Results tagged ‘ MLB ’
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?
One game. Seriously? A 16-week schedule of pounding, collisions, broken limbs, and disformed joints comes down to a single game.
A game with advertisements that cost millions of dollars for seconds of exposure, observed by many who have little interest in the outcome who are looking for something to talk about at the water cooler.
A game with two weeks worth of hype and an entire day, “Media Day”, where journalists from around the world try to trap players into saying something stupid. This year’s winner: Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers for saying he wouldn’t want to play with a homosexual.
A game where a player can make himself millions of dollars by making a single play, like David Tyree pinning the ball to his helmet for the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42 and getting a book deal, or Larry Brown intercepting two terrible Neil O’Donnell passes in Super Bowl 30 for the Dallas Cowboys and making millions by signing with the Oakland Raiders in the offseason.
A game where a nipple being flashed defines how people can now be entertained at halftime for nine years, finally getting Beyonce to have a decent, modern performance this year for those of us under the age of 60.
A game where a man who was an accomplice to the murder of two people can redefine his image, getting cleats with “Psalms”, apparently a new book of the bible, printed on his shoes by Under Armour. A man who can be featured as a man of God on the cover of Sports Illustrated, yet, hasn’t answered questions about using steroids to get his arm “healthy” enough to play again this season.
The World Series is, potentially, a seven game exclamation on a long season. While some people complain about a 162-game season in baseball, are those people taking into account the 140 days involved in a 20-week NFL season, when counting the preseason, and the five weeks of the postseason that comes down to the single game championship, adding up 25 weeks and 175 days of a season, roughly the same number of games that a MLB team plays including the postseason…and that doesn’t include an offseason that never ends that has ESPN and the NFL Network cramming the NFL Combine, Draft, and fantastic analysts like Mel Kiper, Jr. ruining your life.
Every day that the NFL exists, I get more and more tired of it. I enjoyed watching college football until it literally became the minor leagues for the NFL, where conferences and schools became more interested in the money being thrown at them by ESPN and the creation of their own network than the fact that the schools are institutions of higher learning. Now, football has become a game of thugs, even more than the NBA, where acting like a clown and screaming obscenities and fighting with one another, which doesn’t go unnoticed to the children watching, seems to be the norm.
Certainly, a lot of baseball players are trying to escape their situations. The opportunity for 16-year-old kids to sign contracts in the world of International free agency helps the extremely poor from the Dominican Republic to provide an opportunity for their family, but the number of players signed from there to go on to make millions is few and far between. However, baseball continues to be a game with very few examples of idiocy.
Baseball is and always has been a game appreciated by the patient. Baseball is a game where fans go to watch a game, not party in the parking lot and get hammered every Sunday home game. Baseball is a long season, a long career, and a game of character, which is why Pete Rose, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are outside of Cooperstown, while Lawrence Taylor, Michael Irvin, and O.J. Simpson are enshrined in Canton.
The World Series is a tradition like no other, no matter how many times you hear Jim Nantz talk about The Masters golf championship on CBS in the coming weeks. The Super Bowl is fine entertainment, but careers in all sports are defined by more than a single game. No one cares about David Tyree anymore and no one cares about Stanford Jennings kickoff return anymore. However, baseball fans remember what David Freese did for the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series, what Billy Hatcher did for the Reds in the 1990 World Series, Don Larsen and his perfect game in Game Five of the 1956 World Series for the Yankees, Kirk Gibson and his home run trot in Game One of the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers, Willie Mays and “the catch” in 1954, and Jack Morris and his 10-inning shutout in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series. Those moments live forever and always have and will.
Seven games are greater than one. Passion and character overcome whatever this is:
I’m going to introduce myself real quick. My name is Jackson Johnson and I am currently a junior at Jacksonville State University where I am majoring in Economics. I have been an avid baseball fan since I can remember and, I am a frequent reader of not only this blog but also Fangraphs along with many others. Please visit my site, Baseball in the Deep South, to read more about the Atlanta Braves and my opinions on America’s past time.
Besides debating whether the alleged use of steroids should keep Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa out of the Hall of Fame, the next great issue argued among baseball fans is the Designated Hitter. I have had this dispute many a times, not only with my friends, but also with random people at the ballpark and in the bar. I still have yet to meet someone who is truly on the fence when it comes to the topic. Every baseball fan is either for or against it and feels the other position is bad for baseball. The steroids debate is in full swing, as it is Hall of Fame voting season, so I thought it would be fun to stir up another heated baseball topic. I am going to look at the main points in each side’s argument more in depth and wrap it up by telling you where I stand on the matter.
Let’s start with the traditionalists first
Against the DH
- It’s not traditional baseball.
Ah, the oldest argument in the book. No, I’m being serious, it actually is. Rule 1.01 of baseball states, and I quote:
“Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.”
By this rule, the very first one you encounter when you crack open the baseball rulebook, the American League does not play real baseball. They play pseudo-baseball by adding a tenth man in the Designated Hitter. A pitcher is on the field just like the shortstop, right fielder, first baseman etc. and they should bat just like those players would.
2. Having the DH makes more batters get plunked in the American League versus the National League
In the first chapter of his book, The Baseball Economist, J.C. Bradbury shows how true that statement is due to the simple economic concept of opportunity cost.
There is an unwritten rule in baseball. If you plunk one of our players, then our team will subsequently plunk your pitcher the next time he is at bat as retaliation for pitching too high or inside on our guy. Thus, if a pitcher in the National League wants to plunk a batter or pitch inside to him, he is faced with weighing the cost of getting hit himself when he is due up in the batting order. You take the bat out of the pitcher’s hand, and he might be more likely to throw an inside pitch or some “chin music” as the cost of hitting a batter has just decreased.
Last year, a National League team averaged 48 hit batters in a season, where an American League team average 53 hit batters in a season.
3. It adds an extra element of strategy to the game
Having the pitcher bat gives each team’s manager more to think about and more to plan around.
Imagine, if you will, you are the manager of a national league team, any team. You are playing a game against your division rival and the game is currently tied 1-1, bottom of the sixth. You have runners on second and third with two outs. The game has obviously been a pitching duel so far, so this is your prime opportunity to jump ahead and possibly a turning point in the game. However, your pitcher is due up and you can’t decide what to do with him. He has been quite impressive thus far, only giving up one run through six innings and he could pitch one more solid inning then you will most likely have to turn to your bullpen. This is a great chance to score, and once you pinch-hit for him, he will no longer be allowed to come back into the game. If you don’t pinch hit for him then you most likely miss a great scoring opportunity and what might be a chance to win the game. What do you do?
As you can see, this is scenario and many like it are what National League managers are faced with each week, if not each game. Having the pitcher bat adds strategy and this way brings the manager more into the game.
For the DH
- Keeps pitchers from getting hurt
Pitchers play an integral role in the game. They have the most important job on any team, besides maybe the catcher. Pitchers will always be the weakest hitters on a team because they spend the majority of their time working on their mechanics or strength and conditioning. They get the least amount of time in the batting cage of any player on the team so it will not bode well if we send someone to the plate who won’t know what he is doing. All this creates is an opportunity for one of our best players to get hurt which will severely hinder our team. Having the pitcher bat is not only an automatic out, but also a liability for any team trying to keep their postseason hopes alive.
2. Attracts more fans-offense sells
You want to talk about simple economics, huh? How about this one: supply and demand. No one likes a pitchers duel, except diehard baseball fans. The regular, common fan likes to see offense, and lots of it.
Attendance has been on the rise the last couple of years, and if you take away the feeble-hitting pitcher and replace him with a masher, then offense will increase and so will ticket sales will go up even more. Teams will in turn generate more revenue, thus increasing payroll and the game will be more even. Give the people what they demand. No one likes seeing the pitcher make an out every time he steps up to the plate; it’s boring and certainly won’t sell seats. People flock to NBA and NFL games because they are offense driven. The DH will give baseball a chance to take a big chunk of our their respective fan bases.
Last year the AL had a slash line of .255/.320/.411 and an OPS of .731, the NL amassed a line of .254/.318/.400 with a .718 OPS. Also, the AL hit 179 homers and drove in 688 runs while the NL swatted 159 homers and only drove in 648 runs. If the NL could bring in more offense and make their stats closer to the AL’s, there is not doubt they would also see an increase in attendance and revenue.
3. Creates more jobs for players
Here’s another economic concept that can be applied to the game of baseball.
Why do you think that Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols decided to jump leagues and sign with an AL team before the 2012 season? Also, why do you think Josh Hamilton was more inclined to stay in the American League this offseason? Sure, the money played a factor in it, but so did having the DH. They know they’re not superman. In a few years, their bodies and reflexes will wear down and they won’t be able to play in the field every day like they are used to. Having the DH creates more jobs and keeps players’ careers alive longer. A player may not be able to man the hot corner like he used to, but if he can make contact and generate power then he will be a valuable asset to his team as a DH every couple of games. It gives teams more options and lineup choices to help them win.
As you can see, both sides make good points. Before I state what side I am on, I am going to say one more thing. I believe that having the DH in only one league is quite bad for the game. Baseball needs to do away with having one league DH and the other league non-DH and make it equal across the board. A rift is created between the two leagues and makes the difference between them noticeable. The point of the DH creating jobs is exactly why this rift exists in the first place. If you look at the Pujols and Fielder example, then you see more big time free agents will be more inclined to go to the American League as they will be presented with being able to DH every couple of days instead of having to play in the field every day in order to hit. Having the DH in only one league creates an unlevel playing field.
With that being said, I do not like the DH. Citing the arguments above, I believe it is not real, traditional baseball, and just like any other player on the diamond, the pitcher should be required to have a turn in the batting order whenever his team is at bat. To illustrate my point, I present to you, the case of Alex Gonzalez.
Many of you know Alex Gonzalez. He not only is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, but was also on the 2003 Marlins World Series team, the one that participated in the infamous Steve Bartman game. He owes a puny .247/.292/.399 slash line accompanied with a career 4.8 BB% and a 18.7 K%. Despite these pitiful offensive numbers, he has managed to find work over the years, as he is known for having a slick-fielding glove. Now imagine this: what if in 2011, when he played for my beloved Atlanta Braves, upon taking the lineup card out to the umpire, Fredi Gonzalez said:
You know what? Gonzalez is a great defender and we love having him in the field, he does a lot for our team out there, but his bat isn’t worth anything, so we’re just going to have Eric Hinske bat for him when his turn in the lineup comes.
Is that not the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard/read? To me, that is what happens with the designated hitter. Yes, the pitcher plays a valuable role on the team, if not the most important, but he still deserves to bat just like any other player. This is because, just like any other player, he is in the field. You want to have another player come hit for your pitcher? That’s fine, but now your pitcher will not be allowed to return to the game.
As an economics major, I do realize the importance of supply and demand and, I do realized more fans want to see offense and not a pitcher’s duel. I know that while attendance has jumped the last two seasons, baseball still needs to find a way to boost ticket sales as the economy is still stagnant. Yes, I do see the writing on the wall. Major League Baseball does want to use the DH in both leagues, as shown by the Astros moving to the American League next year, evening both leagues out at 15 teams apiece. Yes, I do realize I am fighting a losing battle
However, I believe it is somewhat contradictory, as baseball has lagged behind in the field of expanded replay because the traditional way of umpires and no replay is how they’ve always done things, yet, they chose the less traditional route when it came to the DH.
I would like to thank Mr. Vogel for this writing opportunity. Feel free to continue the debate in the comments, and if you enjoyed this article then be sure to check out more of my writing at Baseball in the Deep South, an Atlanta Braves Blog. I wish you and your family a very safe and Merry Christmas.
You can’t buy championships…Well, maybe you can. The New York Yankees have tried to and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels seem to think that it is possible. The Blue Jays are taking a new approach. They seem to be trading for AND buying a championship, acquiring an All-Star team this offseason (and their contracts) to become immediate contenders in the American League East.
Toronto is absolutely loaded. Starting pitching…upgraded. Bullpen…upgraded. Offense…upgraded. Manager…well, they brought back a former manager, John Gibbons, so that is questionable.
Still, you have to like what GM Alex Anthopoulos has done, and if you’re a Blue Jays fan you have to love it.
The starting rotation is stacked. If the club rotates right-handed, left-handed, the rotation is: R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow. Morrow could be the No. 2 starter for most teams, possibly the No. 1 starter for many other. Morrow’s BB/9 IP have fallen from 4.1 in 2010 to 3.0 in 2012, when he posted a 2.96 ERA, also the lowest of his career. If Johnson stays healthy, he is capable of winning 20-games, having won 15 games in 2009, the last time he pitched 200 innings. Romero was 42-29 with a 3.60 ERA in his first three seasons (2009-2011) before imploding to a 9-14 record and 5.77 ERA in 2012. Buehrle has only tossed 200 innings in the last 12 seasons, winning 170 games in that time, and Dickey…a Cy Young in 2012 and a 39-28 record with a 2.95 ERA since 2010, when he seemingly became a totally different pitcher from his 22-28 record and 5.43 ERA that he posted in his previous seven seasons.
The bullpen is solid, as well, providing an end game from the Jays dominant rotation. Casey Janssen was dominant as a closer in 2012, Darren Oliver (if he doesn’t retire) has been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball over the last seven seasons, Brandon Lyon is a former closer turned set-up man, Sergio Santos is coming back from shoulder surgery, and Esmil Rogers, Aaron Loup, and Brad Lincoln still have potential to become great bullpen arms.
The additions of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera provide, quite possibly, the best leadoff and No. 2 hitter in baseball, setting things up perfectly for the powerful Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Brett Lawrie will continue to establish himself as one of the top third basemen in baseball, starting in 2013, as his power, speed, and athleticism make him an elite talent. Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus have shown glimpses of talent in the past and they are both young enough to rebound and become great contributors, even All-Star talents. The club has a lot of power at catcher with J.P. Arencibia around, who now has a clear future with Travis d’Arnaud going to the Mets in the Dickey deal.
While you can look at all of the deals that sent talent like d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, and Noah Syndergaard away from the club, the Blue Jays still have a lot of young talent in the system. Lawrie, Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose, and David Cooper will contribute at the major league level in 2013, and great prospects like Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris (who will surely rebound from a disastrous 2012), Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna, Sean Nolin, and D.J. Davis still within the system.
While the Boston Red Sox try to rebuild without making a huge splash in free agency and the New York Yankees aim to get under the luxury tax threshold by 2014, the Toronto Blue Jays have just made their move…or moves…to become a huge threat to the entire divison and the league. Could Toronto be battling Tampa and Baltimore as the Red Sox and Yankees try to determine how they are going to build in the future? The future is now in Toronto and the Blue Jays could approach 100-wins with their upgraded roster in 2013.
November 30 is the last day to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players, and if team’s are uninterested in doing so, they are non-tendered, allowing those players to hit free agency. There are several names that hit free agency yesterday that could help out your favorite team. Let’s take a look at those top, new free agents.
Brian Wilson, RHP
Wilson is just 30 years old and was one of the top closers in baseball from 2008 to 2011, compiling 163 saves over four seasons. In late 2011, Wilson started having elbow issues, then he made just two appearances in 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. He is expected to be ready to go in spring training, but he may have to settle for a one-year deal, similar to Ryan Madson with the Angels, to show he is fully recovered and capable of regaining form.
Jair Jurrjens, RHP
Jurrjens will only be 27 years old on Opening Day in 2013 and he already has 53 wins and 750 innings under his belt; however, it’s the wins and innings he doesn’t have that are the concern with him. He made $5.5 million in 2012 in his second year of arbitration, and the Braves let him go after they were unable to trade him, and with good reason, his shoulder was a great concern. Jurrjens shoulder issues could be overblown, as they started in August of 2007, but then in 2008 and 2009, Jurrjens went 27-20 with a 3.10 ERA over 403.1 innings. He had issues with tightness and inflammation, once again, in February of 2010, but it was his knee issues, which needed surgery, that caused him to miss starts. Jurrjens rebounded to a 13-6 record and 2.96 ERA in 2011, only to miss more starts due to his knee. If Jurrjens can prove to teams that it is his knee that was of concern and not his shoulder, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have a line of teams knocking at his door while you’re reading this.
Rafael Perez, LHP
He’s breathing and he is left-handed, but more than that, Perez has been a very, very effective relief pitcher for a number of seasons. Perez had one really, really bad season, 2009, when he posted a 7.31 ERA over 54 games and 48 innings, but if you look at the rest of his career, Perez has a 3.01 ERA over 284 games and 281 innings. He missed 146 games due to a shoulder ailment, which he didn’t have surgery on until late September, so team’s may be hesitant to guarantee him much. An incentive-laden, one-year contract would be a good way for the lefty to get a job quickly.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B
Reynolds is an American League team’s dream. He can handle third base or first base, but not really play either well, while providing an incredible amount of right-handed power to the lineup. He also will frustrate teams with his tremendous number of strikeouts, while posting a batting average near the Mendoza-line every season. He is what he is, as Reynolds has been this player since 2007. Reynolds doesn’t even turn 30 years old unti August of 2013 and he has compiled 181 home runs and a career .807 OPS in his six seasons. He has also struck out in 32.6 percent of his career at-bats. With his ability to sit in the middle of an order to provide power as a first baseman, third baseman, or designated hitter, Reynolds will interest several clubs.
Brandon Snyder, 1B/OF
Snyder was non-tendered by the Texas Rangers and the 26-year-old could be very valuable for the right team. He just turned 26 and Snyder only has 98 career at-bats, but he posted a .275/.331/.431 line over six seasons in the minors. He has more doubles power than home run power, having hit 14 in 2011 in Triple-A as a career high, but he would be a solid, affordable platoon partner for a club.
Geovany Soto, Catcher
Soto will be turning 30 in January and he will be very popular in coming days. After hitting .264/.370/.466 with 73 doubles and 51 home runs from 2008 to 2010, Soto has hit just .214/.297/.381 with 38 doubles and 28 home runs the last two seasons. Soto had shoulder surgery in September of 2010, so the fall in productivity could be related. Soto wasn’t ever above average behind the plate, but teams seem to be picking on his arm the last two seasons, stealing 150 bases while getting caught just 57 times (28 percent, which is league average). He’ll have plenty of suitors as a young, power hitting catcher.
Mike Pelfrey, RHP
Pelfrey will be 29 years old in January and he is about as average as it gets as a starting pitcher. He’s had a couple of seasons with an ERA around 3.70 and a few hovering around 5.00. Pelfrey has statistical averages that put him at around 200 innings per season with an ERA of 4.36, so he would be a solid filler in the back-end of a rotation. The 6’7″ right-hander had Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, so he will probably be getting an incentive-based, one-year contract to show that he has recovered. He may not be ready for the start of the season due to the 12 to 18 month recovery time for the elbow surgery.
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP
After posting a 2.88 ERA for the Nationals in 2012, it was surprising to see Gorzelanny’s name on the non-tender list. It is possible that his experience as a starter in his career would drive up his arbitration costs, although he made just one start in 2012, after making $3 million for Washington last season. Gorzelanny has proven himself as a valuable left-handed reliever, posting a 3.32 ERA over 82 games and 114 innings, with a 1.25 WHIP. When you look at those numbers, you can see why teams would jump at the opportunity to sign the 30-year-old southpaw; however, if a team is looking at him as a starter, they may want to look at his 4.61 ERA over 111 starts and 621 innings, with a 1.48 WHIP. Gorzelanny would do better for himself if he locks himself in as a solid, left-handed relief pitcher, and teams should only view him as such.
Ben Francisco, OF
Francisco is a platoon outfielder, and he has been that player for his entire career to every team that he has played for, outside of the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, he really isn’t a platoon player. Francisco has a career .260/.324/.430 line against right-handers and a .252/.329/.414 line against left-handers. Francisco, at 31, is nothing more than a 25th man. He can play left and right field and he can provide a little bit of pop, a little bit of speed, and a little bit of patience at the plate. He keeps getting chances and he keeps getting platoon roles, but I’m not sure that he is any better than what some minor league free agent types could do if given around 200 at-bats per season. Teams may still be interested in him, though, for whatever reason.
Ian Stewart, 3B
Stewart turns just 28 in April, which is shocking considering it feels like he has been around forever, having received his first taste of the majors in 2007. Stewart was once one of the most promising, having been rated as high as No. 4 by Baseball America, prior to the 2005 season. That sort of thing happens when a guy hits 30 home runs as a 19-year-old in Low-A. Stewart has even had some success at the big league level, as he hit 53 home runs and drove in 172 runs between 2008 and 2010. Stewart’s .246/.346/.454 line over that time wasn’t fantastic, but the Rockies gave up on him in 2011 after he posted a .156/.243/.221 line. He didn’t do much better for the Chicago Cubs in 2012, but he had wrist issues, which he had surgery on in July of 2012, which dated back to August of 2011, when Stewart was in Triple-A with the Rockies. Still very young, a healthy Stewart deserves another opportunity. He has proven capable of hitting major league pitching in the past and he will be very affordable. It’s unfortunate that he may become a career backup due to one miserable season and some injuries.
With the Giants Game 7 win on Monday night in San Francisco, the world prepares for its series, with Game 1 on Wednesday night at AT&T Park. The Giants get home-field advantage with that awesome Bud Selig, All-Star Game idea, as the National League won the mid-summer classic in July.
Some things to look forward to:
The Tigers’ starting pitchers are 5-1 with a 1.02 ERA in nine postseason games, covering 62 innings, while posting a 66:19 K:BB. That stat includes the absolute domination of the New York Yankees in the ALCS, where Tigers’ starters were 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA. The Tigers have the luxury of setting up their rotation for Game 1, which would allow them to start Justin Verlander in Game 1, 4, and 7; however, Jim Leyland has penciled in a four-man rotation in the World Series, with Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer slated to toe the rubber for the Tigers.
The Giants taking the St. Louis Cardinals to seven games and losing Matt Cain is sort of devastating for the outlook on the series. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy could surprise people with what he does, especially after moving Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum around from the rotation to the bullpen already within this postseason. If Bochy keeps his NLCS roster, the Giants could start Tim Lincecum in Game 1, followed by Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, and Cain in Game 4. Due to Lincecum’s struggles in Game 4 of the NLCS, could the “rest” that Bumgarner received allow him to jump back into the rotation, after Bochy said he was “tired” after his Game 1 loss to the Cardinals?
However the Giants rotation shapes up, the spacious ballparks involved in this series will allow for success from the least likely of candidates. The power that lies in the arms of the Tigers’ starting pitchers could make for some high strikeout totals, while the blend of power and finesse in the Giants rotation could lead to some very low scoring games.
Power in the throwing arms is evident but the greatest asset that the Tigers possess are the two bats in the middle of their order, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Those two are capable of changing the game with one swing, and while the Giants have power in the bats of Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Buster Posey, they aren’t nearly as productive, historically and recently, as the portly sluggers on the Tigers.
While Comerica Park and AT&T Park can sap the power in both lineups, both teams have enough on-base and speed guys (see Austin Jackson and Marco Scutaro) to manufacture runs. However, one swing of the bat can change everything, just ask Cincinnati fans, who saw the grand slam by Posey in Game 5 of the NLDS destroy their lives. While the advantage lies with Fielder and Cabrera, the Giants, so long thought to be ineffective offensively, have enough to win this series.
There is nothing better than postseason baseball. Watching the fans in San Francisco the last two nights is what makes baseball special. While they were there for all of the 81 home games in the 2012 regular season, the fire and excitement over the last two nights fueled the Giants to an amazing comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.
The Tigers are showing the passion of a city in the middle of a rebirth. While there were times of weakness, the strengths of Detroit came out to conquer those moments, establishing the franchise as a legitimate juggernaut, just as Detroit has done with the rebound of the American car manufacturing companies.
The pitching is going to make the “normal baseball fan” bored, but this series is exactly what the die-hard fans enjoy. The team that makes the first mistake in each game will lose, and the scores will look lower than a Tiger Woods scorecard before his man-whorishness was made public.
What to Expect:
The Giants will enjoy their home-field advantage in Game 1, continuing the momentum that drove them to a tremendous comeback over the Tigers, but due to the opening game loss, Jim Leyland will run Justin Verlander out for Game 4 and again in Game 7, which the Tigers will win with another Verlander shutout. Max Scherzer becomes the Tigers’ version of Trevor Rosenthal, making several appearances but totally shutting down the opposition.
Here are some guys who have been playing extremely well since the All-Star break:
Buster Posey, C, Giants
.443/.485/.705, 7 2B, 3 HR, 18 RBI in 61 AB
David Freese, 3B, Cardinals
.468/.583/.702, 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI in 47 AB
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
.423/.461/.718, 4 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB in 71 AB
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
.424/.513/.667, 4 2B, 4 HR, 6 RBI in 66 AB
Mike Trout, OF, Angels
.394/.463/.775, 5 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 5 SB in 71 AB
Josh Rutledge, SS, Rockies
.381/.394/.683, 6 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB in 63 AB
Josh Willingham, OF, Twins
.300/.402/.657, 1 2B, 8 HR, 19 RBI in 70 AB
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds
.321/.387/.768, 5 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 18 RBI in 56 AB
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
.384/.444/.753, 6 2B, 7 HR, 15 RBI in 73 AB
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds
12 G, 11 SV, 11.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 H, 24:2 K:BB
David Price, LHP, Rays
3-0 in 4 starts, 1.91 ERA, 28.1 IP, 36:8 K:BB
Jason Vargas, LHP, Mariners
4-0 in 4 starts, 2.00 ERA, 27 IP, 14:10 K:BB
Ben Sheets, RHP, Braves
3-0 in 3 starts, 0.50 ERA, 18 IP, 15:5 K:BB
Joey Votto has been one of the top players in MLB in 2012, posting an absurd .362/.485/.657 slash with 27 doubles, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and a 49:52 K:BB in 213 at bats. Brandon Phillips is finally hitting, posting a .441/.472/.735 over his last eight games, with one double, three home runs, and nine RBI. In doing so, Phillips has increased his triple-slash from .259/.314/.392 on May 24 to its current .292/.338/.454 level. With Votto still mashing and getting on base and Phillips finally hitting, are the Reds capable of being the best team in baseball over the rest of the season?
Some will argue that the Detroit Tigers have the lineup to beat due to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Others say that the Yankees lineup with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez is the greatest of them all. Others will argue that it is Ike Davis and Jason Bay, and we will mock them ferociously; however, the Reds seem to have what it takes to win. The rotation can be thin at times with the inconsistencies at the back-end, but look at the front-end of that group…
Johnny Cueto has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling a 16-8 record, a 2.36 ERA, and a 1.12 WHIP over his last 37 starts. Mat Latos may not have great stats in 2012 (5-2, 4.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP), but the Reds are 8-2 in his last ten starts. Latos is also in the middle of the season, especially from May to July, where he is now 21-6 with a 2.90 ERA over his career during the early summer months.
What does all of this mean? The Reds were as many as five games back and they were up as many as 3.5 games. Now, they are three games up on both the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds have gone 25-16 since April 15. It’s too bad they aren’t the Chicago Cubs because they are 17-8 in day games after Thursday’s 12-5 stomping of the Cleveland Indians.
The Reds have a solid rotation and enough offense to matter. The American League is filled with punishing offenses, but the National League has…good pitching? With the dramatic decline of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, the Cincinnati Reds are in an elite class in the National League.
The Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants are the only other teams in the National League with the rotation and lineups that can match the Reds. Bryce Harper is the real deal and the Nats will, at least, ride Strasburg to the limits of his innings, not his talent. The Dodgers have had issues with injuries in the rotation and to Matt Kemp, but they’ve managed to hold on thanks to Andre Ethier’s redemption season and Chris Capuano’s best Clayton Kershaw impersonation. The Giants have had some success from their rotation and offense, definitely not from Tim Lincecum, though, and with the return of Pablo Sandoval from injury, they will be that much better.
However, if Votto and Phillips are clicking like they are right now and the Reds have the 1-2 punch of Cueto and Latos going, then they can sit back and hope that the likes of Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake take the steps necessary to keep the team in contention while infusing youth in the every day lineup. With smart baseball, like Mesoraco plowing into Lou Marson for defensive interference and a free run (see here), and mediocre production from the spare parts, the Reds are a team to be reckoned with.
Francisco Lindor piece from Bleacher Report:
Major League Baseball sits in an interesting situation. With 30 teams and 15 teams in both the American and National League in 2013, due to the Houston Astros move to the AL West, there will be interleague play every night of the season. Interleague play was introduced in 1997. Prior to 1997, American League and National League players and teams only met at the All-Star game or in the World Series. Interleague play helped boom attendance for a while, as fans in Cincinnati got to see the Red Sox or Yankees, and the fans in Chicago got to see the White Sox battle the Cubs, but the newness has worn off.
After 15 years of interleague play, where games now begin within the first two months of the season, MLB is becoming more like the NBA and NFL, as teams will just be playing a revolving schedule. It takes away the unique moments of Cleveland playing Cincinnati, and makes the interleague series just another game in your team’s 81 home games.
When Houston is in the AL West in 2013, each division in baseball will have five teams, and each league will have 15. If you were to add a team to each league, there wouldn’t be a need for interleague play all season, but you could get rid of the nightly battles between leagues and get back to the league roots.
Beyond the nightly battles, interleague play isn’t really all that exciting anymore. The American League leads the interleague play standings with a 1,963-1,791 (.523). The AL rules interleague due to the DH. National League clubs aren’t able to compete in American League parks due to how rosters are put together. The typical bench player in the National League isn’t going to be capable of out-hitting most AL second basemen, let alone a monster like David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, or Billy Butler. If the NL can’t compete, is it worth having?
So, can you add teams? If you added one team to each league, which would make one division in each league have six teams, you could eliminate the nightly interleague series. Where would you add a team? Las Vegas? San Jose (if the Oakland A’s don’t move there)? Portland? Vancouver? Can New York support a third team?
What about eliminating a team? The Marlins and Twins were up for discussion several years ago, but with both teams having new stadiums, they aren’t going to be going anywhere. Tampa Bay would probably be moved before being contracted, as their stadium and attendance has left them vulnerable.
MLB should do something to make things right. Fans loved the postseason of 2011 and MLB needs to build on the excitement in some way. Taking over new markets would be a good way of doing that. Contraction would upset fans, regardless of financial and attendance woes in other markets. Bud Selig has had a few good ideas, outside of his hideous wardrobe choices in his tenure, and now is the time for another.