Results tagged ‘ Washington Nationals ’

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.



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Stopping the Braves Before They Stop You

The Atlanta Braves hate fun. At least, that statement appears to be case, as the club has been a part of some of the most intense bench-clearing altercations of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. Those altercations began with a home run, a bat flip, standing too long in the batter’s box, or jawing with someone on the field. Here are exhibits A, B, and C:

Exhibit A – Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez from Wednesday night:

Exhibit B – Miami Marlins soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez from September 11:

and, finally, Exhibit C – Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper on August 6:

In all three cases, the Braves took exception with the antics of the opposition and to make them understand that their antics weren’t appreciated, someone took action. The club’s star catcher, Brian McCann, seems to have taken the Roger Goodell approach…you know, the commissioner of the NFL who has basically made it impossible for players to dance, celebrate, or enjoy any of their lives by turning the National Football League into the No Fun League. McCann didn’t even let Carlos Gomez cross home plate after his home run and colorful antagonizing on Wednesday night, while he was sure to stop Jose Fernandez prior to his leaving the dish to make sure he understood “how the game works.”

The Atlanta Braves are policing MLB but no one else seems to mind.

The ol’ book likely says that bat flipping and admiration of your hit is disrespectful to the opposition, but could the game use these types of colorful personalities?

Two of the game’s top young players are absolute bat flip professionals. I present to you Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig:


It wouldn’t be a terrible thing for baseball to have a face of the game that would have passion and enthusiasm for the game, one that would allow the youth of America and around the world to actually WANT to mock while actually playing baseball with friends instead of soccer and video games.

Considering a recent piece (and poll) by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, which detailed that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguezthe same guy who is suspended for 211 games for doping and was having his future livelihood threatened by MLB just over two months ago, is the current face of baseball, receiving 22-percent of the vote, followed by teammate Derek Jeter, who has played all of 17 games this season, who had 12-percent of the vote, the game needs to have SOMEONE OR SOME THING that can be considered marketable. While it is arguable as to whether cockiness and showmanship is that thing, those traits are certainly something that shouldn’t be so heavily governed…at least not by one team.

Which brings me back to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have had a remarkable run of success. While the Pittsburgh Pirates were finishing with losing records from 1993 through 2012, the Atlanta Braves had winning seasons in all but two years since 1990 (2006 and 2008). While the front office, the manager, and the players have changed, it appears that the club is still influenced by the knowledge which was passed down from the John Schuerholz-Bobby Cox-Chipper Jones Era.

Is living and modeling “by the book” good for the game, though?

For me, the Brian McCann plate block was more embarrassing than the jawing done by Carlos Gomez. Even if Gomez was acting foolishly, why is it the right of the catcher to stop him before he could touch home plate and tell him how wrong he was? To make it even worse, Gomez was tossed from the game and McCann, who actually started the melee by halting the home run trot (and was also responsible for the benches clearing against Miami), was not, just as he wasn’t in Miami!

While the NFL has taken firm control of the American 18 to barely breathing man in America, baseball has been passed by as America’s pastime, and, similarly, as the NFL has taken a firm stance on protecting its image and brand with large fines and suspensions, MLB has done very little to enforce the protection of its players on the field, instead, focusing on fighting off-the-field legal battles with former players over performance-enhancing drug use and trying to maintain the integrity of the game that seemed to disappear after the 1994 player’s strike.

At this point, the league needs to combat pitchers throwing baseballs 90-plus miles per hour at the knees of Bryce Harper because he hit the ball too far. They need to make sure that players aren’t being attacked in bench-clearing brawls because of their colorful personalities. MLB needs to realize that colorful personalities will be valuable assets in regaining a solid public image, developing strong marketing campaigns built around the dynamic gifts of Mike Trout, the flamboyant nature of Yasiel Puig, and the fire and passion that Harper brings to the field, and, while doing so, the league needs to begin to penalize those who are willing to stop the fun in their tracks, as McCann did to Gomez.

What McCann and the Atlanta Braves are doing with their educational situations is NOT what baseball needs.

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.

Hot-lanta At It Again

BravesThe Atlanta Braves won their 12th straight game on Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals. Sitting 14.5 games in front of the second place Nationals in the NL East, the Braves seem capable of walking the finish line to make the playoffs this season…barring another catastrophic collapse. This whole winning a lot of games thing is nothing new for this Braves team, after all, they started the season off by going 12-1.

However, the team with the best record in baseball entering play on Wednesday hasn’t been as productive as it could have been.

Atlanta’s pitching hasn’t been a problem this season. The Braves starting pitchers have been solid, currently ranking 6th in MLB in ERA (3.64) and 8th in WHIP (1.23). The club’s depth, with Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy stepping in with injuries to Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, will continue to have value as the season goes on, as Julio Teheran may reach an innings limit this season. The bullpen is 1st in ERA (2.41) and WHIP (1.12), thanks to Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden, and David Carpenter being lights out.

Braves OFThe offense…wow…who would have thought the club would have won all of these games with the offense performing the way that it has in the 2013 season? Sure, the Braves rank 15th in average (.253), 8th in on-base percentage (.326), and 9th in slugging percentage (.412), but that is with Justin Upton hitting just four home runs from May 1 through July 31, Dan Uggla hitting .193, B.J. Upton hitting .188, and Jason Heyward hitting just .234 (including just .220 on July 27). Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson, who was sharing the third base job with Juan Francisco at the beginning of the season, have been the only year-long contributors, while Brian McCann has done a stellar job since returning from injury, as well. The Braves have had some punch from Evan Gattis and surprising pop out of Andrelton Simmons, but, given the struggles of their offensive superstars, at least the people who were supposed to make huge contributions this season, it is shocking that they are where they are today.

Bream1Since the All-Star break, Atlanta is 3rd in average (.269), 2nd in home runs (23), and 1st in runs scored (99). B.J. Upton has returned from a recent DL-stint and the club is firing on all cylinders. For a team that, mind-numbingly, won 11 consecutive NL East titles from 1995-2005, the tradition of winning in nothing new in Atlanta; however, with Chipper Jones gone, the new core of talent could very well lead the team in the same direction. With 12 games against Washington, Miami, Philadelphia, and the New York Mets ahead of them, the Braves could make the division into an embarrassment.



O’s My Goodness: Manny Machado is Elite

Strange relationship for you here:

Player A:

2012 19 51 202 191 24 50 8 3 7 26 2 9 38 .262 .294 .445 .739 99 85
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Player B:

2003 20 87 346 314 39 84 21 3 12 62 0 25 84 .268 .325 .468 .793 106 147
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Both of these players were shortstops in their first full seasons in the minors, but upon arrival in MLB, they were playing other positions (third base and/or outfield). In 2012, Player A’s team went 33-18 (.647) in his 51 games and Player B’s team went 56-31 (.644) in his 87 games in 2003. Both players led their surprising teams to the playoffs and both players are now dominating in 2013.

If you looked at the years and guessed that Player A is Manny Machado and Player B is Miguel Cabrera, congratulations.

Machado1Machado was a year younger when he reached Baltimore but in 2013, he has erupted offensively in the same way that Cabrera did in 2004 for the Marlins. Machado’s 2013 line:

2013 20 BAL AL 66 303 284 42 90 28 2 5 34 5 14 42 .317 .351 .482 .834 124 137
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Miguel CabreraWhen compared to Cabrera’s first full season, Machado’s numbers won’t really measure up, but, again, he is a year younger. After all, a 20-year-old who is currently on pace for 68 doubles, 12 home runs, 85 RBI, and 12 stolen bases isn’t awful, but they don’t really touch Cabrera’s All-Star 2004 season:

2004 21 FLA NL 160 685 603 101 177 31 1 33 112 5 68 148 .294 .366 .512 .879 130 309
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Machado3Manny Machado is finally gaining the attention that is so well deserved. Not only is he producing offensively, but he has become the top third baseman in baseball. He ranks third in fielding percentage (.985 behind Placido Polanco and Juan Uribe, who are brutal as far as their range is concerned), first in range factor (3.06), and first in UZR/150 (28.2, David Wright is second with a 20.2 among third basemen).

Certainly, it seems unrealistic to label Manny Machado as the next Miguel Cabrera, as the Detroit Tigers third baseman is currently just three home runs back from Machado’s teammate Chris Davis (18 to Davis’ 21), or he would be leading in all Triple Crown categories, after becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) when he won the award, along with AL MVP honors, in 2012; however, Machado has become one of the top players in baseball and worthy of the same hype that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper had last season. While he isn’t putting up the absurd numbers that Trout did in 2012, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t just as special. After all, how soon we forget about Trout hitting .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances.

Machado4Manny Machado’s ceiling is that of an All-Star and if he ends up back at shortstop after J.J. Hardy‘s eventual departure, you’re looking at a player that is capable of matching Troy Tulowitzki‘s production in the middle infield. Not only that, but if Machado fills out his 6’2″ frame, he could even match-up with the man that he was compared to so frequently after being drafted at of a Miami high school – Alex Rodriguez…but…since ARod isn’t really a very “clean” name right now, lets just say that Machado becomes one of the top right-handed hitters of the generation, just like Cabrera.

What To Do With Beachy…

Beachy2The Atlanta Braves are 32-22, 4.5 games in front of the Washington Nationals in the NL East heading into Saturday’s game in the nation’s capital. After starting the season 12-1, the Braves have struggled to find consistency out of two of their (expected) star, offensive talents, as B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward have combined to hit .183/.285/.244 over 305 plate appearances, with 14 extra-base hits and 16 RBI. Atlanta is doing it all with pitching, as the group has performed very well, ranking 10th in MLB in starter ERA (3.71):

1 SP Mike Minor* 7 2 2.48 11 11 72.2 53 21 20 7 14 66 0.922 6.6 8.2 4.71
2 SP Paul Maholm* 6 4 3.74 11 11 67.1 65 31 28 5 21 51 1.277 8.7 6.8 2.43
3 SP Kris Medlen 1 6 3.48 11 11 64.2 64 30 25 8 24 48 1.361 8.9 6.7 2.00
4 SP Julio Teheran 3 2 3.71 10 10 63.0 70 26 26 8 13 44 1.317 10.0 6.3 3.38
5 SP Tim Hudson 4 4 5.37 11 11 62.0 65 37 37 8 17 45 1.323 9.4 6.5 2.65
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

With the starting rotation looking very good overall, what will the Braves do with Brandon Beachy, who has now made two rehab starts as part of his return from Tommy John surgery. Beachy has had a pretty remarkable career to this point:

2010 23 ATL 0 2 3.00 3 3 15.0 16 9 5 0 7 15 1.533 9.6 9.0 2.14
2011 24 ATL 7 3 3.68 25 25 141.2 125 62 58 16 46 169 1.207 7.9 10.7 3.67
2012 25 ATL 5 5 2.00 13 13 81.0 49 24 18 6 29 68 0.963 5.4 7.6 2.34
3 Yrs 12 10 3.07 41 41 237.2 190 95 81 22 82 252 1.144 7.2 9.5 3.07
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

Prior to his injury in 2012, Beachy was putting up ace-like numbers, and over his brief, 41-start career, he has been pretty fantastic, averaging over a strikeout per inning, as well as above-average ERA and WHIP totals. With his return, the Atlanta Braves will have a difficult decision to make with their rotation: Who goes to make room for Beachy?

Hudson1If you took Tim Hudson, who has five quality starts in 11 tries (45 percent), and his numbers out of the current rotation, the staff ERA would be 3.33, which would be 3rd (behind St. Louis and Cincinnati). Hudson is in the final year of his contract and he turns 38 years old in July. One could question if he has what it takes to thrive over the rest of the season, given the team’s inability to find offensive success, especially as the races heat up in the later months of the season, but is his “experience” worth keeping around?

Julio Teheran has been nothing short of spectacular over his last seven starts, compiling a 2.49 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and a 32:6 K:BB over 47 innings. Teheran turned 22 years old in January and after being rated the No.4 prospect in baseball by and the No.5 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, Teheran has reinforced his skills, his status, and his ability to contribute at the major league level; however, is his lack of extended success and experience capable of forcing the Braves to remove him from the rotation?



Kris Medlen may not have the greatest record, but he has proven himself as a starting pitcher over his career, compiling these statistics:

16 8 2.98 41 2 1 250.2 224 92 83 27 61 213 1.137 7.6 3.49
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

Medlen’s success, despite his current 1-6 record, would seemingly keep him locked into the rotation; however, due to his success in the bullpen (2.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP over 90 appearances), should the Braves consider another switch for the 27-year-old, 5’10″ right-hander?

Mike Minor looks like an ace in 2013 and he has been since the All-Star break of 2012, having compiled a 2.31 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and a 133:30 K:BB over 160 innings. He would seem to be going nowhere anytime soon, having shown that he is a shutdown arm for the squad, in spite of his career 4.00 ERA.

Paul Maholm has been very consistent for Atlanta since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs last season. While he doesn’t thrive in any particular part of the game (ERA, WHIP, or K:9), Maholm is a very good mid-rotation starter that will give the team an average to above-average start every fifth day.

Should the club go to a six-man rotation? The move could make some sense. Why?

  • Julio Teheran will be on an innings limit due to his lack of experience at the major league and minor league level
  • Kris Medlen had Tommy John surgery on 8/18/2010
  • Brandon Beachy had Tommy John surgery on 6/21/2012
  • Tim Hudson had Tommy John surgery on 8/8/2008 and back surgery on 11/28/2011

While there has been some time between several of those surgeries and today, would the extra day of rest keep the Braves starters fresher and keep them in the rotation this season, so they don’t have to make a Stephen Strasburg-like shutdown of any of their starters when their presence matters most?

Beachy3There could be injuries that ease Beachy’s transition back into the rotation or the Braves could make a trade for more offensive help, but if those things don’t happen, their pitching depth will only help them be a stronger team. It’s just unfortunate that someone may have to go to an unexpected bullpen role or be sent to the minor leagues.


Didi Gre-glorious?

Gregorius2Didi Gregorius. A 23-year-old shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Didi Gregorius. A career .267/.319/.375 hitter in over 2,080 plate appearances in the minor leagues. Didi Gregorius. Currently hitting .324/.385/.541 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs.

Can he keep this pace up?

Gregorius’ highest OPS in an overall minor league season was in 2011, when he posted a .753 OPS between High-A and Double-A within the Cincinnati Reds system. Those numbers were a tad inflated due to his time in Bakersfield, a club within the California League, where he posted a .791 OPS over 203 plate appearances. He was always pushed by the Cincinnati organization, as you can see below, only spending one season with the same club, which was his first season in the Gulf Coast League, and even moving from the Pioneer League to High-A for 22 games at the age of 19.

2008 18 Reds GULF CIN 31 109 97 6 15 0 0 0 9 2 10 10 .155 .241 .155 .395 15
2009 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs CIN 72 299 275 36 82 14 1 1 18 8 13 36 .298 .341 .367 .708 101
2009 19 Billings PION CIN 50 225 204 28 64 10 1 1 16 8 12 27 .314 .363 .387 .750 79
2009 19 Sarasota FLOR CIN 22 74 71 8 18 4 0 0 2 0 1 9 .254 .274 .310 .584 22
2010 20 3 Teams 3 Lgs CIN 163 717 653 84 167 21 13 6 50 20 45 81 .256 .311 .355 .666 232
2010 20 Dayton MIDW CIN 120 548 501 65 137 16 11 5 41 16 33 62 .273 .327 .379 .706 190
2010 20 Lynchburg CARL CIN 7 29 25 4 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 .240 .321 .240 .561 6
2010 20 Canberra AUBL 36 140 127 15 24 5 2 1 9 4 10 13 .189 .248 .283 .532 36
2011 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs CIN 84 363 336 48 97 18 4 7 44 11 19 50 .289 .324 .429 .753 144
2011 21 Bakersfield CALL CIN 46 203 188 30 57 12 1 5 28 8 10 25 .303 .333 .457 .791 86
2011 21 Carolina SOUL CIN 38 160 148 18 40 6 3 2 16 3 9 25 .270 .312 .392 .704 58
2012 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs CIN 129 561 501 70 133 21 11 7 54 3 41 80 .265 .324 .393 .717 197
2012 22 Pensacola SOUL CIN 81 359 316 45 88 11 8 1 31 3 29 49 .278 .344 .373 .717 118
2012 22 Louisville IL CIN 48 202 185 25 45 10 3 6 23 0 12 31 .243 .288 .427 .715 79
2013 23 Reno PCL ARI 7 33 31 7 12 2 0 2 2 1 2 1 .387 .424 .645 1.069 20
6 Seasons 486 2082 1893 251 506 76 29 23 177 45 130 258 .267 .319 .375 .694 709
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

Gregorius3Moving quickly may have lead to some skewed statistics, as Gregorius always seemed to be adjusting to new levels of the minor leagues, but what do you call his 2013 outburst?

Gregorius has a .926 OPS, as I write this, and, after 124 plate appearances with Arizona, we should wonder now why he CAN’T keep this up. The young shortstop has several statistics playing in his favor:

  1. A .364 BABIP: While 45 stolen bases over six seasons leaves a lot to be desired in the speed category, Gregorius clearly has solid gap power and an ability to put the ball where fielders aren’t. The friendly-confines of Chase Field should be taken into consideration for his ability to continue to drive the ball, as well.
  2. A 9.5 percent HR/FB rate: Considering the top five HR/FB rate in MLB are Pedro Alvarez (29.4), Bryce Harper (29.3), Chris Davis (28.8), Justin Upton (28.0), and Adam Dunn (26.1), Gregorius and his 9.5 percent HR/FB are right in line with “league average”, so he could very well continue to put together numbers like he has to this point.
  3. A 31.3 O-Swing percentage: Gregorius is a smart hitter, working counts (3.94 pitches per at-bat) and swinging at strikes (O-Swing is percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone).
  4. A 22.0 line drive percentage: Gregorius would rank right around 67th (with Andrelton Simmons and Gerardo Parra) with his current line drive rate. While that isn’t the upper echelon of hard hitters, it is right around the 20 percent league average (according to FanGraphs)

Gregorius is still highly underrated in fantasy leagues, ranking 21st among shortstops in ESPN’s Player Rater. He is no Troy Tulowitzki but he does have a similar career line as Jean Segura (without the speed), whose .969 OPS through 210 plate appearances was legit enough for ESPN to rank him as the No.1 shortstop.

Gregorius1The time may be now to buy into Gregorius. While he has a small sample size showing what he has, there may not be much more time to get him cheap, and the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks sure seemed to find a lot of value in him this offseason when the three team deal with Cincinnati involving Trevor Bauer and Shin-Soo Choo was consummated.


May I Have Another: Guys on Fire

Move over Alicia Keys, these boys are on fire in the month of May:

MorelandMitch Moreland, 1B, Texas Rangers

.347/.407/.796, 17-49, 11 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 8 RBI

Long overlooked as an asset in the Rangers order, Moreland appears to be establishing himself as a valuable piece to a Hamilton-less Rangers offense. His left-handed power is needed in the middle of an order that features Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz along with switch-hitting DH Lance Berkman. Moreland is 27 and in the midst of his prime. While he does feature a pretty ugly .662 career OPS against left-handed pitching, that number has bumped up to .789 in 2013, so he could still make an interesting career out of playing in Texas. He could certainly turn his recent hot streak into a total breakout.

Trout1Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

.340/.393/.720, 17-50, 10 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB

After taking the world by storm last season, Trout started the season slower than some fantasy nerds would have liked, posting a .261/.333/.432 triple slash in the first month of the season. He is picking things up, though, in May, displaying the power and speed that made baseball enthusiasts drool last season. Trout could be on his way to posting numbers like this over the rest of the season. Just imagine what he would be doing if Josh Hamilton was alive and breathing for the Angels…if only he could pitch, the Angels might not look like such an embarrassment.

TabataJose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

.522/.542/.783, 12-23, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB

Do you need a sleeper? The Pirates are pretty loaded in the outfield with Andrew McCutchen in center and Starling Marte in left; however, right field is a little…Travis Snider-y. Snider is still just 25 but he is under-performing, again, as the Pirates primary right fielder in 2013. His .267/.347/.356 is very weak and Tabata is heating up with the weather. Tabata, himself just 24, is another floundering former top prospect, but his ability to use the gaps and his speed would make him an asset in real-life and fantasy baseball. Clint Hurdle is an interesting manager, to say the least, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks with a strict platoon or gives Tabata a chance.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

.447/.552/.660, 21-47, 13 R, 10 2B, 5 RBI

Mauer continues to prove that his 2009 power surge and MVP season was an anomaly. The Twins are floating around .500 due to Mauer’s production and a whole lot of crappy pitching. If the club was serious about contending, they probably would have done something about Vance Worley and Kevin Correia being their No.1 and No.2 starter prior to the season. With a lot of their talent in their 30′s, including Mauer, the club will be hard pressed for a quick recovery. Oswaldo Arcia has been a nice addition but to even float around being mediocre, Mauer may have to hit .447 over the rest of the 2013 season. He’s hot and he’s a hitting machine.

ZimmermanAces on Fire 

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners: 2-0, 3 GS, 0.82 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 22 IP, 20:3 K:BB

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 1-0, 3 GS, 0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20:5 K:BB

Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox: 2-0, 3 GS, 1.16 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 23.1 IP, 19:2 K:BB

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, Washington Nationals: 3-0, 3 GS, 1.19 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20:2 K:BB

CorbinShutdown Surprises

Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 3-0, 3 GS, 0.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 20.1 IP, 16:10 K:BB

Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: 2-0, 2 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 15 IP, 18:1 K:BB

Scott Feldman, RHP, Chicago Cubs: 2-0, 3 GS, 1.23 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 22 IP, 21:5 K:BB

Matt Harvey Is Greater Than Everyone Else

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Courtesy: NY Daily News

To say that Matt Harvey has been impressive in his first 17 starts to his career would be an understatement:

2012 23 NYM 3 5 2.73 10 59.1 42 19 18 5 26 70 1.146 6.4 10.6 2.69
2013 24 NYM 4 0 1.28 7 49.1 22 7 7 2 12 58 0.689 4.0 10.6 4.83
2 Yrs 7 5 2.07 17 108.2 64 26 25 7 38 128 0.939 5.3 10.6 3.37
162 Game Avg. 14 10 2.07 34 217 128 52 50 14 76 256 0.939 5.3 10.6 3.37
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.


After 17 starts, he has roughly a half of a season under his belt and he can now officially be compared to Stephen Strasburg, whose first 17 starts looked like this:

2010 21 WSN 5 3 2.91 12 68.0 56 25 22 5 17 92 1.074 7.4 12.2 5.41
2011 22 WSN 1 1 1.50 5 24.0 15 5 4 0 2 24 0.708 5.6 9.0 12.00
                                   6  3  2.54  17  92    71  30  26  5     19 116  0.98   6.9   11.3  6.11
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

Matt Harvey deserves the hype and he deserves more hype than he has received. Tossing another in which he allowed four or fewer hits, which has happened in six of his seven starts, shows just how dominant Harvey is. It’s arguable that he has had the best start to a pitching career in baseball history.

Who would supplant him in the argument?


Fernando Valenzuela was an All-Star from 1981 through 1986 and won the Cy Young award in his 1981 rookie season. Fernando-mania was in full effect early in his career and his numbers supported his skills; however, the strikeouts don’t measure up to the pure dominance that others, mentioned earlier and later, will have presented to this argument.

1980 19 LAD NL 2 0 0.00 0 4 0 0 17.2 8 2 0 0 5 16 0.736 4.1 8.2 3.20
1981 20 LAD NL 13 7 2.48 25 0 11 8 192.1 140 55 53 11 61 180 1.045 6.6 8.4 2.95
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.


Dwight Gooden had, quite possibly, the greatest start to any career in history. He dominated at the age of 19 and kept things rolling for several years. It is debatable as to whether it was a substance-abuse issue or the innings that he accumulated early in his career that caused his demise, but from 1984 through 1991, he was a four-time All-Star, one-time Cy Young winner, and he received several MVP votes.

1984 19 NYM NL 17 9 2.60 31 7 3 218.0 161 72 63 7 73 276 1.073 6.6 11.4 3.78
1985 20 NYM NL 24 4 1.53 35 16 8 276.2 198 51 47 13 69 268 0.965 6.4 8.7 3.88
1986 21 NYM NL 17 6 2.84 33 12 2 250.0 197 92 79 17 80 200 1.108 7.1 7.2 2.50
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

Hideo Nomo was the first true Asian sensation, coming to the United States from Japan and paving the way for Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Yu Darvish. Nomo was the Rookie of the Year in 1995 and continued to impress in 1996. His career was derailed by shoulder issues but Nomo did produce a couple of solid seasons later in his career upon his return to Los Angeles.

1995 26 LAD NL 13 6 2.54 28 4 3 191.1 124 63 54 14 78 236 1.056 5.8 11.1 3.03
1996 27 LAD NL 16 11 3.19 33 3 2 228.1 180 93 81 23 85 234 1.161 7.1 9.2 2.75
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

Certainly, others, such as Mark Fidrych, have had excellent starts over the last 30 years, but when comparing dominance, it is undeniably absurd to say that Dwight Gooden wasn’t the pitcher with the best start to his career over the last several decades; however, based on what Matt Harvey has done over his first 17 starts, he has not only put better numbers up than Stephen Strasburg, but his statistics rival Gooden’s 1985 season, which was one of the best ever, particularly Harvey’s seven starts in 2013.








Matt Harvey has been absolutely dominant, which is surprising given his minor league numbers:

2011 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA 13 5 3.32 26 135.2 125 56 50 9 47 156 1.268 8.3 3.1 10.3 3.32
2011 22 St. Lucie FLOR A+ 8 2 2.37 14 76.0 67 24 20 5 24 92 1.197 7.9 2.8 10.9 3.83
2011 22 Binghamton EL AA 5 3 4.53 12 59.2 58 32 30 4 23 64 1.358 8.7 3.5 9.7 2.78
2012 23 Buffalo IL AAA 7 5 3.68 20 110.0 97 46 45 9 48 112 1.318 7.9 3.9 9.2 2.33
2 Seasons 20 10 3.48 46 245.2 222 102 95 18 95 268 1.290 8.1 3.5 9.8 2.82
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

The walks were high, the hits per nine were high, and the ERA was high. It just goes to show that harnessing a dynamic repertoire can go a long way in the elevation of a player’s abilities. Matt Harvey’s abilities, to this point in his brief career, appear to be better than nearly everyone else’s.

Velocity and Value

Maddux1Once upon a time, Greg Maddux was winning four straight Cy Young awards (1992-1995) and Tom Glavine was painting the corners and winning 20-games three straight seasons (1991-1993) for the Atlanta Braves. While PITCHf/x wasn’t around back then, it is safe to say that Maddux and Glavine got by more on movement and location than blowing hitters away, as Maddux’s best average fastball over his last seven seasons was in 2002, when it was 85.8.

As strikeouts continue to pileup in abundance around Major League Baseball, are there reasons for the sudden rise? Are pitchers attacking more, throwing more strikes, or throwing harder…or is it the approach of the hitters, looking to hit home runs instead of making solid contact, to blame for the free breezes for fans in stadiums around the league?

So far in 2013, there are 27 pitchers with an average fastball of 92.0 or higher. In 2012, that number was 37. Of course, that was an entire season and some pitchers could be working out some stamina issues early in the season before truly unleashing their heat. There were some interesting trends that I saw when looking at velocity, though:




Name FB Vel. K/9 Wins ERA WHIP
David Price 95.5 8.74 20 2.56 1.10
Jeff Samardzija 95.1 9.27 9 3.81 1.22
Justin Verlander 94.7 9.03 17 2.64 1.06
Max Scherzer 94.2 11.08 16 3.74 1.27
Matt Moore 94.1 8.88 11 3.81 1.35

In 2012, two of the top pitchers in baseball, Price and Verlander, ranked within the top three in velocity. Neither pitcher is ranked in the top five in fastball velocity in 2013, and Verlander’s ERA is lower than it was last season, while his K/9 is slightly up (9.19). Moore’s fastball is down to 92.2 in 2013, 24th in MLB, but his ERA is down to 1.13 and his K/9 is up to 10.69.


Name FB Vel. K/9 Wins ERA WHIP
Stephen Strasburg 95.6 8.04 1 3.16 1.12
Jeff Samardzija 95.0 10.74 1 3.03 1.10
Garrett Richards 95.0 6.93 1 3.65 0.93
Matt Harvey 94.6 10.03 4 1.54 0.69
Jordan Zimmerman 93.7 4.75 4 2.00 0.86

Another interesting trend would have to be the average ERA and WHIP of the top five fastballs in MLB over the last two seasons:A big difference between the two seasons above: Richards and Zimmerman have very low K/9 rates, and Strasburg’s strikeouts are surprisingly low, considering that he had an 11.13 K/9 in 2012.In 2013, wins don’t count for much due to how early we are in the season; however, when looking at some of the top names in baseball, Strasburg and Harvey rank near the top in the hype machine right now. Are they dominant because of their repertoire or because of the swings and misses across baseball?

2012 3.14 1.15
2013 2.59 0.93

Again, it’s early, but when you consider the results from last season, are the top pitchers in baseball those who throw the hardest? If you consider that Harvey’s early season dominance appears to be the outlier of the statistics, they could be meaningless…BUT, looking at 2012, in particular, you could argue that flamethrowers are going to be successful.



Remember, also, that Matt Moore was one of the best pitchers in baseball down the stretch last season, when he posted a 9-3 record and a 2.90 ERA from June 1 through September 1. So, is his slight drop in velocity what was necessary to dominate or was his velocity a part of his mid-season dominance last season?

At the beginning of the season, there were concerns over the velocity of long-time aces Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia. Halladay’s two-seamer has averaged 89.8 mph this season, but two-seam fastballs tend to be a little slower than a pitcher’s four-seam fastball. Halladay has used a cut fastball and a splitter along with his two-seamer since the start of the 2012 season, so, while he did struggle in his first two starts, Halladay is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, and a 16:5 K:BB over his last three starts (21 innings). Sabathia’s fastball is down to 89.7 mph in 2013 from 92.3 in 2012, and he has had a couple of rough outings, including his Opening Day start against Boston and earlier this week against Boston. However, his three starts between those outings included 23 innings with a 1.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 19:4 K:BB. He also got the win Saturday with eight innings and three earned runs against Toronto.



So…what is the lesson here? Young pitchers with impressive fastballs can become tomorrow’s future stars and the same guys that used to top the charts with velocity can become crafty veterans, adapting to their changing skills to maintain brilliant careers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pitchers that fall somewhere in between those two extremes, so while there was some interesting data here, the only conclusions that I would recommend are to try to stock up on guys that throw hard so that when they learn how to pitch on top of having stuff, you’ll have a pocket full of aces.


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