Results tagged ‘ Johnny Cueto ’
It is time for the Cincinnati Reds to a make a change. Dusty Baker needs to go.
On the heels of another postseason defeat, one in which Baker’s decision-making was quite questionable, this is the time to make a change.
Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty said that “He’s signed for another year,” but he also said, “we’ll sit down in the next couple of weeks and evaluate and try to see what we can do to improve things.” What seems like a vote of confidence is sort of a broad, vague, we’ll have to see type of statement.
Certainly, the Dusty Baker-era in Cincinnati hasn’t been terrible. The team has made the postseason three of the last four seasons, winning 90 or more games in those three seasons; however, in three of Baker’s six seasons, the Reds have had losing seasons. Does Baker have what it takes to get this club over the hump?
The issue with Baker is that he can’t separate himself from his players. He seems to enjoy being the cool dad figure in the clubhouse, focusing so much on the relationships that he overlooks the obvious. Like this:
“If you know Johnny Cueto like I know Johnny Cueto, he thrives in this type of environment.” — Dusty Baker on tonight’s starter
— Reds (@Reds) October 1, 2013
The problem with this statement is that Baker can’t get into Johnny Cueto’s head. Does Cueto really thrive in playoff environments? I guess this is Baker’s proof: Cueto had started two games in the playoffs in his career prior to last night and he had a 1.69 ERA. The only problem is that he lasted all of 1/3 of an inning before he was removed from last season’s NLDS start against the San Francisco Giants with an injury, and his only other start was a five inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. Was Cueto the answer as the starter in the one-game playoff? Nevermind the 130 days that Cueto spent on the DL this season. Nevermind that Mike Leake was available and he didn’t pitch on Tuesday, despite being 3-0 with a 3.28 ERA over four starts against the Pirates in 2013. Baker went with his horse, Cueto, who had pitched all of 12 inning since June 28. It isn’t as if Dusty Baker is very aware of the use of statistics, instead flying by the seat of his pants to make decisions. “All I know is that my eyes see plays and see things that save games,” this was a quote from Baker when discussing Darwin Barney and Brandon Phillips as Gold Glove worthy second basemen from the Chicago Sun Times; however, his eyes didn’t seem to save him on Tuesday night.
Just presenting this: Dusty Baker has managed for 20 years, almost all in WC era. He’s won two postseason series (2-6).
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) October 2, 2013
Baker may be respected across the game for his leadership, but he has only led one team to a World Series, and that was in 2002, in his 20 years as a Major League manager. One could even question whether Baker actually makes any decisions that have led to success. After all:
- Baker’s San Francisco Giants’ teams were loaded with Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds
- Baker’s one successful season in Chicago featured Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood, and Mark Prior combining to go 45-28 with a 2.91 ERA over 94 starts
- Baker’s successful seasons in Cincinnati have been assisted by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips
Great players don’t always make great teams, but it certainly helps. Does anyone out there think that the Oakland A’s would have won the AL West this season with Baker at the helm?
Regardless of where Baker could or should have been, he doesn’t belong in Cincinnati going forward.
The Reds have a window with their current club, the 2015 season (after which Mat Latos, Cueto, Ryan Ludwick, Sean Marshall, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon are free agents) likely it, and after the club lost the final six games of the season, including the Wild Card game against Pittsburgh, while showing very little effort in losing twice to the New York Mets before being swept in a three-game series at home against the Pirates to end the regular season, it is fair to wonder if Baker has the leadership skills necessary to motivate the Reds to play hard and get over the hump.
When Ryan Ludwick questioned the fans and their effort last week as a way to spin the Reds’ apparent lack of motivation, saying:
“I might be be calling (fans) out. But I’m calling them out in a positive way. We want loud and energetic. It’s like a natural Red Bull. We need every positive aspect we can to keep this thing going.’’
You’re telling me that in the middle of a playoff race, men playing a game and making millions of dollars can’t motivate themselves? There was no one stepping up and saying anything to fire the group of men up within the clubhouse?
This isn’t just a one-time call as a Cincinnati native, overreacting to the failure of another lost season. This is a continuation of failures that continue to go unnoticed by so many. All of the times that Ryan Hanigan started over Devin Mesoraco. All of the times that the No.2 spot and No.4 spots were juggled. All of the times that Jay Bruce and Joey Votto were split up in the lineup because they’re both left-handed, instead of utilizing their skills back-to-back in the middle of the order. All of the times that Aroldis Chapman would pitch three or four days in a row and then not pitch for a week. It has been apparent for some time that this wasn’t working.
The Cincinnati Reds lack leadership and it all starts with the manager. Look how far the Cleveland Indians have gone this season with Terry Francona taking the reigns. Ignoring numbers and flying by the seat of your pants in decision-making leads to tremendous failure, and that is the way that 95-percent of teams have finished their seasons when Dusty Baker has managed them. While intelligent managers like Joe Maddon adapt to the changing game, Dusty Baker allows his teams to fade, he loses leads, and he has no true way of defining how he can make a difference as a leader. If you throw enough crap at a wall, eventually some of it will stick.
It’s time for the crap to leave Cincinnati. It’s time for an intelligent leader. Fire Dusty Baker.
While I write about as much of baseball as I can, I always come back to my hometown Cincinnati Reds, a team that I grew up watching that I continue to root for. I’m fairly certain that the 2013 season will end in some sort of playoff appearance, likely a one-game playoff with the St. Louis Cardinals or Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but I am also not too confident in the club reaching the World Series this season, either. You can say that I am a “doubting Thomas” if you want, but with the talent in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles this season, I just don’t see the Reds going very far. For that reason, I wanted to take a look ahead to the 2014 season to see what the club could look like.
The club has a lot of money invested in Joey Votto going forward, but the $20-25 million annual salaries won’t start until 2016. Below is the payroll breakdown for 2014, featuring expected arbitration figures (courtesy Baseball Reference):
|Shin-Soo Choo||Shin-Soo Choo traded to/from Cleveland Indians||-$3.5M|
|Ryan Madson||Ryan Madson buyout||$2.5M|
|Signed||Players With Guaranteed Contracts (does not include players with options)||*27||11|
|Dollars Committed||Value of Guaranteed Contracts (no options are exercised and includes buyouts)||*$104.1M||$76.6M|
|Contract Options||Players with any type of option|
|Option Values||Maximum value of options if all are exercised|
|Arb Eligible||Number of arbitration eligible players (1st-2nd-3rd-4th, “Arb” players = 3rds)||2-3-2-0|
|Arb Costs||Rough estimated value of all arbitration cases (uses 3-year averages for 1st yr, 2nd,..)||$19.3M|
|Other Players||Additional Players Needed to Fill 25-man (no options exercised)||7|
|Other Costs||Estimate of Remaining Players Costs (based on 1-year avg of all pre-arb players)||$3.5M|
|Payroll (no options)||Est. Total Payroll w/o Options (Guaranteed + Arb + Other)||$99.4M|
|Payroll (options)||Est. Total Payroll w/ Options (Guaranteed + Options + Arb + Other)||$99.4M|
With the depth that the club has in starting pitching, barring another lost season from supposed ace Johnny Cueto, the Reds can afford to let Bronson Arroyo walk via free agency, unless, of course, he is willing to take a dramatic pay-cut in his age-37 season. How does the club look as far as depth overall?
Based on the current 40-man roster:
Relief Pitchers – (13) – Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, Nick Christiani, Justin Freeman, JJ Hoover, Sam LeCure, Kyle Lotzkar, Logan Ondrusek, Curtis Partch, Josh Ravin, Alfredo Simon, and Pedro Villareal (has been pitching in relief recently).
The loss of Shin-Soo Choo is pretty dramatic considering the skills that he has provided as the leadoff hitter for the Reds, as he is 2nd to Votto in on-base percentage in the National League. His production will have to be replaced, but who can provide the same skills. The Reds were likely hoping for another excellent season from Billy Hamilton, one of the team’s top prospects, in Triple-A Louisville this season, but, while he has stolen 73 bases, he is hitting just .259/.311/.347 after stealing 155 bases and hitting .311/.410/.420 in 2012 over two levels. If the Reds aren’t going to be in on Choo in free agency due to costs, it is also unlikely that they would make a play for Jacoby Ellsbury or Curtis Granderson. However, the club could look to a reclamation project in center to pair with Hamilton, such as: Chris Young (who has an $11 million option with a $1.5 million buyout, coming off of an unspectacular season but still possessing plenty of skills), Franklin Gutierrez ($7.5 million option with a $500,000 buyout, coming off of another injury-filled season but still a solid defender with occasional right-handed pop), or, my wife’s favorite, Grady Sizemore (a player well on his way to a Hall of Fame career before knee injuries stole his ability to stay on the field). Certainly, the club has had decent production, at times, out of Paul, Heisey, and Robinson this season, as they platooned in left field and kept the Reds in contention when Ludwick was out for several months, but they would need to upgrade from that group in center to come close to replacing Choo’s production.
Due to the recent elbow surgery that Jonathan Broxton had to undergo and Sean Marshall‘s inability to pitch for most of the 2013 season, the Reds may need a couple of back-end bullpen arms to pave the way to their shutdown closer, Aroldis Chapman. Bullpens are tough to predict and it wouldn’t be a good idea to invest in another large, multi-year deal (as they did with Broxton) this offseason. Some relievers who will become available may include: Javier Lopez, Rich Hill, J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Frasor, and Joe Smith.
Additional items the Reds may want to address this coming offseason:
- Lock up Mat Latos to an extension. Latos is due $7.25 million in 2014 and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015 prior to reaching free agency prior to the 2016 season. Would the Reds be willing to commit to Latos at five-years, $65 million and is that enough to keep Latos in Cincinnati?
- Due to Tony Cingrani relying so heavily on his fastball, what can the club do to enhance his secondary pitches so that he can have extended success as a starter? Is he a relief pitcher long-term? With Broxton and Marshall coming off of injury, would it be wise to commit to Cingrani in a set-up role?
- Should the club re-sign Bronson Arroyo to a one-year deal to keep a rotation spot warm for Robert Stephenson or should they gamble on Cingrani, Carlos Contreras, or Daniel Corcino next season as the No.5 starter? If they look elsewhere in free agency, are pitchers like Colby Lewis, Jason Hammel, Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, or Ubaldo Jimenez (if he voids his $8 million option) better options than Arroyo?
- Who is the catcher? Should the Reds truly commit to the offensive potential within the bat of Devin Mesoraco or continue to share the duties between Mesoraco and Hanigan at nearly 50-50?
Cincinnati has a pretty bright future, having locked up Votto, one of the top 15 players in baseball, to be the cornerstone of the franchise, while having solid pieces within the rotation and plenty more talent on the way. Hamilton, Stephenson, Jesse Winker, Phil Ervin, and Michael Lorenzen are going to rise quickly through the organization, just in time for the Reds current 2015 championship window.
In 2012, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, and Mike Leake combined to start 161 of the Cincinnati Reds 162 games, with Todd Redmond starting the second game of a double-header against the Chicago Cubs on August 18. In 2013, the Reds haven’t been quite so lucky with pitching health, as Johnny Cueto lasted just three starts before a strained lat shelved him on April 13.
While losing a pitcher who has managed to go 29-14 with a 2.58 ERA over his last 390 innings would probably leave most teams in a panic, the Cincinnati Reds had the luxury of calling up Tony Cingrani.
Cingrani was dominant in the minor leagues in 2012 and the beginning of the 2013 season, posting an overall 11-4 record, 1.57 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 198:54 K:BB in 160.1 innings. While he managed to get by with his fastball, which he varies the speed on from 88 to 96 miles per hour, it appears to be enough.
After just three starts in Cincinnati, Cingrani is going to make life very, very difficult on Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker. After posting a 28:4 K:BB over his first 18 innings (three starts) with a 1.50 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, who will have to leave the Reds’ rotation to allow the flame-throwing left-hander to continue to occupy a spot in the rotation?
Cueto will be welcomed back with open arms, Homer Bailey has finally become the dominant arm that the Reds hoped he would become when they drafted him, and Mat Latos is basically the 1(b) to Cueto’s 1(a) status as duel aces. That would leave Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake.
Arroyo hasn’t been awful this season. While his 4.24 ERA is a little high, the 1.09 WHIP shows that he is limiting damage by not allowing many base runners. He is averaging just under seven innings per start, as well, and he seems to have a rubber arm, having made 32 or more starts each season dating back to 2005, the poster-boy for reliability.
Leake had a rough 2012, posting a 4.58 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he hasn’t really rebounded to this point; his ERA is 4.34 and his WHIP is up to 1.52. At just 25, Leake still has a very bright future, but he needs to figure out a way to keep the opposition off of the base paths. His BB/9 is at a career high this season (3.4) and his hits per nine innings is 10.2, the highest since his rookie season.
While sending Leake to Triple-A Louisville would allow the Reds to keep their starting pitching depth fresh, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that whoever gets bumped from the rotation will end up in the bullpen. Sean Marshall just returned from an early season disabled list visit, which will greatly assist a pretty brutal group in the bullpen, which was so dominant last year. Outside of Aroldis Chapman (0.73 ERA, 0.65 WHIP) and Sam LeCure (1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), the Reds’ bullpen has combined to go 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA in 55 innings this season.
Would the Reds even consider sending Cingrani to the bullpen at this point? Because of his reliance on his fastball, it would limit his innings while shoring up the back-end of the bullpen, where Jonathan Broxton has been very unimpressive in setting up Chapman. The Reds could then handle Cingrani much like the Atlanta Braves handled Kris Medlen in 2012, allowing him to start from mid-June or early-July until the end of the season, getting valuable innings during a potential playoff run.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers looked to be loaded with starting pitching as spring training broke, only Clayton Kershaw has been worth the price of admission. With Zack Greinke out with a broken collarbone, Chad Billingsley tearing his already torn elbow ligament further, and Aaron Harang traded away, the Cincinnati Reds look to have the most starting pitching depth right now. While the St. Louis Cardinals have plenty of young arms (Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha, to name a few), the Reds have it all ready to go and ready to contribute.
Now…what do they do when Cueto returns?
If you’re like me, you may as well give up right about now. Sure, we’re only in the third week of the Major League Baseball 2013 season, but injuries are destroying my fake hopes and dreams for my fake teams right now. I play in a dynasty league at Ultimate Fantasy Sports (ultimatefs.com, still teams available if you want a challenge), where you have a 25-man roster and 7 minor league spots. You can also have up to 10 players on your disabled list, which is nice for stashing players coming off of surgeries. Regardless, this is where I am right now for my two teams that matter the most to me:
Relief pitcher (start one, make it a closer): Aroldis Chapman;
Utility (start one as a DH and one backup DH), where I have Dunn at DH and Johnson as my backup DH right now.
With this club, Weaver could be out for two months, Cueto just left his start Saturday with tricep soreness, Ramos pulled his hamstring and will miss a couple of weeks, Beckham broke his hamate bone and is out for two months, Kubel is out with a strained left quadricep, and Saunders is out with a sprained right shoulder. Add in Halladay’s ineffectiveness, Bautista and Crawford coming back from serious injuries, and Jimenez and Hernandez being terrible options, and you have a looming disaster.
Relief pitcher (start one, make it a closer): Jim Johnson;
Harrison is out with a back issue and the Ludwick injury was about as big for my team as it was to the Reds, as my LF options were so weak. I knew Ortiz and his heels would be an issue this season, while I hoped that Garcia would win a spot on the Tigers opening day roster after a solid showing late in 2012 before he had heel issues, as well. This is my first year with this team and I was focused on getting some solid young players. During the spring, Belt looked like a steal, and I feel like Machado could become a superstar. I gambled on Fowler in both leagues and it has paid off to this point, and I traded for Votto in this league because of the homer in me (Go Reds!).
Needless to say, injuries have been absolutely awful for a lot of fantasy baseball teams this season. While you can draft depth, it is nearly impossible to overcome significant injuries in any fantasy sport format. Dynasty leagues make those injuries hurt a bit longer because someone out there is the proud owner of Alex Rodriguez, rather than just waiting to draft him late in a one-year league draft; however, the list of injuries seems to be getting out of control right now. Look at the players on each team’s disabled list (as of Saturday, 4/13):
Colorado Rockies: Edwar Cabrera;
Detroit Tigers: Avisail Garcia;
Philadelphia Phillies: Delmon Young;
Seattle Mariners: Michael Saunders, Josh Kinney;
Washington Nationals: Christian Garcia;
That would be 122 players currently on the disabled list, which is nearly five teams worth of shelved talent. Outside of all of the injured players, you have to add in the struggling players to the frustrations of current fantasy baseball owners. Matt Kemp, Allen Craig, Victor Martinez, Nick Swisher, Pedro Alvarez, Jason Kipnis, Ichiro Suzuki, Giancarlo Stanton, and how about all of those proud Mike Trout owners, not the start you were seeking, out of him or any of the others named, right?
It has truly been a strange start to the 2013 MLB season. Injuries and struggles have a lot to do with thatin the early going, and while it’s easy to wave the white flag, remember that there are only 151 games remaining this year. Suck it up and deal with it…like a Cubs fan does every year.
Aroldis Chapman has impressed many this spring with his 2.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 8 innings, as he continues to be stretched out for the purpose of becoming a starting pitcher. Or is he? Who really knows at this point, the Cincinnati Reds certainly don’t have any idea what they are doing. Certainly, prior to giving three-years and $21 million to Jonathan Broxton to become their closer this winter, they should have had an idea of where they were going to put “The Cuban Missile”, the rotation or the bullpen.
Chapman was absolutely dominant in 2012, posting a 15.3 K/9 with a 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a 122:23 K:BB over 71.2 innings. A one-time starter for the Cuban National Team, the Reds have flirted with the idea of returning him to the rotation a couple of times, falling in love with his fastball and brilliance out of the bullpen, instead, while basking in the glory of having all of their starters healthy (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake) for the entire 2012 season.
With those same five guys back for the 2013 season and Tony Cingrani and Daniel Corcino reaching the upper levels of the Cincinnati Reds minor league system, the Reds are still debating as to how to handle their flame-throwing lefty, with less than two weeks remaining before Opening Day at Great American Ballpark.
For the Cincinnati Reds, the potential that Aroldis Chapman has as a starter seems to be the enticing factor in the thoughts and decision-m aking of the upper management, while the dominance that he has shown as a relief pitcher is overlooked.
That way of thinking isn’t terrible, it has happened many times in recent seasons…
Daniel Bard went from a dominant Boston Red Sox relief arm (2.62 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a 150:54 K:BB over 147.2 innings in 2010 and 2011, combined) to an afterthought in a devastatingly disappointing 2012 season for the Saux. Bard was moved to the rotation, where his potential was greater, getting 54 innings over 10 starts and posting a 5.33 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and a 32:36 K:BB. After going to Triple-A Pawtucket to work on his release point, he posted an even worse 18.71 ERA, 3.23 WHIP and a 4:6 K:BB over just 4.1 innings. Needless to say, Bard won’t be starting any games for Boston in 2013, and he may not have a spot in a very deep Boston bullpen to start the season.
Neftali Feliz was one of the top relief pitchers in baseball from 2009 through 2011, posting a 2.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and a 164:56 K:BB over 162.2 innings, while saving 74 games for the Texas Rangers. With those fantastic numbers, how great would he look pitching every fifth day, providing the Rangers with 200-plus innings instead of the 60 to 75 that he was giving as their closer? In 2012, Feliz went to the rotation and did pretty well. For whatever reason, he was brought out of the bullpen for one outing on April 25 against the New York Yankees, four days after tossing 119 pitches in a complete game loss to Detroit, and then the wheels came off. Not right away, though, as he did manage four starts with a 3.32 ERA and 1.38 WHIP before being shut down due to Tommy John surgery, which he didn’t even undergo until August, which will cost him the entire 2013 season, as well. When he returns in 2014, the Rangers will have other starters coming up through their impressive minor league system, which may allow Feliz to move back to the bullpen, taking over the closer role for the aging Joe Nathan.
Joba Chamberlain…what might have been for the one-time dominant reliever for the New York Yankees. After coming up in 2007 and posting a 0.38 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 34:6 K:BB in just 24 innings in 2007, the Yankees moved the powerful right-hander from the bullpen to the rotation on June 3, 2008, before moving him back to the bullpen September 2, when he came back from a stint on the DL due to shoulder tendinitis. He was solid over 12 starts, posting a 2.76 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 65.1 innings with a 74:25 K:BB. After returning from his shoulder injury, though, Chamberlain posted a 2.38 ERA over 11.1 innings with a 14:3 K:BB. That didn’t stop the club from trying him in the rotation again in 2009, this time making 31 starts and amassing 157.1 innings while posting a pedestrian 4.75 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. Chamberlain was moved back to the bullpen in 2010 and wasn’t nearly as dominant as his first go-round there, posting a 4.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 77:22 K:BB in 71.2 innings. However, since the start of 2011, it has all been downhill for the big righty. He had Tommy John surgery in June of 2011, he broke his ankle while recovering from that and missed most of the 2012 season, and now, heading into his contract walk year, Joba Chamberlain wants to start, but seems to be on the outside looking in to the Yankees rotation.
The reason that teams will want to move young, successful, dominant relief pitchers to their rotations lies in the results of those like Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. After dominating out of the bullpen in 2010 and 2011 (a combined 2.58 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 111:37 K:BB in 94.1 innings), the White Sox moved Sale to the rotation in 2012. He didn’t disappoint even the harshest observers, posting a 3.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and a 192:51 K:BB over 192 innings. The issue now is whether or not Sale’s elbow can handle the rotation, as jumped from 71 innings in 2011 to the whopping 192 in 2012, while missing a couple of starts with “shoulder fatigue” in late-July and early-August, and he was rail thin, standing 6’6″, 168 pounds last season. Chicago seems to have faith in him, though, as Robin Ventura named him the Opening Day starter and the team extended him for five-years, $32.5 million already this spring.
Some other converts from the bullpen to the rotation (or even flip-flopping during their careers) include: C.J. Wilson, Ryan Dempster, John Smoltz, Derek Lowe, Adam Wainwright, Pedro Martinez, Mark Buehrle, and Brett Myers. While some of those names aren’t very…attractive…they did have some success in the rotation during their careers and there are a couple of Hall of Fame pitchers there.
Potential is a scary thing in sports. It is why players get several opportunities before finally being shipped off to become Triple-A depth. It is why roster spots are wasted on Rule 5 draft picks. It is why teams go over slot recommendations to land their draft picks. It is why teams risk injuries to their superstars to see if they can get a little more out of them. You don’t see the Atlanta Braves trying to get more out of Craig Kimbrel, do you? Why should the Cincinnati Reds try to get more potential out of Aroldis Chapman when they know what they have: the second best reliever in baseball (next to Kimbrel), who is nearly a lock to close out the game when you have the lead in the 9th inning.
For every Chris Sale, there is a frayed elbow ligament and a Joba Chamberlain or Neftali Feliz story…and Chris Sale is no sure thing to repeat. Pete Schourek won 18 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1995 at the age of 26, throwing 109 more innings than he did in the 1994 season, and he followed that up with elbow and shoulder injuries before being out of baseball at the age of 32.
Which do you prefer: Domination or Potential?
Spring training is an exciting time for baseball nerds. We get to hear stories about how so many players are in the greatest shape of their lives, while we count down the days until meaningful games begin. The position battles are the most interesting things to watch over the next several weeks, and while it seems like there aren’t a lot of battles to grasp onto, here are a handful that I know that I am going to monitor.
The Cleveland Indians Rotation:
With the additions of Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka on minor league deals, the healing elbow of Carlos Carrasco, and the acquisition of Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the club has gone from having very little pitching depth to a possible abundance. It would be safe to assume that new manager Terry Francona has Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers penciled into the first three spots, while youngster Zach McAllister has a leg up on the No.4 spot, though it isn’t guaranteed. The possible battle for one spot between four solid arms is definitely an intriguing battle.
The Detroit Tiger Left Field Job:
When the Tigers signed Torii Hunter to a two-year deal, they created a logjam of corner outfielders. Andy Dirks seems to have the best shot at the every day job, but he still has Brennan Boesch, Quentin Berry, and youngster Avisail Garcia who could steal some at-bats over the course of the season, while prospect outfielder Nick Castellanos could also push for at-bats later in the season. With Victor Martinez returning from an ACL injury, the DH spot is on lockdown. The Tigers could look to make a deal for a veteran relief pitcher, as Bruce Rondon looks like the potential Opening Day closer after 52 appearances over three minor league levels in 2012. We’ll see if a club decides they could use some offensive help, especially if any PED suspensions come down from MLB from the Biogenesis case out of Florida.
The Toronto Blue Jays Second Base Job:
Gone is Kelly Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, and added were Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis. The Jays are absolutely loaded this season and the club will take advantage of a Alex Rodriguez injury and a re-tooling Boston Red Sox club to make a run at the AL East title. Bonifacio is a speedster that can play several positions. He posted a .360 OBP in 2011 and stole 30 bases in just 64 games in 2012 for the Miami Marlins. Izturis can’t really play short or third well anymore and he doesn’t do any one thing incredibly well, but he is 32 years old in 2013 and the Jays could expect about 30 doubles, 6 to 8 home runs, and 10 to 15 stolen bases over 450 to 500 at-bats. The club is in a great position with this “problem”.
The Atlanta Braves Third Base Job:
Well, Chipper Jones is gone and the Braves don’t have a third baseman for the first time since 1995. Atlanta added Chris Johnson as an extra part in their mega-deal with Arizona for Justin Upton and the right-handed hitting, 28-year-old brings a little bit of power with his career .746 OPS. He could be battling Juan Francisco, a powerful, left-handed hitting, soon-to-be 26-year old who has struggled to make consistent contact in his career, posting a 121:22 K:BB in 361 career at-bats. He has a lot of potential, but he is on the weak side of a platoon and doesn’t have a track record to rely on to this point. It will be a sad day in Atlanta without Larry Jones running out there, but the club should be prepared after dealing with all of Jones’ injuries over the years.
The Washington Nationals Catching Job:
Kurt Suzuki was once a very consistent performer, averaging 14 home runs and 67 RBI per season from 2009 to 2011 before totally crashing and burning in 2012, seeing his OPS drop all the way to .605 over 405 at-bats between Oakland and Washington. With Wilson Ramos coming back from an ACL injury, Suzuki could get the every day job for the first month or two of the season, and with solid producers around him in the lineup in Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth. Ramos was outstanding in 2011, hitting 15 home runs and posting a .779 OPS at the age of 23. Can he regain his form and confidence after a leg injury? How long until Ramos is a real factor in the position battle?
The Cincinnati Reds No.5 Starter Job:
The sky is the limit for Aroldis Chapman if he is able to transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. After posting a ridiculous 122:23 K:BB in just 71.2 innings in 2012, Chapman could, potentially, reach 200 strikeouts by averaging 13 K:9, which is still lower than his 14.1 K:9 career average. He could, legitimately, be the clubs best starter, even with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos in front of him in the rotation. However, Mike Leake is still in the picture and the Reds could leave Chapman in the bullpen for part of the season to limit his innings before stretching him out. If that is the case, could Chapman then pull a Kris Medlen in 2013 and go on to post a 0.97 ERA while going 9-0 in 12 starts for the Braves after joining the rotation on July 31. Leake, who posted a 4.58 ERA over 30 starts in 2012 after posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 2011, is very athletic and is a very good rotation filler, but with Chapman, Tony Cingrani, and Daniel Corcino coming up behind him, he could be a long-relief pitcher or trade bait as early as this spring.
The St. Louis Cardinals No.5 Starter Job:
With Chris Carpenter‘s continued neck issues, which could force him to miss the entire 2013 season, the Cardinals are suddenly lacking pitching depth, as they lost Kyle Lohse to free agency this winter, although he does remain unsigned. In their place, Lance Lynn, who was fantastic before hitting a wall last August, looks like the No.4 starter, but the Cardinals look to have an interesting battle between Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, and, postseason superstar, Trevor Rosenthal. Miller has top-of-the-rotation stuff and could be the team’s ace in the next couple of seasons, while Rosenthal’s triple-digit fastball could be dominating out of the starting rotation. If the club wants to continue to develop Miller and Rosenthal, though, Kelly was solid in 2012, posting a 3.74 ERA over 16 starts, and he doesn’t turn 25 years old until June, so it isn’t like he is a veteran option, either. With Carlos Martinez, another top-of-the-rotation type of prospect on the way, the Cardinals seem to have the depth to overcome their current “shortage” of pitching.
Certainly there are many other battles that will come about due to injuries, suspensions, or additional free agent signings, but these seven look like the biggest as spring training gets underway.
Are there any battles you’re interested in watching over the next couple of months?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Second 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, 3B, Detroit Tigers
.330/.393/.606, 109 R, 40 2B, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 4 SB
Cabrera gets the award because he won the first Triple Crown in MLB since Carl Yastrzemski won it in 1967, AND because he carried the Tigers into the postseason in September and early October, blasting 11 home runs, driving in 30 runs and posting a 1.071 OPS in 31 games. He moved to a position, third base, to accommodate the acquisition of Prince Fielder. No one ever said that he would make a difference there defensively, but his .966 fielding percentage was still better than the league average for third baseman, .952. Sure, his WAR was lower than Mike Trout, but Mike Trout is at home and Cabrera proved his worth in 2012.
NL MVP: Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
.336/.408/.549, 78 R, 39 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 1 SB
Posey led MLB in batting average and OPS+, handling catching duties and occasionally playing first base to give his reconfigured knee together after a devastating injury in 2011. Posey’s absence from the Giants 2011 season may have had a lot to do with their inability to make the playoffs after winning the 2010 World Series over the Texas Rangers. Posey’s transformation from a collegiate shortstop to a top-level offensive catcher has gone about as smoothly as anyone could have anticipated. Even while playing in an extreme pitcher’s park, AT&T Park, Posey is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers
17-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 238.1 IP, 239:60 K:BB
Verlander’s statistics in 2012 were not as impressive as his totals in 2011, but that doesn’t make him any less impressive. Verlander was the lone consistent starter for most of the 2012 season for the AL Central champion Tigers, and he scored a relationship with Kate Upton on top of that. The man is just a winner. The filth that he possesses rivals only Larry Flynt.
NL Cy Young: Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
19-9, 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 217 IP, 170:49 K:BB
He pitches in an awful park for pitchers, he is on one of the best teams in the National League, and he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two seasons, so Cueto deserves this award. While he doesn’t pitch in a major market and he did have a few stretches where he seemed to “lose it”, Cueto finally tossed over 200 innings, and, after suffering through a rough spot, he dominated late in the season. If you put the ballpark factor into play here, Cueto would garner many more votes. He should win, but it is unlikely thanks to the New York bias and the cool story that comes along with R.A. Dickey.
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics and Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
Who says you can’t share an award? These two managers deserve some sort of plaque and a key from their respective city’s mayors for the work that they did this season. With the high spending Angels and Rangers out west for the A’s and the Red Sox and Yankees in the east with the O’s, the teams found creative ways to maintain a solid group of players on their rosters through trading and drafting well over the last several seasons. As both teams head into the ALDS, thanks to Friday’s victory over Texas for Baltimore, this could only be the beginning for one of these teams.
Honorable Mention:Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays; Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox;
NL Manager of the Year: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
With his All-Star outfielder banned 50-games for a positive drug test, his one-time ace, Tim Lincecum, posting a 5.18 ERA over 33 starts, and injuries to Pablo Sandoval throughout the season, Bochy managed to lead the Giants over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. While you can question him for his lack of faith in Brandon Belt during most of the season, he seemed to make the right decision more often than not with his club.
Honorable Mention:Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds; Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals; Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates; Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals;
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
.326/.399/.564, 129 R, 27 2B, 8 3B, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB
A WAR of 10.7 in his rookie season, which led the league, shows just how special Trout is going to continue to be. Having just turned 21 years old in early August, the future is as bright as a supernova, as Trout’s power, speed, on-base skills, and fielding ability will continue to make him a perennial MVP candidate. You can certainly argue that he should win the award this season over Miguel Cabrera, but due to the Tigers landing in the playoffs and the first Triple Crown in 45 years, it has to go with the Tigers chubby third baseman.
NL Rookie of the Year: Todd Frazier, INF/OF, Cincinnati Reds
Frazier was a monster while the Cincinnati Reds went two months without their best player, Joey Votto. He finished the 2012 season with an .829 OPS was second to Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario amongst NL rookies…I see you thought I was going to say Bryce Harper there, but he posted an .817 OPS. While Harper energized his club upon his callup and had one of the best quotes of the year (“That’s a clown question, bro), it was Frazier’s bat and versatility that helped the Cincinnati Reds win the NL Central.
Comeback Player of the Year: Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
2011: .289/.374/.399, 43 R, 28 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 13 SB
2012: .286/.376/.498, 95 R, 31 2B, 2 3B, 31 HR, 115 RBI, 17 SB
Petco can put bats to sleep like the vets that work out of the back of actual Petco stores can do to your pet; however, Headley was one of the few bright spots for the rebuilding San Diego Padres, delivering MVP-like numbers for the Friars. At the age of 28 and with two years of arbitration eligibility, you have to wonder if the Padres are going to trade him this offseason for more prospects, especially after his surprising season and how often Headley’s name came up at the trade deadline.
Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees;
He is tied for second in the NL in wins (11), he is second in ERA (2.28), and while his strikeout totals aren’t as prolific as Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez, he still has 94 punchouts (28th in NL) in 126.1 innings in 2012. Johnny Cueto is an ace and he is, quite possibly, the most underrated pitcher in MLB.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Cueto is 20-10 (43 starts) with a 2.29 ERA in 282.1 innings. At the age of 26, he has established himself as a dominating starter, albeit without dominating periferals. Why is it that he isn’t as well respected for his dominance?
Cueto doesn’t have the perfect game like Matt Cain, the hype and production of Stephen Strasburg, or the dancing, 80+ mph knuckleball of the New York hype machine driven R.A. Dickey. Cueto pitches in a small-market, his ERA is the only dazzling number that pops out, and he has one more thing that goes against him…
Cueto has never thrown 200 innings in a season. His career high was 185.2 in 2010. He is currently on pace to finish 20-9 over 227.1 innings if he doesn’t hit any snags due to injury to finish off the season, as Cincinnati fans gasp at the thought of losing Cueto like they’ve lost Joey Votto.
Cueto has missed 59 games due to right shoulder pain or inflammation in his career. This has been Cueto’s biggest issue in reaching the plateau of superstardom, and the reason why he isn’t getting pimped for his abilities the way that others have, even the 37-year-old journeyman gets more than him!
This is just a lowly, self-created attempt at a sports blog, however, Johnny Cueto deserves more. Johnny Cueto is a top-notch starting pitcher and he is worthy of the National League Cy Young in 2012. Anything less than that, especially if Cueto stays healthy, should be considered a disappointment. He isn’t going to turn into Tim Lincecum and start getting absolutely rocked on a consistent basis, because he never was Lincecum. He’s still trying to get there. This is the year that the rest of the baseball world sees what Cincinnati has for a few years.