Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

Pitchers Who Won’t Come Up Short

Maddux1Too small, too fat, too slow, too skinny. These are just a few of the labels that players are given to create an industry-wide opinion as to who will, won’t, can, or can’t achieve success in Major League Baseball. However, when you consider that Chicago Cubs’ scout Duffy Dyer said that Greg Maddux wasn’t “strong enough to be a starter” in his scouting report in 1985, it would become quite easy to question those so-called brilliant minds within baseball’s organizations. We all know now that Maddux would go on to win 355 games in his career, becoming a first-ballot Hall of Fame member in the Baseball Writers Association of America’s vote from earlier this month.

After spending some time collecting easily attainable data, it became evident that scouts are still on a warpath when it comes to the ideal body of a major league pitcher, thinking that the strong, 6’4″, 205 to 235 pound frame that came along with Roger Clemens, is the “norm” for all starting pitchers. How soon scouts forget the apparent aid that Clemens was receiving to maintain his large trunk-like legs and tremendous fastball into his 40’s, while assuming that there aren’t pitchers hovering around the 6′, 170 pounds that Maddux took to the mound during his career. Pitchers continue to look more like small forwards and shooting guards in the NBA, possessing enough size to make Spud Webb run in fear, while going eye-to-eye with LeBron James.

But, why does the philosophy of monster starting pitchers continue to be such an industry-wide ideal when you consider the data that is out there and the names who have proven that bigger isn’t always better?

When taking a look at the most valuable starting pitchers in the history of baseball (based on Baseball Reference WAR), you can see, below, that the average height and weight of the top 25 pitchers in baseball history is 72.68 inches (6’0″) and 186.96 pounds.

HOF SP

Comparatively, the top 25 starting pitchers from 2011 through the 2013 season look like this:

11 to 13 SP

Certainly, the philosophies that have big, strong pitchers has driven the average height and weight of starting pitchers from the long-term success, Hall of Fame caliber 6′, 187 pounds to the nearly 6’4″, 218 pound forces who toe the rubber today.

The innings, number of pitches, and dominant strikeout totals are clearly different today, but the dominant, powerful arms weren’t just limited to today, and certainly not to those who stand approximately 76 inches tall. Year round training, supplements (legal and illegal), and the millions made playing baseball allow today’s athlete the opportunity to focus on their bodies and their long-term success and care, but are they truly better off than those who came before them?

fellerBob Feller was 6′, 185 pounds and possessed an impressive fastball, posting a Fifty Foot Equivalent of 107.6 miles per hour, the second fastest fastball ever. Having missed three seasons due to serving in World War II, Feller still accumulated 266 wins and over 2,500 strikeouts while missing his age-23 through age-25 seasons. If you take away the nine starts that Feller had in 1945, upon his return from war, and the three seasons that he missed while fighting, from 1938 through 1951, ten full seasons, Feller posted a 211-118 record, pitched in 403 games, logged 2,896 innings, and tossed 224 complete games for the Cleveland Indians. Feller’s career derailed shortly thereafter, as he never reached 200 innings after his age-32 season (1951), and he retired in 1956 at the age of 37.

One could argue that with today’s monitoring of pitcher workloads, Feller may have held onto his stuff, strikeout rates, and career a bit longer. But another argument is that Feller never would have been in the majors at the age of 17, as he was in 1936, and that he may have been a bullpen arm due to his small stature.

After all, when pitchers have electric stuff, like an Aroldis Chapman‘s fastball, isn’t it presumed that it is quite unlikely that said pitcher’s stuff could hold up over 100 pitches and 200 innings, which is why Aroldis Chapman is pitching in relief still? Chapman, after all, is 6’4″, 205 pounds, nearly the epitome of an ideally built staff ace.

But I digress.

LincecumFor so long, labels have been slapped on pitchers to say that they are bullpen bound, not durable enough to start, or unable to repeat mechanics due to unorthodox deliveries or release points. With Whitey Ford (5’10”, 236 wins, 1974 Hall of Fame) and Pedro Martinez (5’11”, 219 wins, on the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot) leading the ranks of “tiny”, dominant arms, there will be others following current shorties like Tim Lincecum (5’11”, two-time Cy Young winner), Craig Kimbrel (5’11”, 138 saves and 341 strikeouts over his last 206.2 innings), Kris Medlen (5’10”, 30-13, 2.96 ERA in 61 starts), and Johnny Cueto (5’11”, 33-16, 2.61 ERA over his last 68 starts and 433.2 innings).

Here are some short future stars to keep an eye on in coming seasons:

 

Royals RHP: Yordano Ventura

Royals RHP: Yordano Ventura

Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals: 5’11”, 180 pounds

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: 5’9″, 185 pounds

Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 5’11”, 160 pounds (he’s only 17)

Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets: 6’0″, 170 pounds

Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins: 6’0″, 187 pounds

J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves: 5’10”, 190 pounds

Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners: 6’0″, 255 pounds

C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago Cubs: 6’2″, 155 pounds (already has the too skinny label, but he can blow it by everyone in the minors)

For more information on short starting pitchers and their tall impact on baseball, visit these links:

http://sabr.org/research/does-pitcher-s-height-matter

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/print.jsp?ymd=20110406&content_id=17470084&c_id=mlb

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/413684-you-must-be-this-tall-to-dominate-mlb-the-12-best-pitchers-ever-u

 

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2014 MLB Free Agency: Pitching: What’s Out There For Your Team

Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!

TanakaTop Tier Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza, RHP, 30; Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 30; Josh Johnson, RHP, 30; Scott Kazmir, LHP, 30; Tim Lincecum, RHP, 30; Ricky Nolasco, RHP, 31; Ervin Santana, RHP, 31; Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, 25;

Needless to say, it is a weak, weak market this offseason. The Wild Card is Tanaka, who could be posted by his Japanese club. The youngest of the group, Tanaka has a 1.44 ERA over the last three seasons in 580.1 innings. At 6’2″, 205 pounds, Tanaka is more Yu Darvish (6’5″, 225) than Daisuke Matsuzaka (6′, 180), but he should fall somewhere in between. Garza wasn’t really all that productive after moving to Texas in a mid-season trade, and after battling elbow issues prior to the deal, his market may be very weary in its development. Johnson had an absolute nightmare of a season in Toronto, posting a 6.30 ERA over 16 starts (81.1 IP) before being shut down in late August with a forearm strain. Lincecum has shown some positive signs of his former self, but his fastball velocity continues to decrease and his previous contract (two-year, $40.5 million) seems highly unattainable. The remaining four, Jimenez, Kazmir (who sat in the mid-90’s all season, stayed healthy, and is young enough to produce through an extended contract), Nolasco, and Santana, had the best seasons of those reaching free agency in the coming months, but none of them are elite. On a good team, none of them should be more than a No.3 starter.

JimenezVeteran Starting Pitchers

Bronson Arroyo, RHP, 37; A.J. Burnett, RHP, 37; Bartolo Colon, RHP, 41; Freddy Garcia, RHP, 37; Roy Halladay, RHP, 37; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, 39; Ted Lilly, LHP, 38; Roy Oswalt, RHP, 35; Jake Westbrook, RHP, 36; Barry Zito, LHP, 36;

This group is full of guys who have performed very well at times over the last few years. Burnett has been lights out for Pittsburgh this season (209 K, 3.30 ERA in 191 IP), Dan Haren had a 3.29 ERA over his final 16 games (87.2 IP), Kuroda has a 3.40 ERA over his first six seasons in America, and Arroyo hasn’t missed a start in his career. The rest of the group is kind of all over the place, some battling through various injuries and others battling through inconsistencies that come with aging and the loss of stuff. This group could be pretty affordable due to their age and limitations, but they could be very valuable for whoever signs them, tossing useful innings or providing leadership within a rotation and clubhouse.

Reclamation Projects

Scott Baker, RHP, 32; Gavin Floyd, RHP, 31; Phil Hughes, RHP, 28; Colby Lewis, RHP, 34; Shaun Marcum, RHP, 32; Mike Pelfrey, RHP, 30; Edinson Volquez, RHP, 30; Chien-Ming Wang, RHP, 34;

Several guys here coming off of injuries, while some have just long been ineffective, like Hughes and Pelfrey (who seemed to find a tick on his fastball late in the year). While none of these guys are locks to fill a rotation spot, they could become the 2014 version of what Kazmir provided to the Cleveland Indians. An incentive-laden contract for any of these pitchers is a worthy gamble by an intelligent club.

MujicaClosers

Grant Balfour, RHP, 36; Joaquin Benoit, RHP, 36; Joel Hanrahan, RHP, 32; Edward Mujica, RHP, 30; Fernando Rodney, RHP, 37;

Considering the young, affordable, internal options that have stepped up and become useful in the closer’s role over the last several years like Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen, as well as the highly-paid closers that have bombed (Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jose Valverde, for example), maybe the expensive, long-term deals that used to be handed out to closers in free agency could be a thing of the past. Not one of these free agents have maintained a closer’s job for the last three straight years without interruption, and, for that reason, should sign at a relative discount when compared to deals in years past.

ChamberlainUseful Relief Pitchers

Matt Albers, RHP, 31; Joba Chamberlain, RHP, 28; Jesse Crain, RHP, 32; Jason Frasor, RHP, 36; Rich Hill, LHP, 34; J.P. Howell, LHP, 31; Matt Guerrier, RHP, 35; Boone Logan, LHP, 29; Javier Lopez, LHP, 36; Oliver Perez, LHP, 32; Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, 31; Joe Smith, RHP, 30;

More pitchers who are all over the place in production and health, the relief pitcher is probably the most confusing position in all of baseball. Some dominate every year, like Mike Adams, and others, like Rodriguez, have been about as consistent as a politician. A tremendous bullpen typically happens due to gambling and winning on a risk, and being very, very cautious with how much money is given to free agents. None of these guys should receive more than $5 million per season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if some unintelligent front office makes the bold move and sets the market way too high.

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.

Lincecum-ing Around?

Lincecum2Tim Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 and was an All-Star four consecutive seasons (2008-2011), but in 2012, it all fell apart. Two things happened in 2012:

1) Lincecum was getting big-time money in the first year of a two-year, $40.5 million contract (he did earn $14 million through arbitration in 2011), and…

2) Lincecum’s fastball dropped from 92.3 miles per hour in 2011 to 90.4 miles per hour in 2012 (FanGraphs)

We could add that a third thing happened, as well: Lincecum was absolutely lit up, as he posted a 5.18 ERA over 186 innings and 33 starts before being relegated to a relief role (where he pitched very well) in the postseason. He had just 13 quality starts in his 33 tries (39 percent) and his home run rate, which had never been higher than 9.9 percent, ballooned all the way up to 14.6 percent.

The first two months (11 starts) were about the same for “The Freak” in 2013, as he posted a 5.12 ERA over 65 innings, with just three quality starts. However, something changed in June.

Since June 1, Lincecum has started 12 games and posted a 3.35 ERA and eight quality starts, including a no-hitter on July 13 against San Diego. If you take away his start against Cincinnati the next time out, when he allowed eight runs in just 3.2 innings, due to Lincecum throwing 148 pitches in his no-hitter, his ERA would have been just 2.54.

Lincecum’s strikeout rate has improved, as he has an 82:22 K:BB in 78 innings over this time, a 9.46 K/9 rate, and after having just one double-digit strikeout game in 2012, he has three this season, all in the month of July. While his strikeout rate, even when he was struggling in 2012, never dropped below 9.00 over 9 innings, it is fair to wonder if Lincecum has learned how to pitch with the stuff that he has now as opposed to trying to overpower the opposition with a weaker fastball.

Lincecum1As recently as July 13, there were reports that Lincecum could have been traded to the Detroit Tigers and converted into a reliever, which may have obliterated his earning power as he hits free agency after the 2013 season. Luckily for him, and the Giants (who are reaping the benefits of his sudden effectiveness thanks to their patience), that trade didn’t happen. Considering Lincecum only has one regular season appearance out of the bullpen (4 IP, 4 BB, 4 K in 2008), that could have been a risky mid-season assumption for success. Clearly, his 2012 postseason (when he made five appearances over 13 innings with a 0.69 ERA and 17:2 K:BB) was a factor in the rumors, but the San Francisco Giants appear to be holding out hope that Lincecum will decline a qualifying offer so that they can get a draft pick for their former ace.

Whatever the background or reasons are for Lincecum’s success recently, it is definitely a positive for him as he heads towards being a free agent. He could very well earn a multi-year deal after looking like a lost cause just a couple of months ago. Stars doing what they do best is good for baseball, and Lincecum was a beloved figure in the Bay Area, with good reason, due to his success (and the team’s success) during his tenure there. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the Giants re-sign Lincecum, especially with Matt Cain looking a lot like the 2012 and early-2013 version of Tim Lincecum, outside of a few solid recent starts.

The Surprises of the First 10 Days

It is still early in the baseball season, but with about a week and a half gone since opening night, we’ve seen a near perfect game for Yu Darvish and plentiful RBI for Chris Davis. While Darvish was expected to take another step towards stardom this season, Davis’ production is still quite a surprise to some, though power has always been a part of his game.

10 Days in, what are the biggest surprises of the 2013 season?

GoodThe Good

Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: .458/.519/.542, 2 2B, 2 SB

Crawford isn’t necessarily setting the world on fire, but the fact that he has played in all seven games for the Dodgers is shocking, considering his availability for opening day was in question since he didn’t make his Cactus League debut until March 23. While he has just two extra-base hits out of his 11 total hits, the fact that Crawford is running (though he’s just 2 for 4 on stolen base attempts), and productive in a loaded lineup are reasons enough to begin to wonder if he can return to his glory days of Tampa, rather than the disappointment that he had been in Boston. If Crawford stays productive around Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers will get out of the NL West basement rather quickly.

John Buck, C, New York Mets: .393/.387/.859, 4 HR, 14 RBI

After watching Ike Davis tear apart pitching in the second half, you may have expected him to be the leader of the New York Mets this season; however, it’s the guy who was supposed to just be keeping a roster spot warm for Travis d’Arnaud, the slugging catching prospect that the Mets acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal, John Buck. Buck has been mashing to this point, ranking second in the majors in RBI (behind Chris Davis) and tied for second in home runs. With the Miami Marlins around, the Mets should feel comfortable about not finishing last in their division, but Buck has led the Mets patchwork pitching staff, dominated by Matt Harvey‘s emergence as an ace, to a solid start.

Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers: .458/.500/.750, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI

It’s too bad that Segura exhausted his rookie eligibility last year, otherwise, he’d be leading the pack in the early stages of the season for the title of NL Rookie of the Year. Segura had 151 at-bats last season (166 plate appearances), but he looks like he learned a little after hitting just .258/.315/.325 in 2012. The 23-year-old shortstop has a very interesting tool-set, with solid gap power and speed, which will allow for solid run production in a lineup with a healthy Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Ryan Braun…the only problem is that getting all four of those guys on the field at the same time may be harder than finding a needle in a haystack.

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets: 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, .093 BAA, 14 IP, 19:4 K:BB

I mentioned Harvey under Buck, but it is worth noting again…he has been nothing short of dominant. He’s allowed just 8 baserunners over two starts, and the strikeouts limit the scoring opportunities, as well. Harvey had a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 70:26 K:BB in 59.1 innings last season. Like Segura, just missing rookie eligibility in 2013, but a dynamic starting pitcher for a team desperate for pitching in the Mets.

Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs: 1-1, 2.63 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .125 BAA, 13.2 IP, 22:5 K:BB

The former Notre Dame wideout is leading the majors in strikeouts early in the season and appears to be heading towards super-stardom ..which is why I traded him for next to nothing in my dynasty league this offseason. He has a lousy team around him but the 28-year-old has some help on the way, and the Cubs have him under team control through 2015. While he may not win many games, his peripheral statistics could make him look a lot like Felix Hernandez in fantasy formats.

BadThe Bad

Ryan Hanigan, C, Cincinnati Reds: .043/.148/.043, 1 for 23, 2 RBI

The Cincinnati Reds are playing their 9th game of the season and Devin Mesoraco is making his second start of the season. As most people would like to do, you can blame Dusty Baker for his inability to find value in young talent, unless, of course, it is a pitcher whose career he can ruin. Mesoraco is a sinner for going 0 for 4 in his only start, drawing a walk in the Reds 7-6 extra-inning loss to the Washington Nationals. Apparently, he may only start in day games following a night game, which should be great for the 24-year-old’s development. Ryan Hanigan, meanwhile, will continue to get the at-bats, and the Reds have to hope that batting 8th in the order doesn’t allow clubs to assume that there are two easy outs every time through the lineup.

Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 0-4, 12.50 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 18 IP, 19:11 K:BB in 4 starts

Halladay (0-2, 14.73 ERA, 2.45 WHIP) and Hamels (0-2, 10.97 ERA, 1.97 WHIP) have posted ugly numbers to this point. Halladay’s shoulder issues from last season and his drop in velocity, along with Hamels’ shoulder soreness early in his offseason throwing progr am could be to blame for their struggles. Certainly, the Phillies have to be concerned, especially after dealing Vance Worley and Trevor May to Minnesota for Ben Revere, eliminating their ready or near-ready young pitching to replace Shane Victorino, who left for Boston this winter via free agency. Both starting pitchers earn substantial amounts this season (Halladay makes $20 million and Hamels makes $19.5 million), so a turnaround would be necessary for Philadelphia fans to not want to ring the Liberty Bell with Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s skull.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants: .091/.130/.136, 2 for 22, 1 R, 1 2B

After Belt hit .293/.362/.423 in the second half of 2012 and .410/.432/.833 this spring, the Giants had to be hoping that they had developed a solid, middle-of-the-order addition to pair with Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Things haven’t gone as planned for Belt to this point; however, he has been dealing with some neck issues. The defending champions will hope that he gets that under control, as well as the skills that he showcased over the last couple of months during spring training.

Upton HeywardJason Heyward and B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves: 5 for 53 (.094), 2 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 19:7 K:BB

Heyward (.083/.267/.208) and Upton (.103/.212/.207) have combined for some pretty useless numbers. The Braves are 7-1 going into Wednesday’s game despite the lack of production from two of their stars. Needless to say, Upton’s pricey contract came with big expectations. We’ll see if his big payday after leaving Tampa isn’t going to take the same trip that Carl Crawford endured in Boston.

Carlos Marmol, RP, Chicago Cubs: 12.27 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, .444 BAA, 1-1, 1 for 2 in save opportunities

Considering the short leash that the Cubs had on Marmol, you have to wonder if it was even worth giving him a chance to prove himself or build trade value when there was a 70-30 chance that he was going to implode. And…implode he did. Kyuji Fujikawa has already replaced Marmol as the Cubs’ closer, and his 8.10 ERA is solid since he is 2 for 2 in save opportunities. It’s a process, Cubs fans, and you should be used to that by now.

Brett Myers, SP, Cleveland Indians: 0-1, 12.19 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 7 HR allowed, 10.1 IP, 4:2 K:BB

When the Indians signed Myers, they wanted him to be a solid innings eating starting pitcher, allowing them to slide him into the No.3 spot in the rotation behind Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Myers was to provide solid depth due to Masterson and Jimenez lacking in their ability to throw strikes, resulting in high pitch counts and short outings. However, Myers was a risk since he had pitched out of the bullpen for the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox the last two seasons, and while he had transitioned from starter to relief and back to starter before in his career, guaranteeing Myers $7 million to do that again could leave Indians fans scalping themselves every fifth day. Myers has allowed SEVEN home runs in 10.1 innings, or about six every 9 innings. Some batting practice pitchers don’t average that stat. Myers is either hurt or should retire, but there isn’t any in between on those choices, and a neck injury from watching home runs could be to blame.

LincecumTim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants: 1-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 11 IP, 11:11 K:BB

Well, after finding a groove as a relief pitcher in the playoffs last year, the Giants gave “The Freak” another chance in a starting role this season. He has only allowed a .175 average in his two starts, and if he wasn’t shutting down those that do hit the ball, he’d have an ERA right around Halladay’s. The free passes need to stop if Lincecum is going to re-establish himself as a valuable pitcher, and he needs to do that if he hopes to score a big contract as a free agent this winter.

 

How the Giants Can Repeat in 2013

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

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

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

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

Courtesy: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

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

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

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

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

World Series Preview

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:

Pitching:

Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

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:

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.

Courtesy: USAtoday.com

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.

Passion:

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.

Tigers in 7. Justin Verlander will be the World Series MVP. Brian Wilson‘s beard is still better than Sergio Romo‘s, however, it’s still a distant second to Peter Griffin’s.  

Courtesy: familyguy.wikia.com

2012 MLB Mid-Season Awards

Courtesy: ESPN.com

This is where I come in and embarrass myself by making absurd predictions, but they are predictions that I feel are worthy.

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

McCutchen was somewhat productive in April with a .302 AVG and .351 OBP, but it was pretty empty, just seven RBI and six extra-base hits – none of them home runs. Then, May led to an absolute eruption for McCutchen. Since the start of May, he has hit .383/.443/.706 with 11 2B, five triples, 16 home runs, 49 RBI, and 9 steals. In that time period, the Pirates have gone 36-25, taking the lead in the NL Central away from the Cincinnati Reds. At the age of 25, McCutchen is a total beast, capable of hitting for power, average, and running like crazy. You don’t have to run when you’re trotting around the bases, though.

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

When Mike Trout arrived in Anaheim to stay on April 28, the Angels were struggling. Without Albert Pujols producing and the lack of an identity, they were 6-14, nine games out in the AL West and in last place. However, they are 40-24 since Trout arrived, sitting four games back of Texas in the AL West. Trout would be the first rookie MVP since Fred Lynn in 1995, and he totally deserves it. The All-Star outfielder leads the AL in batting average (.347) and steals (26), while Trout has amassed 15 2B, three triples, 11 home runs, 39 RBI, and 55 runs scored in just 62 games. If it seems like he has two or three hits per night and a couple of runs scored, it isn’t a surprise. He has 28 multi-hit games and 14 games with at least two runs scored. He is a machine and at just 20 (he doesn’t turn 21 until August 7), he is only going to get better.

NL Cy Young: Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds

You can call me a homer if you’d like to, as I live about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, but Cueto deserves some praise, and he certainly isn’t going to get it from Tony LaRussa. He leads the NL in ERA (2.35) and has gone 18-10 with a 2.33 ERA over his last 41 starts. He won’t get the publicity of R.A. Dickey due to the lack of a crappy career like Dickey had before deciding to show up in his tenth attempt at mattering as a starting pitcher in the Majors, but he deserves some love, so I’m giving it to him. If he continues to pitch so well, he could win a few more games and matter to all of those people who only look at wins for a Cy Young candidate.

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

If Sale makes it through the whole season without an injury and continues pitching like he has to this point, he has to win the award. The injury concern is present, as he had a tender elbow and was moved to the bullpen for one appearance before the Sox moved him back to the rotation. The 23-year-old lefty is 2nd in the AL in wins (10), 2nd in ERA in the AL (2.19), 2nd in WHIP (0.95), and has an impressive 98:25 K:BB in 102.2 innings. The White Sox are in first place and this surprising, young arm has a lot to do with it.

NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper

Anthony Rizzo could win it if he continues hitting the way that he has since his promotion for the Chicago Cubs (.386/.400/.750), but as his sample size grows, his numbers will shrink. Harper is only 19 and he is in the All-Star game, having replaced injured Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. He has a .283/.355/.475 line with 15 2B, four triples, eight home runs, 25 RBI, and eight steals. The National League has a lot of young talent, with Harper, Arizona left-handed pitcher Wade Miley, Cincinnati super-sub Todd Frazier, Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart, and Colorado slugging catcher Wilin Rosario, but Harper’s skills and his ability to help lead his team to the NL East title will help him separate from the pack in the second half.

AL Rookie of the Year: See Mike Trout, above, AL MVP

Duh. Sorry Yu.

NL Manager of the Year: Terry Collins, New York Mets

At 46-39, 4.5 games out of first in the NL East (good for 2nd place), the Mets are the surprise team in the NL this season. After going 77-85 and finishing 4th in the East in 2011, the team lost Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, then they still had to deal with the fact that Jason Bay was on their roster. No way they got better, right? Wrong. With Johan Santana’s resurgically re-glued shoulder actually holding up and R.A. Dickey finding the fountain of youth on his offseason mountain hikes, the Mets matter again. Collins is a miracle worker. Play Scott Hairston every day and they could be in first…just saying.

AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore is 45-38 and in 2nd in the AL East. They’ve begun to slide a little recently, having to replace three starters in their rotation due to being terrible, and they’ve dealt with a fair share of injuries, including to starters Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis in the outfield. If they can tread water while they get injuries under control and starters get things rolling again, there is no reason to the believe that there isn’t something magical that could happen in Baltimore this season. Adam Jones is a superstar and Matt Wieters is a star in the making, if you don’t consider him one already, so they have the pieces to matter.

NL Biggest Surprise: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets

What do you get when you get a guy who climbs Mt. Kilamanjaro and mix him with an 80-mph knuckleball? You get a 37-year-old starting pitcher who is 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, 123:28 K:BB in 120 innings, and a Cy Young candidate. After never having won more than 11 games in a single season coming into 2012, Dickey has already eclipsed that mark before the break. He has been a different pitcher since arriving in New York, going 31-23 with a 2.92 ERA over 75 starts, so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising; however, I still can’t believe what he is doing, especially with his control and strikeout totals, with a knuckleball.

AL Biggest Surprise: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels

He was supposed to be the odd-man out with the Albert Pujols signing, or so many thought, but Trumbo has been the biggest force this side of Mike Trout for the Angels in 2012. After posting a .254/.291/.477 line last season and an attrocious 120:25 K:BB in 539 AB in 2011, Trumbo is sporting a .307/.361/.607 line and a 63:22 K:BB in 280 AB in 2012. His patience has improved and his power is for real. While many considered him an afterthought this spring, including myself, Trumbo has become an All-Star calibur player on a team with two young superstars.

NL Biggest Fantasy Bust: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

Instead of yelling “Freak”, fans may be yelling “you freaking suck,” at Lincecum, as his nickname now brings questions as to whether his ability to pitch with such odd mechanics is finally settling in. Lincecum is 3-9 with a 6.08 ERA in 2012, but the strange number is that his 101:49 K:BB in 93.1 innings is still solid, though the walks are at a 4.7 BB/9 (which would be a career high). Lincecum’s career high for earned runs was 81 in 2010 and he has already allowed 63 earned runs in just 17 starts, so he’ll easily establish a career worst there. If he allowed one earned run over seven innings in each of his next 16 starts, his ERA would still be 3.46, his highest since his 4.00 ERA in his rookie year.

AL Biggest Fantasy Bust: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

After hitting 27 home runs last season, Santana was bound to explode, especially after hitting just .239 in 2011 with a BABIP of just .263…not the case. Santana is hitting just .219 with a BABIP of just .266 in 2012, so he is not anywhere near the top ranked fantasy catcher that many expected him to be. He may still have a solid eye at the plate and has improved defensively, but that doesn’t help anyone in pretend baseball.

Lince-COME ON!!!!!

If you drafted Tim Lincecum or you’re a fan of the San Francisco Giants, you may be a little worried.  Lincecum is currently 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA over 2 starts and 7 2/3 innings.  He has a 10/3 K/BB but he has allowed 17 baserunners in his small sample size, inflating his WHIP to 2.22.  There are a few things to keep in mind, whether you’re hoping for a rebound or you think that this is the end of the man with the crazy mechanics.

Negativity is our starting point.  Lincecum’s average fastball has dropped to just 90.3 so far this season, down from 92.3 last year.  He is also throwing his fastball a career low 48.3% of the time, while he is spinning his curve 13.5% of the time this season, up from 6.4% in 2011.  His offspeed pitches are accounting for 51.7% of his pitches, while it has been around 42.2% for his career.  You have to wonder if he is having some sort of shoulder ailment that isn’t allowing him to rear back and fire, or if he just has a dead arm issue since it is early in the season.  Either way, the drop in velocity is a concern.

On a positive note…Lincecum’s current Batting Average for Balls in Play (BABIP) is .444, which means four guys from every trip around the lineup are getting on when they put the ball in play.  His career BABIP is .294 and the normal “good luck/bad luck” split is .300.  He is going to have luck on his side as that evens out over the rest of the season.  Due to his current struggles, he is also not leaving men on base.  His Left On Base % is currently 42.3, while his career LOB% is 75.6%.

Another positive for Lincecum is his current strikeout rate.  He is still overwhelming SOME hitters, as his 11.74 K/9 shows.  He is still missing bats, when the opposition isn’t putting the ball in play, of course.  That 11.74 K/9 would rank the highest of his career by 1.23 K/9 if he is able to maintain it.  “The Freak” is also impressing with his current groundball rate.  Lincecum has a 53.6 GB% at this point, up from his career rate of 47.1%.

So, while it is early and Lincecum, who signed a two-year $40.5 million deal (which runs through the end of 2013) this offseason, has proven to be mortal, his stats show that there could be some bad luck associated with his struggles.  Many fans and fantasy owners may be on a ledge about his struggles, but the 5’11”, 163 pounder has proven critics wrong since being selected 10th overall in 2006 out of the University of Washington.  Buy low and settle down.  If he keeps his stats current and brings down the BABIP, ERA, and WHIP, Lincecum is on pace for a career year.

GM for the Day: San Francisco Giants

After winning the World Series in 2010, the Giants finished 86-76, good for 2nd in the NL West.  The team was still made up of veterans, but they did see a couple of new faces, like SS Brandon Crawford and 1B/LF Brandon Belt.  The Giants are in an interesting period in the coming seasons.  They are working on locking up Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, while still trying to develop some offensive talent.  They have drafted well in recent seasons and they’ll be getting Buster Posey back in 2012, they still have some incredible pitching, but do they have what it takes to get back to the top?  The current 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside

1B: Aubrey Huff

2B: Freddy Sanchez

3B: Pablo Sandoval

SS: Brandon Crawford

LF: Melky Cabrera

CF: Angel Pagan

RF: Nate Schierholtz

Bench: Mike Fontenot (INF), Emmanuel Burriss (INF), Justin Christian (OF) and Brett Pill (1B)

Starting Pitching: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito

Relief Pitching: Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Dan Runzler and Steve Edlefsen

The Giants have an interesting roster.  They could do better at short than Crawford and still may.  If they’re looking to upgrade there, good luck.  They’re better off hoping that Crawford’s glove makes up for his lack of hitting skills until Joe Panik, a college bat who could move quickly, is ready.  What would have been better?  Putting Nate Schierholtz and Angel Pagan on the pine, moving Aubrey Huff to RF, Brandon Belt to LF, and signing Prince Fielder to make some splashes in the bay.  This team has been in desperate need of a bat since Barry Bonds took his gigantic head home, not by choice, of course.  Honestly, I know they had good pitching, but how in THE HELL did the Giants beat the Rangers 4-1 in the 2010 World Series?  Pablo Sandoval could become the bat that the Giants need.  He’ll be 25 in 2012 and he hit 23 homers, even after breaking his wrist in 2011, in just 117 games.  He should approach 30 and become one of the few solid 3B in baseball in 2012.  The Giants would be the favorites in the NL if they got Prince Fielder, though.  I know I had Fielder going to the Cubs and I know that he is talking to the Nationals, but they could probably afford him and one of their aces, Cain or Lincecum.

I know that having a great 1-2 punch in Lincecum and Cain is fantastic, but Bumgarner is going to be capable of becoming that 2nd ace in the next couple of years and Eric Surkamp is ready to slide into the rotation.  The Giants have had great pitching for years.  The home ballpark has helped, even Ryan Vogelsong rejuvenated his career last year.  The rotation is loaded still.  They should be unbeatable in the playoffs with Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner in 2012, so why not go for it…if that’s what it’s all about.

If the Giants made a huge splash and signed Fielder and moved their lot of first baseman to the outfield, they’d become a little less effective defensively, but they’d still have their pitching and now they have an offense.  Buster Posey is a star, Sandoval is a star, Belt could be a star, Melky Cabrera is not a star but he’ll do in center, and Aubrey Huff is only good in years ending in an even number.  Look it up.  I wouldn’t lie to you.  What do you think of a 25-man roster with a little more depth?

2 Catchers: Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside

1B: Prince Fielder

2B: Freddy Sanchez

3B: Pablo Sandoval

SS: Brandon Crawford

LF: Brandon Belt

CF: Melky Cabrera

RF: Aubrey Huff

Bench: Nate Schierholtz (OF), Angel Pagan (OF), Emmanuel Burriss (INF), Mike Fontenot (INF)

Starting Pitching: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito

Relief Pitching: Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Dan Runzler and Steve Edlefsen

Upgrade, right?

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