him, Odorizzi should begin making an impact early into the 2013 season. He may end up striking out about 170 batters over 200 innings in his prime, while keeping the ball in the park and runners off the bases due to his control.

Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians

After an anemic .221/.339/.336 line in the first half, Santana broke out in the second half of 2012, hitting .281/.389/.498 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 46 RBI, and a 41:45 K:BB in 263 at-bats. Santana will turn the magical age of 27 in April, and the catcher, signed through 2017 for the Indians, could continue to establish himself as a dynamic offensive catcher, wearing the No.41 of his mentor, Victor Martinez, with pride. Defensively, Santana allowed 10 passed balls (most in the AL) and threw out only 26 percent of would-be base stealers, so he may not be a catcher much longer if he doesn’t improve behind the dish.

Zack Cox, 3B, Miami Marlins

Gregg Dobbs is all that is standing between Zack Cox and the Miami Marlins everyday third base job. While Cox posted a disappointing .254/.301/.409 line over 394 at-bats in 2012, he was rated by Baseball America as the best pure college hitter in the 2010 MLB Draft, prior to being taken 25th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. While he has been a bit of a disappointment to this point, especially with his plate discipline, Cox will only turn 24 years old next May. Considering his pedigree, the fact that the Marlins acquired the third baseman for Edward Mujica was surprising. While there may be growing pains, Cox is probably better right now than what Dobbs could provide over the entire 2013 season.

Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers

6-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 80:15 K:BB over 65 innings from August through the end of the season. Then, 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and an 18:3 K:BB in 11 innings against the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees…Scherzer was a beast down the stretch. He lost his only World Series start against the San Francisco Giants, but Scherzer became a reliable piece to complement Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, stabilizing an amazing group of pitchers collected by the Detroit Tigers. Scherzer was third in the majors (behind James Shields, Verlander, and tied with Clayton Kershaw) in strikeouts in the second half (110), while winning a career-best 16 games in 2012. Scherzer will turn 29 in July and he is arbitration-eligible for the second time. After earning $3.75 million in 2012, Tigers ownership may want to consider locking the mis-matched eyed starter into a long-term contract.

Voting: A non-Baseball Blog

* This is a political rant and my own opinion. While this is a baseball blog, it is also my blog. Feel free to comment, disagree, or not read, but make sure you vote today. *

My wife’s grandfather fought in World War II and she has told me that, over the years, he has never been able to tell stories about what he did or what he saw. He was in the Navy and he was fighting in the Pacific, which I’ve read and seen documentaries that show the gore and devastation that occurred there.

The man fought to save the free world from the monsters who were trying to expand their territories, destroying entire civilizations and races along the way. He fought at sea and abroad because America wanted to keep the war from arriving here, but the Pearl Harbor attack truly woke up the minds of those who felt that neutrality was the correct approach.

Since World War II, America has been the world police, stepping in to eliminate leaderships of suppression and determining the world’s point of view on social issues.

People have and will continue to die to protect our rights and freedoms, and there are still rights and freedoms that many in our own country have been unable to gain.

For that reason, I am voting today and I am voting for Barack Obama. To me, Obama still provides the hope and change that America needs, building a foundation of equality and action to provide the greatest number of opportunities to the greatest number of people. As a Christian, I feel that this is the correct approach, while others say that Jesus wasn’t Robin Hood and that providing opportunities for all people is Socialism.

The opportunities that people have to earn, rather than having the right to those opportunities, is the reason that we are at war with other nations. Our democracy allows Americans to attain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t set up to discriminate due to your gender, race, socio-economic class, or sexual orientation. The value of the individual human being is not our decision or judgment, but we are to provide what we can to each human being so that they have a chance to build and attain that value.

When Mitt Romney questioned the effort of 47 percent of Americans, told the world that we don’t need more teachers, and agrees with self-deportation of “illegal immigrants” who are just trying to create value in their lives and their family’s, I was sold on anyone but him.

The future depends on your vote today, and whether you agree with my vote or not, make sure that you get out there and make your voice heard. The lives of many who have and will fall for your right to do so depend on it, so, too, do the rights of those who are still looking for equality in our own nation.

 

How the Giants Can Repeat in 2013

The San Francisco Giants won the NL West, won three straight games in Cincinnati in the NLDS to stave off elimination, then won three in a row to stave off elimination against St. Louis in the NLCS, before having an easy go of things while sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series. The Giants rode the wave of an amazing fan base (over 3.3 million at AT&T Park in 2012) and even more amazing pitching, developing a group of talented arms to lift them to their second championship in three seasons.

Looking ahead to 2013, the Giants have a few players that they may be concerned about as they reach free agency. Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, and Jeremy Affeldt played important roles in the playoffs, while Melky Cabrera (prior to his 50-game suspension) was a superstar and Ryan Theriot provided depth for the middle infield throughout the regular season.

Should the Giants bring back Cabrera, trusting that he can be an All-Star without synthetic testosterone, or should they count on the core that brought the team a title, re-signing Pagan and counting on Gregor Blanco in left in 2013? With Freddy Sanchez and his brittle body reaching free agency, can the Giants afford to let Scutaro, who hit .362/.385/.473 in 61 games with San Francisco, leave town?

While the champions have questions at second base and the outfield, they don’t have many elsewhere on the diamond. Hunter Pence struggled to a .219/.287/.384 line once he was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies, but he is under team control for one more season, he is a solid regular in right field, and his useful right-handed bat will complement the order, allowing Bruce Bochy to have a switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Pence, and left-handed hitting Brandon Belt in the middle of the order. Belt finally has trust from Bochy, as well, taking over the first base job exclusively from Aubrey Huff and hitting .329/.401/.494 over the final two months of the season. Brandon Crawford showed that his slick glove can overcome his career .235/.299/.333 triple-slash, showcasing his powerful throwing arm and range for a national audience during the playoffs.

Courtesy: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Beyond the everyday players, the Giants are absolutely loaded with pitching. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito, and Tim Lincecum are all signed for next season. Some have wondered what Lincecum’s role will be, especially after he thrived out of the bullpen in October, but he’ll probably get a shot at the rotation before they pay him $22 million to be a relief pitcher in 2013. Speaking of money…Cain, Zito, and Lincecum combine to earn $62 million in 2013, while Vogelsong’s $5 million and Bumgarner’s $750,000 salaries are clearly bargains.

The bullpen is interesting, as well. Brian Wilson (aka “The Beard) is arbitration-eligible, so could he be non-tendered since Sergio Romo showed that he was capable of dominating as a closer in the playoffs and throughout the season? With Santiago Casilla as insurance in the closer role, it could be possible. Affeldt teamed with Javier Lopez as a dominating left-handed duo. If Affeldt is not re-signed, Jose Mijares, who posted a 2.56 ERA over 78 appearances (27 with the Giants), may see a bump in usage.

The San Francisco Giants are set up to be contenders again in 2013. While the team has a need in center or left field, depending on whether they try to re-sign Melky Cabrera or Angel Pagan, their most glaring hole will be the leadership and skills that second baseman Marco Scutaro brought to the club after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies. With a strong pitching staff from top to bottom, and a solid core of offensive talent, led by Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence, the Giants can and will continue to get by with very little offensive help from their other pieces. It is all because their rotation can be so dominant, as evidenced by their 71-49 record and 3.73 ERA in 2012.

Look for the Giants to find a way to keep both Scutaro and Pagan, their No.1 and No.2 hitters, and do very little else on the free agent market to keep the core of this talented group together. They really can’t afford to do much else due to the contracts to Zito and Lincecum, but selling out AT&T Park and the revenue that comes along with 3.3 million fans and a title could lead to a surprise signing.

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