Results tagged ‘ Miguel Cabrera ’
It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.
The Doug Fister Trade
Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister
It has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.
Winner: Washington Nationals.
Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler
Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.
Winner: Houston Astros.
The Unimpressive Three-Way
Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.
Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL
The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.
Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.
Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?
This seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.
Winner: Texas Rangers.
The Free Agent Splashes
The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.
Why It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.
Twinkies Filled Their Rotation
Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.
Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically
Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)
Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.
The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer
Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)
Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.
Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another
Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)
Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)
Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.
After his start on June 6, 2012, Max Scherzer was 5-4 with a 5.88 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and was allowing an OPS of .861 to opposing batters over the first 64.1 innings of the 2012 season, while posting an 80:24 K:BB (3.33) . Since that point, Scherzer has gone 32-6 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, while allowing a triple-slash of .207/.267/.339 (.606 OPS) over 337.2 innings, posting a 391:92 K:BB (4.25). He won the 2013 American League Cy Young award with some incredible numbers, but heading into 2014, Scherzer will be in the last year of team-control for the Detroit Tigers, arbitration-eligible for the final time after earning $6.725 million in 2013, and he is estimated to earn roughly $14 million.
Certainly, Scherzer will be in line for a huge raise, especially with all of the insane numbers that he has posted while taking the reigns as the Tigers’ best pitcher from Justin Verlander. However, after posting the numbers that he has, would it be best to deal Scherzer right now, when he is viewed as one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball? There are several reasons why such a deal would make sense for Detroit.
Can Scherzer Maintain Success?
Scherzer has posted his incredible numbers over the last year and a half, but what was he doing before that? The first three-plus seasons of his career, Scherzer logged 617 innings and had a 3.92 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP, and while he posted an 8.7 K/9, his inconsistency was baffling for someone with such tremendous stuff. To be fair, it doesn’t always happen right away. Justin Verlander, in all of his greatness, had a 4.11 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over his first 600 innings, posting a 7.2 K/9 before being selected for the All-Star game every year since 2009 and winning a Cy Young and an MVP award; however, Verlander’s breakout came in his age-26 season, not the middle of his age-27 and all of his age-28 season. Now, at 29, will he continue his success?
In 2013, according to Pitch F/X, Scherzer introduced a curveball, which he threw about 6.5 percent of the time, while increasing the use of his changeup to 20.1 percent (up from the 17.5 percent that he threw it in 2012, though he did use it more earlier in his career). Once the league picks up on how he uses those pitches, will they make adjustments?
Additionally, Scherzer has dealt with seven cases of shoulder fatigue or stiffness dating back to his days pitching at Missouri, with fatigue setting in as recently as October of 2012. Even winning a Cy Young in 2013, Scherzer only reached 214.1 innings, his first season eclipsing the 200 inning threshold in five full seasons, so were there concerns from the Diamondbacks and Tigers as to how his workload would impact his previous shoulder issues? After all, the horses and ace-like pitchers in the league, like Verlander, typically reach between 220 and 250 innings in a season, as Adam Wainwright (241.2) and Clayton Kershaw (236) proved in 2013.
After huge progress over the last 18 months, has Scherzer proven anything or does he need to maintain his 2013 success an additional season prior to worthily achieving the ace label?
The big issue appears to be the raise that Scherzer could earn through arbitration and he only has one year remaining of team control. Should the Tigers cash him in or trade another starting pitching option and ride out Scherzer for one more year?
The Tigers’ Other Trade Options
Detroit has a luxury right now, possessing five outstanding starting pitchers in Scherzer, Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello. Verlander’s huge contract and “down year”, if you can call it that, don’t really make him as expendable as Scherzer. Sanchez proved his worth in the first year of his free agent deal, and he appears to be someone that the club will build around as their No.2 starter – behind Verlander. This would leave the Tigers to deal from Fister or Porcello to clear salary to afford Scherzer and acquire prospects.
Fister will be due around $7 million in his second year of arbitration after earning $4 million in 2013. He has been a tremendous addition to the Tigers staff since being acquired in 2011 from the Seattle Mariners, going 32-20 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 440.2 innings over 70 appearances (68 starts). He turns 30 years old in February but after seeing what James Shields was worth with two years of team-control last season, when he was entering his age-31 season, why wouldn’t the Tigers look to deal him? While Fister doesn’t have the strikeout numbers that Shields’ produced, he would make for a fine No.2 starter on another club.
And what about Porcello? It hasn’t always been pretty for the young right-hander, who has five full seasons under his belt and will still be just 25 on Opening Day. His career 4.51 ERA and 1.39 WHIP appear hideous, but there are a few bright spots. The 2013 season was a huge leap forward for Porcello, as he posted a career best WHIP (1.28), strikeouts per nine (7.2), and strikeout to walk ratio (3.38), while getting a career-best groundball rate (55.3 percent) as he dramatically increased the use of his curveball, used his changeup at the highest rate of his career, and went away from his slider in 2013. Not to mention, his 4.32 ERA came along with a 3.19 xFIP, so what would he do without Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta on the left side of his defense? Due to the major league contract that he received after being drafted in 2007, he was rushed to Detroit, logging just 125 minor league innings before his major league debut in 2009, but that early debut also makes him expensive through arbitration. Porcello, like Fister, has two years of team control remaining, but after earning $5.1 million in 2013, he could earn around $8 million in 2014, without the success that Fister has shown in his service time. Porcello had ace potential when he was selected out of a New Jersey high school over six years ago, but he hasn’t truly tapped that level and may never reach that level, but the slight increase in his stats in 2013 show that there is still potential in his arm.
Why Scherzer (and Others) Are Expendable
One name has seems to make the Tigers capable of dealing a starting pitcher this weekend: Drew Smyly.
Smyly dominated in 2013 out of the bullpen, posting a 2.37 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 76 innings with an 81:17 K:BB (4.76). Smyly has been very good since reaching the majors, and while he was fantastic in relief, he hasn’t been much worse as a starter:
Smyly lost his starting job in 2012 when the team acquired Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins while he was on the disabled list for a right intercostal strain, which came shortly after he was on the disabled list due to a blister on his middle finger of his left (pitching) hand.
Smyly has allowed a .235/.291/.385 triple-slash (.676 OPS) since arriving in Detroit, he has a 1.17 WHIP (ranking in the top 30 in MLB since the start of the 2012 season), his 24.3 percent strikeout rate is 10th among all pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched since the start of the 2012 season, and his 3.50 K:BB rate is also within the top 30 since the start of the 2012 season.
There will be some risk in relying heavily on Smyly in a starting role if the club was to trade Scherzer, Fister, or Porcello to make room for him. He threw his changeup, a pitch nearly every starter needs, in just 3.2 percent of his pitches (according to Pitch F/X) in 2013, while throwing a cutter at a much higher rate out of the bullpen. Although, according to FanGraphs, his changeup may have been misunderstood as his curve or slider, as well:
You can see in the blurred photo above that FanGraphs and Pitch F/X seemed to have a difference on the pitches that Smyly was using in 2013, but he does have more than two pitches, regardless of whether he was using a fastball, two-seamer, cutter, and one or more different breaking balls. He was pretty effective for most of the 2012 season as a starter, as well, posting similar numbers (3.79 ERA and 1.21 WHIP) to what Scherzer did in 2012 for Detroit (3.74 ERA and 1.27 WHIP).
So, Why Trade Scherzer?
Smyly may not replace the dominance that Scherzer showed in 2013, but the Tigers will likely have more effective seasons out of the remaining three starters if they were to deal their Cy Young winner this winter. After all, if Justin Verlander returns to form in 2014, we could see much more of the September Verlander (2.27 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.89 K/9) than what we saw over most of the 2013 season.
By dealing Scherzer, the Tigers could acquire several young pieces to build around. They do have Nick Castellanos ready to take over in the outfield in 2014, but their farm system is likely in the bottom half of Major League Baseball, with only Jonathan Crawford, a 2013 1st round pick, as impact prospects within their current system, as the remainder of the group looks more likely to fill utility roles or back-end starters or relief pitchers.
Dealing Scherzer for young talent would allow the Tigers to stockpile their system with more impact prospects. With Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez all getting up there in age, the Tigers need to prepare themselves with much better athletes, arms, and bats as those aging veterans begin to regress.
While dealing Fister or Porcello would likely provide some value, as well, the Tigers can be players in the American League Central in 2014 with a Verlander, Sanchez, Fister, Porcello, and Smyly rotation due to their strong offensive talent. By slashing the payroll that comes along with a huge arbitration raise for Max Scherzer, the Tigers could add a better defensive shortstop, like Stephen Drew, to assist their poor infield defense, while possibly leaving them with enough wiggle room to re-sign Omar Infante at second base. (NOTE: Jose Iglesias…how did I forget that? Maybe Drew at second and Iglesias at short could form one of the top up the middle defenses in baseball with Austin Jackson in center, if they don’t re-sign Infante, but they don’t need a shortstop with Peralta leaving to free agency with Iglesias around)
With the free agent market likely to see absurd amounts of money thrown around due to the new television contract revenue, the Detroit Tigers need to determine if paying Max Scherzer $20 million or more per season on a nine-figure contract is more valuable than the near-ready prospects that they can receive for him now, or, worse yet, the lone compensatory pick that they would receive if he received that mega-contract from another team after the 2014 season.
The Tigers need to trade Scherzer while his value is at its peak – after winning a Cy Young. The deal that the Toronto Blue Jays provided to the New York Mets – Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and a couple of other spare parts – would be a tremendous starting point for Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski.
On March 27, 2013, I posted my 2013 Predictions and Useless Guesses, which set forth my expectations for the 2013 season. Needless to say, the latter part of the title was pretty right on, as a high majority of my preseason predictions crashed and burned like nothing the world has ever seen before. For that, I am human; however, I will gloat about the things that I was right about when that time comes.
Division Winners and Wild Cards:
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays – Actual Winner: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers – Actual Winner: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Los Angeles Angels – Actual Winner: Oakland A’s
AL Wild Cards: Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays – Actual Winners: Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays
NL East: Washington Nationals – Actual Winner: Atlanta Braves
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds – Actual Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers – Actual Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves – Actual Winners: Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds
Now That We Know
I said “Bryce Harper will be better than he was in 2012 and Stephen Strasburg won’t have an innings limit. Really, this is all that you need to know, but with the addition of a leadoff hitter in Denard Span and another fantastic arm in Rafael Soriano to add to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, the Nationals are about as good as it gets in MLB for a lock to go to the playoffs.” Not only did the Nationals finish 10 games out in the NL East, they were four back of Cincinnati for the second Wild Card spot and they didn’t get near the production out of Harper that I was expecting due to injuries. The Angels proved that you can’t win with injured veterans who are underperforming (Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) while putting together a terrible rotation. And…about those Blue Jays…I bought into the players that they had acquired and thought that having Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be enough to be contenders, yet, the club finished 23 games out in the AL East, good for last place. The Dodgers, Braves, Reds, Cardinals, Tigers, and Rays did make the playoffs, while the Rangers weren’t too far behind. The Pirates and Indians contending this season and reaching the playoffs were both surprises, so maybe I get some credit despite my ugly World Series prediction…Nationals over the Angels in six…ugh!!!
Jose Bautista, you failed me. Maybe the wrist still wasn’t 100 percent in 2013 following surgery in 2012, but the .259/.358/.498 line wasn’t what I was expecting with a star-studded lineup around him in 2013. “Joey Bats” didn’t play a game after August 20 due to a bone bruise on his hip, which hurt his final statistics, which weren’t anywhere near the likely AL MVP candidates: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Chris Davis. While the award hasn’t been given out yet, I went with Cabrera with my own version of the 2013 Awards, and I’ll gladly take on your mockery for thinking Bautista was going to be a force in 2013.
AL Cy Young
Justin Verlander wasn’t the same. Maybe a part of him died when Kate Upton left him, but who can really blame him. Making an All-Star team, striking out over 200 batters, reaching 200-plus innings for the 7th straight season, and posting a 3.46 ERA is considered a down season apparently…that’s sad. Certainly, Verlander’s 2013 season wasn’t very Verlander-y, as that title seemed to go to his teammate, Max Scherzer, who went 21-3 with 240 K’s and an AL-leading 0.97 WHIP.
I went with Wil Myers early in the year and I stuck with Myers on my own postseason awards. Again, the official award hasn’t been given out, but in 88 games, Myers had and OPS+ of 132 and an .831 OPS, providing punch to the Rays lineup and helping guide Tampa Bay to another postseason appearance. Myers will continue to improve and become an All-Star level talent in future seasons, and despite losing James Shields in the deal with Kansas City, the team control and cost savings will be worth much more to the Rays, even before adding in Myers potential production.
AL Manager of the Year
I went with Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona prior to the season, while switching my own choice to Joe Girardi after the Yankees had a solid season with more injuries than any manager should ever have to deal with in a single season. However, the Francona choice shouldn’t be viewed negatively, and I had a tough time selecting Girardi over Francona when I was writing up my own awards. Francona shed the “chicken and beer” issues that ended his tenure in Boston, leading a mixed group of talent in Cleveland to a surprising Wild Card position. With the Tribe young enough to take steps forward in 2014, Francona could be a worthy candidate when the Indians likely take over the AL Central from the quickly aging Tigers.
I took the homer way out and selected Joey Votto prior to the 2013 season. While Votto was a tremendous asset for the Reds, he seems to be more valuable to the analytics gurus than some people in the front office and within fantasy leagues, as his patience creates a lot of on-base opportunities but a complete lack of numbers in the RBI column. I gave my postseason award to another NL Central star, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who had another tremendous all-around season while leading the Bucs to their first winning season and postseason appearance since 1992. Votto had another excellent season, but we’ll see what happens to his perceived value when he is driving in 75 runs with a strong on-base percentage while making $20 million or more from 2016 onward in Cincinnati.
NL Cy Young
It’s easy to pick Clayton Kershaw, so maybe I just wanted to be different when I chose Madison Bumgarner. A 2.77 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 201.1 innings is pretty solid, but it isn’t a 1.83 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 236 innings like Kershaw posted. Bumgarner is worthy of some praise, though. He improved his WHIP for the fourth straight season, increased his hits per nine for the fourth straight season, and he reached a new career high in strikeouts (199) in 2013. If the Giants are contending in 2014 and Bumgarner continues his trends, he could battle Kershaw for the title of best left-handed starter in the league.
NL Rookie of the Year
Oscar Taveras battled injuries again in 2013 and never received an at-bat at the major league level. I was counting on a Carlos Beltran injury or an underperforming Jon Jay being benched in favor of Taveras in center field, but it never happened. Instead, the National League was overtaken by a plethora of superstar rookies, highlighted by Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Matt Adams. While I chose Fernandez for my NL ROY winner, several of these players are worth of consideration, and if the NL keeps getting talent like this every year, they’ll be seeing a lot of home-field advantage opportunities in upcoming World Series’.
NL Manager of the Year
I went with a laughable Bud Black, thinking that mediocrity and solid contributions from a lot of guys with average skills would be good enough to help the Padres be competitive, at least above .500, which would make Black a viable candidate for the award. After all, the NL West had the Dodgers and not a whole lot else this season. The Friars were 76-86, 16 games back of Los Angeles, and third in the NL West. I ultimately gave my postseason award to Clint Hurdle for helping the Pirates have a winning record, but Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly were also reasonable candidates.
Beyond the Awards: Several Laughs Due to My “Bold Predictions”
Original in italics – reaction in bold
- Bryce Harper will hit over 30 home runs in 2013, while posting an OPS near .940. —-NO. Not even close.
- Mike Trout won’t hit 30 home runs again, but he will steal 50 bases. —- 27 HR and 33 SB. NOPE!
- Jose Reyes will stay healthy, even while playing on turf, and terrorize the AL East while stealing over 50 bases. —93 games, 15 SB…FAIL! NEVER COUNT ON REYES!
- Ike Davis will hit over 40 home runs after hitting 32 in 2012 while hitting just .227. —- just 9 HR while hitting .207. Ouch.
- Mat Latos will become the ace of the Cincinnati Reds, posting better overall numbers than Johnny Cueto and winning 20 games in 2013. —-Latos was 14-7 and Cueto only made 11 starts due to injuries. I think this is a win.
- Mike Minor proves that his second half from 2012 (6-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP over 87.1 IP) wasn’ a fluke, as he becomes the Braves best starting pitcher in 2013. —Win! 3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 204.2 IP and he was the most reliable Braves’ starter over the whole season.
- Jordan Zimmerman has a more impressive 2013 season than Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and he will no longer be overlooked in a fantastic Washington rotation. —-Zimmerman’s 19 wins were eight more than Gonzalez’s, his ERA and WHIP were second to Strasburg’s in the Nats’ rotation, and he led the club with 213.1 innings. Solid.
- Brandon Belt continues hitting like he has all spring, ripping 25 home runs after having a power outage in the earlier stages of his career (16 in 598 at-bats). —-Belt had just 17 HR but he still seems to be in the doghouse in San Francisco. If anyone ever needed a change of scenery, it’s this guy. He may never hit 30 home runs, but he is a very good player.
- Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy and benefits from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler having All Star seasons to hit 40 home runs, making all of those fantasy baseball players that took him in the first round feel like the smartest men alive. —-All three players battled injuries, but if All-Star seasons were based on April stats alone, Fowler would have been an All-Star, as well, along with Tulo and CarGo. As it stands, the Rockies are only as good as these three players being on the field at the same time with some solid pitching…something that may never happen.
- Allen Craig becomes an All Star and hits over .300 with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. —-Craig was an All-Star and he finished the year injured on September 4 with 97 RBI. The home runs weren’t there, he had only 13, but he was a very productive player for the NL Champions.
- Carlos Santana hits 30+ home runs and will have the kind of hype that Buster Posey has right now during the 2013-2014 offseason. —-Nope. Santana had his best full season in 2013, but hit just 20 HR while posting an .832 OPS. I still think he’ll continue to improve, but this wasn’t the breakout year.
- Jason Heyward finishes 2nd in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, posting his first 30 HR/30 SB season for Atlanta. —-Nope. Heyward struggled mightily with various injuries and failure to produce, but he’ll still be just 24 in 2014 and isn’t close to being finished.
- Domonic Brown keeps the Phillies left field job all season and posts a .270/.380/.450 line with solid production across the board. Philly fans hit Ruben Amaro, Jr. with batteries for not trusting in him sooner.—-.272/.324/.494 isn’t bad, and neither is Brown, who finally played and hit 27 HR and drove in 83 in just 139 games. The on-base skills weren’t there, but they were in the minors. Amaro is a moron.
- Zack Greinke can’t handle the Los Angeles pressure and spotlight and misses time due to his anxiety disorder. —- Greinke was fine and he went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He’d be worth some NL Cy Young votes if Kershaw didn’t deserve a unanimous vote.
- Chris Sale pitches 200 innings and proves doubters about his bony frame and drastic innings increase in 2012 wrong. —- Sale was AWESOME in 2013, going 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and a 226:46 K:BB in 214.1 innings. Stop doubting him.
- Drew Stubbs (remember him?) hits 20 home runs and steals 50 bases, revitalizing his career. —-Nope. He’ll never make enough contact to do that and he may be a fourth outfielder going forward after a disappointing .233/.305/.360 season with 10 HR and 17 RBI in 481 plate appearances, striking out 141 times.
- Rick Porcello wins 17 games with a 3.20 ERA while striking out 180 batters…all because he began using his four-seam fastball for the first time in his career. —-Well, Porcello did reach 142 strikeouts with his career high 7.2 K:9 in 2013, but fell well short of a 3.20 ERA while posting a 4.32 ERA and career best 1.28 WHIP. He’ll be 25 next year and the small improvements could be a positive sign for his career, but he’ll never be the ace many expected him to be when he was drafted.
Guys who I thought would “go bonkers in 2013″
Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Yes, he had a breakout season.
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Yes, I’d say so.
Brett Anderson, LHP, Oakland Athletics: Not even close. Needs to stay on the field.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves: Sick glove and I had no idea the power was coming.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics: Somewhat disappointing due to the injuries and dips in production, but he’s an absolute freak who should rebound in 2014.
Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals: 47 saves and a 13.8 K:9 made him one of the elite closers in baseball.
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals: He can hit and he posted career highs in games played, total bases, home runs, and RBI. If the other pieces produce around him, he’ll be an elite-level offensive catcher.
Chris Parmelee, OF, Minnesota Twins: He’s a 4A guy who just can’t translate his minor league numbers into major league production.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: 40 doubles, 23 HR, and 80 RBI at the age of 23. I’ll take it. He’ll improve his slash in coming seasons, likely when the Cubs put someone worth a damn on the field with him.
Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox: Still a lot of power with no pitch recognition skills. He’ll always mash fastballs, but he needs to find some other sort of identity to be a long-term piece for the White Sox.
Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics (Bartolo Colon won’t last forever): Solid season. Not sure if his absurd minor league strikeout totals will ever be realistic in the majors, but he’s a solid mid-to-back-end starter. And…maybe Colon will last forever.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: This was finally the year.
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners: After an excellent World Baseball Classic, Saunders disappointed again. He improved his on-base skills, but saw a dip in his power and speed, which were the tools that made him a trendy sleeper pick.
Prospects to Watch
Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore Orioles: Disappointed due to a stress fracture in his back.
Dorssys Paulino, INF, Cleveland Indians: Big disappointment after a huge professional debut in 2012.
J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Just ok before shoulder issues ended his season in May.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals: Breakout. 155 K’s in 134.2 minor league innings earned him three major league starts to finish the season.
Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: 23 starts for the Rays – 3.22 ERA over 128.2 innings with a 1.13 WHIP. He’ll be a tremendous arm in Tampa for a number of years.
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals: He needed a good season to get his prospect status back on track, but it didn’t happen. He has the tools with a great power and speed combination. He could take off in High-A in 2014 like Wil Myers did a couple of years ago, but that could be wishful thinking. I just want a Bubba to thrive.
Yasel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Nothing needed here. I am brilliant.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Huge steps this season and he could have earned a long look this coming spring. 1.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 152 innings while not turning 21 until August. He could be a legitimate No.1 starter.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros: Very disappointing season, from a 50-game suspension for a drug abuse to lackluster effort and poor numbers. The Astros need him to click and the skills are there. Does he have the drive to make it happen?
Xander Bogaerts, INF, Boston Red Sox: He helped the Sox win the World Series, but this was an easy pick after his incredible 2012 season. He’ll be an everyday player at short or third going forward, and a potential perennial All-Star within the next couple of seasons.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres: The power wasn’t there this season, but he was only 20 until August and the catching position is difficult to judge prospects within. He could be a tremendous major league receiver right now, but if the Padres let him develop, he will be a well-rounded superstar.
Joey Gallo, INF, Texas Rangers: Power like a BOSS! Gallo hit 40 bombs this season while striking out 172 times. He is Adam Dunn without the walks. Huge raw power potential. Keep in mind, he turns 20 years old this month…40 HR at 19!!!
It wasn’t always pretty, but I’ll take what I got right here. I’m not in Vegas for a reason, but there were quite a few good calls. We’ll see what next season brings. I’ll be sure to provide some more laughs while looking back to see how things turned out after the season.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
I appreciate sabermetrics and I know that Mike Trout has a lot of value to the Angels, but Cabrera was the best player in baseball, again, in 2013. While he didn’t win the Triple Crown like he did in 2012, he still put up ridiculous numbers and helped to carry the Tigers to the AL Central title while Prince Fielder put up the worst OPS of his career. Even weakened by injuries late in the season, Cabrera put up strong enough counting stats to be considered here, and it isn’t just the home runs and RBI, as shown by his MLB-leading OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Cabrera may not have the all-around tools to assist Detroit with his defense and speed, but he does everything else better than everyone else in baseball. Enjoy it while you can, as Cabrera will be on the wrong side of 30 in 2014, and with the lack of performance-enhancing drugs to aid his career totals as he ages, as they did for Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, these types of special seasons could be coming to an end for the legendary career that Cabrera has had to this point.
Honorable Mention: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles;
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Take a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1992 that finally had a winning season and look for their best player? Not even close. McCutchen has been a top fantasy baseball talent for several years and this is the year that his abilities actually propelled the Pirates into contention, where they actually remained until running into the Cardinals in the NLDS. McCutchen looks like the National League’s older version of Mike Trout, posting impressive power, on-base, speed, and defensive metric numbers, creating solid, across-the-board numbers that make him one of the most well-rounded players in the entire league. As the Pirates continue to develop and plug-in talented players around him, his numbers will likely continue to take off. He is a tremendous player with a ceiling that he hasn’t even reached yet.
It isn’t about the wins, although, Scherzer did have the league-lead by two games. It’s all about how effective Scherzer was all season. He posted the lowest WHIP in the American League and only Yu Darvish (.194) had a lower batting average allowed in the AL than Scherzer’s .195. Scherzer posted impressive strikeout totals, reached a career-high in innings pitched (214.1), and showcased his ability to lead a rotation while the Tigers watched Justin Verlander have a non-Verlander-like season in 2013. Even though the Tigers rotation was, quite possibly, the deepest of any team in baseball, Detroit wouldn’t have been quite as successful without the dynamic season that Scherzer put together in 2013.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
How could it be anyone else? Someone may want to just rename the award for the Dodgers’ left-hander with the way the last few seasons have gone, although, he didn’t win the award in 2012 thanks to R.A. Dickey and his magic and rainbow season for the New York Mets. Kershaw led the majors in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and ERA+ (194), while his 232 strikeouts led the NL. Kershaw had four starts (out of 33) in which he failed to go six or more innings and only had six non-quality starts on the season. He is the definition of an ace, a shutdown starter, capable of tossing a complete game shutout every fifth day in an era that seems to make such a statistic impossible due to innings limits and pitch counts. Kershaw has gone from a starter to avoid in fantasy leagues due to his once high walk totals to the must-have starting pitching option. At 25, the sky is the limit, and with Gary Nolan and Tom Seaver at the top of his Baseball Reference similarity scores, you have to hope that Kershaw has the long, successful career of “Tom Terrific” instead of the injury-destroyed career of Nolan.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees, 85-77 AL East (4th place)
Why would you give an award to a manager who led his team to a fourth place finish? Because that manager had his starting shortstop (Derek Jeter), starting first baseman (Mark Teixeira), starting center fielder (Curtis Granderson), and starting third baseman (Alex Rodriguez) for a combined 137 games this season, meaning those four missed a combined 511 games in 2013. While plugging in Eduardo Nunez, Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Zoilo Almonte, Lyle Overbay, and Jayson Nix, while maintaining credibility and competing within the toughest division in MLB. Girardi also had to juggle a disappointing pitching staff, as he got next to nothing out of C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps, at times, in the rotation. He certainly deserved his recent extension and proved that he is much more than a guy that fills out an All-Star lineup card every night with the Yankees star-studded roster and large payrolls over the years.
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates, 94-68 NL Central (2nd place, NL Wild Card)
I’m not a huge believer in Clint Hurdle and I really don’t think that he deserves the award due to some questionable moves that he has made over the years, as well as this season; However, he guided a group of miscreants and castoffs (along with Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, McCutchen, and Neil Walker) to the Pirates’ first winning season since 1992, let alone a playoff appearance. With several veteran additions (Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, and Marlon Byrd) and the arrival of the club’s future No.1 starter, Gerrit Cole, Hurdle was able to outlast Cincinnati and have a successful season. Maybe it was the bootcamp workouts in the offseason, who knows, but the man in charge, Hurdle, will likely benefit with the award, so I’ll give it to him.
Honorable Mention: Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals; Don Mattingley, Los Angeles Dodgers;
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
The only thing more impressive than Myers’ strikeouts and home run power are his bat flips. The kid came up and was an immediately upgrade for the Rays, hitting 4th in 25 of his 88 games, the most of any spot in the order, while providing a little punch and protection for Evan Longoria and the crew. Myers production is just the tip of the iceberg, as he is quite capable of hitting 30-35 home runs annually while striking out in bunches, just as he did in 2013. The major piece in the haul that the Rays acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields deal, Myers will be a nuisance to opposing clubs for years to come.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
Fernandez had quite a few people fighting him for the award this season, but he was just a bit more dominant than the competition. While he didn’t lead the lowly Marlins to the playoffs, like some of the other rookie of the year worthy players, Fernandez oozed confidence and had a feel for pitching that hasn’t been seen from many 20 or 21 year-old players in baseball history. He was nearly as unhittable as Clayton Kershaw, actually besting him (and everyone else) with a 5.8 hits per nine innings, best in MLB. While his character came into question by the Braves and Brian McCann after his extreme home run watching episode in September, it proved very little about how fantastic he is on the mound. While it is fair to question the future of the Miami Marlins due to their horrific owner, Jeffrey Loria, Jose Fernandez is a gem, who should continue to post awe-worthy numbers as long as his 6’2″, 240 pound frame will allow him to do so.
Honorable Mention: Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves; Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals; Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers;
MLB Comeback Player of the Year: Mariano Rivera, RHP, New York Yankees
After tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls and being limited to just nine appearances in 2012, Rivera came back and picked up right where he left off in his storied career, finishing the 2013 with over 40 saves for the ninth time in his career. The 2013 season was his final season and it was full of terrible gifts that he received during his farewell tour, but it didn’t stop Rivera from maintaining the status quo, pitching stoically and professionally while shutting the door on the opposition with his dynamic cutter. The game will miss Rivera not because of the No. 42 officially going away forever, but because he was one of the classiest people to ever put on a uniform. His willingness to come back from his injury to leave on his terms showed his character as he now goes off to a happy retirement.
All over the internet this week, different analysts have raised the question: “If you could choose any pitcher to pitch an elimination game, who would you choose?” It seems like a pretty easy question, but the answers have been all over the place. Obviously, the concept needs to be narrowed down. Is it right now? Is it in the history of the game? What kind of team is the pitcher facing?
A recent article at FanGraphs actually posed the question to 12 different players. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed starter Clayton Kershaw came out on top, receiving six votes, but it was relatively surprising that he only received six of the 12 votes. David Price ranked second with two votes, while soon-to-be free agent right-hander Roy Halladay, New York Mets’ right-hander Matt Harvey, Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, and St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright each received one vote. With Andy Pettitte, the all-time leader in postseason wins (19), Cole Hamels (7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 postseason starts), and Chris Carpenter (10-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 18 postseason starts) still around, is it fair to wonder what Baltimore Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis was thinking when he said the zero postseason start Matt Harvey?
Certainly, the nastiness of the stuff has to be taken into account when you are answering a question like this, and Harvey is undeniably one of the nastiest pitchers in Major League Baseball…when healthy. If that is the case, should Miami Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez be someone to consider? What about Justin Verlander – the guy has won seven of 14 starts, including a complete ownage of Oakland in the postseason, having posted a 0.29 ERA and a 43:7 K:BB in 31 innings (four starts)? Tim Lincecum has five wins and a 2.47 ERA over 54.2 postseason innings, why not him?
As great as Kershaw has been, he has just one win in five postseason starts. Certainly, it isn’t just about wins, as the win is a strange, outdated statistic; however, after watching Kershaw get rocked in the 2009 NLCS against the Phillies (albeit at the age of 21), is he the best option? How can a pitcher have a career 2.60 ERA, including a 2.21 ERA over his last 99 starts, and only win about 42-percent of his starts (63-percent of his decisions)?
It isn’t Kershaw’s fault. That’s why it doesn’t matter.
Pitching is fantastic, but if the team hitting behind that amazing pitcher isn’t scoring, all of those zeroes mean nothing. Case in point:
July 2, 1963.
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California.
Milwaukee Braves versus San Francisco Giants.
|Warren Spahn, L (11-4)||15.1||9||1||1||1||2||1||2.84||56||97||0.970||1.68||5.5|
|Juan Marichal, W (13-3)||16||8||0||0||4||10||0||2.14||59||112||1.470||1.49||6.7|
Kershaw isn’t going to pitch 16 innings anytime soon, he is just as unlikely to pitch on three days rest several times in a series to accumulate dominant postseason statistics considering he has never started a game on three days rest in his career.
The question “who would you start in a game that means everything” means very little. The pitcher means a lot to the outcome of the game, but what happens when that dominant pitcher has Miguel Cabrera playing third base with sore legs and Jhonny Peralta at short? What happens when Joe Kelly or some other non-elite pitcher somehow matches zeroes with the dynamic ace? What happens when Don Larson, who posted a career 81-91 record, 3.78 ERA, and 1.40 WHIP, throws the lone perfect game in World Series history?
Wins don’t matter and dominant pitching is only a luxury when it is happening while the offense is scoring runs. A pitcher is only as good as those playing behind him are on a given night. Even Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens, who struck out 20 in a single game, had to have a run behind them in case someone managed to score in between the seven non-strikeout outs.
Shouldn’t the real question be “if you could have one hitter and one pitcher on your team for a means-everything game, who would they be”?
Remember when you gambled on Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez in your starting rotation earlier this spring? Well, congratulations to you and your number one seed in the fantasy baseball playoffs, and I hope you enjoyed your first round exit against the lowest seeded team in the playoffs.
It seems like every year that the top teams are taken out by the lower seeds, just like catching the yearly No.12 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament taking out the No.5 seed. Even teams that were riding another near-Triple Crown season out of Miguel Cabrera are now probably thinking about who they are going to be keeping this winter after the Detroit Tigers’ slugger has battled an abdominal strain while missing 11 games since late July, costing his owners victories and a title.
Whether you play in a one-year league, a dynasty league, a points league, or a standard roto-league, you’ve probably been the recipient of the late season luck or the suffering owner of another 2011-Boston Red Sox-esque collapse for your fake team.
It truly isn’t an avoidable situation.
|Last 28 days||22||94||88||7||21||2||1||0||5||7||5||5||11||.239||.280||.284||.564||25||.273||59|
|Last 28 days||22||82||75||10||26||2||1||2||9||1||3||6||15||.347||.395||.480||.875||36||.414||144|
It doesn’t stop there, however.
Allen Craig‘s injuries have limited him to a .738 OPS in the second half when he has been on the field, while Brandon Belt (.922) and Brandon Moss (.989) have not only outproduced Craig, but they’ve bettered Chris Davis (.871), Prince Fielder (.840), and Joey Votto (.908) since the All-Star break.
Khris Davis, the 25-year-old rookie outfielder for the Brewers who took the spot of Ryan Braun after his suspension, is just as likely to be carrying a team running towards a championship as Pirates’ superstar, and possible NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen. Will Venable has outproduced Jose Bautista, Kole Calhoun and Junior Lake have provided more punch than Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Rios, and Billy Hamilton may be stealing a title right now while Brandon Phillips takes a face to the sphincter and a slump to the playoffs (a .421 OPS over the last two weeks).
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Fantasy baseball is a long season, just like the real thing. One can never truly prepare for the out-of-nowhere injuries, but if you thought that Harvey, Fernandez, or any other innings-limit candidate pitchers were going to help you, Bill Engvall has a sign for you on his redneck comedy tour.
What can you do to overcome these situations next season?
Assume that the solid young arm won’t help you in September and sell him off early?
Rely on veterans who have been through 162-game seasons before, who may be less likely to break down after August.
Have enough depth to cope with injuries and slumps – don’t deal it for spare parts near the trade deadline to get you over the proverbial “hump”.
Know that no matter what you do…it’s probably wrong. Luck plays a huge role in the No.8 seed knocking off the No.1 seed, and even if it isn’t every season that the upset occurs, it is just as likely to happen than not. If your league doesn’t give point values to the No.1 seed as a “home-field advantage” concept, they start off with the same likelihood of winning in the first round as the team that just snuck in.
Fair or not, you’re probably screwed. Just move on to fantasy football and figure out that Dolphins’ running back Lamar Miller and Bengals’ running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will probably be defeating your Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady-stacked lineup next weekend. You’re living a fantasy. Deal with it.
There were seven no-hitters in Major League Baseball in 2012, a number that won’t be touched in 2013 due to only two occurring to this point, barring a complete hitting meltdown. However, pitching has dominated MLB since the big-headed monsters of the steroid era have begun to disappear from the game. Since 2000, pitching has taken over the game:
The numbers show a pretty dramatic increase in strikeouts since 2000 with a drop in walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. While it could be blamed on the lack of juicers in the game, there are still position players posting absurd offensive numbers, like Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, and Mike Trout. But what is it that has changed the game?
Pitchers, for their part, have seen increase almost across the board in their production:
Strikeouts per nine are up, walks are down, left on base percentage is up, and ERA is down. All of this could coincide with the fact that fastball velocity is up (since Pitch/FX stats have become available), but there could be other reasons for such dramatic increases in pitching skills, like fielding:
For those of you unfamiliar with RZR and OOZ, FanGraphs defines them this way:
RZR: via The Hardball Times: “Revised Zone Rating is the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out. Zone Rating was invented by John Dewan when he was CEO of Stats Inc. John is now the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, where he has revised the original Zone Rating calculation so that it now lists balls handled out of the zone (OOZ) separately (and doesn’t include them in the ZR calculation) and doesn’t give players extra credit for double plays (Stats had already made that change). We believe both changes improve Zone Ratings substantially. To get a full picture of a player’s range, you should evaluate both his Revised Zone Rating and his plays made out of zone (OOZ).”
OOZ: Plays made out of zone.
It appears that with fewer errors, a slight increase in fielding percentage, and more plays made outside of the fielder’s zone, tied in with more strikeouts and more runners left on base (likely due to fewer errors and more plays being made), could also be a reason behind pitcher dominance.
Velocity and defense go a long way in stopping the opposition, and with more teams accepting the value of defense (like Arizona dealing Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius and Texas giving a huge contract to Elvis Andrus), offensive production could continue to decline. When the likes of Gregorius (.705 OPS), Andrus (.632 OPS), and Andrelton Simmons (.659 OPS) are playing defense and not hitting at league average levels, that also helps the opposition pitching in a way. Is it worth giving up offense for defensive gain when the strong fielder is such a weak hitter? Getting an out and giving an out is equal to zero, right?
Considering that the top 10 starting pitchers in ERA (Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey (R.I.P.), Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, Anibal Sanchez, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin) have an average age of 27.5, and that’s including the outliers (Kuroda at 38 and Wainwright at 31), there will likely be more years of pitching dominance on the horizon. Regardless of the video game-like numbers that a select few offensive players will produce, if or when top starting pitching prospects, like Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker, and Robert Stephenson finally reach the Majors and reach their potential (hopefully), we could feel additional breezes in the stands from the bats striking nothing but air as we watch more 3-1 baseball games.
Miguel Cabrera is amazing. His 1.139 OPS, 37 home runs, and 111 RBI entering play on Wednesday are incredible end-season totals, but the 30-year-old slugger has 44 games remaining this season. After winning the 2012 AL MVP and winning the first Triple Crown since 1967, Cabrera is ranked 1st or 2nd in all three Triple Crown categories again this season.
Does the last eleven years of dominance make Miguel Cabrera a Hall of Famer, or, bigger yet, the best right-handed hitter to ever play the game?
Taking a look at the record books and the history of the game, who would qualify as a competitor in this argument?
Hank Aaron: The non-asterisk version of the all-time home run king, “Hammerin’ Hank” also holds the all-time record for RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). His career .305 average and .928 OPS show his skills were not limited to mashing and there will never be a power hitter like him again, as his 1,383 strikeouts in 13,941 plate appearances (9.9 percent strikeout rate) exceeds the contact rate of any masher in today’s strikeout-heavy era.
Frank Robinson: Over a 16-year span, Robinson hit .302/.393/.550 while averaging 31 home runs and 97 RBI per season. He didn’t age all that well, earning one All-Star appearance and 21 points in MVP voting over his last seven seasons, but he was a two-time MVP, a Triple Crown winner in 1966, and a 12-time All-Star over his 21-year career.
Manny Ramirez: It may have been an ugly ending to his career with the female hormones and the steroid accusations, but Manny Ramirez was an incredible baseball player. For 14 years (1995-2008), Ramirez averaged 36 home runs, 119 RBI, and a .317/.414/.598 triple-slash, which led to 508 home runs and 1,660 RBI over that time. While his legacy is tarnished by the use of performance-enhancing drugs or illegal supplements, he hit the baseball better than nearly anyone in his generation during his prime.
Albert Pujols: Recently outed by former Major-Leager Jack Clark for steroid use, Pujols is still considered clean due to no documented steroid use and no publicly acknowledged failed drug test. Some thought that he was sliding in 2012 when he posted an OPS of .859, but he still hit 30 homers and drove in over 100 runs. The true decline started with his plantar fasciitis injury in 2013. Over Pujols’ first 12 seasons, though, he was a monster, averaging 40 home runs, 120 RBI, and a triple-slash of .325/.414/.608. Three MVP awards and nine All-Star appearances later, the 33-year-old first baseman has another eight years remaining on his contract in Los Angeles, so he will continue to add to those numbers, decline or not.
Alex Rodriguez: ARod is taking the fall for the entire steroid era right now, as he hasn’t failed a drug test but is being demonized for his admission of mistakes, the same thing that Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire did, but, in his prime, he was, arguably, the greatest player ever. Over 15 seasons (1996-2010), Rodriguez hit 608 home runs, drove in 1,810 runs, stole 294 bases, and posted a .305/.390/.576 triple-slash while averaging 41 home runs and 121 RBI per season. He may not be clean, just like Ramirez, but he still had to hit the ball and he always did.
Roberto Clemente: His first five seasons weren’t fantastic but the next 13 were pretty incredible, as Clemente won an MVP, 12 straight Gold Gloves, and made 12 All-Star appearances while earning MVP votes in 12 seasons. Clemente averaged a .329/.375/.503 line and, while he didn’t have light tower power like others on this list, he averaged 25 doubles, 10 triples, 16 home runs, and 82 RBI over his 13 best seasons. With his death at the age of 38 while on a humanitarian mission, Clemente ended his career with exactly 3,000 hits, and one could wonder how many more he could have had after he posted a .312/.356/.479 line in his final season.
Hank Greenberg: What could Greenberg have done without losing nearly a full season to a broken wrist and four seasons due to serving in World War II? If you take out Greenberg’s 1936 season (wrist injury), from 1934 through 1940, he hit .329/.435/.645 with 273 doubles (45 per season), 234 home runs (39 per season), and 900 RBI (150 per season). When he returned for his first full season after the war, 1946, Greenberg hit 44 home runs and 127 RBI while posting a .977 OPS. He was one of the greatest players in history, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956, despite missing so much time during his prime.
Nap Lajoie: Say what you want about the dead ball era because LaJoie was still producing. A career OPS+ of 150 to go with his .338/.380/.466 triple-slash shows that it wasn’t all infield singles and slap-hitting during his time. LaJoie averaged 35 doubles, eight triples, four home runs, 82 RBI, and 20 stolen bases with his .351/.395/.488 triple-slash from 1897 to 1913 (17 seasons), including his 1901 Triple Crown season when he led the AL in home runs (14), hits (232), runs (145), doubles (48), RBI (125), total bases (350), batting average (.426), on-base percentage (.463), slugging percentage (.643), and OPS (1.106).
Joe DiMaggio: Like Greenberg, DiMaggio missed time while serving in the military including all of the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons. In DiMaggio’s first 10 seasons, he averaged 32 doubles, 11 triples, 30 home runs, 128 RBI, and a triple-slash of .330/.398/.589. Considering DiMaggio missed his age-28 through age-30 seasons while being a hero and was done playing by the age of 36, the fact that he had 3 MVP awards, 13 All-Star appearances (every season he played), and over 2,200 hits speaks volumes to his overall ability.
Willie Mays: Over a 13-year span (1954-1966), Mays hit .315/.390/.615 with 380 doubles (29 per season), 113 triples (9 per season), 518 home runs (40 per season), 1414 RBI (109 RBI per season), and 270 stolen bases (21 per season). Possibly the greatest all-around player to ever step foot on a diamond, Mays’ abilities are evident by his overall numbers, two MVP awards, 20 All-Star appearances, and 12 Gold Gloves. It’s possible that his 1972 and 1973 seasons take a little off of what people remember him to be, as his time in a New York Mets’ uniform were nothing short of ghastly.
Honus Wagner: Like LaJoie, Wagner was a “victim” of the dead ball era. The man with the most valuable baseball card ever managed a .340/.404/.489 line over 16 seasons while averaging 35 doubles, 13 triples, six home runs, 94 RBI, and 40 stolen bases per season from 1898 through 1913. He won eight batting titles, led the league in OPS eight times, and had a career OPS+ of 151.
Jimmie Foxx: For 13 seasons (1929-1941) Foxx abused opposing pitchers to the tune of 30 doubles, eight triples, 39 home runs, 139 RBI, and a triple-slash of .332/.438/.634, while reaching 500 home runs by the age of 32. By the age of 34, Foxx was basically finished, as he hit .237/.320/.366 with just 15 home runs and 73 RBI over his final 618 plate appearances, but he was one of the most dangerous hitters of all-time prior to that point.
Rogers Hornsby: From 1919 through 1929, Hornsby had a triple-slash of .377/.453/.619 while hitting over .400 three times, winning two MVP awards, and winning seven batting titles. Hornsby could do it all from the right side of the plate in an era that was dominated by Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig.
So, with the aforementioned players above, where would Cabrera rank?
Considering that Cabrera is likely headed towards a slight decline as he gets into his 30’s, his physique leaves much to be desired, and he is currently stuck playing third base, when he should probably be playing first base or designated hitter, due to the presence of Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder in Detroit, what will the next ten seasons for Cabrera look like?
While no one will likely age like Barry Bonds, who hit 470 home runs after turning 31 years old, or Babe Ruth, who hit 405 home runs after turning 31, there are others that Cabrera could equal from age 31-on to post pretty dramatic numbers. For example, Raul Ibanez has managed to post a .278/.340/.473 triple-slash with 244 home runs and 959 RBI since turning 31. Even Carlton Fisk hit .261/.329/.441 with 242 home runs and 866 RBI in his post-30’s. You would think that make the probability of Cabrera reaching 600 home runs at over 90 percent.
However, after looking at the declines and disappearances of some of the greatest players of all-time, nothing can be certain. Miguel Cabrera has several years remaining in his career but he certainly ranks among the top 10 right-handed hitters of all time based on his production to this point. Due to his connection to Mike Trout in the 2012 AL MVP voting, you could wonder if the remainder of Cabrera’s career could be overshadowed by the statistics that are produced by Trout, Bryce Harper, or other yet-to-be-named superstars.
When all is said and done, though, who will be the greatest right-handed hitter of all time? Cabrera, one of the players mentioned above, or the field?
At this time last season, Mike Trout had won the hearts of baseball nerds around the world. At the completion of the Angels 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers, Trout had played in exactly 81 games and had posted a .353/.411/.608 line with 80 runs, 20 doubles, five triples, 18 home runs, 55 RBI, and 31 stolen bases. His .404 BABIP helped those numbers to that point, but Trout has proven that those numbers aren’t uncharacteristic in his brief career.
In 2013, Trout has continued his torrid pace, posting a .331/.412/.568 line with 73 runs, 31 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs, 66 RBI, and 23 stolen bases in 104 games, including a .358/.442/.625 over his last 79 games.
After winning the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and finishing second to Miguel Cabrera in AL MVP voting, what more can Trout do to prove his worth on the field? Fangraphs has Trout at a 6.7 WAR (1st), while Baseball Reference has him at 5.2 (eighth)…maybe it is the inconsistency in WAR calculations that has made statistical measurements in Trout’s value so worthless to some baseball writers, but the proof is in the defense, and I mean the glove and not further arguments.
So many national writers were clamoring for Trout to win the MVP in 2012 due to his defense, especially when compared to Miguel Cabrera’s defense at third for Detroit:
Based on the numbers, Trout saved 21 runs with his defense in 2012 and played rangy, above league average defense for the Angels. In 2013…not so much:
Trout is still above average in left field as far as range, but his defense in center field and the outfield, in general, hasn’t been nearly as solid this season, as the 21-year-old outfielder has cost his team nearly 15 runs this season.
Trout did pack on some weight this offseason, weighing in when he reported to camp at 241 pounds, but you his strong, muscular frame hides it well, or has already burned it off; however, is it possible that there is conditioning to blame for his sudden lack of defensive metric love?
Mike Trout is an amazing baseball player and there is no doubt that he should be in the conversation, once again, for the AL MVP; however, when writers get to their arguments this year, will his numbers be enough to overcome the seasons that Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Detroit’s Cabrera have put up this year? Is the speed and ability to steal bases worth more to voters than the fact that Trout is considered the 15th best defensive centerfielder in baseball this year (based on UZR/150)? Time will tell, but Trout is still one of the most exciting players in all of MLB to watch, regardless of future accolades, which will, at his current pace, reach Hall of Fame worthiness.
- Mike Trout proving himself all over again (espn.go.com)
- Yasiel Puig: A Representation of the New Age of Players (hofsportstalk.wordpress.com)
- Mike Trout, just 21, prepares to start first All-Star Game (nj.com)
Because so many people are clamoring over what I think, I figured it was time to make my All-Star ballot public, while filling up the rosters so that each team is represented. Feel free to ridicule and taunt my choices if you wish, but you’ll have to defend yourself.
1. Carlos Gomez, CF, MIL: Continuing his awesome breakout.
2. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: Huge production behind Votto in Cincy lineup.
3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: His numbers would look much better if he was pitched to.
4. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Hometown hero and best 3B in the NL.
5. Carlos Gonzalez, LF, COL: Hitting everywhere this year, even away from Coor’s.
6. Carlos Beltran, RF, STL: Defying age with a healthy, productive season.
7. Michael Cuddyer, DH, COL: Helping to make the Rockies a contender in 2013.
8. Buster Posey, C, SF: Tough choice over Molina, but his bat is still bigger.
9. Jean Segura, SS, MIL: Huge breakout by one of the key pieces in the Greinke deal with the Angels.
Jeff Locke, LHP, PIT
Jason Grilli, RHP, PIT
Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, WAS
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD
Patrick Corbin, LHP, ARZ
Cliff Lee, LHP, PHI
Adam Wainwright, RHP, STL
Shelby Miller, RHP, STL
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, CIN
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL
Edward Mujica, RHP, STL
Rafael Soriano, RHP, WAS
Travis Wood, LHP, CHI-C
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, CHI-C
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, PHI
Yadier Molina, C, STL
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARZ
Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
Marco Scutaro, 2B, SF
Everth Cabrera, SS, SD
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA
Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD
Domonic Brown, OF, PHI
Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL
Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT
Biggest Snubs: Sergio Romo, RHP, SF; Kevin Gregg, RHP, CHI-C; Lance Lynn, RHP, STL; Allen Craig, 1B, STL; Mat Latos, RHP, CIN; Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF; Rex Brothers, LHP, COL; A.J. Burnett, RHP, PIT; Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHI-C; Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CIN; Ryan Braun, LF, MIL; Bryce Harper, OF, WAS; Ian Desmond, SS, WAS; Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, ATL; Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD; Wilin Rosario, C, COL; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL;
1. Mike Trout, LF, LAA: Having a “down” year when compared to his 2012 rookie season, which was one of the greatest in baseball history.
2. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY: Tough choice but his bat is still huge and he gets the start in NYC.
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: His numbers are even better than his 2012 Triple Crown winning season.
5. Jose Bautista, RF, TOR: Production is slightly down, but Joey Bats is still a huge fan favorite.
6. David Ortiz, DH, BOS: Still producing as a member of AARP.
7. Adam Jones, CF, BAL: Continuing where he left off in 2012 and becoming one of the top players in baseball.
8. Joe Mauer, C, MIN: The power won’t ever be there again from his 2009 MVP season (28 HR), but he can find the gaps and be productive in ways that no other AL catcher can match.
9. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: Quietly having an incredible season as one of the worst defensive SS in baseball – loving his production, though.
Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, RHP, TEX: He just struck you out and you didn’t even know he threw three pitches. Having a dominant season.
Jesse Crain, RHP, CHI-W
Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA
Justin Masterson, RHP, CLE
Max Scherzer, RHP, DET
Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY
Joe Nathan, RHP, TEX
Clay Buchholz, RHP, BOS
Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, SEA
Ervin Santana, RHP, KC
Greg Holland, RHP, KC
Bartolo Colon, RHP, OAK
Matt Moore, LHP, TB
Bud Norris, RHP, HOU
Glen Perkins, LHP, MIN
Jim Johnson, RHP, BAL
Jason Castro, C, HOU
Adam Lind, 1B, TOR
Prince Fielder, 1B, DET
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS
Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE
Evan Longoria, 3B, TB
Manny Machado, 3B, BAL
Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK
Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX
Coco Crisp, OF, OAK
Biggest Snubs: Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK; J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL; Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX; Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA; Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B/DH, TOR; Carlos Santana, C, CLE; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, NYY; Chris Sale, LHP, CHI-W; Addison Reed, RHP, CHI-W; Grant Balfour, RHP, OAK; Casey Janssen, RHP, TOR;