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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 883

post #26461 of 73398

What the hell laugh.gif
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IF Manny can keep his health, I think he's got a higher upside than Bryce Harper.

******* knee injury, man. Dude was hitting his stride after a slow start.
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Ugh the Cards frown.gif

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #26465 of 73398
I don't see how Giancarlo isn't behind Trout at this point

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Thread Starter 
I've been ignoring my older child while taking care of my baby thread laugh.gif let me get some articles up here.
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Thread Starter 
Most notable September call-ups.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Sept. 1 is the day each year when major league teams can expand their active rosters from 25 players to as many as 40. As such, teams have begun the process of recalling a few select prospects, either to provide a boost for a playoff push or to get a key prospect some major league development time. Some prospects may come up after their minor league teams complete playoff runs, and others who appear to be ready might not come up at all due to roster rules (the Cubs' Kris Bryant foremost among them).

Here are my thoughts on eight players who already have been called up and what they might provide in the next month in the big leagues:

Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (No. 28 in my midseason top 50 prospect rankings, No. 26 in my preseason top 100): Soler has been up for a few days, going 10-for-19 with seven extra-base hits in his first five games in the majors. Soler is a budding superstar, with monstrous bat speed and raw power, a surprisingly polished approach at the plate for a guy with just 621 minor league plate appearances (scattered over three years) and the athleticism to eventually develop into an above-average defender in right field. He won't hit .500 the rest of his career, but I don't see any reason why he won't continue to hit well in September.

Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 22 at midseason, No. 41 in preseason): If Pederson were a right-handed hitter, he probably would have been up in June, as he's the Dodgers' best defensive center fielder and provides a power/speed combination they could use now that Andre Ethier's bat has gone on leave. Pederson has been ready to face MLB right-handed pitching all season, and I'm not sure he could develop much in the hitters' paradise at Triple-A Albuquerque (possibly the best hitters' park in all of minor league baseball). He probably will need some time to pick up breaking stuff from major league lefties, but his defense and his power against right-handed pitching should help him make an impact right away.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (No. 37 at midseason): Norris' ascent during the past 15 months is a big credit to the Jays' player development staff, as they took a power arm with poor command and an inconsistent delivery and turned him into a top-flight pitching prospect who struck out 162 batters in 124 2/3 innings across three levels this season. Given how much he has already thrown this year, he's best-served working in relief in September, where his repertoire of three above-average offerings will play up to the point where he might post a 40 percent-plus strikeout rate in a small one-month sample.

Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays: Pompey's promotion is probably the most out-of-nowhere call-up, as he spent most of the year in the Florida State League and has just 177 at-bats above Class A. He projects as a leadoff-type hitter eventually, an OBP/speed guy who can play plus-defense in center field, but I'm not sure he can offer much at the plate right now or even early next year, given his inexperience and current strength level.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (No. 63 in preseason): Franco was horrendous in the first half at Triple-A, went off in July and August (11 homers during that span) and has likely regained the lead in the race to be the Phillies' third baseman of the future. He is very, very strong, and makes up for some of his poor pitch recognition with his hand and wrist strength. He's likely to be a low-OBP guy for most of his career (he has drawn just five walks since the Triple-A All-Star break). At third base, his hands and arm are more than enough, but his feet are slow and he'll need a lot of work on his positioning and first step to remain at the hot corner. He should play a lot of third base in September, although he may sub in at first base as well to keep him in the lineup.

Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers: Moya has huge raw power, with quick wrists and a very long swing, so when he connects it goes far (35 homers in Double-A this year), but he misses a lot more often (29 percent strikeout rate). He's wiry, not a big one-dimensional slugger, and if he ever develops some patience, which would probably require shortening his load by moving his hands up and closer to his shoulder, he could be a pretty good 5- or 6-hole hitter. His 21 unintentional walks this year (3.8 percent of his plate appearances) was his best single-season total since he left the Dominican Republic, but I think major league pitchers will exploit this weakness.

Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals: The former TCU star, who missed time this spring because of shoulder soreness, has pitched sparingly this summer, never exceeding 51 pitches in any outing in his pro career to date. That allowed the Royals to consider calling him up to help their bullpen in September. Finnegan sits in the low 90s as a starter, but will regularly hit 96-97 mph out of the bullpen, with an above-average to plus-slider and a usable changeup. He's under 6-foot, with some effort to the delivery, and he already has had the bout of shoulder trouble, so there's a decent chance the bullpen is his long-term role anyway. For now, it's a great way for the Royals to add a left-hander who's more than just a specialist to their relief corps.

Cory Spangenberg, 2B, San Diego Padres: The 10th overall pick in the soon-to-be-storied 2011 draft, Spangenberg struggled to hit in full-season ball until repeating Double-A this year, hitting for more average on contact and more power. He was once a 70 or 80 runner but is now merely above-average, and second base is occupied in San Diego now that Jedd Gyorko has signed a long-term deal. Spangenberg could find a role as a utility player who can handle second base, center field and perhaps a little third base, but his lack of power or patience prevents him from being projected as a regular anywhere.

High-impact potential call-ups.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Starting Monday, major league rosters will expand from 25 men to 40, and while most might associate the expansion with teams that are no longer in contention, it's also a chance for teams that are firmly in the playoff mix to reinvigorate their respective rosters as they make the final push for the postseason. We saw examples of this last year -- sort of -- as both Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Martinez weren't Sept. 1 call-ups, but did receive promotions late in the year to make an impact on their respective clubs' march to the World Series.

"It's not just about getting young guys looks," an AL front-office member said. "That's obviously part of it, but you can absolutely use this time to your advantage if you're a team that plans on playing in October as well. I can't tell you how many times we've seen a kid come up that you expect to just play a bit part, and he ends up being one of your key contributors to a deep postseason run. You can pretty much mark it down that it'll happen for someone."

Not all of these players are guaranteed to get called up before the end of the regular season -- and none of them are certain to receive huge amounts of playing time should they receive a promotion -- but here's a look at some potential call-ups who could make a difference over the final month of the season:

AL East
Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

The loss of Manny Machado has caused the Orioles to shuffle their infield around, and it wouldn't be surprising if they gave Walker a look over the final month of the season. The former South Carolina Gamecocks star has hit 25 homers in stops with Bowie and Norfolk, and his above-average raw power and solid approach at the plate give him a chance to be an average regular at the not-so-hot corner. At the very least, he could be a solid bench option against left-handed pitching should Baltimore decide to make the move.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Norris has been one of the most improved prospects in all of baseball, thanks in large part to a vastly improved delivery that allows him to throw more pitches for strikes. Two of those offerings are plus -- his fastball and slider -- and his change is a solid-average to above-average pitch with good fade and deception from arm speed. Toronto likely will have him in the bullpen, akin to what they have done with fellow top prospect Aaron Sanchez, but he and Sanchez could form a very nice power combination late in games, with both having a chance to start in 2015.

Robert Refsnyder, 2B, New York Yankees

This seemed like a no-brainer call-up a month ago, when the Yankees were struggling to get any kind of production from the infield, but the acquisitions of Martin Prado and Stephen Drew have allowed the club to keep Refsnyder in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. That being said, no prospect in the New York system has a better approach at the plate, as seen in his .388 on-base percentage this season. With an above-average hit tool and average power, New York might turn to Refsnyder as a quality bench option who can play an average second base as well.

AL Central
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

Lindor is arguably the best defensive shortstop in all of minor league baseball, with a plus throwing arm, excellent hands and the speed and instincts to make plays to his left and right. He's not just a quality defender, however, as Lindor swings a quality bat from both sides of the plate, and his speed goes to work on the bases as well. If Cleveland is serious about catching the Royals and Tigers, Lindor should be the everyday shortstop for the remainder of the year. Whether or not he will get that call-up remains to be seen, however.

Terrance Gore, OF, Kansas City Royals

Gore is a one-tool player, but that one tool gives him a chance to make a difference late in games, as the diminutive outfielder is one of the fastest players in all of baseball. With slow-footed runners -- to put it nicely -- like Billy Butler, Salvador Perez and Josh Willingham in the lineup, Gore could make a big difference late in games as a pinch-runner who is a threat to steal a base or two anytime he's on.

AL West
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Walker was not good in his time with the Mariners this summer, as he struggled to command pitches and walked 13 batters in his 14 innings of work. His control has improved considerably since he was sent back down to Tacoma, and with a high-90s fastball and a plus cutter, Walker has the ability to be a weapon for Seattle down the stretch, either out of the bullpen or replacing Roenis Elias in the rotation.

NL East
Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves

Bethancourt is not without offensive ability, and he'll show plus raw power in batting practice from the right side. Where he's going to make his living, though, is behind the plate, as he has a plus-plus throwing arm and is already one of the better receivers in all of baseball. Evan Gattis is the everyday guy because of his power, but Bethancourt should allow Fredi Gonzalez to remove Gattis' woeful glove behind the plate late in games, and he should keep all but the fleetest of runners at their respective bases.

Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals

Taylor is not without his flaws -- few players are -- as the outfielder has a great deal of swing and miss in his game and his hit tool is a 45 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) at best. But he also possesses plus power thanks to his strength and hip rotation, and he's a base-stealing threat with his plus speed as well. He's no threat to take the spot of any of the Nationals' outfielders, but as a late-inning threat to hurt you with a homer or a stolen base, Taylor can play a part in Washington's charge to the postseason.

NL Central
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Kingham is probably the least likely of this group to receive a call-up, as he's not currently on the 40-man roster and there's not an obvious place for him on the Pirates' pitching staff. However, with two plus pitches -- his fastball and change -- an above-average offering in a much-improved curve and plus command of all three selections, Kingham deserves to be listed here. Like Walker, he could be a contributor either pitching out of the bullpen or starting every fifth day.

Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

The industry has always been higher on Grichuk than I have been -- and I was not surprised to see him struggle in his month with the Cardinals this summer because of his poor plate discipline -- but I can still see the outfielder helping St. Louis over the final month. There's plus bat speed here, and enough natural loft to allow him to hit for power; he's also a competent defender at all three defensive positions. If Mike Matheny doesn't feel confident having Peter Bourjos take at-bats in high-leverage situations, or wants to pinch hit for Oscar Taveras against southpaws, Grichuk could be the player Matheny turns to in those situations.

NL West
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Those of you who have followed my top 10 prospect list all season are aware that I'm a big fan of Pederson's skill set. Unfortunately, Pederson's above-average to plus tools across the board have been stuck in the PCL because the Dodgers are currently paying their outfielders so much money that they'd be over the NBA salary cap. That won't matter with 15 additional roster spots, however, and Pederson has the ability to make as much -- if not more -- difference as any player that receives a promotion over this final month.

Other contenders
San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels

Not much to see here. Unfortunately, these teams either have systems that are bottom-heavy (San Francisco and Oakland) or just aren't very good (Detroit and Los Angeles), so it's unlikely you see a true prospect come up and make much of a difference. Obviously that doesn't preclude them from having solid ends of the year, but it's unlikely anyone in their systems makes a big difference over these final games.

Top 5 Executive of the Year candidates.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Major league general managers have remained busy on the trade and free-agency front all year long, and their hard work has created some of the best pennant races we've seen in years. In fact, as the calendar turned to September, 21 of the 30 teams were still within 9 1/2 games of a playoff berth.

But there are five general managers -- coincidentally, all of them are in the American League -- who have stood out for the job they did this year building teams that have legit playoff, and possibly World Series, aspirations. Three of these GMs happen to work in one division: Oakland's Billy Beane, Los Angeles' Jerry Dipoto and Seattle's Jack Zduriencik in the AL West. Veterans Dave Dombrowski (Detroit) and Brian Cashman (New York Yankees) round out the top five. All of these general managers made dramatic moves to attain high-end talent, as well as making effective under-the-radar transactions.

There are several other GMs who have done a great job of building playoff-level teams, but they've mostly done it over a period of the past few years, such as Mike Rizzo (Washington), Dan Duquette (Baltimore), John Mozeliak (St. Louis), Brian Sabean (San Francisco) and Dayton Moore (Kansas City).

With that, here are my top five candidates for Executive of the Year for 2014 (based only on moves made since Nov. 1, 2013):

1. Billy Beane, VP/GM, Oakland Athletics
Free-agent signings: Scott Kazmir, Eric O'Flaherty, Jim Johnson.
Trades: Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Geovany Soto, Adam Dunn, Billy Burns, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Jonny Gomes, Fernando Abad, Luke Gregerson, Bryan Anderson
Payroll: $74,765,800 (27th in MLB)

Maybe a "Moneyball" sequel is in order? Beane has done the best GM work of his illustrious career in the past year. He wasn't afraid to trade his best prospects, Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, to attain quality starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. He wasn't afraid to trade his best all-around power hitter, sending Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for their ace, Jon Lester. How many times in baseball history has a team traded for two top-of-the-rotation starters in the same month?

Beane also had to deal with many challenges, including losing projected Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker to a second Tommy John surgery before the season even began. He also lost his ace from the prior season, Bartolo Colon, in free agency and another key starter, A.J. Griffin, to Tommy John surgery on April 30. Beane completely revamped his rotation, including Scott Kazmir, who he signed as a free agent. He also rebuilt the bullpen, making a key trade for Luke Gregerson to secure the eighth inning and making two of his most brilliant under-the-radar moves by signing left-handed reliever O'Flaherty and trading for lefty Abad, who both have been dominating.

Beane also continued his blueprint of building roster depth with his deals for Gentry, Fuld, Gomes and Soto. He now has more right/left flexibility and platoons than any team in baseball (perhaps that could be one of the key themes for "Moneyball II" when it's filmed?).

His final move, acquiring Adam Dunn from the White Sox, already is paying off. Dunn's power, walks/on-base percentage, great makeup and platoon ability (only against right-handed pitching) make that a typical Beane move.

If the A's can make it to October, they'll have the best and deepest overall starting rotation they've had since the Mulder-Zito-Hudson days and a legitimate chance for Beane to get his first World Series ring.

2. Jack Zduriencik, Executive VP/GM, Seattle Mariners
Free-agent signings: Robinson Cano, Fernando Rodney, Corey Hart, Chris Young
Trades: Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales, Chris Denorfia, Logan Morrison.
Rookie call-ups: James Jones, Chris Taylor, Roenis Elias, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker
Managerial hiring: Lloyd McClendon
Payroll: $89,245,143 (20th in MLB)

The Mariners shocked the baseball world in the offseason when they outbid every team in baseball, including the New York Yankees, for the game's No. 1 free agent, Robinson Cano, inking him to a 10-year, $240 million pact. Although they took a lot of industry criticism for the length of the deal, they also changed the image and culture of the organization. Cano has been everything the Mariners had hoped for. He has again been one of the best hitters in the game, as well as the game's best second baseman. He's fifth in the American League in WAR (5.6), and most importantly, he has been a positive influence on the young Mariners players, leading by example in preparation, work ethic and having a winning attitude.

Zduriencik did a great job in signing proven closer Fernando Rodney to a two-year, $14 million deal and also signed pitcher Chris Young a pitcher who might turn out to be the AL Comeback Player of the Year after he was released by the Washington Nationals in spring training. Rodney has 39 saves and a 2.28 ERA, while Young has gone 12-7 with a 3.46 ERA.

Zduriencik also upgraded center field when he acquired Austin Jackson in a three-way deal that sent Nick Franklin to the Rays. He improved his team's depth with deals for Denorfia, Morrison and Hart. He also did a great job in landing Kendrys Morales. After refusing to give in to Scott Boras' asking price and allowing Morales to sign with the Twins in June, Zduriencik swooped in and traded for him in late July, and they'll now pay him a fraction of what they originally offered. Now it's just a matter of whether Morales will be productive in the final month of the season.

The Mariners' farm system continues to develop top-end prospects like James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Mike Zunino, as well as solid options such as Roenis Elias, James Jones and Chris Taylor.

Zduriencik's best work, though, might be the construction of his bullpen, where he has stockpiled six relievers with mid-90s fastballs and plus secondary pitches. The Mariners have been one of the top two teams in baseball in team ERA most of the season. They are well-suited for the postseason (if they get there) thanks to the quality of their pitching staff.

And finally, Zduriencik deserves credit for the hiring of veteran manager Lloyd McClendon, who has done more than a solid job in leading this team to postseason contention.

3. Jerry Dipoto, GM, Los Angeles Angels
Free-agent signings: Joe Smith
Trades: Huston Street, Tyler Skaggs, David Freese, Hector Santiago, Jason Grilli, Fernando Salas, Gordon Beckham, Joe Thatcher.
Rookie call-ups: Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Cron.
Contract extension: Mike Trout
Payroll: $127,062,000 (9th in MLB)

Dipoto has done the best job of any GM in baseball in revamping a bullpen in one season, highlighted by a deal with the Padres at the trade deadline that landed Huston Street, who has converted 35 of 37 opportunities this year and single-handedly solved the Angels' biggest problem of the past few seasons. Dipoto started the process of seriously rebuilding the bullpen in the offseason when he inked Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75 million contract, and the veteran right-hander has responded with a 2.07 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 66 appearances.

Another key move by Dipoto was promoting rookie Matt Shoemaker, who at age 27 has delivered for the Angels, posting a 14-4 record and 3.14 ERA.

However, his best work might be locking down superstar Mike Trout, who signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract, taking away future concerns of arbitration and free agency.

4. Brian Cashman, Senior VP/GM, New York Yankees
Free-agent signings: Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann
Trades: Chase Headley, Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano, Josh Outman.
Rookie call-ups: Dellin Betances
Waiver pickup: Esmil Rogers.
Contract extension: Brett Gardner
Payroll: $209,416,323 (2nd in MLB)

Cashman went on a spending spree in the offseason that would have made the late George Steinbrenner proud when he signed Tanaka, Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann to a combined $438 million of future financial salary exposure. The signings have not all worked out quite as planned, but all four players have still produced. Cashman also did a great job in extending left fielder Brett Gardner to a four-year deal at a bargain rate based on the year he has had. But Cashman's best work came at the trade deadline, when he acquired Headley, Prado, Drew, McCarthy and Capuano in trades in which he gave up very little value in return. The farm system also produced this year, including one of the game's best eighth-inning relievers in Dellin Betances.

5. Dave Dombrowski, President, CEO & GM, Detroit Tigers
Free-agent signings: Joe Nathan, J.D. Martinez, Joba Chamberlain
Trades: David Price, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine
Rookie call-ups: Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez, Steven Moya
Managerial hiring: Brad Ausmus
Payroll: $161,023,527 (4th in MLB)

Dombrowski barely made this list with so many strong candidates knocking on the door, but it was his last-minute trade deadline deal that landed David Price from the Rays that cemented his place in the top five. With the Tigers dealing with a key injury to Anibal Sanchez and another setback in Justin Verlander's shoulder inflammation, the Tigers' chances of making the postseason would have been much slimmer had they not traded for Price. Not only that, but Max Scherzer and Price make for a great top of a postseason rotation.

Dombrowski also did a good job of picking up J.D. Martinez and Joba Chamberlain off the scrap pile. Free-agent signing Joe Nathan has been very inconsistent, but he has time to revert to the way he pitched in 2012 and 2013 and could be a rock in the postseason.

And finally, the hiring of rookie manager Brad Ausmus was brilliant, as the Tigers are now in good hands for years to come with him at the helm.

Porter firing a sign of Astros' major issues.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we know a lot more about the position that Bo Porter signed up for in the fall of 2012, when he became manager of the Houston Astros. Whether he knew it or not at the time, this is what the job notice probably should've looked like:
Wanted: Manager of a Major League Baseball team
(Note: Your team will be designed to lose more games than any other. It has been stripped down completely, with all 25 players making less money combined than CC Sabathia or the MLB commissioner.)


• Tremendous opportunity to travel and see the whole country, with big league accommodations. Good pay.
(You will be paid less than other managers.)

• Tremendous opportunity for growth.
(We'll stock your team with what rival executives rate as Double-A talent, a lot of young guys who really aren't close to being finished products as players and will be completely overmatched in the big leagues. Good luck with that.)

• You'll be surrounded by young and energetic players.
(This is because we'll trade away anybody who has any experience and value to stock up on prospects and to ensure that, well, we're not very good and get to pick at the top of the draft.)

• You will get to implement organization strategy.
(We'll tell you who to play, and how much. Just hand your lineup card to the umpires and follow instructions.)

• You'll work with some of the best and brightest minds in the business of baseball.
(Your opinions will be asked for occasionally, but your input will not be especially desired or valued. Nothing you say will alter the organization's evaluation or development process substantively; we've got that covered.)

• You will be the most visible member of the organization.
(Sort of, in the way that the White House press secretary represents the President. You won't actually make the decisions, but it'll be your job to explain them, and to put a happy face on the organizational effort to lose games. Besides, the fans don't know any of the players besides Jose Altuve anyway.)

• You will be in a position of great leadership.
(We'll need you to cover for us in dealing with your players and staff, in keeping them in line and explaining why it's a good thing that the team is getting crushed day after day, and why better players who might be able to help immediately are being left in the minor leagues.)

• You'll have an opportunity to shape young minds.
(Because inevitably, as the failures multiply and we all have to live out the losses day after day after day, everybody -- players, staff, you, us -- will start to play the blame game. We'll need you to be a mental Jedi and keep everybody convinced this is all part of a master plan.)

Bo Porter did not thrive in these conditions, which is why so many of his coaches left after his first season. In fact, after that 2013 season, in which the Astros went 51-111, some within the front office had tremendous reservations about retaining Porter for the 2014 season. There was some preference for change. But sources say that the prevailing opinion was that it was too early to do that with a manager who had just been hired.

The Astros needed some combination of Mr. Miyagi, Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln to navigate through the past two seasons, to maintain some semblance of positivity through historic failure. It's one thing to come up with a plan built on statistical evaluation, but it's something completely different to expect actual human beings overflowing with ambition and competitiveness -- plus anger due to the competitiveness -- to adhere to it with the complete devotion of worker bees.

The meltdown from this amalgamation has been just about total, if some sources within the organization are correct. Players are angry, staffers have been outraged, and some club employees are looking for jobs elsewhere. The distrust of motives and skills and vision within the organization is extraordinary.

Porter's firing was inevitable. But hey, apparently the manager of the Astros is way down the list of who is really important within the organization. What must really change is the way the operating philosophy is carried out.

There needs to be greater inclusion rather than the sense that only a small group of people are making the decisions and everybody else is should stand outside the door. There needs to be debate and compromise, because as anyone who has worked in baseball will tell you, there are almost never absolutes; nobody is always right. The only sure thing is that the game will humble you.

Players and staff must be made to feel they are valued, and that their opinions and feelings are respected, if not always honored. If there's a funeral for a long-time employee, then folks within the organization need to show up.

I wrote here after the Brady Aiken fiasco that the Astros have a terrible perception problem, but that's not only about how prospective customers -- fans -- might view them. Their most significant perception problem is within their own organization.

Porter's short ride as a manager was not about a micro problem, about the way he handled decisions in key moments in games. It's about a problem with the macro.

There is failure in the design, and it's not limited only to trying to lose enough games to pick high in the first round.

More aftermath from the Porter firing

• For Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow, it's back to the drawing board, writes Evan Drellich. But Tom Lawless is ready to take over.

• Former Astros manager Larry Dierker had some interesting observations.

• Bo Porter released a statement.

• The Astros might have an opening for a Rangers coach, writes Mac Engel.

• From ESPN Stats & Information: Since the start of last season, when Porter took over as Astros manager, the team has had 25 players with a minimum of 100 plate appearances or 25 innings pitched produce at or below replacement level, six more than the next-closest team in the majors over that span.

Around the league

• What seemed to be inevitable actually occurred: The inconsistent Braves offense was no-hit by Cole Hamels and three relievers. In fact, the Braves have scored just one run in the past three games, writes Mark Bowman. From Bowman's story:
"It just feels like a loss," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "No matter if we get 20 hits or zero hits, we lost one. Tomorrow, we'll come out and try to win one."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pinch hit for Justin Upton in the ninth inning.

From ESPN Stats & Info on how the Phillies pulled off the combined no-hitter:

A. Phillies pitchers did not allow a hard-hit ball the entire game. It was their third such game this season (April 21 versus the Dodgers, Aug. 30 versus the Mets).
B. Hamels recorded six of his seven strikeouts with the fastball, and Braves hitters were 0-for-10 in at-bats ending with a fastball against Hamels. Overall, Braves hitters were 0-for-15 against fastballs.
C. Hamels got 12 swings and misses with his fastball, his most in a start in the past two seasons. He got Braves hitters to chase 12 fastballs out of the strike zone, tied for his most in a start in the past five seasons.
D. Hamels recorded eight of his 10 fastball outs to his glove side (in to righties, away from lefties).

From the Elias Sports Bureau: This was the third no-hitter Carlos Ruiz has caught, one behind Jason Varitek for most in the expansion era (since 1961).

• Meanwhile, the Phillies are going to promote a top prospect and place him in the lineup Tuesday.

• Adam Dunn homered in his first at-bat with the Athletics, who snapped their losing streak. One swing can make a difference.

• The Cardinals rallied, and took over first place in doing so.

• Joc Pederson was called up to the big leagues by the Dodgers. One question that some evaluators have about Pederson is whether he'll hit lefties, but Mark McGwire is not among those; Pederson has the exceptional bat speed to make adjustments against any type of pitcher, he believes.

• Brett Bochy was promoted to the big leagues. The last time I saw him throw in person, he was playing catch at The Murph and accidentally drilled the opposing manager in the leg.

• You have to wonder if Henderson Alvarez's season might be over.

Dings and dents

1. Eric Hosmer was activated off the DL.

2. Cody Ross and Daniel Hudson were reinstated.

3. Jed Lowrie also was activated.

4. Anthony Rizzo might need an MRI on his back.

5. J.J. Hardy left Monday's game with lower back spasms.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Phillies will be making significant changes to their roster, says Ruben Amaro Jr.

2. The Mariners added a bunch of players to their roster.

3. Jason Giambi was recalled.

4. Aaron Hicks was called up.

5. Derek Jeter's slump raises some questions, writes Chad Jennings.

Hopefully the only determination for where Jeter hits in the Yankees' lineup in the midst of a pennant race is his potential for production. Many, many all-time greats have moved around in the lineup at the end of their careers to coincide with their slumps and streaks, including Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. If Joe Girardi believes he has better options to hit in the No. 2 spot in the lineup behind Jacoby Ellsbury -- perhaps Martin Prado or Brett Gardner -- he would be doing a disservice to the organization by not utilizing them there.

Monday's games

1. Miguel Cabrera found his power stroke and the Tigers blew out the Indians.

2. The Giants won a suspended game, but the Rockies rebounded in the nightcap.

3. The Mariners continue to struggle.

4. Corey Kluber had another tough game.

5. The Brewers fell out of first place.

6. Joe Mauer had a great day.

7. The Rays split a series.

8. The Orioles couldn't finish off a four-game sweep.

9. The Pirates lost the first game of a crucial series in St. Louis.

10. The Mets made six errors. They didn't play big league baseball, in the eyes of their manager.

AL West

• The Angels bullpen is much improved.

• The Rangers are getting a look at a player acquired for Michael Young.

• Matt Shoemaker's confidence is paying off.

AL Central

• David Price shares some history with Bob Feller, writes John Lowe.

• It's time to see what the White Sox call-ups can do.

AL East

• Joe Girardi is unimpressed by the Rogers Centre weight room.

• Grant Balfour says his improvement is for real.

• Nick Markakis has seen it all.

• Chase Headley has a hit in every park, writes David Waldstein.

• Time is not on the Yankees' side. The Yankees will need to deliver on this homestand, writes George King.

• Rusney Castillo played his second game.

• Rob Bradford writes about what we've learned about the Red Sox.

NL Central

• Billy Hamilton says this last month is a big one.

• Jorge Soler continues to hit.

• Starlin Castro and John Lackey jawed at each other over the weekend.

• Jonathan Broxton said he wasn't expecting a trade.

• As Tony Sanchez returns to the Pirates, he's in a slump, writes Rob Biertempfel.

NL East

• Brad Penny says his days of discord are over.


• Pete Rose has too many feats for one plaque.

• Jesus Montero's season is over following a suspension. He may well be playing for his pro baseball life next spring.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Sizing up offseason salary-dump market.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- August may be over but these are the dog days of player evaluations, the time of year when teams are ready to turn the page, ready to say something hasn’t worked and isn’t going to work. They’re looking for something different.

It’s the time of year when executives are beginning to mull over the possible salary dump in the offseason, and some are scanning other rosters for matches. “Your trash contracts for somebody else’s trash contracts,” as one official noted the other day.

Here are 16 players (and contracts) who figure to be analyzed and perhaps discussed in deals after this season ends.

1. B.J. Upton | Atlanta Braves
Owed: $46.35 million over the next three seasons

He’s batting .205 this season after hitting .184 in 2013, and he’s already posted his sixth straight season of 150-plus strikeouts. The Cubs could again have interest after trade talks that involved Edwin Jackson crumbled earlier this season. There might be a match with the Indians, as well.

2. Nick Swisher | Cleveland Indians
Owed: $15 million for each of the next two seasons, with a $14 million vesting option for 2017 if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2016

Swisher had a terrible season that was ended by knee surgery, posting a .608 OPS and some of the worst defensive metrics in MLB. With Carlos Santana settling in at first base, it could be that the Indians will look to move Swisher’s contract in the offseason. He might be an interesting dollar-for-dollar dump with the Cubs and Edwin Jackson.

3. Jonathan Papelbon | Philadelphia Phillies
Owed: $13 million for 2015, but also has a $13 million vesting option for 2016 based on games finished -- either 100 over the 2014-2015 seasons, or 55 in 2015 (he’s already got 44 games finished)

Inexplicably, the Phillies have let an opportunity pass in recent weeks to use talented young pitcher Ken Giles at closer, which would’ve given the team passage to steer around Papelbon’s vesting option. But now, as the Phillies go into the winter and continue working to trade Papelbon -- an effort that started about a year and a half ago -- other teams will continue to be leery of that massive vesting option. I wrote about the Giles option a couple of weeks ago, and a number of executives and agents agree that it makes all kinds of sense. Alas, the Phillies’ actions are nothing short of confusing.

4. Michael Bourn | Cleveland Indians
Owed: $27.5 million for 2014-2015, with a $12 million vesting option for 2016 if he gets 550 plate appearances

He’s 31 years old and his numbers aren’t that far off from his last season with the Braves, when he hit .274 with a .739 OPS. But there is one significant difference in Bourn: He has battled leg injuries the past two seasons and has stopped stealing bases. He had 23 in 35 attempts last year, and just nine in 14 attempts this year.

The Braves loved Bourn’s makeup and had wanted to re-sign him after 2012, so perhaps Atlanta and the Indians can find some common ground among Swisher, Bourn and Upton.

5. John Danks | Chicago White Sox
Owed: $14.25 million for each of the next two seasons

Rival scouts still see a pitcher who lacks stuff, and Danks has the fifth-worst ERA in the big leagues. He’s generated about as many runs allowed as strikeouts. The White Sox already have a lot of payroll flexibility, because of deals made this season, and could carve out a little more if they move Danks.

6. Brandon Phillips | Cincinnati Reds
Owed: $12 million in 2015, $13 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017 ($39 million over the next three seasons)

The Reds worked to trade him last winter, without success, and could do so this winter as they search for ways to deal with the expense of a deep rotation.

7. Ricky Nolasco | Minnesota Twins
Owed: $37 million over the next three seasons, including a $1 million buyout of a club option for 2018

The signing of Phil Hughes paid off. The signing of Nolasco, not so much. He’s 5-9 with a 5.62 ERA. His dollars are pretty close to those of Swisher, so who knows.

8. Jose Reyes | Toronto Blue Jays
Owed: $66 million over the next three seasons, although the Marlins sent dollars to Toronto to help offset that salary when Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays (less than $10 million total)

Jose Reyes
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
Trading Jose Reyes this winter would free up dollars for the Blue Jays.
It’s unlikely that the Jays will consider moving Reyes, at age 31, considering the scarcity of shortstops and the fact Reyes is valued for the energy with which he plays and for being an excellent veteran teammate. But just in case ...

There will be a good seller’s market for shortstops this winter, with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers perhaps all looking for solutions. And if the Blue Jays want to extricate themselves from some of the dollars owed, this could be a good time to move Reyes. All you need to know about the shortstop market is what happened a week ago with Oakland and Yunel Escobar: He’s having a down year and there have been questions this season about his mental investment, yet the Athletics were ready to take him from Tampa Bay in a waiver claim.

As always, there is the question of how much Reyes stays on the field: He has fewer than 300 at-bats this year, with a .285 average.

9. Josh Hamilton | Los Angeles Angels
Owed: $83 million over the next three seasons

His performance has been erratic, and his contract is backloaded; he’ll make $30 million in both 2016 and 2017. In other words, it’ll be very difficult for the Angels to find a taker. Regardless, he has a full no-trade clause.

10. Elvis Andrus | Texas Rangers
Owed: $120 million over the next eight seasons

The Rangers are convinced that he will be better than he was this season, when he arrived at spring training out of shape. Given the need for shortstops around baseball, you’d have to figure the Rangers would at least explore the possibility that another team would take Andrus’ contract.

But more likely is that the Rangers would have to eat a lot of money to move him now, and it would make more sense for them to keep him. Given the volume of dollars, however, he is within range of what Matt Kemp makes with the Dodgers. If the Rangers got some talent in a deal, there might be a fit given L.A.’s need for a shortstop.

11. Matt Kemp | Los Angeles Dodgers
Owed: $107 million over the next five seasons

Teams say they are simply not interested in taking on a lot of Kemp’s money because they don’t know how good he is now. Two officials guesstimated what his value would be as a free agent, with one saying $16 million over two years and the other saying $15 million over two years -- which gives you an idea of how onerous this contract is regarded.

12. Ryan Howard | Phillies
Owed: $60 million over the next two-plus seasons

As Matt Gelb wrote recently, the Phillies have continued to play Howard in recent weeks in the hope that he would rebuild some value in the trade market. But his contract is enormous: Howard is set to make $25 million in each of the next two seasons and, like so many other Phillies, he’s got a massive option year (for 2017) that contains a $10 million buyout. Howard is in the same position as Jim Thome once was.

13. Ubaldo Jimenez | Baltimore Orioles
Owed: $38.75 million for the next three seasons

He has already been demoted from the rotation to the bullpen, with an ERA of 4.74 in 21 games. Presumably, Baltimore could be open to moving him, and you wonder if Cleveland -- with some contracts that it might want to shift -- could be interested in swapping some of its sunk cost for Jimenez, who had a lot of success with the Indians last year. Jimenez turns 31 in January.

14. Carl Crawford | Dodgers
Owed: $62.5 million for the next three seasons

Crawford is still a serviceable player, although not close to what the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him to a seven-year deal. Crawford is batting .265 for the Dodgers this year, with 21 steals in 26 attempts.

15. Andre Ethier | Dodgers
Owed: $56 million for the 2015-2017 seasons, including a $2.5 million buyout on a club option for 2018

He stopped hitting for power -- he’s posted just four HRs in 322 at-bats -- and he has a .681 OPS.

16. Edwin Jackson | Cubs
Owed: a total of $22 million for the next two seasons

Jackson has the worst ERA in the majors -- by far -- at 6.09, and he’s owed $22 million for the next two seasons. In terms of positives, he turns 31 later this month and has a relatively pristine injury history, so there’s hope there. But remember, other veteran pitchers like Scott Feldman, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta have gone to Chicago and rebuilt their records under Chris Bosio.

Around the league

• Oakland’s collapse continues, with the Athletics again getting shut down Sunday as they were held to just one run. Manager Bob Melvin did not mince words in the team meeting or in speaking to reporters. From Susan Slusser’s story:

"It was embarrassing, pathetic. We don't play like that," Melvin said after Oakland's 8-1 loss Sunday, which completed a four-game sweep by the Angels. "The last three games here are the worst I've seen this team play in I don't know how long. I feel bad for our fans to have to watch that. ...

"The reason that I'm upset is, that is not who we are, that's not who we've been for three years," Melvin said. "It's mounted. It's been frustrating. ... We all should be embarrassed."


A's players agreed the meeting was necessary. "Something definitely needed to be said," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "It's a wake-up call. This is the time of season you need to start playing your best, and we're playing our worst."

With their offense dormant, Oakland landed Adam Dunn largely because the Athletics were willing to pay more of his remaining salary -- about half of the $2.5 million Dunn will be paid this month -- than the Dodgers were willing to pay.

Dunn has a .350 on-base percentage against lefties and could make up for the power that has disappeared, as Brandon Moss slumps, but this may be a case of too little, too late given the five-game deficit Oakland faces. Right now, Detroit and Kansas City are closer to Oakland than the Athletics are to the Angels in the overall race for the best record in the AL.

• The Angels are rolling, and held their fantasy football draft over the weekend.

• Jose Abreu will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but Matt Shoemaker -- who beat Oakland in the series finale Sunday -- is positioned for a strong second place in light of how he has filled in for the Angels this season. From ESPN Stats & Info, more on Shoemaker’s season:

A) He is just the second pitcher this season to have six wins and a sub-1.40 ERA in a calendar month, along with Clayton Kershaw (June).

B) He cut his home run rate from 3.7 percent (pre-August) to 1.4 percent (in August).

Matt Shoemaker
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Shoemaker excelled throughout the month of August.
C) The Angels’ defense excelled behind him on balls hit in the air, turning 46 of 57 flies/liners (81 percent) that stayed in the park into outs for the month. His out rate on such balls was 64 percent entering the month.

D) He held left-handed hitters to .178 BA/.492 OPS in August (.288 and .802, respectively, entering August).

From ELIAS: Over the past 50 seasons, the only other rookie pitchers who won as many as six games in a calendar month while posting an ERA as low as Shoemaker's are Minnesota's Jim Hughes in May 1975 (6-0, 0.87), Milwaukee's Cal Eldred in September 1992 (6-0, 1.17), the Dodgers' Hideo Nomo in June 1995 (6-0, 0.89) and Atlanta's Brad Clontz in July 1995 (6-0, 0.00, all in relief).

Shoemaker keeps shutting them down, writes Helene Elliott.

• Madison Bumgarner finished a great month of August, too, with a win over the Brewers on Sunday. From ELIAS: Bumgarner had 56 strikeouts and three walks in August. He joined Curt Schilling as the only pitchers in MLB's modern era (since 1900) to have a calendar month with at least 55 strikeouts and three walks or fewer. Schilling had 62 strikeouts and two walks in May 2002.

The Giants continue to stay close to the first-place Dodgers, racking up 10 extra-base hits against the Brewers.

• Hyun-Jin Ryu returned and dominated the Padres.

• Before the Indians-Royals Sunday night game, Kansas City manager Ned Yost told about how he had to switch Alex Gordon’s hitting group in batting practice. Gordon used to hit in the third group after shagging fly balls aggressively for 30 minutes every day, practicing as if playing in a game, chasing pitchers out of his area.

Yost began to believe that Gordon was being worn down by such a long session of daily defensive work, and so he told Gordon he had to make a choice. Either he was going to move to the second hitting group, after taking 15 minutes of fly balls, or he was going to be taken out of the lineup occasionally. Gordon agreed to move to the second group.

“He is the perfect player,” said Yost, referring to the way Gordon prepares and plays.

Gordon's ninth-inning home run off Cody Allen tied the score at 2-2 -- the Indians would score twice in the top of the 10th before the game was suspended -- and Gordon’s homer was calculated at 462 feet, the longest home run of his career. It was also the longest home run by a Royals hitter in 2014, the second-longest HR in KC this season (trailing only one hit by Mike Trout at 489 feet) and the second longest by a Royal since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

The Royals’ offense has been backsliding, writes Vahe Gregorian.

• The Indians have the look of a team playing with extraordinary confidence, as they appear nice and loose while boasting tremendous pitching. Cleveland’s staff ERA this season, by month: April: 4.44; May: 3.86; June: 3.94; July: 3.44; and August: 2.40.

• A big series starts Monday between the Pirates and Cardinals, and Gerrit Cole is the perfect guy to kick it off, writes Rob Rossi.

• The Reds’ trade of Jonathan Broxton was more about payroll management than anything else. Broxton is set to earn $9 million next season, and by moving his salary now, Cincinnati is a little better equipped to deal with the cost of trying to retain its starting pitching. Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Mat Latos will all be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Phillies traded John Mayberry Jr. to the Blue Jays.

Sunday’s games

1. Brad Ausmus was not happy with some sloppiness.

2. The Brewers are spiraling downward.

3. The Nationals hit some homers but lost.

4. A Yankees lead evaporated.

5. The Orioles continue to close on the AL East title.

Dings and dents

1. Michael Wacha had a successful rehab outing.

2. Carlos Gomez is having wrist trouble.

3. A Met is having an elbow issue.

NL West

• A Padre is ready for his debut.

• The Diamondbacks are limiting a pitcher’s workload.

NL Central

• The Pirates have been resilient, writes Ron Cook.

• The Cardinals won and, once again, Matt Holliday drove in four runs. From ELIAS: It's the third time in Holliday's career that he drove in at least four runs in each of two consecutive games, but it's the first time that he's done that away from Coors Field. Holliday's previous two-game streaks of that kind were against the Marlins for the Rockies from July 4-5, 2008, and for the Cardinals versus the Rockies in Denver from July 31-Aug. 1, 2012.

NL East

• Bold words in spring have given way to reality for the Mets, writes Jay Schreiber.

• A.J. Burnett has really struggled since the All-Star break.

• Ruben Tejada knows he has likely run out of time with the Mets, writes George Willis.

AL Central

• The Tigers are moving a prospect to center field.

AL East

• Caleb Joseph says his focus is defense.

• Casey Janssen got the call.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Time off was transformative for Duffy.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rehabilitating an elbow after Tommy John surgery can be the working definition of monotony, and Danny Duffy's experience was no different than that of many who preceded him. When he was going through the process at the Kansas City Royals' facility in Arizona, he would arrive at the ballpark by 9:30 a.m., finish all the work he was allowed by midday, and then hang out by the pool.

The early evenings presented the best part of Duffy’s groundhog days; he would head to the same restaurant for Mexican food, always ordering carne asada to enjoy from the same seat, and he would watch the other Royals do what he couldn’t wait to do again: play baseball.

“I didn’t miss a game,” Duffy recalled. “As painful as it is to watch knowing you can’t play, it’s important to stay on that learning track.”

This was a crucial part of Duffy’s mental and physical makeover, and when he takes the mound against Cleveland on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN), the Royals will either be a half-game ahead or behind Detroit in the AL Central. Duffy is well-suited to bear the responsibility of the moment.

Duffy ranks fifth in ERA (2.47) among all MLB pitchers with at least 130 innings. That's a little ahead of Corey Kluber and Jon Lester, a shade behind Johnny Cueto.

He absorbed a lot while eating rice and beans in baseball purgatory. Before that, Duffy was renowned for his big arm, but also for what he did not know about pitching efficiently, about controlling his effort. For years, instructors had talked to him about focusing on location rather than velocity, as Duffy acknowledged Saturday. But it wasn’t until after those hours spent watching James Shields and other Royals fill the strike zone and succeed with far less velocity that the left-hander embraced a new philosophy.

“Surgery was the biggest thing that has happened, because I realized that I wasn’t invincible,” he said. “I tried to have the less-is-more mentality.

“I was not letting myself learn a whole lot when I was younger; I could out-stuff people in the minors. You get used to blowing it by people, then you get up here, and it doesn’t happen. You have to pitch. That’s so simply said by everyone. They tell you all about it, but until you experience it, it doesn’t really sink in.”

When Duffy returned after missing almost all of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he and pitching coach Dave Eiland worked on shaving off the unnecessary movement in his delivery, streamlining his mechanics, from when he takes the sign and raises his hands to the instant the ball leaves his hand. This gives him a better chance to throw strikes, and repeat his delivery.

Only five MLB pitchers have thrown a higher percentage of fastballs than Duffy this season, and he’s been able to locate that pitch in a manner that he couldn’t before his surgery. In 2011, he averaged a whopping 18.6 pitches per inning, and in his first outings in 2012, that climbed to 19 pitches per inning.

This year, he’s cut that number dramatically, to 16 pitches per inning. His average fastball velocity has declined almost two miles per hour from the days before his surgery, from 95.3 to 93.4, but it’s a better fastball because he can throw it for strikes.

And in big spots or with two-strike counts, Duffy adds a little extra to finish off hitters. “When I need 95 or 96, I’ll go get it,” he said.

Duffy has doubled the use of his curveball and greatly diminished the use of his changeup, but the well-commanded fastball is at the core of what he does, something he began to understand in those hours spent watching.

More on Royals-Indians

• The Royals lost a heartbreaker to the Indians in 11 innings on Saturday night. The Indians have drawn to within 3.5 games of first place, Zack Meisel writes, and are operating with extraordinary confidence because of the dominance of their pitching.

The Indians have the best ERA in the majors in August -- their 2.40 is well ahead of No. 2 Seattle's 2.78 -- while holding opponents to a .219 average, with 238 strikeouts in 240 innings. Nobody with the Cleveland organization will ever say it, but evaluators with other teams believe the pitchers have been greatly helped by the decision to trade respected veteran Asdrubal Cabrera, whose defense at shortstop had diminished markedly, and replace him with Jose Ramirez.

• The Royals’ Omar Infante is banged up, but playing.

• On Friday’s "Baseball Tonight" podcast, Royals GM Dayton Moore talked about Duffy’s progression as a pitcher, and how K.C. put together an elite defensive team.

• Within the Royals’ organization, the prevailing view is that K.C.’s turnaround was spurred, in part, by a players’ meeting in Chicago in late July in which Raul Ibanez and others who had joined the team during this season explained to the young Royals exactly how they are perceived around the league: as an extremely talented group capable of great things.

Around the league

• Two rival evaluators raved about Jose Abreu's hitting ability this week, comparing him to Miguel Cabrera in his approach. “He’s like Cabrera in that he always seems to be working [in his mind] one pitch ahead, rather than one pitch behind,” said one official.

Said another: “You can’t stay with the same pattern against him, and can’t stay in the same place, or he’ll hurt you. There are hitters who you can attack in the same spot and have a reasonable chance for success. Like with [Mike] Trout, if your pitchers successfully execute and work up in the strike zone, you can get him out in that area. But there isn’t one place to get Abreu. You have to move the ball around and do different things against him.”

I’d guess that with a month to play, Trout remains the front-runner for the AL MVP award; he’s on pace for 85 extra-base hits, 36 homers, 113 RBIs and 109 runs, and the Angels are beginning to pull away in the AL West. But Abreu and the Royals’ Alex Gordon will (and should) get a whole lot of second-, third- and fourth-place votes.

Miguel Cabrera By Month
Month HR OPS
May 8 1.126
June 4 .845
July 2 .830
August 1 .691
Note: .143 BA, 9 K, 0 BB in past week
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
Cabrera, by the way, continues to be banged up; he was pulled in the fourth inning of the Tigers’ win Saturday, because of the ankle trouble that has hounded him all season.

He wants to play, says Detroit GM David Dombrowski. Cabrera’s injury situation has left a dark cloud over the Tigers’ pennant push, writes Lynn Henning.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Cabrera has not hit a home run since Aug. 2, and is slugging .307 in the 27 games since. In his past four games, he is 1-for-16 with six strikeouts.

• Jake Peavy flirted with a no-hitter. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he did it:

A. He recorded 18 swings-and-misses, his most since Aug. 13, 2011. Eight swings-and-misses occurred with two strikes, his most in a start since May 26, 2012.

B. He had eight strikeouts vs. right-handed batters, his most in a start since April 17, 2008 (six came on pitches out of the strike zone).

C. He threw 72 pitches out of the strike zone, tied for his most in any start since 2009 (36.3 percent of his pitches were in the strike zone, his lowest rate in any start since May 20, 2012); he induced 26 swings on pitches out of the strike zone, the most in any start since May 20, 2012.

• The Angels’ lead over the Athletics is now four games, after eight pitchers combined on a 2-0 shutout Saturday night. GM Jerry Dipoto said before the game that he doesn’t intend to trade for a starting pitcher, and the reality is that with the Angels separating themselves from the rest of the division, it's not a pressing need at the moment.

Oakland still leads the majors in runs scored with 637, but August continues to be a struggle for the Athletics’ offense: Oakland ranks 20th in the majors this month.

The Athletics are reeling, writes Susan Slusser. A pregame meeting didn’t help.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Angels used eight pitchers in their 2-0 shutout of the Athletics on Saturday. That's tied for the most pitchers used in a nine-inning shutout in MLB history, and the most the Angels have used in any nine-inning game.

• Manny Machado's injuries and the timing of them in the early climb through his career would seem to greatly hurt his chances of working out a long-term deal with the Orioles before he becomes eligible for free agency.

[+] EnlargeManny Machado
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Manny Machado needs to prove he can stay healthy before the Orioles sign him to a lucrative deal.
Machado, 22, will have two years and 56 days of service time after this season, and he’ll be eligible for arbitration for the first time after next season. Given the unusual nature of his knee injuries, the Orioles would want to see him play through an extended period -- say, at least two seasons -- before they would consider giving him the sort of deal that would run into his late 20s. The Orioles have long been regarded by agents as a team leery of injury risk, and have backed away from free agents -- from Will Clark to Grant Balfour -- because of that factor.

But within another couple of seasons, Machado will be closing in on free agency, and if he bounces back in a big way and stays healthy over the next two seasons, his representation would presumably look for the Orioles to be very aggressive in keeping him.

This is not going to be a case in which the Orioles don’t want Machado, but it could develop into a situation in which the timing of his injuries will affect the team’s interest in working out a timely big-money, long-term deal.

• The expectation among some rival officials is that the Braves will find a place to trade B.J. Upton this offseason, in a swap of his bad contract for somebody else’s bad contract. Their discussions with the Cubs have gotten the most exposure, but they also talked with other teams, as well.

• Jorge Soler continues to make a strong impression in his first days in the big leagues, and the young Cubs are having fun imagining what the lineup will look like when the player perceived to be the best hitter among all of the prospects -- Kris Bryant -- eventually arrives.

• All the stuff swirling within the Astros’ organization -- the TV situation, the continued struggles on the field, the controversial failure to sign the team’s No. 1 draft pick, the tension between important decision-makers -- have not touched two really important people within the organization: Reid Ryan and his father, Nolan Ryan.

What this does, of course, is to increase the Ryans’ practical power, if they choose to use it. There is so much perceived instability -- from within, with a lot of club employees extremely unhappy -- and the Ryans are viewed as potential anchors. If they were to leave, it would be a body blow for the organization, something worth remembering as the Astros make their choices in the weeks ahead.

• Stephen Strasburg had one of his best starts of the season, and the Nationals’ magic number is down to 21. He has been paired with Jose Lobaton, writes Adam Kilgore.

• The Orioles busily added depth on Saturday night with a couple of trades. Dan Connolly and Eduardo Encina analyze the deals here.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Phillies are playing Ryan Howard in the hopes of dealing him, writes Matt Gelb.

2. Ruben Amaro says that with Pat Gillick stepping in for David Montgomery, the baseball operations will be status quo. I’m not sure that’s really for Amaro to say, given the chain of command. We’ll see.

3. The Rockies need a better catcher than Wilin Rosario, writes Patrick Saunders.

4. Rick Hahn talked about the Alejandro de Aza trade.

Dings and dents

1. The time has come to shut down Joey Votto for the season, writes Hal McCoy.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury is sore, and the Yankees were shut down.

3. Masahiro Tanaka plans to resume throwing.

4. Dustin Pedroia suffered a concussion.

5. Joaquin Benoit is hurting.

6. Hanley Ramirez was a late addition to the Dodgers’ lineup.

7. There is no timeline for George Springer's return.

8. Derek Holland is set to pitch on Tuesday.

Saturday’s games

1. The Cardinals managed to split a doubleheader.

2. Drew Hutchison threw a gem.

3. Vance Worley had a strong outing for the Pirates.

4. The Mets have stopped hitting. Bartolo Colon was shelled.

5. Jake Odorizzi dominated the Red Sox.

6. The Braves were shut out again.

7. The Brewers have struggled of late, but have managed to stay atop the NL Central, writes Tom Haudricourt.

8. The Mariners continue to have a really bad week.

9. The Dodgers lost a game in the standings.

10. Scott Feldman shut down his former team.

AL East

• The Jays miss the old Edwin Encarnacion.

• Juan Nieves is adjusting from running a staff of veterans to overseeing a staff of young pitchers.

• Yunel Escobar says he feels fine mentally and physically. He was benched.

AL Central

• Kyle Gibson was better.

• Jim Souhan writes about what the next moves should be for the Twins.

AL West

• The Rangers could get some consolation prizes.

NL East

• A Phillies prospect will not change position.

• Wally Backman deserves a bigger role with the Mets, writes John Harper.

• The Uptons have had a lot of ups and downs this month.

NL Central

• The Reds face some difficult offseason choices, writes Joel Sherman.

• Justin Masterson continues to struggle.

• Jay Bruce says this is the most embarrassing year of his life. His track record speaks for itself, writes Hal McCoy.

• Jose Tabata is back to work.

• First base has become a hot corner for the Pirates, writes Rob Biertempfel.

• Starlin Castro has embraced a leadership role.

NL West

• The Diamondbacks are holding a reunion.

• Troy Tulowitzki is determined to remain at shortstop.


• Trevor Hoffman was inducted into the Padres’ Hall of Fame.

• Tony Gwynn's widow talked about how much she misses him.

• Nick Canepa writes that the Padres’ fiasco this week happened because of poor planning. From Canepa’s piece:

What the Padres have done here is outsmart themselves. They want an All-Star Game in Petco. They’ve been trying for years. [Bud] Selig, who thankfully leaves office in January, announced while here he plans to announce some future All-Star sites before he exits. This act, I truly believe, was polishing the apple for Bud, who isn’t averse to coddling.

Selig, on the bridge during a cancelled World Series, even was noticeably absent from the Tony Gwynn Memorial, sending an aide (new commissioner Rob Manfred). It was inexcusable. If a great Brewer had passed away, would he have been there? The question is rhetorical.

The only way out of this would be for Selig to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.” He should.

But that isn’t happening. The ship has sailed and its ill-conceived course is irreversible.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Only Selig can rescue Padres from debacle.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Only five months remain in Bud Selig's tenure as commissioner, and with his successor chosen (Rob Manfred), most of his remaining duties are ceremonial. After stopping at a few more parks in his farewell tour, he'll crown the champion at the World Series and move on shortly thereafter, perhaps to do the teaching that he has spoken of.

But in the days ahead, he has the opportunity to make a decision which, within the span of his time in office, wouldn't be nearly as important to the sport as a whole as the addition of the wild-card teams or the television contracts. For one set of executives with one franchise, however, a move by Selig could be absolutely crucial.

On Tuesday, Selig was in San Diego as the Padres announced that they will name a ballpark plaza at Petco Park after Selig. Mike Dee, the team's president and CEO, explained the rationale. From Corey Brock's story:
"It's tough to find something to give someone who has the experience and background he does," Dee said. "I think at this point in his career, his legacy speaks for itself. But to commemorate it here today was not only fun for us, but important for us to do."

Later in the article: "We wanted to do something to recognize his contributions here in San Diego because they are unique," Dee said. "Make no mistake, his contributions to the creation of Petco Park are profound. For those of us who were around and know the trips he made and conversations he had with local officials."

Selig said he was "very, very grateful," and as far as the Padres were concerned, this was a done deal.

But the backlash from Padres fans has been resounding -- overwhelmingly negative. Dee acknowledged how much attention the choice has drawn, and some fans are petitioning for a change. From Jay Paris's story: "I recognize it's controversial," Padres president Mike Dee said Wednesday. "We read all the tweets, the emails and took the phone calls."

At the heart of the sentiment, questions being asked are why the Padres wouldn't have named the plaza after Padres great Tony Gwynn or longtime announcer Jerry Coleman, beloved figures in the organization's history who passed away earlier this year. They also question Selig's ties to the Padres.

At a time when agreement among parties -- in Congress, on Twitter, everywhere -- is difficult to attain, consider the results of polling done by the San Diego Union-Tribune (a newspaper I worked for two decades ago). The question asked of readers was this: Did the Padres err in naming it Selig Hall of Fame Plaza?

As of this morning, 1,464 had answered that question, and of those, 1,419 said yes, or 96 percent.

Ninety-six percent.

What can the Padres do to placate their angry fans? Not much. Reversing the choice on their own would be completely inappropriate, of course, and so Dee and the owners he works for will have to stand by the decision, which threatens to become a symbol of this ownership.

This is nothing new for Padres fans, of course. After the Padres' ownership executed the fire sale in 1992 and 1993, trading away Gary Sheffield, Fred McGriff, Darrin Jackson, Greg Harris, Tony Fernandez and others, Tom Werner became a reviled figure in the community. He stopped attending games, and even though he sold the team to John Moores and Larry Lucchino before the 1995 season and the Padres went on to play in the 1998 World Series, Werner's reputation never got a makeover.

The simple fact is that the current ownership could be damaged in the same way by the Selig Plaza. The strong, visceral backlash promises that every failed decision, every season of struggle, will be viewed through that prism. You can tap into that feeling by reading the comments section below the poll.

Ask the fans. This is just another example of how out of touch ownership is with the fans. They need to do a lot more than talk the talk.

There is one way out of this morass, and only Selig has the power to make it happen, with a choice that would demonstrate leadership and grace.

What Selig could do is to give the Padres an opportunity to alter the honor, or reverse the decision entirely.

Selig, as commissioner, could issue a statement along these lines:
I was deeply touched by the Padres' announcement earlier this week that they intend to name the Hall of Fame Plaza after me, and it's the thought that really counts. I wish to reiterate my thanks to Ron Fowler and Mike Dee and others in the organization.

But it's evident by the response of the Padres fans that they disagree with the decision, which I fully understand as a former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. In Milwaukee, our fans prefer to honor our heroes, such as Robin Yount and Paul Molitor.

In light of that, this offer seems fully appropriate: I would encourage the Padres to rename the plaza after one of their cherished heroes, perhaps someone like Tony Gwynn or Jerry Coleman or Trevor Hoffman. Choosing to do this would make all the sense in the world to me.

The Padres cannot save themselves from this situation. Selig, who is still the king of the sport, has the power to do that.

Around the league

• David Montgomery is one of the more well-liked executives in the sport, and he will continue his treatment and step away from his role with the Phillies surrounded by enormous goodwill and good thoughts for recovery from his peers.

And the Phillies couldn't have found anyone better to step in for Montgomery than Pat Gillick, who built great teams in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia. Gillick is particularly adept at using all the resources at his disposal rather than insisting on bringing in only his own people and firing the existing staff. Gillick will serve as the rudder the Phillies need right now as they go about the business of reconstructing their roster.

• The Angels increased their lead to two games over Oakland. The Athletics and Angels are developing quite a rivalry.

It's worth noting, though, that Oakland protested the game, as Susan Slusser writes.

• On Thursday's podcast, Wally Matthews discussed the Yankees' playoff chances; Rob Biertempfel talked about Andrew McCutchen and his ability to play in pain; and Keith Law discussed Clayton Kershaw and the NL MVP race, as well as the swirling rumors about the Astros and Brady Aiken.

• Jonny Venters, whom I wrote about Wednesday, will need a third Tommy John surgery.

• Yusmeiro Petit set a major league record Thursday, retiring his 46th consecutive batter. From ESPN Stats & Information:

Most consecutive batters retired, single season

Yusmeiro Petit, 46 batters (2014)
Mark Buehrle, 45 (2009)
Jim Barr, 41 (1972)
Bobby Jenks, 41 (2007)

• And here's this from the Elias Sports Bureau: Petit struck out 21 batters during his streak and went to a three-ball count only once, when facing Colorado's Justin Morneau in the first inning Thursday.

Petit does have one streak still going: He has struck out 27 batters since last allowing a walk (to Ryan Howard on July 22), the longest current streak of that kind in the major leagues.

Petit's streak ended when Colorado's pitcher, Jordan Lyles, hit a double. Petit has allowed three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 22 at-bats against opposing pitchers, tying the highest total surrendered by any major league pitcher this season. Three other pitchers have allowed three extra-base hits to their counterparts this season, all in 30 or more at-bats.

• Yadier Molina says he's ready to go.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Orioles are remaining active in trade talks.

2. The Athletics shuffled their rotation.

3. The Royals claimed infielder Jayson Nix off waivers.

4. The Reds are going to add 7-9 players.

Dings and dents

1. Daniel Murphy is headed to the disabled list.

Thursday's games

1. J.J. Hardy made the Rays pay.

2. The Yankees experienced an agonizing loss, writes David Waldstein.

3. The Twins had a big inning.

4. Alex Avila got a pivotal hit.

In that same game, Brian McCann was almost a hero for the Yankees.

5. Carlos Carrasco is in attack mode, while closer Cody Allen flooded the strike zone.

AL East

• Boston's outfield is taking shape, writes John Tomase.

• Rob Bradford writes about how good Yoenis Cespedes could be.

• Dioner Navarro has been solid as a rock, writes Bob Elliott.

• Derek Jeter's Toronto memories aren't so fond.

• A note on the Orioles from Elias: O's relievers haven't allowed a run in 16 innings over their past five games, and in August they have a 1.80 ERA and have held opponents to a .178 batting average. Each mark is the best in the major leagues this month.

AL Central

• Bruce Chen had a really bad inning.

• One unheralded catcher is doing a nice job defensively for the Indians (we'll see them on "Sunday Night Baseball"):

Best Catcher Block Rate, 2014 (minimum 100 opportunities)
Player Catcher blocks Passed balls Wild pitch misplays Block rate
Roberto Perez, Indians 122 0 4 96.8 percent
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers 674 1 23 96.6 percent
Francisco Cervelli, Yankees 167 1 6 96.0 percent
Alex Avila, Tigers 484 3 20 95.5 percent
Michael McKenry, Rockies 206 3 7 95.4 percent

AL West

• The Mariners' bullpen has been extraordinary.

NL East

• Travis d'Arnaud might be better off moving to the outfield, writes Andy Martino.

• The Nationals are headed out west for a test.

• Matt Williams has earned a look for manager of the year, writes Thom Loverro.

• Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has been faring well as a reliever.

NL Central

• Jimmy Nelson has seized the moment.

• Ike Davis is getting his first shot at the playoffs.

• Gerrit Cole is growing in his first full season, writes Karen Price.

• From Elias: The Reds stole six bases Thursday, all against the battery of Jake Arrieta and John Baker, with four of those base stealers coming around to score. No other major league pitcher has allowed six stolen bases in one game this season, and over the past 15 years, only one other pitcher has allowed a half-dozen steals in an outing of less than five innings (Chris Young in 2009).

NL West

• A Dodgers prospect won an award.

• The Diamondbacks have the prospects needed to help soon.


• Adam Jones had to explain a joke he made.

• It wasn't a good opener for Vanderbilt.

And today will be better than yesterday.

McCutchen admirably playing despite pain.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After Andrew McCutchen banged into the center-field wall making a catch Tuesday night, he paused for a moment, bent at the waist, and was probably doing one of three things:

1. Assessing whether his injured ribs had been knocked free from his body.

2. Catching his breath.

3. Managing the pain.

Maybe he was doing all the above, all at once, but McCutchen probably wouldn't tell you exactly what was going through his mind, because he seems to be another disciple of the Ripken-Jeter-Miggy Cabrera School of Grin and Bear It, where the mantra is that if you are on the field, you don't really acknowledge your injuries.

But Pirates manager Clint Hurdle saw McCutchen hit the fence, and probably knows from precise trainers' reports how McCutchen is faring, and Hurdle removed the reigning National League MVP from the game in the late innings Tuesday. You wouldn't have blamed McCutchen if he had sat out Wednesday afternoon's game a mere 14 hours after the completion of Tuesday's game.

But McCutchen was back in the lineup in the third and final game of the series against the Cardinals, and he was hacking aggressively, as was Russell Martin, who had caught the night before. The Pirates took an early lead against Adam Wainwright and won the game 3-1. McCutchen discussed his decision, sort of. From Jenn Menendez's story:
McCutchen said he made an early determination that he would play Wednesday after slamming into the wall Tuesday night to make a catch.

"If I couldn't do that, I wouldn't be in there. I'm going to play when I'm good enough and I'm going to keep doing that," McCutchen said.

He said he woke up feeling no different than he has since his return from the disabled list (with the rib fracture) little more than a week ago.

"Same old. Same way. Same thing I've been feeling. No different," McCutchen said. "[Tuesday] was just one of those days. Take a break. Took a break. Got up [Wednesday] ready to go. Felt good. There's a difference between playing injured and playing hurt. I'm playing hurt."

McCutchen has the numbers to be considered for the NL MVP award again, including a .307 batting average and 20 homers, and he's basically running neck and neck in WAR with Giancarlo Stanton and Jonathan Lucroy. But there's also something to be said for playing hurt, as Cabrera did last season and McCutchen is trying to do now.

After the Brewers' loss Wednesday night, the Pirates are just four games out of first place.

Speaking of the Brewers, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was unhappy with the strike zone Wednesday and was subsequently ejected. Here is what he had to say:
"This is the thing that bothers me," Roenicke said. "This is the same umpire that we had before, and he is terrible behind home plate. He calls pitches that aren't even close. The catcher sets up 6 inches off the plate, and he calls them strikes. I should have been kicked out the last time we saw him [on July 26 at Miller Park for a game against Jon Niese and the Mets]. I'm tired of sitting here watching the catcher set up off the plate and hitting his glove and [Mark Ripperger] calling it a strike. They are balls.

"So Frankie misses, OK, it is off the plate [an inch or two] the first one, he calls a ball. He's been calling it [a strike] all night. The next one was a little further off, but he's been calling that also. Just call the same pitches, but they are balls. I should have been kicked out in probably the second inning today. It is the same guy."
Around the league

• Clayton Kershaw started the year as the best pitcher on the planet, and in 2014 he has somehow gotten even better.

No team had loaded the bases against Kershaw even one time this season before the Diamondbacks did so Wednesday night. And naturally, Arizona didn't score. His success is predictable, writes Dylan Hernandez.

He gave everybody else a one-month head start by opening the season on the disabled list, yet as of this morning, Kershaw leads all starting pitchers in wins (16), along with his usual array of outstanding ratio statistics, from his ERA (1.73) to his WHIP (0.84), quality start percentage (91 percent), opponents' OPS (.524), etc. He has stranded the highest percentage of runners, at 83.3 percent. And he has the highest swinging-strike percentage (the guy in second place, Chris Sale, isn't that close).

From Elias: For the second consecutive year, Kershaw will take a sub-2.00 ERA into the month of September:

Sub-2.00 ERA through August in back-to-back years in live ball era (since 1920)
Note: Minimum 20 starts

Clayton Kershaw, 2013 and '14
Greg Maddux, 1994 and' 95
Sandy Koufax, 1963 and '64
Hal Newhouser, 1945 and '46

I would vote for Kershaw as NL MVP. As of today, I'd rank them this way:

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Giancarlo Stanton
3. Andrew McCutchen
4. Jonathan Lucroy

• On Wednesday's podcast, Jayson Stark discussed the future of replay and some interesting umpire numbers; and Tom Haudricourt talked about the hurdles the Brewers face down the stretch.

• Jose Abreu should be a unanimous selection for AL Rookie of the Year. We know about his power, but he's hitting for average as well.

• There are rumors swirling about the Astros possibly signing No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, but Evan Drellich writes that it's unlikely. If it happens, there will be baseball operations people and agents going absolutely ballistic, and MLB would essentially be inviting other unsigned draft picks to threaten the sport with antitrust lawsuits.

• Nobody saw this coming: The Yankees got nine straight hits off David Price. Price said it was the worst game he has ever had. From Tom Gage's story:

"I'm human, and I have had bad games before," said Price, "but not that bad."

"They hit some balls hard off him; they hit some balls not so hard that found some holes," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Just an off night for David Price."

• The four best plays from Wednesday:

1. Andrelton Simmons going into the hole against the Mets. The throw is indescribable. Derek Jeter has made great throws from the hole in his career and so has Jimmy Rollins, but I can't remember seeing a throw made in that way with the kind of velocity and trajectory Simmons' throw had. Mark Simon writes here about Simmons' defense, which has been affected by his ankle troubles this season.

2. Jorge Soler introduces himself to Major League Baseball with a monster homer. It was a big bang in his first game, writes Fred Mitchell.

3. Kershaw's dominance.

4. Buster Posey is blistering hot right now; he mashed a walk-off homer Wednesday.

• A few nice round numbers: Mike Trout hit his 30th homer of the season Wednesday. And it was a long one. He joined some select company. And Billy Hamilton's 50th steal might have been his easiest.

• The turning point for Tim Lincecum, says one evaluator, came when hitters starting sitting on his changeup, in light of his diminished velocity.

• Here are some trade options for the Rangers, courtesy of Evan Grant, if they decide to deal Elvis Andrus.

• Ned Yost says he wasn't being critical of Royals fans. GM Dayton Moore says the Royals love their fans.

• Erasmo Ramirez continues to struggle for the Mariners, who were blown out. He had some good outings back in June, but you'd have to figure Seattle will be looking for an upgrade for this spot in the next three days.

Dings and dents

1. Michael Wacha might make a minor league start Sunday.

2. Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup Wednesday.

3. Surgery has been ruled out for Anibal Sanchez.

4. It's looking more and more like the season is over for both Homer Bailey and Joey Votto.

5. Evan Longoria tested his arm Wednesday.

6. Jed Lowrie's finger is getting better.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Yankees are constructing their rosters differently, writes Joel Sherman.

2. The Yankees signed outfielder Chris Young.

3. Kevin Gausman was sent to the Gulf Coast League. Well, sort of.

4. Sergio Santos was designated for assignment.

5. Colby Lewis could be a no-brainer to return to the Rangers' rotation next season.

Wednesday's games

1. Liam Hendriks was an unlikely hero.

2. Doug Fister struggled.

3. Grady Sizemore got a big hit.

4. Marcus Stroman provided a pick-me-up for the Blue Jays.

5. Corey Kluber lost his second straight decision.

6. The Reds held on to win.

7. The Marlins are sliding.

8. Chad Qualls blew a save chance.

9. The Rockies lost on Buster Posey's walk-off homer.

AL East

• The Orioles have been scuffling lately.

• Drew Smyly keeps putting up good starts for the Rays.

ESPN Stats & Information on how Smyly won:

A. He threw breaking balls on 54 percent of his pitches, the highest rate in any start of his career.
B. Hitters were 0-for-13 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with his curveball or slider.
C. Forty-seven percent of his pitches were on the inner third of the zone or off the inside corner, the highest rate in his career.
D. Hitters were 0-for-10 versus inside pitches; the 10 outs he recorded on inside pitches is the second-most in his career.

And here are Smyly's numbers from his past four starts: 30 2/3 innings, just 11 hits and three runs allowed, and 23 K's to just five walks.

• Mookie Betts is getting comfortable.

• Rusney Castillo, the newest Red Sox outfielder, has begun his workouts in Fort Myers.

AL Central

• Paul Konerko is ready to put the game aside.

AL West

• Sam Fuld hit a pivotal homer. From Elias: It was Oakland's seventh win this season in which they trailed entering the ninth inning, the most in the majors, and the most in one season for the A's since 1971, when they posted 10 such wins.

NL East

• David Wright wants to finish 2014 on a high note, while teammate Zack Wheeler says he wants to stay with the Mets.

NL Central

• Adam Wainwright believes he's emerging from a dead-arm phase.

NL West

• The Diamondbacks will be working on improving their on-base percentage as they train this winter.


• Some Padres fans are really unhappy with the decision to name a ballpark plaza after Bud Selig.

• Derek Jeter was honored in his home state. The area scout who recommended Jeter to the Yankees remembers how the shortstop took his breath away.

• John Rocker is going to appear on the show "Survivor."

• For Nashville's Greer Stadium, there was an emotional goodbye.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Projecting healthy Ken Griffey Jr.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While Barry Bonds is the one who eventually broke Hank Aaron's career home run record, he wasn't the player of his generation who was supposed to accomplish the feat. Instead, it was Ken Griffey Jr. who was widely expected to be the next home run king, the successor to Aaron.

A valuable contributor even in his first MLB season at age 19, Griffey had an auspicious start in the majors and didn't disappoint in his first decade in the majors, eventually becoming the player the Seattle Mariners were most identified with.

After the 1999 season, Griffey Jr. stood as the all-time leader of home runs through his age (29) with 398, 19 homers ahead of second place at the time, Jimmie Foxx (Alex Rodriguez would later surpass this total). With a very expensive contract imminent for Griffey and a desire to play closer to home, the Reds pulled the trigger on a five-player trade that returned "The Kid" to the town where he spent most of his childhood.

And that's where Griffey's story takes an unfortunate turn. After a solid first year in Cincy, with 40 homers and his 11th-straight All-Star appearance, Griffey's career as a Red became defined by his injuries. Exceeding the 130-game mark just three times with the Reds, Griffey quickly fell off Aaron's pace. And in 11 seasons after the big trade, Griffey totaled just 232 additional homers while posting a mortal .262/.355/.493 line.

It wouldn't have taken much for history to be different. The ZiPS projection system, as of the point of Griffey's trade to Cincinnati, reckons that his assault on the record books was legitimate. Even projecting his 30s as a decade of decline with fewer games played each successive year, ZiPS saw a better future for him than what ultimately unfolded.

Griffey Jr.'s projected stats according to ZiPS, 2000-2011

2000 305/397/676 59 136 8.6
2001 288/373/619 50 119 7.4
2002 293/379/599 44 106 7.1
2003 280/363/555 37 92 5.5
2004 267/348/517 32 93 4.5
2005 281/356/539 32 92 4.4
2006 273/342/529 31 75 3.7
2007 258/319/494 26 69 2.4
2008 254/310/448 20 56 1.3
2009 242/295/412 14 41 0.4
2010 238/284/387 9 30 -0.1
2011 229/267/349 5 17 -0.4
CAREER 287/364/522 757 2,078 116.3
Despite dropping Griffey below 130 games played a year for good by 2005, ZiPS had Griffey edging out Aaron's HR record in his final season (ZiPS didn't see Bonds finishing with 762 at the time). Griffey would have likely limped to the finish line, but that's what usually happens with career records; Aaron hit his final home runs as a DH with a .684 OPS for the Brewers, and Ruth's last homers occurred during his career's sad epilogue with the Boston Braves.

ZiPS also puts Griffey at 3,218 hits instead of his actual 2,781, adding a member to the 3,000-hit club. And ZiPS' projected 2,078 RBIs would rank third in MLB history rather than Griffey's 15th-place rank.

While Griffey still will be remembered as one of the greatest players of his generation and will coast into the Hall of Fame, there was that extra bit of his greatness we never witnessed due to injury -- and history's disdain for storybook endings.

Would the Expos have won '94?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One of the saddest tales of baseball's 1994 strike involves the Montreal Expos. At 74-40 heading into the strike, baseball's best record by 3.5 games over the New York Yankees, Montreal lost their franchise's greatest hopes of attaining baseball's first Francophone World Series championship.

Montreal's success that year wasn't a fluke, put together by smoke and mirrors. The Expos' pitching staff was the most dangerous in baseball in 1994, leading the NL with a 3.56 ERA thanks to the front four of the rotation (Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero and Butch Henry). The offense wasn't quite as exciting, but it featured two stars in Moises Alou and Larry Walker who were smack-dab in their prime years and with seasonal OPSs brushing up against the 1.000 mark.

To simulate the rest of the 1994 season, I ran the remainder of the year one million times using a Monte Carlo simulation and the ZiPS rest-of-season projections for every player in baseball. ZiPS agrees with the consensus that it was Montreal's year, with the Expos needing a monumental six-week collapse to miss the playoffs, the only team for which this was true.

ZiPS Playoff Projections for 1994
Team Playoff Percentage
Montreal 99.7%
New York (A) 96.7%
Atlanta 86.4%
Chicago (A) 83.5%
Los Angeles 76.8%
Cleveland 72.4%
Cincinnati 59.9%
Houston 54.0%
Texas 41.2%
Baltimore 32.7%
Seattle 29.1%
Oakland 27.7%
San Francisco 19.6%
Kansas City 14.7%
Colorado 3.6%
California 2.1%
In the playoffs, the Expos were favored in every possible matchup, with at least a 60 percent projected chance of winning a playoff series against all teams except the Yankees (54 percent) and the White Sox (53 percent). Montreal's top-heavy rotation also significantly improved their playoff odds, with no team able to match the Pedro/Hill/Fassero top three who would have started most of the team's playoff games.

ZiPS Playoff Projections for 1994
Team World Series Odds
Montreal 12.4%
New York (A) 12.0%
Atlanta 11.2%
Chicago (A) 10.5%
Los Angeles 9.5%
Cleveland 9.2%
Cincinnati 7.4%
Houston 6.7%
Texas 5.1%
Baltimore 4.2%
Seattle 3.6%
Oakland 3.4%
San Francisco 2.4%
Kansas City 1.9%
Colorado 0.4%
California 0.3%
Alas, history was not kind to the Expos. Instead of an October shower in champagne, the season ended with an August strike. The next time the franchise made the playoffs, the regional fare was steamed crabs, not poutine, and Les Expos de Montreal only existed in memories.
post #26468 of 73398
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Please elaborate on your first point, why is Giancarlo the exception to possessing a "complete" game?

I just doesn't matter how you create or prevent runs, it just matters how many your create or prevent.

Adam Jones is a better fielder, Hunter Pence is a better base runner, Andrew Mcutchen is above average at everything, but I don't think any of that adds up to being better than Stanton's ability to Mash home runs and get on base.

He has the second higehst trade value in the league other than Trout.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #26469 of 73398
Thread Starter 
The Worst of the Best: The Month’s Wildest Pitches.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Hey there everybody, and welcome to the first part of the year’s fifth edition of The Worst Of The Best. If you click here, you can find all of the Worsts Of The Bests. Or you can get to them some other way, because they’re not hidden. All right, so, I would like to begin this post with a joke. Question: which is Jeff Manship‘s most favorite baseball team? Answer: why, it’s the Seattle Mariners, of course! This has been the joke. An alternate similar joke would instead choose to highlight the Pittsburgh Pirates. That is a worse joke. We may now move on to the rest of this post, joking complete.

We’ll watch the wildest pitches thrown in the month of August, as captured by PITCHf/x and as mathed by myself and a spreadsheet. PITCHf/x did almost all of the work, but I’ve tied the bow, so I figure I deserve at least 80% or so of the credit. This is all about distance from the center of the estimated strike zone, and since that’s the system I’ve used the whole time, that’s the system I’ve increasingly convinced myself is more than fine enough. Featured in detail will, like normal, be a top-five list. Also, there is a next-five list. The next-five list comes first. Every time, I wonder why I write this paragraph. At least it’s over now.


Pitcher: Jordan Lyles
Batter: Brayan Pena
Date: August 17
Location: 62.4 inches from center of zone


Pitcher: Clay Buchholz
Batter: Howie Kendrick
Date: August 9
Location: 62.6 inches from center of zone


Pitcher: Jason Hammel
Batter: Ben Zobrist
Date: August 5
Location: 64.0 inches from center of zone


Pitcher: Trevor Bauer
Batter: Adrian Beltre
Date: August 3
Location: 65.9 inches from center of zone


Pitcher: Francisco Rodriguez
Batter: Anthony Rizzo
Date: August 11
Location: 66.0 inches from center of zone


We continue! I am telling you that!



Pitcher: Wade Davis
Batter: Jordan Schafer
Date: August 27
Location: 66.7 inches from center of zone

Watch the fans, now. As fans usually do with pitches to the backstop, they forget that there is a backstop, and they try to get out of the way. The man in the sweater vest moves his head. The man next to him ducks his head. People to their right move in the other direction, even several seats over. You can see those two in the front row on the left side of the .gif dart away, and they’re removed from the baseball by, what, 10 or 20 feet? Two people in the vicinity don’t move at all. One stares down at what’s presumably a smart phone. Then you have the guy in the hat and the black glasses, and he doesn’t even flinch. Like, he doesn’t move a single muscle. The man has to be either blind or dead. So why is he sitting in the second row behind home plate for a baseball game? The man has to be recently either blind or dead, and no one around him has noticed yet.

You don’t see very many of these pitches in these posts. Usually, we’re dealing with pitches that get spiked. That’s not at all surprising, because pitches are breaking down, and an awful lot has to go wrong to miss this badly up high. Let’s put the center of the strike zone at 2.5 feet above the ground. Let’s say a pitch were to miss by five feet. Five feet! That’s 60 inches! Five feet straight down would give the pitch a vertical location of -2.5 feet — that’s a pitch that gets bounced well in front of the plate. Five feet straight up would give the pitch a vertical location of 7.5 feet. That’s so much less common. Pitchers are a lot more likely to release too late than to release too early, and a pitch that, say, buzzes the head? That’s only five feet or so off the ground. That’s not a bad miss at all, relative to the pitches that get dirty. So, think about how much more common it is to see wild pitches low. Now think about how this pitch is still No. 5. And, by the way, this pitch was over the plate, so the miss was basically entirely vertical. The vertical location was 7.9 feet. The tallest player in the NBA is 7.3 feet. The tallest player in NBA history was 7.6 feet. The tallest player ever drafted by an NBA team was 7.7 feet. Wade Davis was headhunting, in a different sport.

Davis: Hey!
Davis: Hey, there’s a hidden camera up there!
Davis: I never consented to this!
Davis: Get out of here, camera!
Davis: This is a private engagement!
Davis: /wings fastball
Schafer: Hey, there was a camera up there!
Schafer: How long have we been being filmed??

Schafer turns to notice the camera. What is privacy in the 21st century? Has society exchanged its very right to privacy for the false security of constant surveillance? Why, Schafer wonders, would anybody be watching the Twins? Is the camera for show? Is there instead some imminent threat? Eliminating the camera doesn’t eliminate the problem, but it does eliminate the preoccupation of having to think about it in the middle of work.

Schafer: welp
Schafer: see ya
Schafer: /leaves stadium
Schafer: /goes home
Schafer: /hugs stuffed animals
Schafer: /feels protected from evil

The man in the sweater vest is drinking something. It looks like he is holding the beverage with his own arm. The beverage is not being held by his own arm.


Pitcher: Jarred Cosart
Batter: Howie Kendrick
Date: August 25
Location: 67.4 inches from center of zone

Frequently, when a pitcher uncorks a very wild pitch, he will look down at his own hand and fingers. This is because very wild pitches are unusual, and generally not the result of the intended mechanics. The fingers must have done something wrong, and for a few moments, the fingers don’t feel like the pitchers’ own fingers. Now think about this. Think about how often pitchers are looking at their own fingers after an apparent mistake. Baseball seems to be unsettlingly littered with players suffering from mysterious neurological disorders.

Something I’ve noticed is that, with two strikes, catchers will try like hell to block wild pitches even with nobody on base. In part this is out of habit; in part this is because, if the batter swings, he becomes an eligible baserunner. And then you don’t want the baseball kicking around the backstop, dozens of feet away. Here, you have to admire Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s ability to not really give a ****. If Kendrick swings and reaches, whatever, Cosart probably would’ve deserved it.

This is a pitch that bounced off of the grass. It bounced off of the grass before it reached the dirt circle around the plate. It is extremely uncommon for a baseball to touch the grass before it touches dirt or wood. Which makes me wonder: why are the Angels allowed to have grass? Anaheim is in California and California is in extremely dire need of strict water conservation. What the hell kind of message does this send? That professional baseball is bigger than climate change? A forward-thinking Angels organization would get rid of the grass and play the remainder of the schedule on dirt and dry weeds. Grass can grow where the players sweat. What we see above is a baseball game. What we see above is incredible, impossible waste.

Umpire: Hold on.
Umpire: Don’t shoot him.
Umpire: Not yet.
Cosart: What?


Pitcher: Rex Brothers
Batter: David Peralta
Date: August 29
Location: 68.2 inches from center of zone

You kind of get a hint from the .gif, but in order to really, fully appreciate this, you have to see how the play wound up:

That’s Brothers over there, halfway to first base. Both runners have advanced, but more notably, that’s Brothers over there, halfway to first base, catching the baseball that he just moments earlier threw. This is Rex Brothers performing batter-independent PFP. Rex Brothers threw a pitch, and Rex Brothers caught something of a pop fly, and the batter never had to do anything. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite like this before. When I was younger, our front yard measured about 65 feet or so, from the edge of a lawn to a short brick wall. I never had many volunteers to play catcher, so I’d go out there and pitch, but I’d pitch to nobody and try to recover the baseball after it bounced off of the wall. It would bounce somewhat unpredictably, so it doubled as pitching practice and fielding practice. Rex Brothers got to do that, in a major-league baseball game, against an opponent. When does a pitcher catch a live baseball on the fly in the infield, and not record an out? When Rex Brothers makes a brick wall out of Michael McKenry‘s shoulder.

Brothers came in to begin the bottom of the eighth. He walked a batter. After that, he walked a batter. After that, he got ahead of Peralta 0-and-2, but after that, he walked Peralta. After that, Brothers was removed. The Rockies broadcast noted that you have to feel bad for Brothers, who’s been going through a struggle. I get the sentiment, but it’s also interesting. “You have to feel bad for the painter. He’s just not a very good painter.” Whose fault is that, but the painter’s?

Note: Brothers subsequently threw three pitches PITCHf/x considered to be in the dirt. The pitch you see above is ball 1. It’s the wildest of the balls, and according to PITCHf/x, it wasn’t in the dirt. Because it was too bad. See, you’d assume that, if a ball isn’t noted as a ball in the dirt, it’s because of one reason. Actually, there are two reasons.

I don’t even remember what I was planning to say about this screenshot. I’m not sure that anything has to be said about this screenshot. Just, look at the screenshot.


Pitcher: Jeff Samardzija
Batter: Desmond Jennings
Date: August 4
Location: 68.3 inches from center of zone

Now we focus on the man in the yellow. As the pitch is being delivered, he’s looking down at something, while the guy next to him talks. When the pitch hits the backstop in front of the man, he looks up, ever so briefly. He doesn’t look up like he’s startled — he looks up like he’s annoyed by an interruption. Then he looks back down as if nothing ever happened. Now, I understand: this was just a ball. Nothing else happened, and the game went right back to normal. But, the fan wasn’t even the least bit curious. He didn’t seem to wonder at all why the catcher was scrambling around after a baseball hit the board right in front of him. How deep must that apathy be? The fan might literally have the very best seat in the stadium. He can’t even be bothered to notice what was the second-wildest pitch of the whole month of August. No eyebrow-raise, no open mouth, no nothing. Just “huh? oh.” I can’t imagine living a life with that little wonder. Would it even be a life at all?

The NetSuite was for an 0-and-2 NetSuite. The NetSuite was perfectly fine, but because the NetSuite held the NetSuite too long, the NetSuite bounced in the NetSuite way off to the side from home NetSuite. So the NetSuite never even gave a passing thought to swinging the NetSuite, and it was fortunate that there was no one on NetSuite. For the next pitch, the NetSuite thought hard and settled on a NetSuite. The job of a NetSuite is to eliminate the NetSuite as best as he can, but the NetSuite felt like rolling the NetSuite. Ultimately, the NetSuite ended with a simple, unremarkable NetSuite. That’s NetSuite for you.

Mitch Hedberg: And when someone tries to hand me out a flier, it’s kind of like they’re saying, here, you throw this away.

I’m not sure why the catcher was involved, here. I’m not sure why the catcher expected to be involved, here. And we wonder why baseball games take too long.

From the Oakland broadcast:

Shooty Babitt: Sometimes you hear of a pitcher holding on a little bit too long. Jeff Samardzija just didn’t want to let that one go.

The catcher knew he was calling for Samardzija’s favorite splitter. “You can’t make me throw it,” Samardzija pleaded. The same fingers remained extended, stubbornly. “Don’t make me throw it.” Still, the sign. Samardzija shook it off. The same sign. Samardzija shook again. The same sign, even fiercer somehow than before. Samardzija gulped and split his fingers. Within the glove, he lifted the ball to his face. A kiss, and a sorrowful apology. Samardzija briefly looked up, and lifted his leg. He knew he couldn’t do it. He knew he had to do it.


Pitcher: Trevor Cahill
Batter: Reed Johnson
Date: August 15
Location: 68.5 inches from center of zone

Here, we see the wildest pitch of the month, but it’s only the wildest pitch by a fraction of an inch. In a sense, maybe that’s a little unsatisfying, but you might be comforted to learn this was probably easily the wildest plate appearance of the month, by like a billion percent. “Why has Trevor Cahill been bad this year?” you wonder. Earlier in the matchup:

The conclusion of the matchup:

Reed Johnson has one of the highest hit-by-pitch rates of all time. It’s not surprising that the plate appearance ended with a hit-by-pitch. It’s a little more surprising it didn’t end with a hit-by-pitch earlier, when Cahill threw a breaking ball over his back. There’s your evidence that Johnson isn’t necessarily looking to get plunked; he just doesn’t so much mind when it happens. Cahill felt the weight of the hit batter, but probably more than that, he felt the weight of a plate appearance in which he threw two extremely wild pitches and a third pitch that hit a body part. Granted, the pitch that hit Johnson wasn’t that wild. But the pitch hit Johnson within his own box. What’s it like to play for the Diamondbacks and catch for Trevor Cahill? Look at the catcher as Johnson removes his padding. That’s just knowing your job is hopeless.

With the count 0-and-2, Tuffy Gosewisch called for a breaking ball, and Cahill nearly hit Johnson in the back. With the count 1-and-2, Gosewisch called for a breaking ball, and Cahill nearly hit a backstop aquarium. So not only does Cahill come away feeling like a failure, but Gosewisch comes away feeling like an idiot for getting himself into the situation. People never think about how their own mistakes sometimes make other people feel like they’ve made mistakes in trusting you. I guess Gosewisch couldn’t very well have called nothing.

In the same plate appearance, Cahill threw over to first like three or four times. You’d think it was to try to hold the runner, but if anything it seems like Cahill wanted the runner to get into scoring position faster. Eventually he took things into his own hands, but I wonder now if he was trying to deliberately throw the ball away to first, and missed.

When I first saw this, I thought: wow! Look at Reed Johnson stay in the box! There’s a hitter who doesn’t need to step out every pitch for no reason. There’s a hitter who’s good for the pace of the game. There’s a hitter who doesn’t senselessly waste time. Then the feed continued to play.

Johnson didn’t just step out — he waited to step out. He stayed in the box until the catcher returned, and then he decided to fool around outside of the chalk. In the beginning, I liked Reed Johnson. Now I find myself hating Reed Johnson. Since 2008, 605 batters have come to the plate at least 500 times, and Johnson ranks eighth-highest in Pace, at 25.4 seconds. Reed Johnson is a habitual time-waster. I’m glad he gets hit by so many pitches. I’d hit him with pitches myself. It’d speed the game up.

Athletics Complete Roster Construction with Adam Dunn.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When I recently wrote about Adam Dunn for this site, the circumstances were a bit different. That was about Adam Dunn pitching. This is about Adam Dunn becoming a member of the Oakland Athletics via trade, because that is exactly what happened on Sunday. As you know, Dunn was traded to the A’s in exchange for minor leaguer Nolan Sanburn. Just like Adam Dunn pitching, Adam Dunn playing for the A’s just seemed like something that eventually had to happen. The A’s were one of the first teams to really value the OBP/power guys. Adam Dunn is the posterchild of the high-OBP, high-power mold.

And so now, here we have it. Adam Dunn is a member of the Oakland Athletics. It’s no secret why they traded for him. It was no surprise when they traded for him. The trade was completed on August 31, the last day a player could be acquired and still be eligible for a team’s playoff roster. The A’s got Dunn for the playoffs. The A’s got Dunn to hit homers in the playoffs. We’re not in the playoffs yet, but here’s what Adam Dunn did in his first at-bat with Oakland:

All good so far.

Despite the obvious Dunn-Athletics connection, the trade seemed, at least to me, a bit peculiar on the surface. Dunn is a first baseman/occasional corner outfielder who bats left-handed. The A’s have Brandon Moss, a first baseman/corner outfielder who bats left-handed and is one of the best power hitters in all of baseball. They’ve got Stephen Vogt, a first baseman who bats left-handed and has hit surprisingly well. And they appear to be set in the corner outfield positions, with Sam Fuld and Josh Reddick, who both bat left-handed. But the Dunn trade is just the latest of a handful of moves that Billy Beane has made to construct a roster that looks quite a bit different from what the A’s rolled out on Opening Day:

May 15: Acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for Addison Russell, Dan Straily and Billy McKinney
July 31: Acquired Sam Fuld for Tom Milone
July 31: Acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes
August 24: Acquired Geovany Soto off waivers
August 31: Acquired Adam Dunn for Nolan Sanburn
Needless to say, Billy Beane has been a busy man.

I’m not going to dive too deep into the evaluation of what Beane gave up to get Dunn. I don’t know much about Sanburn, but I do know that he used to be a starter who was something of a prospect and is now a reliever who is not as much of a prospect because of shoulder problems. They gave up a reliever with shoulder problems. That’s about as far as we’ll go there.

So let’s begin with the why. Why did the Athletics trade for Adam Dunn? The easiest thing to point to is the A’s offense being, we’ll say, less than good, recently. In August, they had an 85 wRC+. That was 22nd in MLB and last among the 10 teams currently expected to make the playoffs. Dunn, against righties, has a 129 wRC+ this season. People like to say guys are acquired to provide “sparks” for a struggling offense. The A’s could be looking for Dunn to be that spark.

Let’s look forward to the playoffs. The A’s are likely going to be playing in the Wild Card play-in game. Their opponent will probably be either the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals or the Detroit Tigers. Schedules doesn’t always work out perfectly, but teams are pretty good at lining up their pitchers at the end of the regular season to have their best arms throwing the most important games. The best pitchers for those teams are as follows:

Seattle: Felix Hernandez (right-handed), Hisashi Iwakuma (right-handed)
Kansas City: James Shields (right-handed), Yordano Ventura (right-handed)
Tigers: Max Scherzer (right-handed), David Price (left-handed)
The A’s don’t know who they’ll playing in the Wild Card game and they certainly don’t know which pitcher they’ll be facing. But outside of David Price, every pitcher whom the A’s might be worried about throws right-handed, making Dunn a factor.

If the A’s win the play-in game, they could face – in addition to one of the three teams listed above – the Orioles, who have four right-handed starters, or the Angels, whose two best pitchers throw right-handed. Obviously, there are more right-handed pitchers than there are left across the majors, but the American League playoffs will look different from the National League playoffs in that there will be no Clayton Kershaw and there will be no Hyun-Jin Ryu. There will be no Gio Gonzalez or Madison Bumgarner. There might not be a Mike Minor or Alex Wood in the NL playoffs, but there definitely won’t be in the AL. The biggest left-handed threat in the AL playoffs after Price will be Scott Kazmir, and the A’s don’t have to worry about facing him. Point is, Dunn will get his fair share of at-bats against right-handed pitching if the A’s are to make a deep postseason run.

Let’s pull away from Dunn, specifically, for a moment and focus more on the A’s roster as a whole. There’s no telling which bench players will make the A’s postseason roster, but whatever that bench looks like, it will be a fascinating one.

When a right-handed pitcher starts, the A’s bench will likely look something like this: Geovany Soto, Alberto Callaspo, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Jonny Gomes

When a left-handed pitcher starts, the A’s bench will likely look something like this: Stephen Vogt, Eric Sogard, Sam Fuld, Josh Reddick, Adam Dunn

That could be complicated by the return of John Jaso, who, as he told Eno earlier this week, expects to be back, but for the moment we’re dealing with the above lists. You’ll notice a couple things about those two collections of players. One: They are all quality major leaguers. Two: With the exception of Fuld, they are entirely different groups of players. It goes without saying that the A’s like to play the matchups. Athletics batters have held the platoon advantage in 72% of their at-bats this season. Only the Indians best them in that regard. But when you look at those units, it gets even more fascinating.

Both of those units have a player who can catch in Soto and Vogt (and Jaso), without ever replacing starter Derek Norris. Both of those units have a player who can play each infield position in Callaspo and Sogard. Both of those units have elite defensive outfielders — prime for late-inning substitutions — in Fuld, Gentry and Reddick. And then my favorite part of the bench, and the last piece of the puzzle completed by the Dunn trade: both of those units have perfect late-game pinch hitters. When a lefty gets the start against the A’s, Gomes and his 120 wRC+ against left-handed pitching will get the start while Dunn will be sent to the bench. If, late in the game, Gomes is still set to face a lefty – great. If the opposition counters with a right-handed reliever, bring Dunn and his 129 wRC+ against righties in. Vice-versa when a righty starts.

Billy Beane has been as active as any general manager in baseball this year and has now completed the construction of one of the most interesting playoff rosters in baseball. Stephen Vogt’s flexibility gives the A’s three (or four) players who can catch. Callaspo and Sogard give them utility infielders. Fuld and Gentry give them elite defensive outfield replacements. And the Adam Dunn trade ensures the Athletics will always have an elite pinch hitter waiting on the bench.

Plus, you can never count out Dunn as a late-inning relief option.

What Can The Phillies Even Do This Winter?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I don’t usually like to look too far ahead to the offseason when the September pennant races are still in full swing. There’s plenty of interesting baseball right now, especially with four of the six divisions still up for grabs, to say nothing of wild card spots. We’ll have months to talk about winter moves; if you remember how many words were spilled on Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales by writers desperate to fill space in January and February, too many months.

But you understand how fans and employees of teams long since out of the race will be all too happy to turn the page on 2014 as soon as possible, and earlier this week, that’s exactly what Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. did:

Ruben Amaro Jr. said today there will be more adjustments to the Phillies’ roster in the future, following yesterday’s trade that sent John Mayberry Jr. to Toronto for Minor League third baseman Gustavo Pierre.

“Not that it’s a huge change, but we’re going to have to start churning the roster in a way that it’s going to have to be improved,” Amaro said in the press box at Turner Field.

Does he believe those changes could be significant?

“I do,” he said. “I think we need it. I think we need it because what we have on our roster right now is not working. How much we’ll do will depend on what makes sense for us. We’re still kind of assessing what we have. But I think it would behoove us to make some change because we need to be better.”

You don’t need to come to FanGraphs to know that the Phillies weren’t expected to be a good team this year, aren’t a good team this year and don’t seem to have a bright future. But finally, we’re at least hearing Amaro admit to it. That’s a step in the right direction, probably. So the question, really, is what can he do?

* * *
The Phillies have nine players under contract this season making $8 million or more. Surely, they’ll gain flexibility when one or more of them come off the books, right? Except…

Name 2015 age 2014 salary 2015 salary
Ryan Howard 35 $25m $25m
Cliff Lee 36 $25m $25m
Cole Hamels 31 $23.5m $23.5m
Chase Utley 36 $15m $10m
Jonathan Papelbon 34 $13m $13m
A.J. Burnett 38 $11.25m $11.25m
Jimmy Rollins 36 $11m $11m
Carlos Ruiz 36 $8.5m $8.5m
Marlon Byrd 37 $8m $8m
Total 35.4 (avg) $140.25m $135.25m
…oh. Utley’s salary decreases somewhat, but otherwise these guaranteed contracts to (mostly) past-their-prime veterans look to be the gifts that keep on giving. Everyone here will be a year older, and still owed a considerable amount of money. (Rollins will vest his 2015 option this week; Burnett’s exact salary will vary based on his 2014 playing time, and he may yet retire, though as of last week he was undecided.)

While Kyle Kendrick ($7.6m this year) and Mike Adams ($7m in 2014 and a 2015 option that will certainly be declined) will free up some cash, arbitration raises to Ben Revere, Antonio Bastardo and Domonic Brown (if he’s retained) will eat up most of that. Though the Phillies haven’t shown any indication that they’re terribly constrained by salaries, the 2015 Phillies, when you include the arbitration raises, the $3.6m owed to Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and the usual minimum-salary types that float in and out of a roster, will already been about as expensive as the 2014 Phillies. They won’t be younger, or better, or cheaper. That’s the problem Amaro is facing.

It’s a problem of his own making, of course, and although most of the group listed above actually played well this season, it’s indicative of a larger problem. Back in May, I investigated how most of the 32+ players on the Phillies were performing well, but nearly all of the younger players weren’t. That hasn’t changed, really. Revere is the only hitter under 34 to be worth a single win over replacement. Rookie reliever Ken Giles is the only pitcher under 30 who can say the same. The young Phillies have been so bad that the entire group under 31 has combined for -1.5 WAR, the only team in the negatives.

While almost everyone on the “old and expensive” list above has contributed, most of them have little — negative, even — trade value. Good luck convincing anybody that Ryan Howard‘s superficial counting stats are worth the $60m he has remaining, obviously. (If he gets to 100 RBI, he’ll almost certainly join the extremely exclusive “100 RBI, negative WAR” club, currently occupied by Ruben Sierra, Dante Bichette, and three Joe Carter seasons.) That’s not to say that Amaro can’t get some AL team to give Howard a crack as a part-time DH; just that he’ll have to swallow an enormous amount of money and accept little in return.

Lee might have brought back considerable talent had he been dealt in the last two years, or the Phillies could have just shed his salary when the Dodgers claimed him on August waivers. Now, he’s attempting to rehab a serious elbow injury and is all but untradeable. Utley and Rollins have shown little indication to accept a move. Papelbon, though he’s having a good season, has had his value decrease both because he wasn’t traded to help a contender this year and because he’s closer to having his 2016 age-35 option vest. Byrd may yet be dealt this winter, though it seems unlikely, and like the others he will be less valuable since he comes with more age and one less pennant race.

The point here isn’t really to lay out the litany of easily-avoidable mistakes the Phillies have made, because you’re familiar with all of that. The point is that if we take Amaro’s comments at face value, that he’s finally ready to make considerable changes to this team, he’s still limited in what he can actually do. With one exception, he can’t really trade any of his productive players, at least not for the kind of return that would actually help build for the future.

The exception there is Hamels, obviously, who has $96m over the next four years, is in the middle of yet another outstanding season, and represents a cheaper alternative, at least financially, to what Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester are likely to get. Of course, Dave laid out in multiple posts in July why the Phillies should have already traded Hamels. They still can, but they may have missed their best opportunity.

So Amaro can still trade Hamels this winter, and maybe he will, with teams rich with dollars and prospects like the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox or other interested parties. If he does, the Phillies will get several good prospects for him. But the rest of that group in the table above is either unmovable or unlikely to bring back much of interest, which means the Phillies either sell low or stand pat, and that limits their flexibility to add parts. Even if they did manage to dump a ton of salary to jump back into the free agency game, the available talent, especially on offense, is going to make for a disappointing market at best. It’s not like they have much coming up through the system, anyway, not with J.P. Crawford several years away, Jesse Biddle having a lost year, and September call-up Maikel Franco putting up a mere .299 Triple-A OBP this year.

Of course, the change Phillies fans want the most seems unlikely to happen. Pat Gillick, serving as interim team president while David Montgomery tends to his health, said in no uncertain terms that Amaro would be back in 2015. Never trust anything a baseball executive says publicly, of course, but if they wanted Amaro gone, there’s no reason to not have done it already. Amaro will remain, and it’s great that he can say he’s ready for change. It just remains to be seen how he can even make that happen.

Playing Up or Down to the Competition.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the course of a season, a baseball team will play a lot of games. Some of those will be against good teams! Some of those will be against bad teams. The games against good teams are supposed to be the tests. The games against bad teams are supposed to be the gimmes. There’s a variety of things people say about those games. Those are the games that “good teams are supposed to win.” A team that stumbles might have “overlooked” the opponent, with a tougher one coming up. Then there’s the line about a team that “plays down to the competition.” People have a lot of things to say about losses to bad teams. People have a lot of things to say about sports.

I want to steer your attention to something. For years, Baseball-Reference has provided a split: stats against teams .500 or better, and stats against teams under .500. I think a lot of us have known about this, but I’m not sure I’ve seen the information cited more than a handful of times. It’s a rough split, but it’s a handy split — teams .500 or better tend to be the good teams, and teams under .500 tend to be the bad teams. Let’s settle for the rough split, for now. So, now I want to steer your attention to the Mariners and the Angels.

This is going to be all about wins and losses. Below, a chart of 2014 data, that ought to be self-explanatory. On the y axis, win percentage against .500+ teams. On the x axis, win percentage against worse teams than that. Naturally, the numbers on the x axis are mostly higher than the paired numbers on the y axis.

So, obviously, there’s a relationship. Better teams will win more games against both sets of opponents. Worse teams will lose more games against both sets of opponents. But, look at that red dot, well above the line. And look at the red dot on the far right, separated from the rest of the pack. Here we see the Mariners, and here we see the Angels, and they’ve so far gone in two different directions.

This table might give you a better sense of things:

Team Win% vs. Good Win% vs. Less Good Difference
Mariners 0.594 0.485 0.109
Reds 0.481 0.475 0.006
Tigers 0.541 0.563 -0.022
White Sox 0.448 0.471 -0.023
Cardinals 0.529 0.559 -0.030
Marlins 0.469 0.507 -0.038
Brewers 0.508 0.547 -0.039
Padres 0.459 0.508 -0.049
Twins 0.418 0.468 -0.050
Braves 0.481 0.540 -0.059
Cubs 0.425 0.485 -0.060
Giants 0.509 0.571 -0.062
Rangers 0.354 0.429 -0.075
Yankees 0.479 0.554 -0.075
Astros 0.402 0.481 -0.079
Phillies 0.425 0.508 -0.083
Blue Jays 0.473 0.556 -0.083
Orioles 0.545 0.633 -0.088
Rays 0.438 0.560 -0.122
Royals 0.500 0.623 -0.123
Pirates 0.451 0.582 -0.131
Indians 0.452 0.587 -0.135
Athletics 0.513 0.655 -0.142
Dodgers 0.475 0.625 -0.150
Rockies 0.314 0.478 -0.164
Red Sox 0.382 0.551 -0.169
Diamondbacks 0.319 0.507 -0.188
Mets 0.382 0.571 -0.189
Nationals 0.448 0.658 -0.210
Angels 0.487 0.754 -0.267
The Angels have won just under half their games against good teams, and they’ve won three-quarters of their games against bad teams. They’ve done what you’d expect, except to an extreme degree. All but two teams have been worse against good opponents than bad opponents. The Reds have been basically even. The Mariners have been freaks.

To this point, the Mariners have gone 33-35 against sub-.500 opponents. Yet, they’ve gone 41-28 against superior opponents, and as I write this very sentence, they’re narrowly beating the A’s. The Mariners have a winning-percentage difference of 109 points in the opposite direction from the norm, and they’re separated from second place by more than 100 points. The Mariners would serve as an example of a team that plays up to opponents and down to other opponents. They’ve handled themselves against the A’s, Braves, Royals, and Angels. Within the past couple weeks they’ve lost series to the Phillies and the Rangers.

Going back to 1914 gives us 2,184 team seasons. In 2,023 of those, the given team had a lower winning percentage against .500+ opponents. Only 11 teams ever have finished with a winning-percentage difference of at least 100 points in the unusual direction, like the Mariners are on pace to do. Right now, the Mariners’ difference would rank sixth-greatest, ever. In 2010, the Cardinals finished with a difference of 137 points, which ranks No. 1. Then you’ve got the 1932 Reds, the 1979 Giants, the 1998 Twins, and the 1918 Pirates. The Mariners have done something not unprecedented, but they’ve done something really weird.

Of course, there are facts, and then there are meaningful facts. It’s tempting to want to try to explain this. We want to try to explain everything. The positive spin would be that Lloyd McClendon gets his team amped up for big games. The negative spin would be that McClendon doesn’t sufficiently get his team amped up for lesser games. You can’t determine whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and the key point here is understanding randomness. There’s no rational reason why a team might over-perform against quality opponents, and under-perform against weaker opponents. Not to such an extreme degree.

And, yeah, it turns out to be mostly random. Let’s take the 15 teams who finished with the greatest positive differences. They averaged differences of 107 points, in favor of playing stronger opponents. The year before, they were 193 points worse than that. The year after, they were 215 points worse than that.

Now let’s take the 15 teams who finished with the greatest negative differences. They averaged differences of 360 points, in favor of playing weaker opponents. The year before, they were 222 points better than that. The year after, they were 196 points better than that. Those 2010 Cardinals? That year, they were better against good teams by 137 points. In 2009, they were worse by 151 points. In 2011, they were worse by 88 points. The problem with breaking things down by year is that teams aren’t identical in consecutive seasons, but you’d figure that an ability like this wouldn’t completely erode, if it were real.

Instead, it seems to be in the same family as clutch, or hitting with runners in scoring position. There are clutch performances, but there generally are not consistently clutch performances. There are a lot of numbers we can use to describe the past, but only some of those numbers can be used to try to see into the future, and it’s important to understand which numbers go where. Maybe it’s not actually important, for us on the outside, but if you’re going to know something, you might as well also try to know what it means. The Mariners, so far, have been a weird-*** team, and the Angels have been a differently weird-*** team, but you’d still prefer the Angels going forward, because you mostly care about overall performance and certainly no one’s going to go into October unmotivated.

The benefit of numbers you don’t expect is that you have to think about them, and in so doing you might develop some new connections. But not every number means what it seems. Numbers aren’t liars, but sometimes they’re more than happy to just string you along for the hell of it.

The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

*In this case, those produced by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and our own Marc Hulet.

In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

Austin Barnes, C/2B, Miami (Profile)
Barnes first appeared here among the Five on July 30th and has been omitted only once from this weekly column during that interval. Nor has he provided any reason not to be included in this current edition of the Five. Regard, by way of illustration, his line with Double-A Jacksonville since last Tuesday: 24 PA, 3:3 BB:K, 2 HR, .333/.417/.667 (.313 BABIP). And regard now even harder, if possible, his line since July 22nd, the point from which his production started to demand maximum attention: 170 PA, 12.9% BB, 5.3% K, 9 HR, .317/.426/.612 (.285 BABIP).

Jharel Cotton, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
With the exception of Toronto left-hander and Fringe Five graduate Daniel Norris, there’s been no more effective starting pitcher in the high-ish minors over the last month than Arizona’s Blayne Weller (discussed below). Not completely distant from Weller, though, is the Virgin Island native Cotton. The production has been excellent. Regard: over 25 appearances (20 starts) and 126.2 innings, Cotton has produced almost precisely the same strikeout-walk differential (about 20 percentage points, in each case) as considerably more celebrated Dodgers prospect (and Cotton’s High-A teammate) Julio Urias*. The point which separates the pair, besides Urias’s considerable youth, is that, while Urias features three plus pitches, Cotton’s fastball and breaking pitches are inferior to his changeup.

Here’s an example of that same — or, at least, a similar — changeup from last year, when Cotton was in the Midwest League, it appears:

And largely identical footage, except in slower motion:

*An observation helpfully made by Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest.

Dixon Machado, SS, Detroit (Profile)
In multiple recent editions of the Five, the author has suggested that — owing to his combination of plate discipline, possibly developing power, and universally praised shortstop defense — the author has suggested that Dixon Machado probably ought to be regarded more widely. The purpose of this brief paragraph is to note that Machado has continued mostly to exhibit that same collection of skills since last Tuesday, recording a 6:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio over 36 plate appearances while also starting at shortstop in eight consecutive games. And while he produced zero home runs over that same interval he did post a stolen-base record of 4-for-4.

Dwight Smith Jr, OF, Toronto (Profile)
Smith, son of the former major leaguer, is compelling not merely on his own merits, but also for how his profile compares to that of the recently promoted Dalton Pompey. Having entered the season (like Pompey) as a 21-year-old with the Blue Jays’ High-A affiliate Dunedin, Smith actually played alongside Pompey (in left usually, with Pompey in center) for the first three months of the Florida State Leauge season. While the latter received subsequent promotions to Double- and Triple-A, however — and then, two days ago, to the majors — Smith has remained behind, most often occupying that same center-field spot vacated by his former teammate. While the scouting reports might ultimately offer wildly different portraits, the most readily available information invites comparison. Pompey has played more center field and produced a more impressive stolen-base record this year (43-for-50, compared to Smith’s record of 15-for-19); Smith, however, has produced a better walk-strikeout differential (-2.0 percentage points, compared to Pompey’s mark of -6.2 points while with Dunedin) and a stronger home-run rate. Smith has been particularly impressive over the last two weeks, recording an 8:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio and three home runs in 45 plate appearances.

Here’s what appears to be the most recently available video of Smith doing anything — in this case, of Smith recording a single at some point this spring — courtesy MLB Prospect Portal:

And here’s a single frame from the above footage of Smith at the most improbably moment during his swing:

Blayne Weller, RHP, Arizona (Profile)
Over two appearances since last week’s edition of this same column, Weller recorded 14 strikeouts against just 30 opposing batters — the sort of strikeout rate, that, typically only ever approached by Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen or Craig Kimbrel. What wasn’t recorded, however, was any video of either start or even any scouting-type notes. In fact, a search merely for any sort of record on Weller’s velocity (previously reported at 95 mph on his fastball) over the last month returns almost exclusively just other editions of the Fringe Five. Why one bothers even to wake up in the morning remains a mystery.

The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.

Taylor Cole, RHP, Toronto (High-A Florida State League)
Ryan Cordell, OF, Texas (High-A Carolina League)
Sherman Johnson, IF, Los Angeles AL (High-A California League)
Brett Phillips, OF, Houston (High-A California League)
Richie Shaffer, 3B, Tampa Bay (Double-A Southern League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are the top-10 the players to have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season. For mostly arbitrary reasons, players are assessed three points for each week they’ve appeared among the Fringe Five; a single point, for each week among the Next Five.
# Name Team POS FF NF PTS
1 Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 6 3 21
2 Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 6 1 19
3 Jace Peterson Padres SS 5 2 17
4 Austin Barnes Marlins C/2B 5 1 16
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 4 4 16
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B 5 1 16
7 Ben Lively Reds RHP 4 3 15
Blayne Weller D-backs RHP 5 0 15
9 Billy Mckinney Cubs OF 3 5 14
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
Michael Reed Brewers OF 4 2 14
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 4 2 14

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
OK, I'll grant that now isn't the best time to talk about the National League MVP Award, with just weeks to go in a closely competitive regular season. I'll grant that now isn't the best time to talk about a Brewer winning the NL MVP Award, with the team in a bit of a slide that recently knocked it out of first place. And I'll grant that now isn't the best time to talk about Jonathan Lucroy winning the NL MVP award, since he had a stronger first half than his second half has been to date.

In a few senses, the timing here could be better. But the timing isn't better, and we're already here, so: how's Jonathan Lucroy look as an MVP candidate?

His is an odd name to see in the running. I think we're all still getting used to the idea of Lucroy being a really terrific player, and the NL is the league with Clayton Kershaw and Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton in it. Last year, McCutchen won the league MVP. Kershaw won the league Cy Young. Lucroy's never received a single down-ballot MVP vote. But then, before this year, Lucroy hadn't been an All-Star, so things can change, and Lucroy has more than earned consideration. By no means is this a slam dunk and there are still a few weeks for the overall picture to shift, but we can run through the Lucroy argument point by point.

Jonathan Lucroy has an MVP case. What follows is why.

Nobody reasonable out there supports the idea of voting in the order of Wins Above Replacement. What WAR really does is function as a starting point, so let's use it for that purpose. The top six players in the NL, by WAR, available at FanGraphs:

(1) Clayton Kershaw, 6.0

(2) Giancarlo Stanton, 5.7

(3) Jonathan Lucroy, 5.6

(4) Hunter Pence, 5.4

(5) Jason Heyward, 5.3

By that list, you've got Lucroy in third place. Understood better, by that list, you've got Lucroy as a part of the leading group. While WAR is reported with a decimal, that mostly only serves to mislead, and every figure should be taken as an estimate. WAR figures that Lucroy has a case. How else can we build it?

Before we proceed, I should note that FanGraphs has a couple different versions of pitcher WAR. One judges pitchers by their peripherals, like walks, strikeouts, and homers. The other judges pitchers by their actual runs allowed. The former has the issue of giving pitchers no credit for situational pitching or inducing weak contact; the latter has the opposite issues. If you blend the two WARs 50/50, then Kershaw moves up to 6.4. He'd have a lead over Lucroy of almost a full win. We can keep that in mind. Back to Lucroy's all-around ability!

To this point, 73 batters in the National League have batted at least 400 times. That's not very many, but Lucroy ranks 15th in wRC+, which is a measure of batting production, where 100 is league-average. Lucroy has been 32 percent better than average, putting him around names like Matt Kemp, Carlos Gomez, and Lucas Duda. Lucroy, clearly, has been a good deal worse than Stanton and McCutchen at the plate, who have been about 60 percent better than average. But this is where we can get into other considerations. Value isn't just about value with the bat.

Lucroy doesn't get much credit for running the bases. He's neither a good baserunner nor a bad baserunner, so there's nothing there for his case. His throwing arm has also been neither good nor bad, in terms of controlling the running game. But controlling baserunners has more to do with the pitchers than with the catchers, so there's only so much for Lucroy to do. The bigger factor is just that Lucroy is a catcher in the first place. Catchers occupy a premium position, like shortstops and, to a lesser extent, center fielders. This is a factor that gets built into WAR, but it's worth thinking about on its own. Not a big fan of WAR? Break it down. Lucroy's been a well above-average hitter. He plays a very important position. That definitely merits a boost.

Now think about Lucroy as a catcher. His arm has been more or less average. We don't have a great idea of how to measure game-calling as an ability. But, pitch-blocking? We can measure pitch-blocking. And according to the numbers at FanGraphs, this year Lucroy has been the most effective blocker in baseball. It's a minor skill, in that games seldom come down to pitches that do or do not get away, but think of this as Lucroy's version of contributing on the bases. Baserunning is more and pitch-blocking is minor, but it's a factor that works in his favor.

Now we advance to the big point: pitch-framing. Pitch-framing research has been conducted for years now, and the general idea is that certain catchers are better than others at preserving called strikes in the zone and getting extra called strikes out of the zone. The research is based on data generated by PITCHf/x, which tracks every pitch in every game, and the framing numbers we have access to have loved Lucroy from the start. The numbers at StatCorner love Lucroy's receiving. The numbers at Baseball Prospectus love Lucroy's receiving. The simpler numbers from FanGraphs love Lucroy's receiving. He's a magnificent receiver, according to the numbers and according to the eyes, and every extra strike has value. The extra value is small, each time, but they add up fast.

StatCorner figures Lucroy's receiving alone this year has been worth about two wins. Baseball Prospectus agrees with that estimate. Now, this gets complicated. What do we do about framing credit? If we're giving credit to the catchers, do we have to remove it from the pitchers? How differently do pitchers pitch when they're working with a good receiver instead of a bad one? There's a good argument to be made that Lucroy doesn't deserve the full credit for his framing value, but then, what if we compromised and cut it 50/50? Then, this season, Lucroy shoots up by about a win or so. That's enormously significant, and it's not even that questionable, given that we know for a fact that Lucroy generates a better strike zone for his pitchers than most other catchers do. We don't know how much extra value to shoot Lucroy's way -- that isn't built into WAR -- but we know the answer isn't "none."

And finally, something to consider a tie-breaker. We've established that Lucroy has tremendous defensive value. We've established that he's been valuable at the plate as well. But when you consider situational hitting, Lucroy's shined to an even greater extent. FanGraphs tracks a stat called Clutch, which shows how well a player has performed when you consider higher- and lower-leverage circumstances. No. 1 in the National League, at this writing: Jonathan Lucroy. In the most important situations, he's hit 67 percent better than average. In medium-importance situations, he's hit 95 percent better than average. In lowest-importance situations, he's hit 9 percent worse than average. So while, overall, Lucroy has been 32 percent better than average, his productivity hasn't been evenly distributed. He's come up clutch more than you'd expect of a player with his overall numbers.

Some people don't like to consider situational performance when it comes to MVP voting, because Lucroy can't really control the situations in which he finds himself, but it's just another point to keep in mind. If you care about situational performance at all, right now it's only strengthening Lucroy's argument. And it's an argument that doesn't even need all that much strengthening in order to be incredibly strong.

The Brewers have slumped some. Lucroy has slumped some. When it comes to the NL MVP, there are a handful of worthy candidates, and there are still a few more weeks for players to emerge or collapse. Nothing yet is set in stone, so it would be silly to suggest that Lucroy deserves the award more than anybody else. Yet, while there will ultimately be a number of strong cases, Lucroy could well end up with the strongest. He's terrific in ways you notice, and he's terrific in ways you don't.

The Nationals’ Lineup, Not Their Rotation, Makes Them Great.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Washington Nationals are a good team, probably the best in the National League. After they made headlines for winning games via walkoff only, they settled down and started winning games the traditional way. With a seven-game lead in the NL East, the Nats are all but a lock to at least qualify for the postseason this year. As of today, their playoff odds sit at 99.9%, with a 99.3% chance of holding on to the division crown, the highest marks in baseball.

By Base Runs and Pythag, their talent on-hand appears to be slightly better than their record shows. The Nats are a team best characterized as a great pitching team, with a formidable starting rotation and steady bullpen supported by strong defense. Their offense doesn’t get its due, boasting a 98 wRC+ for the season – though their non-pitchers rank among the best in the game.

It is somewhat surprising to see the Nats offense rank so high, given their high strikeout rate and lack of a single offensive force (Jayson Werth’s 136 wRC+ is best on the club, ranking him 21st among qualified hitters). But it is this offense that I believe makes them even more troubling for potential playoff opponents. The Nationals deadline deals and improving health might make the prospect of facing their lineup even scarier come October than a rotation stacked with studs.
Zooming out on the Nats offense, you see a well-balanced attack. Dropping the plate appearance limit to 100 as to include recent acquisition Asdrubal Cabrera, the Nats claim nine players with above-average offensive numbers this season, suggesting an incredibly balanced lineup. More to that point, the bulk of their non-performers with the bat are no longer counted on and can no longer drag the overall team line down.

The Nats handed nearly 1000 PAs to Kevin Frandsen, Jose Lobaton, Danny Espinosa and Nate McLouth, and they combined for a 69 wRC+. Bench players are a necessary evil, but Lobaton is the backup catcher (and Stephen Strasburg’s personal guy) and McLouth is (mercifully?) out for the season with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Espinosa and Frandsen are now bench players, forced into reduced roles since the addition of Cabrera. Once Ryan Zimmerman is healthy, there is little need for either player to see the field with any regularity.

As they battle through meaningful games and look forward to the postseason, expect to see the Nationals run this lineup out most days:

While limiting the exposure of marginal hitters helps the offense on one hand, the improvements and/or returns-to-form from Bryce Harper and Denard Span pushed the Nats lineup from middling towards something much more menacing for the opposition, finally giving breakout star Anthony Rendon and Werth the support they need. Harper’s season is yet to produce the results expected from such talent, but a recent swing change produced numbers more in line with his considerable abilities. Harper leads the team with nine second-half home runs, putting up a 137 wRC+ in that time. Span’s table setting is virtually unmatched over the last three months, buzzing along at a .318/.369/.442 clip as he has since June 1st.

They’re trending in the right direction, they’re balanced against pitchers from both sides and their numbers against ground ball/fly ball pitchers suggest there isn’t any one good way to attack them. Though it isn’t an “ideal” setup, hitting Harper all the way down in the number six spot gives the Nats more punch that low in the order compared to the league. Cabrera is a league-average hitter at worst and projects to put up even better numbers over the final month of the year.

Ian Desmond is experiencing something of a down year but he remains a home run threat. With Zimmerman fighting to come back and veteran outfielders Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz providing bench cover, their largely insulated against the kind of bumps and bruises that could undercut one of the older NL teams.

The balance and composition of the Nats order reminds me of the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals. Last year’s NL champs only featured one player — Matt Adams — with an ISO above .200, exactly one more hitter of that stature than the 2014 Nats feature. But the Cardinals lineup famously excelled in higher leverage situations and featured a relentless attack from top to bottom, stringing together big innings without the long ball and producing situationally like few teams before.

Does this kind of lineup breed better situational hitting? I’ll leave the heavy lifting for someone with more SQL might, but the idea sounds right inside my head. Without the holes of less balanced squads, perhaps an evenly-distributed lineup of good (but not great) hitters can take better advantage of run-scoring situations and make life even more difficult on opposing managers hoping to play matchups.

During a league-wide offensive drought, the Nationals are drowning in offensive excess. While their chief rivals in the NL East race send Ryan Doumit out as their cleanup hitter, the Nats hit Bryce Harper sixth. The Nats pitching might steal the headlines, but it is their “one-through-eight” attack that makes the team to beat in the National League. The “who starts Game One” controversy might get more of the publicity and the thought of facing four of Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Doug Fister is a daunting one indeed, but the overlooked offense could be the key to October success.

A Day In The Life of John Jaso’s Concussion.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
“I wake up fine,” said John Jaso of his relative morning clarity, as he recovers from a concussion he suffered when a mid-August pitch rattled his face mask. “As the day goes on, I get all the visual stimuli and start getting foggy.” And this he said after a relatively good day gave him the encouragement to pronounce he’d be back this season, and probably soon.

This Monday began with that good clear morning feeling, but quickly things can get hectic. “Even driving my car, that sets it off,” Jaso said. “Loud, annoying music, too,” he added with a look around the clubhouse. He made a lot of progress while the team was away, not surprisingly.

The day in a typical baseball life is highly scheduled, and Jaso is headed towards resuming that life. So on Monday, he attempted to do many of the things he would normally do, but he had to be careful. “It’s on me now,” said Jaso of stopping a physical drill if his symptoms ramp up too much — “I can’t say I’ll just push through this and it’ll be fine.”

It was pushing through the symptoms that got him in this position, to some extent. There’s a red line, where more exertion will send him into a downward spiral that leads to massive headaches and nausea. Listening to the catcher describe the final two weeks in August can give you respect for his dedication to his team, or fear for the potential dangerous positions in which he places himself.

When I first got hit, it was nausea and a headache for five straight days. That kind of went away, because I wasn’t catching for a while because we hit a string of lefties. All of a sudden, we hit a string of righties and I was catching a lot and all of a sudden all of my symptoms — I’d been playing through this for a while, I had been foggy and all that through this whole thing — all of a sudden my symptoms just skyrocketed. Irritability, fogginess. I was keeping to myself. I was just playing through it, playoff push. It ramped up and I could not do it any more. Catching-wise especially. I couldn’t react. I couldn’t see the ball sometimes.

Monday, when Jaso headed in to work out, he didn’t know how the rest of the schedule would go. He knew he’d start with rigid exercises that didn’t jostle his head, and re-evaluate after every station. “Stationary lifting where I did almost upright bench presses, standing pulls,” Jaso said of his routine. “Anything as long as my head could stay stable and straight.”

When the fog comes, he has to stop. What’s that fogginess like? “Like waking up in the middle in the night, and you look around and can’t really focus on one thing,” the catcher described. If that fog comes, Jaso has to sit for 20 minutes to half an hour. “Work out once, take a break, work out once more.” If it comes a second time, the day is done.

But Monday came with a good workout, and so the schedule moved forward. Time to shag balls during batting practice and maybe take some swings in the cage. Almost a normal day. Almost. “I threw, I shagged BP and I was getting really crazy up here,” Jaso said as he pointed to his head. “I was supposed to go up to the cage and hit, but I let myself calm down before I hit.”

By the end of the day Monday, Jaso had mostly done what he was supposed to do, with a break or two. And so Tuesday found him taking live batting practice on the field, despite some fog just the day before. “I was foggy yesterday, but I might as well jump to the next stage because I feel like I can,” Jaso said. “I’d rather start taking BP now on the field, because if I’m ready in like three days, I’ll have been taking BP and will be ready to go.”

It’s better these days. It’s been a long time since Jaso pushed it too hard and found himself with a migraine for the rest of the day. The nausea has been gone for a while. The driving is fine now, and he’s resumed baseball activities and the baseball schedule that comes with it. He’s just not checking every box on that schedule in the normal order, not yet.

Someday soon — this season, he’s sure of it — he’ll have a day without fog, and he’ll be able to contribute. This time, though, he’ll be honest with himself about how he’s feeling.

Aceless in Milwaukee.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With two losses in a row to the Cubs, the Brewers have fallen out of first place in the National League Central. The National League West looks a lot like the American League West: Whichever team of top two teams in the West does not win the division very probably will be a very good first Wild Card team. If the current standings hold, the Brewers would be the second Wild Card team.

The second Wild Card spot is not nearly as desirable as winning the division, of course, but it is still much better than sitting at home during the playoffs. Moreover, the Brewers are just one game behind the Cardinals. A roughly one-in-three shot at winning the division (and one-in-two of making the playoffs) is not bad at all.

Milwaukee was not projected to be terrible, so this year has not been totally out of nowhere. Like the Royals, for example, they projected to be a roughly .500 team in a division that was not terribly strong. Still, the Brewers’ long stand on top of the Central this season was pretty surprising. As with all teams, there have been various surprise performances (on balance good for the Brewers).

One particularly intriguing aspect of the Brewers’ success in 2014 is their lack of an obvious “ace” – which is sometimes said to be necessary for a team to be successful – in their starting rotation.
What is an “ace,” anyway? The obvious answer is that an ace is an outstanding starting pitcher, but we want to be a bit more specific. Some might say the best starter on each team is an ace by definition, but that is not really what most people mean when they say that a team needs an ace. With all due respect to Wade Miley and Josh Collmenter, the Diamondbacks’ two best starters this season, I do not think most people would call either of them an ace.

It is probably uncontroversial to say people think of an ace as being one of the top pitchers in the league who also pitches a lot of innings over the course of a season. Performance above some baseline (average or replacement level) times playing time is pretty much the definition of value in contemporary sabermetrics.

Some will say only the top 10 or 15 pitchers in baseball are true aces. But let’s use a more inclusive definition. There are 30 teams in baseball, each of which typically has five starting pitching slots. Say that the top 30 starters in baseball are performing like “number one starters,” 31-60 are “number two” starters, and so forth. This breaks down for various reasons at the back of the rotations where pitchers are in and out more often, especially at the fifth spot, but that is not our concern here. This has been done before in a more sophisticated manner, but we just want a basic baseline with which to work.

How do the Brewers’ starters stack up? Looking at the current WAR leaderboard, the Brewers have no pitchers in the top 30 pitchers according to FIP-based WAR. Some dislike FIP-based WAR, and the list of the top 30 has some interesting differences if one uses RA9-WAR. What is not different is that there are no Brewers on the top 30 of that list, either. At the moment, from what I can tell, no team currently slated to make the playoffs has the same combination — no starters in the the top 30 in baseball according to either FIP-WAR or RA9-WAR.

So even using a broad definition of “ace” as a number one starter (one of the top 30 pitchers in baseball), the Brewers do not have an ace either according to FIP-WAR or RA9-WAR. It is fair to say that the Brewers’ starters have not been overwhelming this year. FIP-WAR has Milwaukee’s starters as roughly middle of the pack in terms of value. RA9-WAR is more generous, putting then seventh.

I doubt anyone would think or expect that Milwaukee’s starters have secretly been dominant this season. But this is not to say that their rotation is bad, either. If one looks at the rankings among qualified starters further down, the Brewers have two starters – Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse – in the “number-two slot” of the FIP-WAR rankings, and two more – Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta -in the number three slot (61-90). Using RA9-WAR for qualified starters, the results are roughly the same, with Gallardo and Lohse in the 31-60 slot, and Garza and Peralta in the 61-90 slot.

Different baselines for innings or metrics, and those are legitimate debates, but not the focus here. The leaderboards just point out something with which most would agree: almost no one would identify any pitcher on the Brewers as a number-one starter. However, they do have a good group of pitchers. Garza, Gallardo, Lohse and Peralta all have ERAs under four. If one prefers FIP, then Peralta is not under four, but then Jimmy Nelson, who came up during the season and has started 10 games for Milwaukee, is on the list. Park-adjusted metrics have all of these pitchers with close to a league-average ERA or FIP or better, which is good for starters.

The underlying idea dividing the starters into five groups is to reflect some very rough idea that the typical number one is at least really good, the number two is above average, the number three is about average, the number four is below average, and the number five is, well, hopefully above replacement level. Using 2014 observed performance rather than projected true talent (appropriate, since this has been mostly retrospective on the season so far), and while the Brewers clearly do not have a number one starter, they do have three or four starters who have been average or better over a good number of innings. And that does not include Nelson, who has posted a good FIP, or Mike Fiers, who has been excellent in his five starts.

Any team would love to have a “true” ace. But such pitchers are not abundant. The Brewers’ long-term plan was probably never to go aceless. They did make a big trade for Zack Greinke a few years ago, and earlier in Gallardo’s career some thought he had the makings of a number one pitcher. Greinke is long gone and Gallardo has not been a Cy Young candidate, yet here the Brewers are, without an ace, in a fight for the division. And their starting pitching has done its part.

Gallardo and Peralta were both developed by the Brewers, as were Nelson and Fiers. Garza and Lohse were both late free-agent signings, and Lohse cost the Brewers a first-round pick. Leaving aside the draft pick issue for the sake of simplicity, the Brewers signed Garza and Lohse for a combined $83 million. Would they have been able to get a true ace for four years and $83 millilon? I don’t think it takes much research to answer that question. Teams have limited resources, and perhaps the Brewers could have thrown money at, say, keeping Greinke around, but then they would not have been able to make other additions. Specifically, it is hard to see how the team could have signed Greinke (or a similar pitcher) while also signing Garza, Lohse and Aramis Ramirez, all keys to the 2014’s team’s success.

Again, the Brewers probably did not plan things to end up this way, specifically. Nor is their rotation particularly daunting. But it is at least good. Garza, Lohse, and Gallardo are no slouches, and Peralta is better than most number four starters. The Brewers also have some good, low-cost pitching depth with Nelson and Fiers, both of whom have real potential (there is also Marco Estrada, though he is currently pitching in relief).

Milwaukee is far from the first team to have success without an ace. In a playoff series, one could make an argument that this gives them a disadvantage given that one can set up the rotation order to give the better pitchers more (likely) starts. Still, over the long haul of a season, giving up fewer runs than your opponent is the way to win, winning gets a team to the playoffs, and whatever the matchups, just getting to the playoffs makes a big difference. The Brewers are in the mix, and their rotation has held up its end of the deal, even without anything resembling an ace or number-one starter.
post #26470 of 73398
Seeing Z's name on a top executives list.
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

IF Manny can keep his health, I think he's got a higher upside than Bryce Harper.

******* knee injury, man. Dude was hitting his stride after a slow start.
Man, you love Machado.
Originally Posted by Osh Kosh Bosh View Post

I just doesn't matter how you create or prevent runs, it just matters how many your create or prevent.

Adam Jones is a better fielder, Hunter Pence is a better base runner, Andrew Mcutchen is above average at everything, but I don't think any of that adds up to being better than Stanton's ability to Mash home runs and get on base.

He has the second higehst trade value in the league other than Trout.
Understood. That being said, I would not trade Harp for Stanton. Cutch, I'd have to think long and hard about.
post #26471 of 73398
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

That's exactly it, the expectations are far too lofty. And Harp will always be paralleled to Trout.
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Seeing Z's name on a top executives list.
Man, you love Machado.
Understood. That being said, I would not trade Harp for Stanton. Cutch, I'd have to think long and hard about.
Harp for Stanton...I might pull the trigger.

CF Span
3B Rendon
LF Werth
RF Stanton
1B LaRoche/Zimmerman
SS Desmond
2B Cabrera
C Ramos

Looks pretty good to me.
post #26472 of 73398
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

That's exactly it, the expectations are far too lofty. And Harp will always be paralleled to Trout.
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Seeing Z's name on a top executives list.
Man, you love Machado.
Understood. That being said, I would not trade Harp for Stanton. Cutch, I'd have to think long and hard about.
Harp for Stanton...I might pull the trigger.

CF Span
3B Rendon
LF Werth
RF Stanton
1B LaRoche/Zimmerman
SS Desmond
2B Cabrera
C Ramos

Looks pretty good to me.

you MIGHT pull the trigger?

That's a ******* no brainer! Stanton is arguably the best power hitter in the game and his bat in the lineup would do 10000000000000000x more than Harper's.
post #26473 of 73398
Thread Starter 
You know what's crazy?

I remember when he hit the cover and you and I were one of the few who loved him laugh.gif

Now I feel like you hate him laugh.gif
post #26474 of 73398
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

You know what's crazy?

I remember when he hit the cover and you and I were one of the few who loved him laugh.gif

Now I feel like you hate him laugh.gif

Harper is one of my favorite players...definitely in my top-5. LOVE watching him play. I just think that Manny and Stanton are better laugh.gif
post #26475 of 73398
Thread Starter 
I meant crazy partially because that **** was like 6 or 7 years ago now laugh.gif

I'm just hoping Manny comes back healthy mean.gif
post #26476 of 73398
post #26477 of 73398
I mean Manny has never been a great offensive player at any level, I don't think he has the vision/pitch recognition to ever be great offensive player.

Meanwhile Bryce's performance given as a 19 year old historically suggests future greatness.

Hard to take Manny over Bryce.

I forgot that Stantons contract is expiring soon so technically Bryce's trade value is higher probably higher unless you can secure an extension.
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Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #26478 of 73398
also: They never should have moved Bryce off of catcher.

by all accounts he was a natural at the position with an 80 arm.

but even with that said, Mike Trout early greatness is making people lose sight of the fact that it's still a good bet that Bryce Harper becomes the generational talent he was billed at.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #26479 of 73398
Thread Starter 
I've been thinking that since he came back from the DL.
post #26480 of 73398
Manny's defense is what sets him apart from his peers. The crazy thing is, you can mention him amongst the likes of Brooks Robinson to the most hardcore O's fan, and there wouldn't be much of an argument about where his defense is. I honestly put more stock (defensively) in someone playing 3rd than someone in the outfield. That's just me.
post #26481 of 73398
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

Manny's defense is what sets him apart from his peers. The crazy thing is, you can mention him amongst the likes of Brooks Robinson to the most hardcore O's fan, and there wouldn't be much of an argument about where his defense is. I honestly put more stock (defensively) in someone playing 3rd than someone in the outfield. That's just me.

Third base, second base and Centre are tied for positional adjustment.

I think Bryce can play average CF.

This comparison might sound like an insult but it isn't the best comparison Scott Rolen?

An often injured generational defensive talent who develops into an above average hitter.

Scott Rolen has a stealth really good hall of fame resume, he will never get in because people don't value D like that, unless you play for a famous team.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #26482 of 73398
Thread Starter 
An O's fan shouldn't take that as an insult.

Didn't they get Encarnacion for him back then?
post #26483 of 73398
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

IF Manny can keep his health, I think he's got a higher upside than Bryce Harper.

******* knee injury, man. Dude was hitting his stride after a slow start.

Your bias is laugh.gif
post #26484 of 73398
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

you MIGHT pull the trigger?

That's a ******* no brainer! Stanton is arguably the best power hitter in the game and his bat in the lineup would do 10000000000000000x more than Harper's.
True laugh.gif but it'd be tough...there's always the chance Harper turns out to be an absolute stud, wouldn't want to give that up.
post #26485 of 73398
Harper's gonna be mashing 40 bombs in a season in no time. I think he's a real special player and I'm not sure why the hate is at the level it is. The only hope is that he stays on the field. I love the kids hustle too.
post #26486 of 73398
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Harper's gonna be mashing 40 bombs in a season in no time. I think he's a real special player and I'm not sure why the hate is at the level it is. The only hope is that he stays on the field. I love the kids hustle too.
I had him hitting 38 this year, damn thumb injury mean.gif It looks like he's finally got his stance/swing right again, and is keeping his head still. Love to see him start heating up as October approaches pimp.gif
post #26487 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Harper's gonna be mashing 40 bombs in a season in no time. I think he's a real special player and I'm not sure why the hate is at the level it is. The only hope is that he stays on the field. I love the kids hustle too.

Because he's an ******* laugh.gif he's got that Bonds/Belle syndrome. But I love it. I'd love to see him flip Matt Williams off every time he gets on base and mush him every time he hits a HR.

But then again, I have a weird hate for Matt Williams laugh.gif
post #26488 of 73398
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Because he's an ******* laugh.gif he's got that Bonds/Belle syndrome. But I love it. I'd love to see him flip Matt Williams off every time he gets on base and mush him every time he hits a HR.

But then again, I have a weird hate for Matt Williams laugh.gif
Albert Belle on the Indians was fuego. One of my favorite childhood memories.

Preferred Cal?
post #26489 of 73398
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

True laugh.gif but it'd be tough...there's always the chance Harper turns out to be an absolute stud, wouldn't want to give that up.

no way you trade Harper for stanton with free agency looming.
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Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #26490 of 73398
Originally Posted by Osh Kosh Bosh View Post

Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

Manny's defense is what sets him apart from his peers. The crazy thing is, you can mention him amongst the likes of Brooks Robinson to the most hardcore O's fan, and there wouldn't be much of an argument about where his defense is. I honestly put more stock (defensively) in someone playing 3rd than someone in the outfield. That's just me.

Third base, second base and Centre are tied for positional adjustment.

I think Bryce can play average CF.

This comparison might sound like an insult but it isn't the best comparison Scott Rolen?

An often injured generational defensive talent who develops into an above average hitter.

Scott Rolen has a stealth really good hall of fame resume, he will never get in because people don't value D like that, unless you play for a famous team.

Hmmm....Rolen isn't a bad comparison. I just REALLY hope that this is the end of the major injuries for Manny. On one hand I'm happy that he's getting this **** out of the way early in his career...but on the other, it's obviously concerning. He said that after the last injury, the doctors are going to correct an abnormality in his knee. I don't think it was discovered until they did their last scope. It was something that would eventually led to him missing some time, so maybe...just maybe the silver lining is that catching it early is good for him in the long run.

Also, not for nothing, but Harper hasn't exactly been the model of good health as well. I mean, he hasn't had the devastating knee injuries like Manny, but I think the way he plays the game (going 110% at all times) is going to have an affect on his overall health. He'll learn, I think, to scale it back a bit. Easier said than done, because I don't think it's necessarily in his DNA to do so.

Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

An O's fan shouldn't take that as an insult.

Didn't they get Encarnacion for him back then?

Yea, I think it was Rolen for Edwin Encarnacion
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

IF Manny can keep his health, I think he's got a higher upside than Bryce Harper.

******* knee injury, man. Dude was hitting his stride after a slow start.

Your bias is laugh.gif

IMO, Manny has had the better overall career so far.
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

you MIGHT pull the trigger?

That's a ******* no brainer! Stanton is arguably the best power hitter in the game and his bat in the lineup would do 10000000000000000x more than Harper's.
True laugh.gif but it'd be tough...there's always the chance Harper turns out to be an absolute stud, wouldn't want to give that up.

I think Harper will be a perennial 30-35 HR type of guy. That might even come next year. The key is his health. He's had some tough luck, but as the one Nat that I do like, I hope he goes HAM.
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Harper's gonna be mashing 40 bombs in a season in no time. I think he's a real special player and I'm not sure why the hate is at the level it is. The only hope is that he stays on the field. I love the kids hustle too.

Like Pro said, people think he's like Belle/Bonds. A lot of folks have a hard time separating the man on the field with the man off of it. He's a real good dude with a good head on his shoulders. Honestly, I think he will be one of the few phenoms who live up to the hype.

Originally Posted by Osh Kosh Bosh View Post

Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

True laugh.gif but it'd be tough...there's always the chance Harper turns out to be an absolute stud, wouldn't want to give that up.

no way you trade Harper for stanton with free agency looming.

OK,'s a hypothetical. Take free agency out of it. Right now, it's a no-brainer to trade Harper for Stanton. Obviously, Harper isn't near his prime...but the scary thing can say the same for Stanton. He's only, what? 3-4 years older? I'd make that trade in a heartbeat. To me, Stanton is one of the 5 best position players in the game right now. Harper has the potential to be there, but he's no where close.
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