Results tagged ‘ New York Yankees ’

Minor League Report – Hot April Prospects

When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames at pitcher, solid plate discipline, gap power, and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone, and while you can’t judge projection much while just using numbers, players have to produce to move up. Working with numbers alone worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.

Lively

Reds RHP Ben Lively


Ben Lively
, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Not since Tony Cingrani dominated the California League to the tune of a 1.11 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 10 starts in 2012 have the Reds had a pitcher doing what Lively is doing this season. Since being drafted out of Central Florida last season, the 6’4″ right-hander has done nothing but dominate at each stop. The control is legit and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him jump to Double-A Pensacola in the next couple of weeks, moving him on the fast tracks to the majors, while joining Robert Stephenson as a member of the Blue Wahoo rotation.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 21 -0.1 2 Teams Rk-A 0 4 0.88 13 41.0 23 9 4 0 13 56 0.878 5.0 2.9 12.3 4.31
2013 21 0.0 Billings Rk 0 3 0.73 12 37.0 21 7 3 0 12 49 0.892 5.1 2.9 11.9 4.08
2013 21 -0.8 Dayton A 0 1 2.25 1 4.0 2 2 1 0 1 7 0.750 4.5 2.2 15.8 7.00
2014 22 -1.2 Bakersfield A+ 5 0 0.31 5 29.0 13 1 1 1 1 40 0.483 4.0 0.3 12.4 40.00
2 Seasons 5 4 0.64 18 70.0 36 10 5 1 14 96 0.714 4.6 1.8 12.3 6.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Matthew Bowman, RHP, New York Mets

Bowman is a Princeton product and, if nothing else, his intelligence could lead to long-term success; however, he seems to have some talen, as well. He is creently dominating Double-A for the Mets and continuing in his ability to keep runners off the base paths at every stop. With his continued ability to throw strikes, the Mets could team Bowman with Rafael Montero in New York to have young, strike-throwing machines within the rotation.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS GF IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 SO9 SO/W
2012 21 -0.2 Brooklyn A- 2 2 2.45 1 4 29.1 26 9 8 1 2 30 0.955 8.0 9.2 15.00
2013 22 -0.8 2 Teams A+-A 10 4 3.05 21 0 127.0 111 45 43 8 35 116 1.150 7.9 8.2 3.31
2013 22 0.3 Savannah A 4 0 2.64 5 0 30.2 28 9 9 0 4 26 1.043 8.2 7.6 6.50
2013 22 -1.1 St. Lucie A+ 6 4 3.18 16 0 96.1 83 36 34 8 31 90 1.183 7.8 8.4 2.90
2014 23 -1.7 Binghamton AA 3 0 1.04 3 0 17.1 12 2 2 0 5 17 0.981 6.2 8.8 3.40
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Matt Boyd, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

He’s left-handed and breathing, so he will get a long look, but Boyd has posted some pretty impressive numbers in his brief professional career. The strikeout totals are impressive for a southpaw, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the Blue Jays move him considering his collegiate pedigree.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 22 -0.3 2 Teams A-A+ 0 3 2.62 5 24.0 14 7 7 2 4 23 0.750 5.2 1.5 8.6 5.75
2013 22 0.2 Lansing A 0 1 0.64 3 14.0 7 1 1 0 1 12 0.571 4.5 0.6 7.7 12.00
2013 22 -1.1 Dunedin A+ 0 2 5.40 2 10.0 7 6 6 2 3 11 1.000 6.3 2.7 9.9 3.67
2014 23 -0.3 Dunedin A+ 4 0 0.29 5 31.0 18 1 1 1 5 37 0.742 5.2 1.5 10.7 7.40
2 Seasons 4 3 1.31 10 55.0 32 8 8 3 9 60 0.745 5.2 1.5 9.8 6.67
A (1 season) A 0 1 0.64 3 14.0 7 1 1 0 1 12 0.571 4.5 0.6 7.7 12.00
A+ (2 seasons) A+ 4 2 1.54 7 41.0 25 7 7 3 8 48 0.805 5.5 1.8 10.5 6.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

 

Rockies RHP Daniel Winkler

Rockies RHP Daniel Winkler

Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies

Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler get a lot of hype for their abilities, results, and projection within the Rockies’ system, but Winkler continues to post solid strikeout totals and numbers in tough environments on his way up the organizational ladder. His early-season results have been quite impressive once again, as he gets a longer look at Double-A after making just five starts in Tulsa in 2013.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2011 21 -0.5 Casper Rk 4 3 3.92 12 57.1 64 31 25 6 19 65 1.448 10.0 3.0 10.2 3.42
2012 22 0.4 Asheville A 11 10 4.46 25 145.1 152 80 72 16 47 136 1.369 9.4 2.9 8.4 2.89
2013 23 -0.4 2 Teams A+-AA 13 7 2.98 27 157.0 107 59 52 18 47 175 0.981 6.1 2.7 10.0 3.72
2013 23 -0.2 Modesto A+ 12 5 2.97 22 130.1 84 48 43 15 37 152 0.928 5.8 2.6 10.5 4.11
2013 23 -1.5 Tulsa AA 1 2 3.04 5 26.2 23 11 9 3 10 23 1.238 7.8 3.4 7.8 2.30
2014 24 -0.4 Tulsa AA 3 1 0.90 5 30.0 13 3 3 1 9 33 0.733 3.9 2.7 9.9 3.67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Seth Streich, RHP, Oakland A’s

A 6’3″ right-hander out of Ohio University, Streich has put up solid numbers in the challenging pitching environment of the California League in the early-going of 2014. Improved strikeout numbers are evident, but, most importantly, he is keeping the ball in the park. With the A’s having to deal with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them push some of their college arms who are posting solid numbers.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 21 -0.1 2 Teams A–Rk 4 1 2.65 4 37.1 27 13 11 1 18 48 1.205 6.5 4.3 11.6 2.67
2012 21 0.5 Athletics Rk 0 0 3.38 0 2.2 1 1 1 0 1 6 0.750 3.4 3.4 20.2 6.00
2012 21 -0.2 Vermont A- 4 1 2.60 4 34.2 26 12 10 1 17 42 1.240 6.8 4.4 10.9 2.47
2013 22 0.2 Beloit A 10 6 3.82 21 110.2 114 56 47 2 41 82 1.401 9.3 3.3 6.7 2.00
2014 23 -0.2 Stockton A+ 3 1 2.36 5 26.2 18 7 7 0 7 30 0.938 6.1 2.4 10.1 4.29
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Ryan Merritt, LHP, Cleveland Indians

Merrit’s early-season success is very impressive, particularly the one earned run in 24.1 innings. He doesn’t miss enough bats to be considered an elite prospect within the Tribe system, but if he continues to keep runs off of the board, perhaps he could be a solid back-end of the rotation starter. You could view him as a Tommy Milone-like arm.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2011 19 -1.9 Indians Rk 0 0 1.08 0 8.1 10 3 1 0 2 10 1.440 10.8 2.2 10.8 5.00
2012 20 -1.2 Mahoning Valley A- 3 4 4.09 14 66.0 82 42 30 3 17 40 1.500 11.2 2.3 5.5 2.35
2013 21 -0.9 2 Teams A-A+ 6 9 3.52 25 135.1 149 67 53 11 19 97 1.241 9.9 1.3 6.5 5.11
2013 21 -0.8 Lake County A 6 9 3.42 23 126.1 142 62 48 10 18 91 1.266 10.1 1.3 6.5 5.06
2013 21 -1.8 Carolina A+ 0 0 5.00 2 9.0 7 5 5 1 1 6 0.889 7.0 1.0 6.0 6.00
2014 22 -0.8 Carolina A+ 3 0 0.37 4 24.1 14 2 1 0 6 18 0.822 5.2 2.2 6.7 3.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Another solid pitching prospect for an absolutely loaded system, Gonzales is a southpaw out of Gonzaga on the fast track to St. Louis. With a lack of left-handed options within the Cardinals’ rotation due to the constant shoulder woes of Jaime Garcia, his selection was a wise choice for the perennial contenders. Gonzales will be a solid addition to the Cardinal rotation, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the youngster end up making a dozen starts in Double-A this season.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 21 -1.4 2 Teams A+-Rk 0 0 2.70 6 23.1 18 8 7 1 8 23 1.114 6.9 3.1 8.9 2.88
2013 21 0.4 Cardinals Rk 0 0 5.40 2 6.2 8 5 4 0 3 10 1.650 10.8 4.0 13.5 3.33
2013 21 -2.1 Palm Beach A+ 0 0 1.62 4 16.2 10 3 3 1 5 13 0.900 5.4 2.7 7.0 2.60
2014 22 -1.3 Palm Beach A+ 1 1 1.90 4 23.2 22 7 5 1 6 23 1.183 8.4 2.3 8.7 3.83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Stephen Landazuri, RHP, Seattle Mariners

At just 6′, 175 pounds, Landazuri is going to have to overcome the same “too short” labels that have landed upon Roy Oswalt, Johnny Cueto, Kris Medlen, and flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. When he isn’t pitching in a challenging environment (like the Northwest League and the California League), Landazuri has posted very impressive numbers. Now, a younger-than-average starter in Double-A, the righty is striking out more than a batter per inning and keeping the opposition from getting on with just 4.7 hits per nine innings and a 0.65 WHIP after four starts. He’s someone to watch within the Mariners rotation in 2014, as they try to work through injuries to Hashashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2010 18 -2.6 Mariners Rk 1 2 3.60 3 20.0 20 9 8 0 7 11 1.350 9.0 3.2 5.0 1.57
2011 19 -2.1 Everett A- 5 4 4.35 14 72.1 73 39 35 5 29 72 1.410 9.1 3.6 9.0 2.48
2012 20 -1.7 2 Teams A-Rk 3 2 2.89 10 53.0 45 17 17 1 11 44 1.057 7.6 1.9 7.5 4.00
2012 20 -0.5 Mariners Rk 0 0 1.50 3 6.0 7 1 1 0 0 5 1.167 10.5 0.0 7.5
2012 20 -1.8 Clinton A 3 2 3.06 7 47.0 38 16 16 1 11 39 1.043 7.3 2.1 7.5 3.55
2013 21 -2.1 2 Teams A+-A 7 7 4.34 26 128.2 133 78 62 16 40 129 1.345 9.3 2.8 9.0 3.23
2013 21 -0.8 Clinton A 1 0 1.50 3 12.0 8 4 2 0 8 14 1.333 6.0 6.0 10.5 1.75
2013 21 -2.2 High Desert A+ 6 7 4.63 23 116.2 125 74 60 16 32 115 1.346 9.6 2.5 8.9 3.59
2014 22 -2.4 Jackson AA 3 1 1.96 4 23.0 12 7 5 2 3 30 0.652 4.7 1.2 11.7 10.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Chad Pinder, 2B, Oakland A’s

Pinder, a shortstop at Virginia Tech, has moved to second base this season and he has produced solid numbers in the early-going in the hitter-friendly Cal League. His 17 extra-base hits in just 24 games is impressive for anyone, let alone a middle infielder. With Eric Sogard occupying second at the major league level, Pinder could be a viable long-term option for the A’s in the next couple of seasons. Another few weeks of this type of production, and Pinder could be moved to Double-A very quickly.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 0.0 Vermont A- 42 161 140 14 28 4 0 3 8 1 12 41 .200 .286 .293 .579 41
2014 22 -0.7 Stockton A+ 24 108 102 16 33 7 3 7 21 3 5 22 .324 .361 .657 1.018 67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

 

Rangers 3B Joey Gallo

Rangers 3B Joey Gallo

Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers

Everyone should already know his name thanks to his 40 home runs at the age of 19 in his first full season. The fact that he is showing some semblance of plate discipline this season while still showcasing his elite-level power makes Gallo one of the top prospects in the minor leagues right now. With so many slugging, elite prospects suffering through injuries this season (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Javier Baez are all currently disabled), Gallo will shoot up mid-season prospect lists with similar months. His long-term outlook will only beam brighter due to his ballpark and offensive projection for the Rangers.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 -1.9 2 Teams Rk-A- 59 260 206 53 56 12 1 22 52 6 48 78 .272 .412 .660 1.072 136
2012 18 -1.4 Rangers Rk 43 193 150 44 44 10 1 18 43 6 37 52 .293 .435 .733 1.169 110
2012 18 -3.1 Spokane A- 16 67 56 9 12 2 0 4 9 0 11 26 .214 .343 .464 .808 26
2013 19 -2.5 2 Teams A-Rk 111 467 411 86 103 23 5 40 88 15 50 172 .251 .338 .623 .961 256
2013 19 -0.7 Rangers Rk 5 21 19 4 7 4 0 2 10 1 2 7 .368 .429 .895 1.323 17
2013 19 -2.6 Hickory A 106 446 392 82 96 19 5 38 78 14 48 165 .245 .334 .610 .944 239
2014 20 -3.0 Myrtle Beach A+ 24 106 82 24 26 4 2 9 22 0 20 28 .317 .434 .744 1.178 61
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Peter O’Brien, C, New York Yankees

Due to Gary Sanchez being in Double-A, O’Brien was forced to return to the Florida State League, but he hasn’t disappointed, posting solid power numbers in Tampa, though, he is a bit old for the league at this point. O’Brien’s ability to hit for power should make him a decent option for, at least, a backup catching spot. He’d likely have a better career than J.P. Arencibia, who could hit for power and couldn’t walk at the same clip that O’Brien has over his brief career. If he continues to hit like he has, the Yankees may move him off of catcher or use him as trade bait.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 -0.0 2 Teams A–Rk 52 227 212 29 45 10 0 10 34 0 10 62 .212 .256 .401 .656 85
2012 21 1.3 Yankees Rk 4 14 14 2 5 2 0 0 2 0 0 1 .357 .357 .500 .857 7
2012 21 -0.1 Staten Island A- 48 213 198 27 40 8 0 10 32 0 10 61 .202 .249 .394 .643 78
2013 22 -0.3 2 Teams A+-A 119 506 447 78 130 39 4 22 96 0 41 134 .291 .350 .544 .893 243
2013 22 0.4 Charleston A 53 226 194 47 63 22 1 11 41 0 22 58 .325 .394 .619 1.012 120
2013 22 -0.8 Tampa A+ 66 280 253 31 67 17 3 11 55 0 19 76 .265 .314 .486 .800 123
2014 23 0.3 Tampa A+ 24 97 91 16 30 8 1 8 16 0 4 22 .330 .361 .703 1.064 64
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Jonathan Rodriguez, 1B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals

Another solid hitter found by the St. Louis Cardinals scouting department out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Rodriguez has handled the corner infield positions throughout his minor league career, but he has only played first in 2014. With Matt Adams ahead of him, another season of solid production will likely make him trade bait for St. Louis. Solid gap power, a solid approach, and good contact skills will make this right-handed bat a decent platoon player in a worst case scenario.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 19 -1.0 2 Teams Rk 54 197 165 21 51 13 1 2 22 4 29 32 .309 .421 .436 .858 72
2009 19 -0.6 Cardinals Rk 30 117 97 12 34 8 1 0 15 3 18 14 .351 .462 .454 .915 44
2009 19 -1.6 Johnson City Rk 24 80 68 9 17 5 0 2 7 1 11 18 .250 .363 .412 .774 28
2010 20 -1.1 Batavia A- 69 280 244 46 63 13 5 12 40 3 28 56 .258 .337 .500 .837 122
2011 21 -0.6 Quad Cities A 118 488 394 67 99 27 0 20 70 4 77 109 .251 .389 .472 .861 186
2012 22 -0.8 Palm Beach A+ 64 248 222 24 56 16 0 6 28 2 22 68 .252 .327 .405 .732 90
2013 23 0.2 Palm Beach A+ 126 523 455 71 129 34 1 18 72 21 60 101 .284 .373 .481 .854 219
2014 24 -0.1 Springfield AA 21 91 78 11 27 9 1 4 15 1 11 17 .346 .418 .641 1.059 50
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Ryan Rua, 3B, Texas Rangers

The Rangers system may not be as loaded as it was in years past due to the failure of so many elite prospects in 2013 in Hickory with their huge strikeout numbers, but Rua can’t be grouped in with those players any longer. He is raking in Double-A now, skipping the High-A level with his assignment this season and his brief promotion last year. There seems to be his continued power with early improvements in his plate discipline, and with Adrian Beltre potentially becoming a free agent after 2015 (he has a $16 million vesting option for 2016), Rua could be Gallo to the hot corner in Texas.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 21 0.7 2 Teams Rk-A- 52 214 188 43 57 12 5 4 37 10 21 40 .303 .376 .484 .860 91
2011 21 0.9 Rangers Rk 45 186 162 41 52 12 5 3 34 10 20 34 .321 .395 .512 .907 83
2011 21 -0.3 Spokane A- 7 28 26 2 5 0 0 1 3 0 1 6 .192 .250 .308 .558 8
2012 22 0.9 Spokane A- 74 320 280 40 82 16 1 7 43 4 29 64 .293 .368 .432 .800 121
2013 23 0.9 2 Teams A-AA 127 525 453 89 112 26 2 32 91 14 56 115 .247 .347 .525 .872 238
2013 23 1.4 Hickory A 104 430 367 70 92 24 1 29 82 13 49 91 .251 .356 .559 .914 205
2013 23 -1.0 Frisco AA 23 95 86 19 20 2 1 3 9 1 7 24 .233 .305 .384 .689 33
2014 24 -0.1 Frisco AA 24 93 81 12 29 6 0 6 15 1 11 13 .358 .441 .654 1.095 53
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox

Betts is already nothing more than trade bait in Boston, given that he profiles as a second baseman and Dustin Pedroia has that spot locked down through 2021. Betts has incredible bat-to-ball skills, tremendous plate discipline, and solid speed. With his early-season production in Double-A at the age of 21, the Red Sox may be able to utilize this chip for an elite addition if they are making another playoff run in 2014.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 -2.0 Red Sox Rk 1 4 4 0 2 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 2
2012 19 -2.1 Lowell A- 71 292 251 34 67 8 1 0 31 20 32 30 .267 .352 .307 .658 77
2013 20 -2.1 2 Teams A-A+ 127 551 462 93 145 36 4 15 65 38 81 57 .314 .417 .506 .923 234
2013 20 -1.6 Greenville A 76 340 277 63 82 24 1 8 26 18 58 40 .296 .418 .477 .895 132
2013 20 -2.8 Salem A+ 51 211 185 30 63 12 3 7 39 20 23 17 .341 .414 .551 .966 102
2014 21 -3.6 Portland AA 22 106 93 30 40 10 1 4 13 10 11 8 .430 .481 .688 1.169 64
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.
Mariners OF Jabari Blash

Mariners OF Jabari Blash

 

Jabari Blash, OF, Seattle Mariners

I love this guy’s name and he has some intriguing tools that could even play in Seattle. His plate discipline isn’t elite, but there is enough there to be , and he has enough power and speed in his 6’5″ frame to be a very good producer, and, after being selected three times in the draft, he must have something in his game to make him an intriguing name to follow.

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 20 -0.8 Pulaski Rk 32 127 109 21 29 6 1 5 20 1 13 44 .266 .362 .477 .839 52
2011 21 -0.4 2 Teams A–A 99 391 319 39 84 21 4 14 56 15 66 108 .263 .396 .486 .882 155
2011 21 -0.3 Everett A- 57 229 195 26 57 16 3 11 43 10 28 65 .292 .393 .574 .967 112
2011 21 -0.6 Clinton A 42 162 124 13 27 5 1 3 13 5 38 43 .218 .401 .347 .748 43
2012 22 0.4 Clinton A 113 471 400 71 98 20 5 15 50 13 60 134 .245 .355 .433 .787 173
2013 23 -0.2 2 Teams A+-AA 109 452 380 55 103 19 3 25 74 15 60 113 .271 .381 .534 .915 203
2013 23 0.1 High Desert A+ 80 332 283 42 73 16 3 16 53 14 40 85 .258 .358 .505 .864 143
2013 23 -1.2 Jackson AA 29 120 97 13 30 3 0 9 21 1 20 28 .309 .442 .619 1.060 60
2014 24 -0.6 2 Teams AA-AAA 26 115 89 19 22 6 0 5 20 4 22 25 .247 .400 .483 .883 43
2014 24 -0.5 Jackson AA 25 110 84 19 22 6 0 5 20 4 22 24 .262 .418 .512 .930 43
2014 24 -2.7 Tacoma AAA 1 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2014.

Gardner’s Extension: Planting a Seed of Stupidity in Spending

Yankees OF Brett Gardner

Yankees OF Brett Gardner

Brett Gardner is a good baseball player. He has been around since 2008, but he didn’t really get a full-time shot until 2010. He posted a 6.0 WAR in 2010 due to his 97 runs, 47 stolen bases, 79 walks, and solid defense while manning left field  (123 games) and center field (44 games) throughout that season. He followed that up with a good 2011, compiling a 4.9 WAR and leading the American League in stolen bases (49) while seeing his wRC+ fall below 100 (97). The 2012 season was lost due to right elbow surgery (he played in 16 games), and the 2013 season was solid (3.2 WAR), while Gardner become better than league average in creating runs (108 wRC+) while leading the AL in triples (10) and manning center full-time for an injury-crippled Yankee squad.

However, this winter, the Yankees have been very active, acquiring a new catcher in Brian McCann, a solid rotation addition in Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, and adding one of the elite players on the open market – Jacoby Ellsbury – from their division rival, Boston. This clearly improved the roster and should allow the Yankees to be much more competitive in 2014 and beyond, but with these additions, especially the addition of Ellsbury, Gardner’s name was listed throughout many rumors, as his bat isn’t going to produce the numbers that many corner outfielders are capable of.

On Sunday, the Yankees signed Gardner to a four-year, $52 million extension. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had this to say about the signing:

“He would be a leadoff hitter and playing center field for most organizations because most organizations don’t have multiple center-field options. There are certain places that need a center fielder and would love to have a leadoff hitter. He fit that criteria, and you have to pay him that way.”

Do you?

Gardner3Are there other teams out there that have two players locked into the same role, and, why, when the club was so cautious (prior to this offseason) of the payroll, was it necessary to give a decent player $13 million per season in average annual value for his age 31 to 34 seasons, when he will, likely, be less likely to run and maintain defensive value?

The Atlanta Braves just signed Andrelton Simmons to a seven-year, $58 million extension last week, so it wouldn’t be ideal for the Braves to try to sign Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a deal similar to what the Dodgers paid Erisbel Arruebarruena, as both are defensive-minded shortstops, though Simmons showed unexpected pop in 2013. Should the Yankees be excused from this type of investment because of their revenue streams?

Sure, there are other teams that have decided to employ solid defense in the outfield, potentially leaving some runs on the base paths to ensure that it is harder for the opposition to score. The Cleveland Indians, for example, went into the 2013 season with three capable center fielders in their outfield – Michael Brantley in left, Michael Bourn in center, and Drew Stubbs in right – and they became contenders, winning 92 games in 2013 after winning just 68 in 2012. Certainly, Nick Swisher‘s addition, improved production from Jason Kipnis, and surprising seasons from Yan Gomes and Ubaldo Jimenez helped, but…maybe it was the defense.

The Angels had Peter Bourjos penciled into center in 2013 until hamstring and wrist injuries kept him on the disabled list for 106 games in 2013. With Bourjos, Mike Trout, and Josh Hamilton, the Angels, on paper, had a group of three center fielders, as well; although, it would be a reach to consider Hamilton a center fielder at this point. There is also the dynamic offensive numbers that Trout can put up wherever he is playing that separates him from any of the Indians’ outfielders, as well as Gardner – so with Bourjos gone and J.B. Schuck and Kole Calhoun taking his spot, Trout manned center and, once again, posted MVP-caliber numbers while the Angels finished with a disappointing 78 wins.

There are certainly arguments for defensive value that make the Gardner extension reasonable, but $13 million per season seems like a lot of money for the 20th most valuable outfielder in baseball from 2013, tied with Rays’ outfielder Desmond Jennings and Braves’ outfielder Justin Upton with a 3.2 WAR. There are so many other options who could have been more affordable for New York as players like Coco Crisp, Marlon Byrd, and Shane Victorino could have been available to them, and they each posted more productive seasons while earning similar totals to what Gardner will earn from 2015 through 2018. 

Beyond Gardner’s peers, should the Yankees be concerned about his production when compared to his past production?

Season PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% BABIP AVG OBP SLG WAR
2008 141 0 18 16 13 5.7 21.3 0.296 0.228 0.283 0.299 1.1
2009 284 3 48 23 26 9.2 14.1 0.311 0.270 0.345 0.379 2.3
2010 569 5 97 47 47 13.9 17.8 0.340 0.277 0.383 0.379 6.0
2011 588 7 87 36 49 10.2 15.8 0.303 0.259 0.345 0.369 4.9
2012 37 0 7 3 2 13.5 18.9 0.417 0.323 0.417 0.387 0.3
2013 609 8 81 52 24 8.5 20.9 0.342 0.273 0.344 0.416 3.2

His best season will be three-plus years ago when the 2014 season starts and his production has been all over the place since then. You can see that Gardner’s walk rate has gone from 13.9 percent  in his breakout 2010 to 8.5 percent in 2013, while, at the same time, his strikeout rate jumped to a full-season worst 20.9 percent in 2013. Gardner may have been pressing due to a need to be productive with all of the injuries around him, but if he isn’t on base, he isn’t running, and if he isn’t running, where does his value lie? It lies in his defense and if he isn’t playing center field, does that decrease his overall value?

Gardner2Again, there is such a thing as an elite defense, but teams tend to want big offensive production from their corner spots. Brett Gardner is not as sexy in left as he is in center, and with Jacoby Ellsbury unlikely to ever reach the outlier power numbers that he showed in 2011 ever again, there isn’t room for error, regression, or depreciation in Gardner’s skill-set over the next four seasons for him to be worth this investment.

Whether a win is worth $5 million, $7 million, or it is immeasurable, this contract seems unlikely to contain any room for surplus value for the Yankees.

While the Yankees may be able to afford a failed investment that a team like the Reds, Rays, or Pirates can’t, but $52 million for a league-average player doesn’t seem like a wise investment – cost of a win be damned.

Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball

Derek Jeter, Courtesy: ian-oconnor.com

Derek Jeter, Courtesy: ian-oconnor.com

Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season would be his last on Wednesday, giving fans a full season of farewells, just as the league provided (along with some wonderful parting gifts) to the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, during the 2013 season. After 20 seasons of Hall of Fame worthy production, it may be fair to wonder if a part of the New York Yankees will disappear with him.

Posada, Rivera, Jeter, and Pettitte - The "Core Four"

Posada, Rivera, Jeter, and Pettitte – The “Core Four”

The “Core Four” of the Yankee dynasty will officially be gone after the 2014 season. Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, led the Yankees to five World Series titles and seven American League pennants over 17 playoff appearances since the start of the 1995 season. While Pettitte and Posada slowly faded away from the club, the departure of Rivera and Jeter seem to sting a bit more.

It was easy to connect Rivera to this generation of Yankee dominance – as he was responsible for finishing 952 games and collecting a save in 652 of them, not counting his 42 postseason saves and 0.70 ERA over 141 postseason innings. Rivera and “Enter Sandman” were connected to that dominance and the lack of hope that so many opposing teams felt from this era of Yankee success.

YankeesHowever, it was and always has been Derek Jeter as the heart and soul of this group. With the names of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio hanging behind him and around him, Jeter overcame the shadows of greatness to become a lingering figure for those who will come next, creating an unreasonable expectation for the man who steps foot at shortstop from Opening Day 2015 and beyond – just as David Robertson will face as the new closer in 2014.

The accolades were numerous for Jeter:

  • Five-time Gold Glove winner
  • Five-time Silver Slugger winner
  • 13 All-Star games
  • 3,316 hits (10th all-time) NOTE: Jeter is 198 hits from Tris Speaker (5th), 119 hits from Cap Anson (6th), and 104 hits from Honus Wagner (7th)
  • 1996 American League Rookie of the Year
  • 2000 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
  • 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player
  • Two-time American League Hank Aaron Award winner (2006, 2009)
  • 2009 American League Roberto Clemente Award winner
  • 2010 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award winner

Jeter1While all of those awards and honors detail his effort and character, the immeasurable value of his leadership will remain one of his most impressive skills and traits. He overcame the distractions of Alex Rodriguez, Pettitte, and Jason Giambi, when their names were linked to the Mitchell Report and other steroid rumor. Additionally, he undertook a leadership role in leading baseball back to provide healing for America after the 9/11 attacks, and, while the Yankees dropped Game Seven to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, he has still found a way to cope with the insanity of the New York media circus and the audacity of those around him, or in the game, who have attempted anything to get an edge.

Based on what we know, Derek Jeter is clean – outside of the laundry list of women that he has cycled through over the years; however, Jeter is New York – he is the Joe Namath face of the game, he is the water cooler and hot dog stand conversation between fans, he is the neon lights and the hustle and bustle of Times Square, and he is pinstripes and the lore that comes with the Yankee franchise.

Sure, the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann, but none of those men will be Jeter. No one will ever be Derek Jeter. While some baseball players leave a legacy of numbers and amazing stories, Derek Jeter has touched the game in a different way. Even after being tied to the “Core Four” for such a large part of his career, Jeter separated himself to become a larger part of baseball in New York.

Jeter is the Yankees. Jeter is the pinstripes. Jeter is New York. Jeter is Major League Baseball.

When he leaves the game after the 2014 season, the heart of the game will need to beat a little harder for the rest of baseball to work. While the Yankees may wonder how to replace Jeter for quite some time, Major League Baseball as a whole has to do the same thing.

With all teams reaching Spring Training by the end of this week, the 2014 season just became a bit more special. While the tributes, gifts, and focus on Derek Jeter may become obnoxious by the All-Star break, he has earned it. Love or hate the Yankees, you still have to respect Jeter.

Pretend GM: Signings and Trades That Should Be Made

With the big signing of Masahiro Tanaka by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the market for free agency and trades could explode over the next several days. With that in mind, I was thinking about some deals that would make tremendous sense for several teams…although, they could just make sense to me. Regardless, here are some deals that I’d like to see made over the next few weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Brandon Phillips to the New York Yankees for Brett Gardner

PhillipsWhy This Trade Makes Sense: The Yankees clearly want to get back to the top, as their $155 million investment in Tanaka showed. With Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Scott Sizemore as the current options at second base, New York could use a more reliable name to replace Robinson Cano. While the Reds don’t have an immediate replacement ready for Phillips (outside of Henry Rodriguez or another position change for Billy Hamilton), they need to clear some payroll in order to lock up Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake, all of whom are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, as well as Homer Bailey, who will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Phillips, who is due $50 million over the next four years, could be a bargain based on the current market, while his ability to play defensively at an elite level will provide quite a bit of value, as well. Gardner is unlikely to provide the on-base skills that Shin-Soo Choo provided last season in Cincinnati, but he would provide elite-level defensive skills, speed, and solid on-base skills (career OBP of .352). Gardner, earning $5.6 million in 2014 prior to reaching free agency after the season, would be an upgrade over a 2014 version of Hamilton, while providing quite a bit of financial flexibility to shore up the rotation for the coming seasons in Cincinnati. Even if Cincinnati had to chip in $10 million in salary relief, it would be an interesting deal for both clubs.

Baltimore Orioles Sign A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $14 million deal

burnettWhy This Signing Makes Sense: In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles surprised the world by contending and finishing 2nd in the AL East with 93 wins. In 2013, there was a slight regression, as the team dipped to 85 wins after doing very little over the offseason. The Orioles have been very active in the minor league free agent market this winter, but they could use a splash, and Burnett would be a tremendous addition to the club’s rotation. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman make a good, young rotation, but Burnett would be the anchor for the staff, and his presence would allow the club to move Norris to a (more appropriate) bullpen role. Burnett is from Maryland and he has been rumored to be retiring if he doesn’t re-sign with Pittsburgh, but Baltimore is close to home and he can keep his wife happy, and the spare change for one year would be worth it for both sides. Burnett rebuilt his value with two tremendous seasons with the Pirates, and he is worth a one-year deal for Baltimore for another shot at the AL East for the tattooed right-hander. Sure, it seems like it is going to be Pittsburgh or bust, but the Orioles are contenders with a healthy Manny Machado and consistent production from Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters – the O’s need to do their due diligence here.

Toronto Blue Jays Sign Matt Garza to a five-year, $60 million deal (I know he was rumored to have signed with Milwaukee for four-years, $52 million pending a physical, but it isn’t official…yet)

GarzaWhy This Signing Makes Sense: The Jays need another solid option in their rotation to compliment R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow, so that their offense isn’t wasted on sloppy rotation options like Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Laffey, and Rickey Romero, who combined to make 27 starts last season. While Garza has some injury concerns, the Blue Jays have already given him a dynamic weapon – Dioner Navarro. With Navarro as his catcher, Garza has logged 338.1 innings and managed a 3.25 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, while Garza has posted a 4.07 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with anyone else behind the dish. While there is risk involved due to Garza spending 170 team games on the disabled list the last three seasons with right shoulder and elbow injuries, the Jays need a pitcher who is capable of pitching in the AL East (Garza has done it before), can toss 180 or more innings (Garza has done it four times), and would be a significant upgrade over Rogers, Todd Redmond, and J.A. Happ, while the club waits for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Alberto Tirado, Daniel Norris, and Sean Nolin to reach the majors. Garza may not be a number one starter, but he is a strong number two or three option on a club that should compete with an absolutely loaded offensive group.

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a five-year, $85 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Phillies first round pick, seventh overall, is protected, so while Jimenez would require draft-pick compensation, it would only be a second round pick going to Cleveland for Jimenez. After a tremendous second half in 2013 (1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 84 innings), Jimenez rebuilt his value, and, at the age of 30, would be a solid right-handed option for the Phillies to place between Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Jimenez has had some success during his career in the NL East:

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Atlanta Braves 3 5 3.79 9 0 1 1 54.2 47 25 23 6 28 66 1.372 10.9 2.36
Miami Marlins 1 2 4.07 5 0 0 0 24.1 23 19 11 1 16 31 1.603 11.5 1.94
New York Mets 2 3 3.40 6 0 0 0 39.2 27 15 15 4 21 29 1.210 6.6 1.38
Washington Nationals 5 1 2.61 7 0 0 0 48.1 39 14 14 1 16 36 1.138 6.7 2.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

For those who don’t want to do the math, Jimenez is 11-11 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 162:81 K:BB over 167 innings and 27 starts, and while that isn’t perfect, especially in a ballpark that is more favorable to hitters, Jimenez should, at least, be worth the money as an innings eater if he isn’t elite like he was in the second half of 2013. The Phillies may not be contenders, but they’ll always be spenders. They don’t have any arms ready in their system and Jimenez would be a huge upgrade over Roberto Hernandez and Ethan Martin, who appear to be options for the rotation currently.

Oakland Athletics Sign Nelson Cruz to a three-year, $27 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Cruz market appears nearly dead after there was draft-pick compensation added to a PED suspension, but Cruz is still just 33 and he is coming off of an All-Star season with solid production (27 home runs and 76 RBI in just 109 games). With very little interest and risk involved, it’s the perfect opportunity for Oakland to swoop in and make an interesting signing. While the club has some solid right-handed pop in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the remainder of the lineup is filled with left-handed hitters, including Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss, as well as switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie. Another right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat would be a tremendous addition, as Reddick or Moss could sandwich between Cruz and Cespedes, providing quite a bit of value and production for a team that struggles to find offense in a cavernous home ballpark. However, Cruz has struggled in Oakland, posting a .192/.248/.352 triple-slash in 202 career plate appearances there. The late first round pick and discounted contract, though, could be enough to overlook his struggles, while providing a little more punch to the Oakland lineup.

Texas Rangers Sign Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $24 million deal

ArroyoWhy This Signing Makes Sense: Arroyo has been homer prone in the past and doesn’t have the stuff to avoid bats, but he has averaged 211 innings pitched over the last nine seasons and is someone whom the Rangers could count on with Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison coming back from injuries and Derek Holland on the shelf until mid-2014. Arroyo survived in a bandbox in Cincinnati over the last eight seasons, so he would be just as likely to post 200-plus innings and an ERA around 4.00 in Texas, especially with spacious ballparks like those in Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim within the division. There isn’t draft-pick compensation tied to Arroyo, and with Masahiro Tanaka gone and no real hope of acquiring David Price in a trade, the Rangers just need five starting pitchers, and Arroyo is a nice, reliable addition for the middle or back-end of the Texas rotation.

Atlanta Braves Trade Alex Wood to the New York Yankees for Gary Sanchez

Why This Trade Makes Sense: C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hiroki Kuroda make a great top three and Ivan Nova showed drastic improvements last season, but the Yankees are relying on David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and Manny Banuelos at the back of the rotation in 2014. While Alex Wood has one of the more violent deliveries you’ll ever see, he has solid stuff and is ready to be productive immediately in a major league rotation. With Brandon Beachy healthy and David Hale and Gavin Floyd capable of filling the back of the Braves rotation, Wood could be expendable for Atlanta to seek a long-term option at catcher with the departure of Brian McCann to the Yankees via free agency. Evan Gattis has a lot of power and Christian Bethancourt has tremendous defensive skills, but neither seem like strong options as an everyday catcher for Atlanta. While Sanchez still needs some seasoning and he could use a change of scenery due to his makeup and maturity concerns, the Braves have several upcoming arms, as usual, and they have a long-term need at catcher. Sanchez could be the answer and the eventual elbow surgery that Wood will need is worth this type of deal for Atlanta, and the production that the Yankees get out of Wood could be useful, as well.

Alex Rodriguez: Proving Steroids Don’t Work

ARod1By now you’re aware of the suspension, the 60 Minutes interviews, and the appeals and cries that Alex Rodriguez has developed to help protect an image that seems as lost and desperate as a shepherd-less sheep. The one-time superstar and three-time MVP appears to have sunken to a new low in suing Major League Baseball and the Player’s Union for their attacks on his character and their lack of guidance in the processes, and while Rodriguez continues to blame everyone but himself, he likely feels betrayed by the drugs that were supposed to help him maintain his Hall of Fame career, but, instead, crippled his abilities and his legacy.

For all of the growing skulls, biceps, and home run numbers, there hasn’t been a true study to show how steroids impact player performance. It is quite unlikely that Major League Baseball will allow players to openly cheat, just to gain a better understanding of how a player could or does perform while doping, and while there are the typical expectations of energy and recovery time, steroids don’t provide the skills necessary to swing a bat and slug a 95 mile per hour fastball into oblivion.

Alex Rodriguez is the perfect example of the failures of baseball’s menace.

Certainly, there were times that steroids may have helped Alex Rodriguez. After being outed by Sports Illustrated in February of 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using in 2001, 2002, and 2003 while with the Texas Rangers, a trifecta of seasons that brought Rodriguez a .305/.395/.615 triple-slash, 156 home runs, 395 RBI, and his first MVP (2003). If Rodriguez wasn’t using outside of those seasons, he would go on to win MVPs in 2005 and 2007, well before his time with Biogenesis and Tony Bosch began; although, Rodriguez was linked to Anthony Galea, a Canadian who was busted for shuttling PED goodies to the United States, in 2010.

But if Alex Rodriguez was indeed using throughout his career, then what would cause his numbers to decline?

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB Awards
1994 18 SEA 17 59 54 4 11 0 0 0 2 3 3 20 .204 .241 .204 .445 11
1995 19 SEA 48 149 142 15 33 6 2 5 19 4 6 42 .232 .264 .408 .672 58
1996 20 SEA 146 677 601 141 215 54 1 36 123 15 59 104 .358 .414 .631 1.045 379 AS,MVP-2,SS
1997 21 SEA 141 638 587 100 176 40 3 23 84 29 41 99 .300 .350 .496 .846 291 AS
1998 22 SEA 161 748 686 123 213 35 5 42 124 46 45 121 .310 .360 .560 .919 384 AS,MVP-9,SS
1999 23 SEA 129 572 502 110 143 25 0 42 111 21 56 109 .285 .357 .586 .943 294 MVP-15,SS
2000 24 SEA 148 672 554 134 175 34 2 41 132 15 100 121 .316 .420 .606 1.026 336 AS,MVP-3,SS
2001 25 TEX 162 732 632 133 201 34 1 52 135 18 75 131 .318 .399 .622 1.021 393 AS,MVP-6,SS
2002 26 TEX 162 725 624 125 187 27 2 57 142 9 87 122 .300 .392 .623 1.015 389 AS,MVP-2,GG,SS
2003 27 TEX 161 715 607 124 181 30 6 47 118 17 87 126 .298 .396 .600 .995 364 AS,MVP-1,GG,SS
2004 28 NYY 155 698 601 112 172 24 2 36 106 28 80 131 .286 .375 .512 .888 308 AS,MVP-14
2005 29 NYY 162 715 605 124 194 29 1 48 130 21 91 139 .321 .421 .610 1.031 369 AS,MVP-1,SS
2006 30 NYY 154 674 572 113 166 26 1 35 121 15 90 139 .290 .392 .523 .914 299 AS,MVP-13
2007 31 NYY 158 708 583 143 183 31 0 54 156 24 95 120 .314 .422 .645 1.067 376 AS,MVP-1,SS
2008 32 NYY 138 594 510 104 154 33 0 35 103 18 65 117 .302 .392 .573 .965 292 AS,MVP-8,SS
2009 33 NYY 124 535 444 78 127 17 1 30 100 14 80 97 .286 .402 .532 .933 236 MVP-10
2010 34 NYY 137 595 522 74 141 29 2 30 125 4 59 98 .270 .341 .506 .847 264 AS,MVP-15
2011 35 NYY 99 428 373 67 103 21 0 16 62 4 47 80 .276 .362 .461 .823 172 AS
2012 36 NYY 122 529 463 74 126 17 1 18 57 13 51 116 .272 .353 .430 .783 199
2013 37 NYY 44 181 156 21 38 7 0 7 19 4 23 43 .244 .348 .423 .771 66
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/13/2014.

ARod4The decline may not have always been drastic, and there were still successful seasons into his early 30’s, but the sharp decline up to last season is quite significant, as Rodriguez has seen his OPS go from 1.067 in 2007 (his final MVP season) to .771 in his 44 games in 2013. Additionally, since the end of the 2007 season, Rodriguez has missed 308 games, an average of 51 per season. The hip issues could certainly be attributed to excessive steroid use, as joints can be unable to handle the additional muscle mass or strength, but if the purpose of using steroids is increase stamina and recovery time, Rodriguez hasn’t been gaining an advantage sitting at home injured, nor has he proven to be all that effective when healthy, as his skills continue to diminish, along with his numbers.

As Barry Bonds aged and maintained production, specifically walking and hitting for power (although not at the levels that he was from 2000 through 2004), Rodriguez has done the exact opposite. For all of the glory that Rodriguez was hoping for by reaching 3,000 hits and, potentially, the 800 home run plateau, the storybook ending didn’t have the flow necessary to reach the climax, and the heart of the story has died with the needles to the veins of Rodriguez, whose selfishness and stupidity far outweighed the gifts that foreign substances were supposed to bring his way.

ARod2While so many focus on the ways that steroids have impacted the game of baseball, they certainly haven’t helped Alex Rodriguez, at least not in the last five seasons, and that is a large enough sample size for me to wonder if steroids can even alter performance, especially in those who are aging and need the stamina, energy, and strength that they are supposed to bring to users.

The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

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 Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt 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.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler 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.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

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?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis 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.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy 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

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

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.

 

 

2013 MLB Awards

awardThe Third Annual Baseball Haven “I’m Always Right Before the Media Figures It Out” Awards are officially ready. These guys may not win the awards below, but they certainly SHOULD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabrera1AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 30 DET AL 148 652 555 103 193 26 1 44 137 3 90 94 .348 .442 .636 1.078 187 353
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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;

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 26 PIT NL 157 674 583 97 185 38 5 21 84 27 78 101 .317 .404 .508 .911 158 296
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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.

Honorable Mention: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks; Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves; Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals;

Scherzer2AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 28 DET AL 21 3 2.90 32 0 0 214.1 152 73 69 18 56 240 145 0.970 6.4 10.1 4.29
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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.

Honorable Mention: Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers; Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox;

Kershaw1NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 LAD NL 16 9 1.83 33 3 2 236.0 164 55 48 11 52 232 194 0.915 6.3 8.8 4.46
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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.

Honorable Mention: Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets; Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies;

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.

Honorable Mention: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox; Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians; Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s;

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;

myersAL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 22 TBR AL 88 373 335 50 98 23 0 13 53 5 33 91 .293 .354 .478 .831 132 160
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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.

Honorable Mention: Cody Allen, RHP, Cleveland Indians; Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; Dane De La Rosa, Los Angeles Angels;

Fernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 MIA NL 12 6 2.19 28 0 0 172.2 111 47 42 10 58 187 176 0.979 5.8 9.7 3.22
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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;

Rivera1MLB Comeback Player of the Year: Mariano Rivera, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 43 NYY AL 6 2 2.11 64 60 44 64.0 58 16 15 6 9 54 192 1.047 8.2 7.6 6.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

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.

Honorable Mention: Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; Scott Kazmir, LHP, Cleveland Indians; James Loney, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays; Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies;

Greatness in Being Simple

One team. One pitch. Both of those things define the greatness of Mariano Rivera while detailing how special he was.

Rivera’s career is full of dominance. After starting 10 of 19 games in 1995, he was locked down in the New York Yankees bullpen for the next 18 years and he has been the club’s closer since 1997…my sophomore year of high school. While I’ve toiled in dead-end jobs, earned a degree, had a child, and have married and re-married, there have been two constants to the changing world around me during that time…baseball and Mariano Rivera dominating baseball.
Over his career, Rivera has accumulated 652 saves and 952 games finished, both MLB records (Trevor Hoffman is second in saves, 601, and games finished, 856). While dominant in the regular season (2.21 ERA, 205 ERA+, 1.00 WHIP, 4.10 K/BB), Rivera was unequal to any other pitcher when it came to the postseason, posting and incredible 0.70 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP, and a 5.24 K/BB over 141 postseason innings, helping to lead the Yankees to five World Series titles.


While the New York Yankees have taken heat for their enormous payrolls, superstar-loaded rosters, and winning ways, Rivera seemed to always have the respect of his peers. Much to the dismay of those fans who have spent years ripping on the club for their finances, loathing Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, and rooting for anyone else to come out of the American League East besides the Yankees, they likely don’t have a negative word to say about Mariano Rivera, and in the free agency era, Rivera’s career in New York is certainly worthy of some sort of praise; although, it would be difficult to even dream of Rivera pitching for another club.

Rivera

Courtesy: FanGraphs.com

A single pitch, or at least a single speed (roughly 90 to 93 miles per hour), has been the weapon for as long as most fans can remember, and as Rivera has lost a tick on the fastball as he has aged, the cutter remained just as dominant. While old-timers mention telling the opposing batters what was coming to “one-up” them, Rivera didn’t need to do that. He pitched with a stern look on his face, confidence in his stuff, and a simple “I dare you to hit it” mentality that allowed his grip, his release, and his god-given abilities to overcome fantastic players who had no chance, even when they knew what was coming.

Rivera was a quiet leader who took pride in his craft and accepted the role of being the last player to ever wear the number “42”, something that he did with honor and respect, completely worthy of the other player to have his No. 42 retired by the Yankees (and every other team), Jackie Robinson. The 2013 season was a farewell tour for Rivera, who received everything from a sand sculpture featuring his likeness from the Tampa Bay Rays to a rocking chair made out of broken baseball bats (something he was quite good at creating with his cutter) from the Minnesota Twins. If he doesn’t take the mound again this weekend in Houston, his final farewell at Yankee Stadium on Thursday was the perfect tribute, receiving hugs from his longtime teammates Jeter and Andy Pettitte, while walking off to a sea of fans thanking him for his years of service, and finishing it up with a tearful hug from his longtime teammate, and current manager, Joe Girardi.

There are a lot of things to remember about the 2013 season, and while a farewell tour seems absurd (especially when you see the gifts that he has received), Mariano Rivera deserved it.

A sure-fire first-time ballot Hall of Fame member, Rivera may be the most dominant player that I have ever seen play in my 32-plus years on Earth. Even if it was one to two innings at a time, you knew that when Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” began playing at Yankee Stadium, the game was over. The likelihood of anyone ever breaking Rivera’s records for saves and games finished are about as likely as someone breaking Cy Young‘s career wins record or Pete Rose‘s career hits record. Why? Because you simply don’t see players dominate for as long as Rivera has.

What If: ARod Ruined MLB’s 2013 Season?

This.

Alex  RodriguezSure, it’s a home run in a game that may appear meaningless, but every game that Alex Rodriguez plays in 2013 that helps the New York Yankees in any way could destroy the integrity of the entire 2013 Major League Baseball season.

After Rodriguez broke Gehrig’s grand slam record, the Yankees went on to beat the San Francisco Giants and Tim Lincecum 5-1 on Friday night in New York. The Bronx Bombers are now 22-18 (.550) with Alex Rodriguez after going 59-55 (.518) without him, and depending on the results of the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers games tonight, the Yankees could be just 2.5 games out of the Wild Card after tonight.

Of course, the Yankees have had a little help late this season, getting solid production from Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano in the second half, but Rodriguez and his seven home runs, 18 RBI, and 126 wRC+ shouldn’t be ignored, it is certainly more productivity than they were getting from their other third basemen, who combined to post a gross .208/.251/.283 line over 453 at-bats while compiling just 128 total bases in 114 games. Rodriguez has 56 total bases in 40 games and 142 at-bats.

The Yankees have a lot of teams to catch and with two games against the Giants, three against the Rays, and three against the Houston Astros, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could make a last minute push to playoff pay dirt.

But should Alex Rodriguez have been responsible for any of those wins, which he clearly has been, then how can Major League Baseball and Bud Selig sleep at night?

The information that the league apparently has against Rodriguez and the BioGenesis investigation was enough to suspend him through the 2014 season, but after allowing an appeal, which was necessary with the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the league was forced to allow him to play until the appeal could be heard. Considering the resources that are available to the league, contacting and solidifying an arbitrator for a hearing was within reason well before today…hell, the league should have been on the phone and had a hearing set roughly ten minutes after the suspension was handed out on August 5.

After watching Matt Kemp lose out on the NL MVP in 2011 due to another BioGenesis product, Ryan Braun, and all of the hoopla surrounding Braun’s bastardizing of the entire process and system that goes along with testing and collection, MLB can’t afford another player impacting the validity of a 162-game marathon due to their impression on the outcome of 40 to 50 games that they shouldn’t have been a part of to begin with…not when it is a single player, who could have easily just been suspended.

SeligAlex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have tarnished the record books with their use of performance-enhancing drugs, but the players who don’t have enough personal worth to be successful with their own god-given gifts don’t have to be capable of making it all about them forever. Selig should have manned up weeks ago for the integrity of the game. Alex Rodriguez shouldn’t play another game in 2013 and his suspension should be upheld immediately because you can’t go back in time to fix something that has already happened. Winning 22 games with Alex Rodriguez in the lineup or acknowledging any of the 21 runs that he has scored this season are already examples of opposing teams being wronged by a policy, a policy maker,  and a player that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do what is right for the game that they are there to serve, protect, and love.

Either be consistent by upholding a policy that was put in place to protect the integrity of the game or allow the league to be pushed over by the strongest players union in professional sports. You can’t really have it both ways. If Selig wants to change things, he needs to get Rodriguez off the field immediately.

In Case You Haven’t Noticed…

It’s late in the baseball season and there are a lot of things that could be distracting you, such as following up on Johnny Manziel’s battle with the NCAA, completing your 21 fantasy football drafts, and wondering who will be Ace or Gary when you attend a Halloween party as the Incredibly Gay Duo. While all of those things are important, I present to you the world of baseball that you may have missed due to your fascination of Miley twerking.

  • SorianoYankees’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano leads MLB with 42 RBI and is tied with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the lead in home runs (13) since the All-Star break. The Yankees are 21-16 since Soriano returned to New York and the Yanks are 2.5 games behind Tampa for the second Wild Card spot with 23 games remaining, including seven games against Boston (a four-game series begins today in New York) and three against the Rays.
  • New Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd is leading the majors in total bases since the All-Star break with 101 (he is tied with teammate Andrew McCutchen and San Diego outfielder Will Venable), and he is tied with Minnesota Twins shortstop Brian Dozier for extra-base hits since the break with 26. Byrd will look to continue his torrid pace in helping lead the Pirates to the NL Central title after the Buccos have already guaranteed their fans with the club’s first winning season since 1992.
  • Washington Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth looked like a total waste of a seven-year, $126 million deal after his horrendous first season, 2011, in the nation’s capital, but he has hit .311/.392/.487 over the last two seasons while battling various injuries. If Werth continues his production next season and the Nats get a full, healthy season out of Bryce Harper and their very good pitching staff, the letdown from 2013 will be all forgiven in 2014 with an improved season. Werth, by the way, is 8th in MLB in OPS (.920).
  • Toronto outfielder Rajai Davis doesn’t receive a lot of praise or playing time, but he has 40 stolen bases in just 93 games. With his .313 OBP, Davis has made an appearance on the bases just 93 times in 301 plate appearances. When you take away the two triples and four home runs (since he hasn’t stolen home and he can’t steal a base after a home run), it means that Davis has successfully stolen a base in 46 percent of his appearances on base. With his speed, who needed to wait for Billy Hamilton for an impact base runner?
  • Davis2There are only six players with 30 or more home runs (Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Pedro Alvarez, Paul Goldschmidt, and Adam Dunn) after 22 players reached the tier in 2012 and 24 players reached in 2011. With 17 players within six homers or reaching 30, and several within that group unlikely to do so (I’m looking at you J.J. Hardy and the injured Domonic Brown), the top-tier of sluggers appears to be a very rare breed with pitching being so dominant.

Speaking of pitching…

  • Max Scherzer is sitting at 19-2, but the names of other starting pitchers ranked near the top in wins is quite surprising: Jorge De La Rosa (16), Francisco Liriano (15), Chris Tillman (15), and Bartolo Colon (14) rank in the top eight in the strange statistic. While some writers will look at the win as valuable in determining who should win the Cy Young, it clearly has little use in determining who has been the best pitcher.
  • It’s somewhat disappointing to see numbers fall with the drop in velocity, but that is exactly what has happened to former Cy Young favorites like Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.59 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and C.C. Sabathia (13-11, 4.86 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). With the fall from grace, though, has come exciting young arms like Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, and Matt Harvey (R.I.P.). Unfortunately for the aging arms, it doesn’t appear to be getting better, as Sabathia has a 6.88 ERA in the second half, while Verlander has a more respectable 3.77 ERA since the break.
  • FernandezSpeaking of those young arms and specifically Jose Fernandez, the young, Cuban-born right-hander has been filthy in the second half. His 0.83 WHIP is tops among all starting pitchers and the 70:13 K:BB in 54 innings is downright nasty. With the Marlins possibly looking to deal their only source of offense, Giancarlo Stanton, this winter, Fernandez will likely continue to post ridiculous numbers without wins going forward, although he has won five games since the break.
  • For all of those still sitting back and waiting for Chris Sale‘s arm to explode, it hasn’t happened. The White Sox ace has been even better in 2013 than he was last season, posting a 2.97 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while improving his strikeout rate AND his walk rate on a per nine inning basis. After being locked up for five-years, $32.5 million (with team options totalling $26 million over 2018 and 2019), the Pale Hose look very wise in their string-bean investment.
  • R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball didn’t carry over to the AL East. The veteran right-hander has a 4.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP after posting a 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 through 2012 with the New York Mets. The small parks, the strong teams, and the patient hitters are all a factor in the decline, but when you don’t really know which way the ball is going when using a trick pitch, that kind of makes things difficult, too.
  • DarvishYu Darvish is having an absolutely stupid season. He leads MLB with his 12.0 K/9 and he has struck out 240 of the 722 batters that he has faced (33.2 percent). While some Cy Young voters will look at Scherzer’s 19 wins and look stupid years from now, it is the unhittable Darvish, who has allowed 124 hits in 179.2 innings and a .192 BAA, who deserves the award.
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