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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 252

post #7531 of 73441
Originally Posted by datkidfiasco View Post

Machado with 2 homers tonight...

Manny is the business.  I don't care that it's his 2nd game...get JJ Hardy out of the 2 spot and put Machado in there. 

post #7532 of 73441
What the?... Did San Diego just have some sort of offensive explosion. When I left work it was 7-1 Pittsburgh. Crazy.
post #7533 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Their offense (Seattle's as well) is so much better outside of Petco, it's ridiculous. But, their pitchers are so awful outside of Petco that it kinda evens out laugh.gif
post #7534 of 73441
Two 2-strike counts. Two home runs.

Welcome to the show.
Edited by abovelegit1 - 8/10/12 at 11:21pm
post #7535 of 73441
And the same kid caught both HR balls eek.gif
post #7536 of 73441
Nick Blackburn pitching is an automatic bet on the over for me. Garbage.
post #7537 of 73441
noticed that SD/PIT is blued out on, saw Marquis' line and Burnett's line. Honestly, 10 SO in 5.2 > 0 H in 5.0

edit: and yes I did notice that he also gave up 9H 2HR in 103 pitches in those 5.2IP laugh.giflaugh.gif
Edited by frink85 - 8/11/12 at 5:57pm
post #7538 of 73441
post #7539 of 73441
Manny went yard again...#3

So far 6/13 since his callup. Just like a young A-rod.

post #7540 of 73441
Manny Mach on that Mike Trout-like start. The learning curve on prospects is clearly accelerating but I still expect Manny to eventually hit the "rookie wall" like Bryce. Can't wait for Profar to hit the majors.
post #7541 of 73441
post #7542 of 73441
That catch by Davis. sick.gif
post #7543 of 73441
Thread Starter 
The tireless Manny Machado.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There will be time for sleep on Monday, when the Baltimore Orioles have an off day, and Manny Machado needs it. He estimates that he had about 12 hours of sleep in the first 72 hours after he was called up to the big leagues, with the adrenaline rush, the phone calls and text messages fueling him. When a young player is summoned to the big leagues, the entire baseball community shares the joy.

The first to call was Yonder Alonso, a close friend who happens to also be the first baseman for the San Diego Padres, and Alonso was screaming. "See?" Machado remembers him yelling. "Hard work pays off! You worked your *** off!"

When Machado went out for his pregame sprints in his Thursday debut, he crossed paths with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals, and they had hugs for him. "Stay hungry and just do you," Hosmer said to him. "Don't try to do too much."

Machado walked up to the plate for his first major league at-bat, and Royals catcher Salvador Perez greeted him. "Congratulations," Perez said.

"Welcome to the big leagues," said home plate umpire Tim Tschida.

Machado ripped a triple in his second at-bat, scored a run, and when he got back to the dugout, Adam Jones met him. "Once you got that first hit out of the way," Jones told Machado, "you can really settle in."

His cell phone was filled with text messages by the time the game ended, and the phone rang afterward. Alex Rodriguez was calling. "How'd it feel?" Rodriguez asked. "Was it what you imagined?"

"I finally got the jitters off," Machado told him.

But as he prepared for his second game, Machado found he still felt the butterflies, the same level of excitement he had for his first game. Machado mashed his first home run of his career and then his second.

"The phone has been nonstop blowing up," he said early Saturday afternoon. "Jon Jay called. Yonder. We work out together in the offseason, and we're like brothers. Everybody has just been excited for me."

"I can barely sleep," Machido continued. "Now I'm going back to the ballpark and I'm going to play again."

He sounded similar to what a child would sound like on Christmas morning.

It was a long day at the park for Machado on Saturday because rain delayed the start of the game by three hours; he drove in a run in the Orioles' loss.

The Royals got some runs for Luis Mendoza, writes Bob Dutton.

Kimbrel's development

Craig Kimbrel had trouble throwing a slider when he was at Wallace State Community College, and teammate Zach Ivey showed Kimbrel the grip he used to throw a spike curve. Kimbrel tried it, liked it, immediately put it to use in his next start, and he remembers racking up a lot of strikeouts right away.

His quick development of that pitch was one crossroad in his journey to becoming a dominant closer and a candidate for the NL Cy Young award this year. Another, he believes, was his shift from working from the windup to throwing all of his pitches from the stretch, which helped refine his command. "A big part of this is being able to repeat your mechanics time in and time out," said Kimbrel, who will be waiting for a save chance tonight when the Atlanta Braves play the New York Mets on "Sunday Night Baseball."

A key checkpoint for him is making sure that he doesn't rush through his mechanics. He has a good feel for when that happens, and catchers Brian McCann and David Ross will see it immediately, he says, so he can make the adjustment before his next pitch.

"For me, he's got the best fastball in the league," said McCann, "and the best curveball."

McCann says there have been moments when hitters will step into the box and say something along the lines of, Well, this should be interesting. Casey McGehee once said to Kimbrel, "How 'bout you throw something that doesn't look like it's [6 inches] off the ground?"

Kimbrel has 75 strikeouts in 43 innings, and only three of the 17 hits he's allowed have gone for extra bases. Left-handed hitters are 4-for-75 against him with 42 strikeouts. With runners in scoring position, hitters are 1-for-18 against him. With runners on base, they are 4-for-40 -- all singles -- with 20 strikeouts. "He's totally locked in," said McCann.

The Braves are playing with a lot of confidence these days, and they lit up Johan Santana and the Mets on Saturday. Dan Uggla is finding his swing, David O'Brien writes.


• Brandon Inge popped his shoulder back into place and got a big hit, Susan Slusser writes. It appears the Oakland Athletics have gone through about 20 closers this year, and Ryan Cook is getting a break from the role.

• Before the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Rays may have had the most difficult buy-or-sell decision of any of the contenders, because they really didn't know what Evan Longoria might provide for them in the final two months of the season -- and they still really don't know, because the chance for a setback is real and he's hardly running at all. But Longoria is back in the lineup and providing a threat, the Rays' pitching has been incredible for the past month and Tampa Bay has a real chance to become the team nobody will want to play in the postseason. The Rays have five straight wins since Longoria was activated and got a nice start from David Price on Saturday.

From ESPN Stats and Information, how Price beat the Minnesota Twins:

A. Price threw 77 percent fastballs, his highest percentage this season.
B. Price worked his fastball to both sides of the plate, keeping it out of the middle of the zone. He threw just nine of his 78 fastballs (12 percent) over the middle (horizontally) of the zone, his lowest percentage this season.
C. All five of Price's strikeouts were looking, pushing his MLB-leading total to 68 this season. It's the most called strikeouts Price has had in his career. Four of his strikeouts came on his fastball, three of which were inside at 96-plus mph.

Most called strikeouts this season
Price, Tampa Bay: 68
Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies: 56
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia: 51
Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Dodgers: 48

James Shields believes it's time to pick up his share of the burden, Marc Topkin writes.

• Some contending teams were hit by major injury news, with the New York Yankees losing CC Sabathia to an elbow issue (they added Derek Lowe) and Joey Votto having a setback that will keep him out of the lineup an additional seven to 10 days.

The Cincinnati Reds have soared in the time that Votto has been out; with Saturday's comeback victory, they have an 18-8 record since Votto was placed on the disabled list.

Meanwhile, Scott Rolen's back issues are lingering.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Since Sabathia's first season in 2001, no pitcher has thrown more pitches (39,186) than the southpaw.

• The Houston Astros shook up their scouting department.

• Dan Haren had another rough outing. It's not clear exactly what he can give the Los Angeles Angels down the stretch, and (perhaps) in the playoffs. The slumping Mark Trumbo got the day off.

Dings and dents

1. Ian Desmond is making progress, Adam Kilgore writes.

2. Colby Rasmus has a groin injury.

3. Will Middlebrooks has a broken wrist. The Danny Valencia trade proves to be timely.

4. Mike Napoli landed on the disabled list.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Chicago Cubs brought in a new scouting director.

2. Nate Schierholtz was given an opportunity to play center field.

3. Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona) will start for the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.

4. As the Royals look for starting pitching, they are culling through some options in their bullpen, writes Dutton.

5. Ron Gardenhire wouldn't want to go anywhere else.

6. The St. Louis Cardinals decided to not tinker with their rotation.

7. The Arizona Diamondbacks called up a contact hitter.

8. Nick Hundley was recalled from the minors.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info

5: number of different teams Padres pitcher Jason Marquis has thrown a shutout for after his two-hit shutout versus the Pirates on Saturday.
17: consecutive seasons Derek Jeter has collected at least 150 hits, a milestone he reached Saturday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's tied with Hank Aaron for the longest such streak in MLB history.
.443: batting average of Giants catcher Buster Posey since the All-Star Break, tops in MLB.
7.98: ERA of Mets pitcher Johan Santana since throwing his no-hitter on June 1.

AL West notes

• The Angels lost, but Mike Trout robbed another hitter of a home run; Jerome Williams' reaction to the play in this video is classic.

From ESPN Stats and Info: Trout made his third home run robbery of the season Saturday. No other player in baseball has more than one. The last players with at least three home run robberies in a single season were Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez, who both had three in 2010.

• Mike Olt was assaulted by teammates, in a good way.

• Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a great game for the Seattle Mariners, as Geoff Baker writes.

AL Central notes

• Francisco Liriano was inconsistent, and the Chicago White Sox lost.

• Zach McAllister had a strong outing.

• The Detroit Tigers came up on the short end of a great game.

AL East notes

• The injury-depleted Toronto Blue Jays have dropped five straight, Brendan Kennedy writes.

• The Boston Red Sox made mistakes.

NL West notes

• Buster Posey is ridiculously hot at the plate: He slammed another homer, in support of Matt Cain, writes John Shea. He reminds Alex Pavlovic of Joe Montana.

• Wade Miley had a short outing, and the Diamondbacks fell back to .500.

• Joe Blanton's solid effort fell to pieces.

• Marquis was The Man for the San Diego Padres.

NL Central notes

• The Astros have a winning streak.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates have hit a ditch; that's three straight losses and counting.

• The Cubs gave up a late-inning lead.

• The Milwaukee Brewers can't beat the Astros. Ron Roenicke ranted about the Milwaukee bullpen, writes Tom Haudricourt.

• Jake Westbook put the Cardinals on his shoulders.

NL East notes

• Cliff Lee is still winless at home.

• You can't stop the Washington Nationals, you can only hope to contain them: They've won eight in a row.

• Ricky Nolasco snapped his losing streak.

• There's just no way to tell exactly why Johan Santana has faded, whether it's just a matter of an older pitcher coming back from major surgery, or whether the 134-pitch no-hitter actually took something out of him, as manager Terry Collins feared the night that occurred. But Santana came off the disabled list Saturday and lasted only 1 1/3 innings.

His numbers since the no-hitter: nine starts, 44 innings, 61 hits, 11 home runs, 18 walks, 39 strikeouts, 7.98 ERA.

The Mets should think about shutting him down, writes Anthony McCarron.

Baseball's most dangerous team.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Every week, we post power rankings that reflect the won-loss records and the overall numbers during the long season. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have consistently been stacked near the top of the rankings all year, because they've won more games than any other AL teams, and it appears that both teams will cruise into the postseason, one way or another.

But here's a completely separate question: Who is the team nobody wants to play in the postseason?

In the American League, that team may well be the Tampa Bay Rays, who have six straight wins, all after the return of Evan Longoria to their lineup. CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are on the disabled list, the Rangers' rotation has been hammered by injuries and is looking for improvement out of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, and the Angels' bullpen has become a serious problem.

Meanwhile, the Rays' pitching -- so dangerous all along -- has come together.

David Price has been the staff leader all year and is among the three front-runners in the AL Cy Young conversation, but now Matt Moore is figuring it out. Moore's month-to-month ERA this season:

April: 4.68
May: 4.83
June: 3.16
July: 3.48
August: 0.79

James Shields has been throwing more fastballs, as Roger Mooney writes, and he's allowed only three earned runs in his last 24 innings. Jeremy Hellickson has a 3.52 ERA.

The Tampa Bay bullpen has been spectacular, quietly, with Fernando Rodney having the type of year that even Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman would brag about; Rodney has allowed only 33 hits and eight walks in 54 innings. Tampa Bay's staff ERA is three-quarters of a run better than any other team's.

We are about 6½ weeks away from a brand of postseason we've never seen before, in which teams could repeatedly face one-game, winner-take-all situations by having to play wild-card and division tiebreakers before the actual wild-card games. It's possible that a team could face four or five elimination games in the span of those 10 days, and since pitching matchups are always the most important factor in a short series, the Rays hold an advantage because, right now, they have the best pitching.

So maybe we could consider a second power ranking of the most dangerous teams. As of today, my top five:

1. Tampa Bay: The Rays' rotation depth is the best in the majors.

2. Atlanta Braves: The Braves have an underrated rotation and an extraordinary bullpen. In any tie game in late innings, their bullpen of Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Kris Medlen should give them a major advantage.

3. Texas: The Rangers could have a great October bullpen, and their postseason experience can be a major weapon -- but only if Darvish or Holland get better.

4. San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner are capable of winning a short series by themselves, and Buster Posey has been baseball's best position player in the second half.

5. Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto is arguably the best pitcher in the NL, and if Mat Latos -- the linchpin guy for this team -- can respond in a big moment, this is a team capable of winning it all.

For the readers: What teams do you regard as the most dangerous?


• The fact that we're even debating whether Rajai Davis' incredible catch Sunday is the best catch of the year says a lot about it. Here's the catch, perfectly timed (see 0:40 mark of video).

• Lance Berkman is facing a difficult decision about his future.

• The Mets' bullpen came within 90 feet of a frighteningly ugly blown lead on "Sunday Night Baseball." After Jon Niese handed the relievers a 6-1 lead after eight innings, the bullpen generated a rash of walks and a hit batter in the top of the ninth before Martin Prado punched a double into right field, suddenly making it 6-5.

Even the final out, registered by Jon Rauch, was way too scary; strike three got away from catcher Rob Johnson, who recovered the ball but then threw low to first base, as Michael Bourn sprinted homeward with the would-be tying run. First baseman Ike Davis dug the ball out, however, and Niese could walk onto the field to share handshakes with teammates.

We had him for the postgame interview, and the first question to Niese was about how he dealt with the anxiety of the ninth inning. A smile flashed across his face before he said that he knew the Mets' bullpen -- which is among the very worst in the majors this year -- would get the job done.

This is called being a good teammate.

The New York Mets got to Ben Sheets early, as David O'Brien writes.

• The Braves are strongly considering going to a six-man rotation now that Tommy Hanson is ready to rejoin the big league staff; Hanson had a strong outing Sunday in Triple-A.

• Cueto is a strong candidate for NL Cy Young Award, and he won again Sunday; he is 15-6 with a 2.45 ERA. Chapman is putting up crazy numbers.

From ESPN Stats and Info, how Cueto won:

A) Cueto got 16 outs with his fastball and allowed only one hit with the pitch.
B) Sixty-one percent of his fastballs were in the upper third of the strike zone or higher, his highest percentage in more than two years.
C) Cueto's fastball averaged 93.9 mph, his second-fastest velocity of the season.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Baltimore Orioles made their 125th transaction.

2. Jordany Valdespin started in place of Jason Bay, who has looked lost at the plate.

3. The Pittsburgh Pirates are converting a left-handed starter into a reliever. Clint Hurdle reached out to his overworked bullpen.

4. Alex Anthopoulos intends to target starting pitching.

5. Daniel Descalso will get most of the playing time at second base.

6. Brett Hayes was sent to the minors.

7. The Houston Astros are compiling a lot of options.

8. Mark Kotsay signed a one-year extension with the San Diego Padres. I've heard him mentioned as a possible managerial candidate after he retires, so it's not surprising San Diego moved to keep him around.

9. Vernon Wells got a start, writes Bill Plunkett.

Dings and dents

1. Will Middlebrooks won't need surgery.

2. Carl Crawford has a sore wrist.

3. Sabathia said the pain in his elbow made him nervous.

4. Josh Tomlin is going to have his elbow examined.

5. Denard Span tweeted that he's OK.

6. Paul Konerko is going to be examined.

7. Logan Morrison is having a second knee procedure, in all likelihood.

8. Jhoulys Chacin is making progress.

9. Mike Carp got hurt.

10. Brandon Inge is going to have an MRI on his shoulder.

AL East notes

• Jon Lester was dominant, as Tim Britton writes.

• The Orioles salvaged a split, as Eduardo Encina writes. Manny Machado in the big leagues: 6-for-16, with three homers and seven RBIs.

From Elias Sports Bureau: Machado is the third player this season to start his career with an extra-base hit in each of his first four games, joining Middlebrooks (5) and Yoenis Cespedes (4). Prior to that, the last player to start his career with four straight games in which he had an extra-base hit (defining this as games in which he either had an AB or sacrifice fly, just as you would a hitting streak) was Bay in 2003 for the Padres/Pirates.

• Phil Hughes worked around the side of the baseball and it cost him.

• Ben Zobrist disagreed with his manager.

AL Central notes

• The Detroit Tigers lost, and a pitcher is getting his arm examined.

• Walks haunted the Kansas City Royals, as Bob Dutton writes.

• The Cleveland Indians were obliterated, writes Dennis Manoloff.

• Brian Dozier had a teachable moment.

• A.J. Pierzynski embraced some Cy Young talk about Chris Sale.

From ESPN Stats and Info, how Sale beat the Athletics:

A) Seven of Sale's strikeouts came with his slider. The A's put just one of his sliders in play and grounded out on it.
B) To combat an Oakland lineup that featured eight right-handed hitters, Sale threw a season-high 28 changeups. A's hitters were 2-for-9 in at-bats ending with a Sale changeup and missed on 6-of-19 swings against it.
C) Sale got 19 swings and misses, matching his second-highest total this season. He got seven misses with his fastball and six each with his changeup and slider.

AL West notes

• Darvish and Josh Hamilton enjoyed a revival. Hamilton homered Sunday.

Longest average HR distance this season (min. 20 homers)
Mark Trumbo: 415.6
Josh Hamilton: 413.8
Edwin Encarnacion: 413.7
Miguel Cabrera: 413.4
Matt Holliday: 411.9

• Jason Vargas shut down the Los Angeles Angels, as Geoff Baker writes.

• Oakland had a rough game defensively.

• Jered Weaver couldn't stop the Angels' slide in the standings. Mike Scioscia called a meeting.

There may be more pressure on Scioscia to win now than there ever has been in his time as the Angels' manager. His contract runs into the 25th century, seemingly -- actually, he's got six years remaining after this year -- but Angels owner Arte Moreno has clearly ramped up the expectations, and there has been grumbling within the organization about Scioscia's hands-on style of managing.

As always, it's about results, and after a tremendous run of success that included a championship in 2002, Scioscia's Angels are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Angels are eight games behind the Rangers in the AL West and two games out in the wild-card chase, trailing four other teams.

NL East notes

• Somebody finally beat the Washington Nationals.

• Juan Pierre got the job done.

• The Miami Marlins were shut down.

NL Central notes

• Clint Barmes had a moment of retribution.

• The St. Louis Cardinals had their guts ripped out by a bullpen meltdown.

• Kameron Loe closed out a game for the Milwaukee Brewers. Michael Hunt writes that Ron Roenicke just can't win with this bullpen.

• The losses are piling up for the Chicago Cubs.

• The Astros fell short of a sweep.

NL West notes

• Posey teed up a pitcher, and Hunter Pence threw the knockout blow.

• If the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to be a factor this season, they need to draw a line in the sand really soon -- and Paul Goldschmidt did that for them Sunday.

• Ross Ohlendorf had a rough homecoming.

• Chris Capuano was The Man for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info

6: Go-ahead hits in the eigth inning or later by Pence this season, tied with Hanley Ramirez for the most in MLB
11: Unanswered runs scored by the Pirates on Sunday after falling behind 5-0; it's the sixth time this season Pittsburgh, which won 11-5, has scored at least 10 runs

Pitchers who get most 'routine' outs.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In a recent interview, Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty expressed his antipathy for the strikeout. McCatty called the strikeout an "arbitration stat" and said that "Outs are outs. If you don't need the strikeout, why use all the pitches to get one?" The thinking here is that his pitchers can generate weak contact and get easy outs on fewer pitches than they would need to record a strikeout, so the strikeout is wasteful.

It makes some sense, right? An out is an out, and why should we value strikeouts higher than lazy fly balls to left or routine grounders to short? The name of the game is to get outs, not necessarily to get strikeouts, and, if a pitcher can induce routine balls in play, then that should be his focus, not getting strikeouts.

Baseball Info Solutions assigns a probability to every ball in play for how likely that ball is to become an out. These probabilities are calculated off the historical odds for balls with similar hang times, velocities, trajectories and locations. If we consider a "routine" out to be any ball in play that has at least a 90 percent chance of being successfully fielded, "routine" balls in play account for about 34 percent of all balls in play over the past three seasons. Which pitchers do the best job of inducing "routine" balls in play?

Pitchers with highest percentage of balls with 90 percent or greater probability of being fielded (minimum 100 BIPs in 2012)

Pitcher 2012 % routine balls in play 2011 % routine balls in play
Roy Halladay 46.7% 37.3%
Jered Weaver 46.6% 38.0%
Kris Medlen 43.6% 0%
Felix Hernandez 43.6% 32.4%
Justin Verlander 43.5% 35.7%
Mat Latos 42.6% 33.2%
Ervin Santana 42.5% 32.2%
Jeremy Hellickson 42.5% 34.1%

When we look at Roy Halladay's .287 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), there's a tendency to automatically say "Well, he's been lucky," but in fact he's been very good at inducing very weak contact. It's not luck, it's Halladay. If he can keep doing that, he doesn't need so many strikeouts.

The problem is that it's especially difficult to maintain these levels of production. In 2011, Halladay generated only 37.3 percent "routine" contact, as opposed to his 46.7 percent this season. No pitcher in baseball with at least 100 balls in play in 2012 and at least 150 balls in play in 2011 managed to generate more than 39 percent routine contact in both seasons so far. It simply is not much of a sustainable, repeatable skill.

What happens if we increase our target area for what we consider a routine out? Let's say any ball that has a 75 percent probability of being converted into an out is considered "routine." Now we're talking about around 59 percent of all balls in play since the start of the 2010 season. In this sense, McCatty was correct; the odds are generally in the pitcher's favor to get easy outs on balls in play.

Pitchers with highest percentage of balls with 75 percent or greater probability of being fielded (minimum 100 BIPs in 2012)

Pitcher 2012 % routine balls in play 2011 % routine balls in play
Jered Weaver 73.0% 64.0%
R.A. Dickey 71.5% 56.8%
Josh Tomlin 70.2% 64.0%
Tommy Milone 69.3% 69.7%
Kevin Correia 68.8% 59.8%
Wade Miley 68.4% 70.1%
Justin Verlander 68.2% 60.3%
Chris Sale 68.0% 71.1%

Now our 2012 leader in routine contact is Jered Weaver, with 73 percent of the balls in play he gives up being your everyday can-of-corn fly ball or a grounder hit right to an infielder. Weaver has a .230 BABIP this season, the lowest in baseball, and a significant part of that is all of this weak contact he gives up. But again, this is not something he has shown an ability to do in the past.

Of pitchers with at least 100 balls in play in 2012 and at least 150 in 2011, the highest percentage of routine balls, according to this expanded definition, that anybody has been able to carry over from one season to the next is 63.9 percent. Cole Hamels and Ryan Vogelsong have accomplished this so far. In 2010, though, Vogelsong was in the minors and Hamels got only 56.3 percent routine balls in play. These two likely can't sustain that level, either.

Generating routine contact isn't an ability as much as statistical noise. Yes, there are a lot of balls in play every year that are very easy to field. That's why the average BABIP is about .300 and not higher. But inducing an especially high number of easy outs in one year doesn't show much correlation with a pitcher's chances of doing so again the next year.

Without an ability to generate above-average rates of routine contact, the strikeout remains one of the most vital tools in a pitcher's repertoire. The best pitchers in baseball are still the ones who get the most swings and misses. That includes the pitching staff with the majors' best ERA, which also has the fourth-highest strikeout rate in the game. I'm talking, of course, about McCatty's Nationals.

Scouting the Area Code Games.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The crop of talent at this year's Area Code Games lacked the elite layer of no-doubt first-rounders that I've seen at the six previous ones I've covered, but the usual depth of arms was there and we did have a few standout athletes worth noting for next year's draft.

Scott Kurtz/ESPN Rise
Top HS talent can't beat the "Area Code" jersey.

• The best all-around player in Long Beach was Trey Ball, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder from New Castle High School in Indiana. His body is extremely projectable at 6'6", 180 pounds, although he's a little old for his class, having turned 18 in June. At the plate, he's got quick hands and shows good plate coverage, with the strength to make solid contact on pitches down or away. He's a well above-average runner and I think there will be future power there, since he rotates his hips well and seemed to understand which pitches he could drive and which ones he had to take the other way. On the mound, Ball was 86-91 mph with a quick arm, a long stride, and great extension out front. I've got him as a hitter right now rather than as a a pitcher, but in either role he stands out as one of the best athletes on the field and I wouldn't be shocked if his fastball shot up next spring and changed his projection.

• Left-hander AJ Puk, Ball's teammate on the White Sox club, comprising players from all over the Midwest, also stood out for his athleticism and size. Puk, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was 91-92 with a good curveball at 74-75, showing two-plane break, and a fringy changeup. Like Ball, he's a left-handed hitter who can swing the bat a little but isn't as smooth a hitter as Ball is and projects much better on the mound.

• First baseman Michael Hoard of Salpointe Catholic in Tucson was one of the best pure hitters this week, homering once, just missing a second one, and making a lot of hard contact with a swing that gets a little uphill but not so much that it might hurt his ability to make contact. He's listed at 6'0", 185, and is probably limited to first base or maybe left field, so he's really going to have to rake to overcome those factors.

• Two SoCal pitchers who stood out in Durham last month at the Prospect Classic also threw well in Long Beach -- Madison HS (San Diego) lefty Ian Clarkin, up to 93 again, and Cathedral Catholic HS (San Marcos) lefty Stephen Gonzalves, 89-91 with command although he didn't have great feel for the curveball this time around.

• Deer Park, Texas, lefty Tyler Allen, an LSU commit, threw twice and was very aggressive both times, attacking hitters with an 88-91 mph fastball and a two-plane curveball at 74-75 that he threw for strikes. He was a bit less effective out of the stretch.

• The best prospect from the northeast at this event was Christopher Oakley, a 6'8", 220-pound right-hander from Egg Harbor Township (I don't know if that's West Egg or East Egg), New Jersey, who attends St. Augustine College Prep School. The size is obviously appealing and he was 88-91 with some feel for a curveball and a changeup; his velocity dropped a tick in the stretch and he needs to work on keeping his front shoulder closed.

• Matt Krook only threw once, but the 6'4" lefty from St. Ignatius High School in Hillsborough, California, was 87-90 with a really sharp curveball at 77-82 that had consistent shape and tight rotation. He gets on top of the ball well to generate some plane. He did lose the strike zone a little in his third inning, although that was a pretty common problem all week.

• Hunter Simmons of St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California, made several good plays at first base (although he was listed as a third baseman) and had one of the better-looking swings in the event. His lower half is a little noisy but his swing path was very consistent, with good loft in his finish and strong hands. He's a 20 runner which may push him to first base permanently.

• Davis HS right-hander Trevin Haseltine of Vacaville, California, was 90-91 with a fringy curveball but good command side-to-side of the fastball and showed the ability to drop down to run a slider away from a right-handed hitter. He has good size at 6'3" 200 pounds and did show a fringy changeup as well.

• Corey Simpson (Sweeny HS, Texas) hit a huge home run in his first game and doubled over the centerfielder's head another time, but I think he's a power-before-hit guy and he clearly doesn't like offspeed stuff. He's listed as a catcher but Texas scouts tell me he's a 20 defender there and has to move to first. I thought Tres Barrera (Sharyland HS, McAllen, Texas) was a better overall hitter, with an actual two-strike approach.

• Kohl Stewart is a top football recruit, committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback, but hit 94 in his one outing at the Area Code Games and has been up to 97 consistently in the past. He'll thrown an inning in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco on Sunday, which I'll be attending. After Ball, Stewart might be the most likely first-rounder from this event, assuming football doesn't get in the way of him signing.

• The best BP session belonged to a player listed only as a pitcher -- Nick Longhi of Venice HS in Florida, who showed plus raw power and hit several balls out to the gaps during the games. His swing is simple, with really quick hand acceleration and good hip rotation for power, without much extraneous movement. He's also a first baseman (but with a 60 arm) and is committed to LSU.

• Centerfielder Matt McPhearson of Riverdale Baptist School in Columbia, Maryland, took several good at bats and showed plus speed on the bases and in center. As a hitter he reminded me a little of Aaron Hicks, another player who can work the count but doesn't recognize offspeed stuff as often as you'd like. He has the hand speed to catch up to good velocity and should stay in center.

• Mossyrock, Washington, right-hander John Pomeroy has size (6'5", 215) but drops down during his delivery so he doesn't get the same angle on the fastball that he could if he stayed taller through release. He was 89-92 with a quick arm and threw a couple of curveballs with depth, although it was inconsistent and he didn't always finish the pitch, leaving several up.

• I don't like to focus too much on players who struggled, but I will mention two names who are already familiar to the draftniks among you. Joey Martarano, a football recruit to Boise State who comes from Fruitland, Idaho, scuffled at the plate and at third base, with pitch recognition a major issue -- not shocking for a player who splits his time between two sports. Dominic Smith has a lot of hype but I don't see any plus tools here, maybe not even any above-average tools; he glides out over his front side, steps in the bucket when he swings, and was chasing breaking balls in the dirt much of the week. On defense, he's probably limited to first base, so like Hoard he's going to have to show a big hit tool in the spring to be a high pick.

• Finally, some names to remember for 2014: Alexander Jackson, a catcher from Escondido, California, who looks like a potential star with the bat and glove; Jack Flaherty, a third baseman from Harvard-Westlake who played with Lucas Giolito and Max Fried this spring; Jacob Gatewood, a shortstop from Clovis, California, with bat speed and pop with a lot of room to fill out his frame; and Dany Toussaint, a slight, long-limbed right-hander from Coral Springs Christian Academy in Florida, who broke several bats with a 89-91 fastball he ran in on right-handed hitters' hands.

Top 12 prospects: Skaggs back in.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Top 12 for '12 lost two more in the past week, with Josh Vitters joining the Chicago Cubs and Adeiny Hechavarria heading to the Toronto Blue Jays. The big miss was the surprising move by the Baltimore Orioles to bring up top prospect Manny Machado, who I profiled Thursday. At this point of the season, we're in long-shot mode, but let's shake up the list a bit by including some potential September call-ups.

1. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals (Last week's rank: 1)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Omaha): 8-for-23 (.348), 1 RBI
Season totals: .309-33-93, 6 SB in 110 games
Update: When will Myers get the call? At this point, it's hard to see it happening before September, and Myers isn't helping himself by continuing to post a high strikeout rate.
What he can do: Even with all the strikeouts, Myers should produce immediately in the big leagues thanks to a plus approach and plenty of power. He is a must-have in keeper leagues, but he is running out of time to help non-keeper league owners.

2. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last week: unranked)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Reno): 13 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BBs, 15 K's
Season totals: 9-5, 2.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 117 1/3 IP, 112 K's
Update: In his first Triple-A start following his July promotion, Skaggs allowed five earned runs. In seven starts since, he has allowed a total of four. That has put the 21-year-old in position for a big league look this season, as the D-backs have begun to surge into semi-contention in the National League West.
What he can do: With a plus fastball and one of the best curveballs in the minors, Skaggs is among the top left-handed pitching prospects. Thanks to plus command and control, he is likely to need less adjustment time, and scouts are quick to point out that he is more efficient than fellow prospect Trevor Bauer.

3. Rob Brantly, C, Miami Marlins (Last week: unranked)

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AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Former Tigers prospect Rob Brantly has been tearing it up offensively since being traded to the Marlins.

Last week's stats (at Triple-A New Orleans): 10-for-21 (.476), 1 HR, 3 RBIs
Season totals: .299-5-41 in 95 games
Update: The Marlins' playoff chances? Little to none. Starting catcher John Buck's production? He's doing nothing, and I mean nothing. The shiny new toy at Triple-A acquired in the Anibal Sanchez deal? Raking. It all adds up as good news for Brantly, but trying to make sense of what's going on in Miami can be a foolhardy task.
What he can do: Getting anything offensively out of a catcher is a good thing, but let's be clear: Brantly won't be a multicategory contributor. His only fantasy value comes from his ability to hit for average, as there's little power or speed to his game.

4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, San Diego Padres (Last week's rank: 2)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Tucson): 4-for-19 (.211), 3 RBIs
Season totals: .312-23-82, 5 SB in 108 games
Update: Gyorko is still stuck at Triple-A due to the combination of Chase Headley not being traded and the fact that he is not playing second base regularly. All Gyorko can do is keep hitting, which at some point could force the Padres' hand.
What he can do: Despite big numbers at Triple-A and a constant presence on this list, Gyorko is not a future star as much as he is a solid future big league starter who can post a good batting average and display a bit of power. He should get his first look at big league pitching next month, if not before then.

5. Jacob Turner, SP, Marlins (Last week's rank: 5)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A New Orleans): 6 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BBs, 2 K's
Season totals: 6-4, 2.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 101 1/3 IP, 65 K's
Update: Since moving to the Marlins' system, Turner has kept runs off the board, but he is not missing many bats, which is becoming a minor concern. Still, it's runs (or the ability to prevent them), not strikeouts, that win games, and Turner could be part of a late-season game plan in Miami that focuses on restoring the team's reputation among the fan base.
What he can do: Turner doesn't have a monster offering, but he throws a good three-pitch mix for strikes. His game is mature enough for what is becoming an expected September debut.

6. Johnny Giavotella, 2B, Royals (Last week's rank: 4)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Omaha): 6-for-25 (.240), 5 RBIs
Season totals: .327-10-65, 6 SB in 82 games
Update: Giavotella couldn't stay red-hot forever, but he still has the numbers to deserve a look, especially in Kansas City. For a team trying to figure out their future, the Royals keeping Giavotella at Triple-A doesn't make much sense.
What he can do: Giavotella is an easy plus hitter who should provide a good batting average, but he is not a base stealer and has only a little power. His poor defense is an issue, but his bat should be able to make up for it.

7. Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (Last week: unranked)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Memphis): 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BBs, 8 K's
Season totals: 7-9, 5.25 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 106 1/3 IP, 115 K's
Update: Well look who's back! After one of the most disappointing first halves in prospect land, Miller is back to his old self, with a 2.79 ERA in his past five starts and just three walks in 29 innings. He was never a lost cause, but now he is a potential September contributor.
What he can do: Miller's plus fastball/curve combination has future No. 2 starter written all over it, and now that he is pounding the strike zone again, he is back on track for a possible big league look this season.

8. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Last week's rank: 6)

Last week's stats (at Double-A Springfield): 8-for-22 (.364), 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 2 SB
Season totals: .323-20-80, 8 SB in 107 games
Update: Taveras slides two rankings spots this week, but not because he has stopped hitting. Instead, he drops because the man playing in front of him, Jon Jay, has started hitting again in a big way, going 10-for-15 in his past four games to raise his batting average 24 points. For now, Taveras is looking like nothing more than a September call-up.
What he can do: Taveras has the rare combination of a violent, powerful swing with incredible bat control. Scouts think he could hit right away in the big leagues, and he is going to create a difficult decision for the Cardinals at some point in 2013, if not before.

9. Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks (Last week: unranked)

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Chris Pondy/Icon SMI
Trevor Bauer is back in our good graces following a few good starts at Triple-A.

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Reno): 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BBs, 5 K's
Season totals: 11-1, 2.16 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 104 IP, 125 K's
Update: Bauer delivered an efficient Triple-A start his last time out, which addressed his biggest issue, both in the minors and during his brief, shaky big league stint. One start does not equal a turnaround, but it's a step in the right direction. For now, he is behind Skaggs in the pecking order.
What he can do: Bauer has the stuff to blow away hitters at any level, but he gets too cute with his stuff instead of being aggressive within the strike zone. His last few starts of the year will be watched closely to see if he has begun a new trend.

10. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Last week: unranked)

Last week's stats (at Double-A Tulsa): 13-for-26 (.500), 1 HR, 3 RBIs
Season totals: .279-9-46 in 112 games
Update: Arenado was a regular in the Top 12 for '12 earlier this season, as he began the year with a shot at breaking camp in the big leagues and was close to getting an early call when he didn't. That all changed when he started posting mediocre numbers in the Texas League. He is in the midst of his hottest streak of the season, which has him on the radar for a September look.
What he can do: Arenado is a contact machine, but his ability to make contact has led to him swinging at bad pitches and thus making bad contact. Questions about his power and patience remain, but he is going to hit for a high average.

11. Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds (Last week's rank: 10)

Last week's stats (at Triple-A Louisville): 8-for-29 (.276), 1 RBI, 14 SB
Season totals: .312-2-38, 133 SB in 103 games
Update: Look at those numbers again. That's 14 stolen bases in a week. Fourteen. His offensive production has slowed a bit at Double-A, but we haven't seen impact speed like this in a long time. There remains a decent shot for him to come up in September as a pinch runner deluxe.
What he can do: Hamilton has 80-plus steals potential, and even that might be a bit conservative. Who cares about his lack of power; we're talking about a guy who can steal 80-100 bases, maybe more. Think about what that does for your fantasy team.

12. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles (Last week: unranked)

Last week's stats (at High-A Frederick): 5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BBs, 7 K's
Season totals: 7-3, 1.92 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 84 1/3 IP, 103 K's
Update: Bundy was just moved up to Double-A Bowie, and the 19-year-old will make his Eastern League debut Tuesday. While it might be crazy to think of him being in the big leagues this year, it seemed that way about his organization-mate Machado as well. Remember when David Price came up in 2008 as a late-inning reliever down the stretch? There's an outside chance that happens with Bundy in 2012.
What he can do: Seen by many as the best pitching prospect in the game, Bundy has monster stuff, with mid-to-upper-90s heat, a nasty power curveball and an outstanding cutter. Despite his youth and inexperience, he probably could hold his own right away in short stints.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Gardenhire has no plans to leave
AM ETRon Gardenhire | Twins Recommend1Comments0EmailA little more than seven weeks remain in the season and we have not had a managerial change, even if rumors have popped up recently regarding the job status of Bobby Valentine in Boston and Manny Acta in Cleveland.

The model of managerial stability in recent years has belonged to Ron Gardenhire, who is finishing up his 11th season in Minnesota. The Twins, however, are in danger of their second straight last-place finish, so those six AL Central crowns seem a little more distant in the rear-view mirror.

Gardenhire has a year left on his contract and tells John Shipley of the Pioneer Press he has every intention of living up to the terms. "I love it here. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else," Gardenhire said. "But if they want to make a change, I've always said, 'That's up to them.'"

The Twins are a franchise proud of their stability, so the odds of owner Jim Pohlad seeking a change would be remote at best. But if Gardenhire wanted out, he would immediately become an attractive candidate for any available opening.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
Bell's future on South Beach
AM ETHeath Bell | Marlins Recommend0Comments1EmailOne of the rumors circulating before the July 31 deadline had the Miami Marlins discussing a deal with the New York Mets that would send reliever Heath Bell and catcher John Buck to Queens for outfielder Jason Bay.

The exchange of Bell and Bay - two underperforming players with bloated contracts - never materialized, but it does call into question whether the Marlins will hold on to Bell, whose first season on South Beach has fallen well short of expectations. The latest setback came Sunday, when Bell surrendered four consecutive hits to the Dodgers.

Bell's demeanor aboard the sinking ship hasn't endeared himself to the Marlins' front office, either. David Lennon of Newsday writes Bell hasn't bent over backwards to insist he made the right choice by signing with the Marlins, which is in contrast to comments made by teammates Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

Bell is due $16 million in 2013 and another $18 million in 2014, a mammoth sum for a set-up reliever. It seems almost a certainty the Fish will make Bell available over the winter, but finding a taker won?t be easy unless they absorb plenty of cash.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Miami Marlins, Heath Bell
Another setback for Papi?
AM ETDavid Ortiz | Red Sox Recommend0Comments0EmailDavid Ortiz had hoped to return from the disabled list over the weekend in Cleveland, but the Red Sox designated hitter remains in neutral after he was unable to make it through a workout routine Sunday.

"It's a roller coaster, bro," Ortiz tells the Boston Herald about the up-and-down nature of his sore heel.

Ortiz will test his strained Achilles before Tuesday's series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore, which would seem to indicate he is at least a few more days away before returning. The Red Sox have used more than a half-dozen different players at DH since Ortiz was sidelined in mid-July.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Garcia on his way to DC?
AM ETWashington Nationals Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Washington Nationals' list of September call-ups is expected to include 26-year-old reliever Christian Garcia says's Bill Ladson.

Garcia, a former Yankees prospect, is a combined 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 16 saves in 38 games for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals rank sixth in the majors in bullpen innings, increasing the need for an innings-eater for the season's final month.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Washington Nationals
Strasburg has limits
AM ETStephen Strasburg | Nationals Recommend0Comments1EmailWhile Stephen Strasburg may not have limitations on the mound, the Washington Nationals will put the shackles on him at some point to avoid overworking his surgically-repaired elbow or any other part of his body that could overcompensate for such an injury.

What the magic innings limit is, exactly, remains unknown, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets Friday afternoon that Strasburg will not exceed 180 innings this season.

He's thrown 133 1/3 innings thus far, suggesting he has in the range of 50 left for the entire season, despite the fact that the Nationals are in first place and appear headed for October baseball.'s Bill Ladson cites a source who says Strasburg will miss two or three regular season starts and will not pitch in the offseason once he is shut down. That would seem to end the speculation that the Nats might try to save some of those bullets left in Strasburg's arm for October.

- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
ETA for Rolen
AM ETScott Rolen | Reds Recommend0Comments0EmailScott Rolen got up on the wrong side of the bed Thursday morning in Chicago, and the accompanying stiff lower back forced the 37-year-old third baseman to miss the entire weekend series with the Cubs.

Rolen insists he is feeling better and hopes to return on the upcoming seven-game homestand that begins Tuesday. A .358 average and 11 RBI since the All-Star break demonstrate that Rolen is still a productive player, but keeping healthy remains a problem.

The Reds need a healthy Rolen now more than ever given the return of Joey Votto has been pushed back. It means continued at-bats for Todd Frazier, who has started at first and third base over the last few days.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Scott Rolen, Cincinnati Reds
Could Saunders be shopped?
AM ETJoe Saunders | Diamondbacks Recommend0Comments0EmailJoe Saunders could be "an interesting trade piece" if the Arizona Diamondbacks feel they are not a viable playoff contender, says Nick Cafardo in Sunday's Boston Globe.

Saunders is a free agent after the season and the D-backs, who have depth in their rotation with Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, are not expected to re-sign him. We all know that pulling off waiver deals isn't easy, but one possible fit could be the Orioles, who did not land a pitcher before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Baltimore was among the teams linked to Saunders earlier this summer.

The D-backs are on the fringe of contention for a wild card berth - 6 1/2 games behind the second spot with a couple of teams ahead of them.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Joe Saunders, Arizona Diamondbacks
The battle for Bourn
AM ETMichael Bourn | Braves Recommend1Comments1EmailJosh Hamilton may be the marquee name of this offseason's free agent outfield class, but the most spirited battle at the position could be for the services of Atlanta's Michael Bourn.

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney wrote last week the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies could soon be jockeying for the rights to sign the 29-year-old who is at the peak of his career.

In Sunday's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo says the Braves aren't holding out much hope that they can re-sign Bourn, in part because they don?t seem to do well with Scott Boras clients.

Bourn has been linked for months to the Nationals, who have remained a first-place team without a top-shelf center fielder and recently parted ways with Rick Ankiel. A challenge could come from the Phillies, who still have some burdensome salaries on the books but freed up some money with the recent deals involving Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton.

Olney has more on Bourn's leverage:

- Doug Mittler

Buster Olney
NL East battle for Bourn?

"If the Phillies make a strong push for Bourn, it's unclear whether they would be willing to outbid the Nationals. Washington opened this season with a payroll of $92 million and if its wealthy ownership is willing, it has a lot of room to grow under the luxury tax cap. Bourn figures to get a multi-year deal for something in the range of $16 million to $22 million annually, and as has been well-documented over the last six weeks, the Phillies already have a lot of payroll obligations well into the future, with $20 million-plus commitments to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard on the books. The Phillies also will have to find a third baseman, a starting pitcher and at least one outfielder, depending on their internal evaluations of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr."
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Michael Bourn
Wilson to Pirates' pen?
AM ETPittsburgh Pirates Recommend0Comments0EmailUnable to land a lefthanded reliever prior to the deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the process of converting Triple-A southpaw Justin Wilson into a reliever.

GM Neal Huntington says the Pirates will pitch Wilson on back-to-back days and send him out in the middle of an inning to get accustomed to relief work. The 24-year-old Wilson is 9-5 with a 3.88 ERA in 24 starts for Indianapolis, including a rain-shortened no-hitter last week.

Tony Watson and Jeff Locke are the two southpaws currently in the Pirates' bullpen.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Pittsburgh Pirates
Oakland deal for Aviles unlikely
AM ETMike Aviles | Red Sox Recommend0Comments1EmailThe odds of the Oakland Athletics adding a shortstop before the August 31 deadline for playoff-roster eligibility appear slim, reports Susan Slusser.

Boston's Mike Aviles has passed through waivers but a deal is unlikely because the asking price remains high. The A's have no intention of parting with a top prospect such as Dan Straily for a short-term improvement at the position.

The A's were in the market for several shortstops before the deadline, including Toronto's Yunel Escobar.

- Doug Mittler
post #7544 of 73441
Orioles...Wildcard? That would be a nice birthday present.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
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It would be cool to see the O's and/or Pirates make the playoffs.


post #7546 of 73441
so does anyone know where kevin went? kevin cleveland, that is laugh.gif
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #7547 of 73441
Cole Hamels 2nd complete game shutout in a row. 2.91 era. smokin.gif
Jordans and Nikes all free shipping on the site

WTB: Safari Roshe Run sz10 (Red or Blue)
Jordans and Nikes all free shipping on the site

WTB: Safari Roshe Run sz10 (Red or Blue)
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Thread Starter 
Kev actually resurfaced in our fantasy league last week, maybe he just gave up on NT laugh.gif
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Boston’s Bullpen Of Misfit Toys.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Andrew Bailey is set to make his Red Sox debut this week. After being sidelined with a thumb injury for the entire season, the Red Sox are expected to activate Bailey on Tuesday. Bailey was acquired to take over the closer role after Jonathan Papelbon left for Philadelphia. And while his injury has certainly hurt the Sox, they’ve performed pretty well without him.

The Red Sox were supposed to be set in the late innings after last offseason. The team acquired Bailey and Houston Astros’ closer Mark Melancon to bring stability in the eighth and ninth innings. Bailey, of course, immediately suffered an injury and has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox. Melancon, on the other hand, has been downright awful in his 28.0 innings pitched. If you had known these two things would happen heading into the season, you probably would have predicted a lot of failure from the Red Sox bullpen.

But that hasn’t been the case. While the Sox have had their fair share of issues, particularly early in the season, the team’s bullpen has been valuable. As a team, the Red Sox bullpen has accumulated 3.5 WAR this year, good for ninth in all of baseball. That number would actually improve if you took out Melancon’s contributions. Melancon has taken value away from the team this year, with a -0.2 WAR.

Boston has basically been able to succeed by cobbling together a bullpen by targeting cheap, unwanted players.

Player IP Acquired 2012 Salary WAR
Scott Atchison 46.0 Signed as a FA in 2009 $510,000 0.9
Alfredo Aceves 58.2 Signed as a FA in 2011 $1,200,000 0.7
Vicente Padilla 39.0 Signed as a FA in 2012 $1,500,000 0.6
Andrew Miller 29.2 Traded to Boston in Nov 2010 $1,040,000 0.6
Franklin Morales 30.2 Traded to Boston in May 2011 $850,000 0.4
Junichi Tazawa 21.2 Signed as a FA in 2008 $920,000 0.4
Rich Hill 13.2 Signed as a FA in June 2010 $725,000 0.3
Clay Mortensen 27.1 Trade to Boston in Jan 2012 $486,500 0.1
Andrew Bailey 0.0 Offseason trade with Oakland $3,900,000 -
Mark Melancon 28.0 Offseason trade with Houston $521,000 -0.2

Nearly every player contributing to Boston’s success in the bullpen this season was either eligible to be signed by every major league team at one point in their career, or acquired for next to nothing. Miller was acquired for pitcher Dustin Richardson, Morales was acquired for cash and a player to be named later and Mortensen was involved in the Marco Scutaro trade. Every other player on the list, with the exception of Bailey and Melancon, were acquired cheaply through free agency.

A closer look reveals some similarities between the players Boston likes to take chances on in their pen. Miller, Morales and Hill were all considered strong prospects at one point in their careers before falling out of favor with their original teams. And though Mortensen never reached that status, he was a first round draft pick in 2007. What the Red Sox are doing is still considered dumpster diving, but they are targeting guys that once had strong pedigrees. Flaws kept these pitchers from reaching their potential as starters, but they’ve all turned into decent bullpen pitchers. The jury is still out on Morales, actually, as the team has been so encouraged with his performance that they’ve moved him to the rotation. It’s also important to note that while Bailey makes close to $4 million, the next highest salary in the Red Sox’s bullpen is just $1.5 million.

The Red Sox approach this season really highlights why giving up good talent to acquire relievers is often a poor decision. Relievers are too volatile and get hurt way too often to be counted on for consecutive seasons. While Bailey is likely to add value to the Red Sox going forward, and Melancon will hopefully figure things out, the team has already shown that it can get by without their contributions.

Corbin Latest Success For D-backs’ Rotation.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The first time the D-backs lost Daniel Hudson to injury, it seemed like it would be a big blow to their playoff hopes, but Wade Miley stepped in and opened people’s eyes. When he went down the second time, it seemed like it would really put Arizona in a bind, as while Miley was by then a rotation fixture, Joe Saunders was out of action as well. Neither Josh Collmenter not touted prospect Trevor Bauer were able to get the job done, but the void has been filled quite amply as of late by left-hander Patrick Corbin.

Acquired by the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, Corbin was good enough that Marc Hulet ranked him as one of the D-backs top 10 prospects both this year and last, but wasn’t quite good enough to crack the top 100. He was ranked similarly this year by ESPN’s Keith Law. In other words, he was a sleeper.

Corbin first got the call to the Majors on April 30, when he replaced Collmenter, who had struggled to the tune of a 6.42 FIP in April. He didn’t exactly have a star turn, and he found himself back at Triple-A when Hudson returned from the disabled list just before Memorial Day. While it wasn’t a banner beginning for Corbin, there were positives. He kept his walks down, and he showed an ability to generate ground balls, as he netted 43 grounders versus 27 fly balls for a 1.59 GB/FB.

As he had done before his call-up, Corbin went back to Triple-A and pitched well. He was bumped back to the majors a second time at the end of June when Hudson hit the DL for the second and final time this season, but this time he worked in relief, shuttling between the roles of long man and lefty specialist. He handed both roles with aplomb, as he continued to generate more grounders than fly balls, kept his walk rate relatively low, and he added in a healthy dose of strike outs as well. The team sent him down again after the All-Star break when they needed a roster spot for Saunders’ return, but his stay in Reno would once again prove to be short-lived. When Arizona once again decided that Collmenter fit better in the bullpen — and he just may, as he has posted a 2.74 FIP in relief this season compared to a 5.14 FIP as a starter — Corbin was brought back for a third time, and was given another chance to start. He has run with that chance.

In his first three starts in this, his second iteration in the rotation, Corbin was tasked with taking on three playoff contenders. The first two were on the road against the Dodgers and Pirates. He pitched swimmingly in each, notching six-inning quality starts. But yesterday was a bigger test. The Nationals were in Phoenix, and came into yesterday’s game having won eight straight — including the previous two in Arizona, during which they had scored nine and six runs, respectively. Corbin held Washington to two runs over seven innings, saddling the Nats with their first loss in more than a week. That makes three quality starts and counting, a 19-inning span in which he has allowed just four runs.

Aside from the positive results against three playoff contenders, there are other positive takeaways here as well. First, Corbin’s velocity is up from earlier this season. In his first five starts of the season, his average four-seamer topped out at 90.5 mph, but in these past three starts, he has averaged at least 90.7 mph. The strikeouts have also remained, as Corbin has whiffed a batter per inning. And he’s doing so with an increased swinging strike percentage, giving rise to the notion that he has tweaked something for the better. It’s far too early to tell definitively, but the difference could be his slider, which has been much improved in these three outings. Looking at his season as a whole, another encouraging sign is his work against right-handed hitters, something that Hulet diagnosed as a potential problem for him entering the season. Holding righties to a 3.72 FIP while being death to lefties is a good recipe for success.

Corbin’s success these past three starts highlights the D-backs’ pitching depth. While many teams might have needed to trade for a starter to replace Hudson, Arizona was able to just reach down in its system. Bauer proved to not yet be ready the same way Wade Miley proved not to be ready last season, but Corbin was. That’s ridiculous depth. And if Bauer learns what he needs to in the minors and is ready to contribute next season the way Miley has this season, well then the D-backs will just go right on not missing Hudson. Arizona could open 2013 with a rotation of Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Miley, Corbin and either Bauer or Tyler Skaggs. This would allow them to let Saunders — who is actually having a nice season (for him) — walk, and use his $6 million elsewhere. It would also allow them to not rush back Hudson, and create competition in camp for the final spot(s) in the rotation as well.

No matter how general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson choose to fill out their rotation going forward, they will have a wealth of pitching at their disposal. The D-backs started the season with Hudson and Collmenter in the rotation, and may finish it with Miley and Corbin in their place. They didn’t need to make a trade to find two ample replacements, and they didn’t have to rely on their stud prospects Bauer and Skaggs. That incredible depth, most recently exemplified by Patrick Corbin, is going to make Arizona a contender for the foreseeable future. Corbin entered the season as a sleeper, but if he can maintain this level of effectiveness or something close to it, he won’t be slept on for much longer.

The Quantity and Quality of Napoli’s Contact.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Mike Napoli was, at least at the time, an under-discussed portion of not only one of the worst trades of recent times, but also the puzzling follow-up trade in which the Jays sent Napoli to the Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. Even given that at the time Napoli was not projected to be the monster he turned to be in 2011, that seems really weird given that his hitting style seemed to fit right into the type of sluggers the Jays love to collect.

In any case, after dealing with injury issues early in the year Napoli turned into one of the great stories of the 2011 season, as he not only hit for great power even by his previous standard, but significantly upped his average (by cutting his strikeout rate and boosting his BABIP) to finish the season with a .320/.414/.631 (144 wRC+) line that rivaled Josh Hamilton‘s from 2010.

Even given reasonable expectations for regression, Napoli’s 2012 has been disappointing. While he has dealt with health issues this season, going on the disabled list this weekend after trying to play through an injury, Napoli has never really gotten going in 2012. After a career best wRC+ in 2011, Napoli currently has a seasonal career worst 105 wRC+. The easy thing would be to simply point to average on balls in play dropping back closer to his pre-2011 rates, but the issues go beyond that. His drop in power is particularly interesting.

Of course, the lower batting average does have a great deal to do with Napoli’s problem. Napoli was always a high-strikeout guy for the Angels. However, while one would have naturally expected both his power numbers and BABIP to improve after the trade given the change in parks, even with the acknowledgment that parks can affect stuff like strikeout rates, Napoli’s strikeout rate drop to under 20 percent in 2011 after being around 25 percent for most of his previous seasons was shocking. It might be even more surprising that after a career best year in that respect, he would now be posting a career-worst strikeout rate at just over 30 percent so far.

It is not as if Napoli faced a whole new set of pitchers in 2011 who had to take a year to learn how to pitch to him — he was even in the same division. His contact rate is not any worse than it was in 2010 with the Angels, and he is actually swinging at fewer bad pitches. However, while he might be making contact at a similar (poor) rate as 2010, plate appearances are ending with it at an even lower rate. Whatever the cause (and I am not qualified to speculate on stuff like underlying injuries), strikeouts have been a big problem.

However, as mentioned at the outset, strikeouts are hardly Napoli’s only problem in 2012. To go back to 2010 with the Angels, while Napoli did not have as high a strikeout rate as he does this year, it was high. But his average on balls in play was about the same, and of even more interest, his isolated power was actually a bit higher in 2010 than 2012 despite the Angels’ home park being less generous to right-handed hitters than the Rangers’ in almost all respects.

Napoli is not hitting home runs on plate appearances ending contact (HR/[AB-K]) at the quite same rate he was last year. In 2011, he did so at a rate of about 10.5 percent, this year he is at about 8.7 percent. His 2012 rate is closer to his last year with the Angels, when he his home runs on 8.1 percent of such plate appearances. But again, given that Texas is a much more generous park, one would not necessarily expect that much regression.

Using Hit Tracker to look a bit more closely, we see that in 2012 Napoli’s average home run has a speed 101.8 miles per hour off of the bat with an average standard distance (that is, normalized for the sake of comparison) of 386.7 feet. As one would expect, in 2011, those numbers were better: 104.1 miles per hour and 403.8 feet. In 2010, however, when his home run rate was just slightly less than this year, while the standard distance was right in between 2010 and 2012 at 393.5 feet, the speed off of the bat was closer to 2012. While this is based on a relatively small sample of home runs from each season, it is a bit of evidence that the quality of contact Napoli is making in 2012 is not that of previous seasons for either Texas and Los Angeles.

One might also infer this from his rate of extra-base hits in play ([2B+3B]/[H-HR]). So far in 2012, that rate is about 18 percent. That is also the lowest of Napoli’s career. In 2011, he was at 28 percent, in 2010 he was over 30 percent. In all of his previous seasons in Anaheim Napoli was at around 28 percent of his hits on play going for extra bases for about 28 percent except for 2008, when it was still around 24 percent. Moreover, in 2008 he had his highest rate of home runs on contact of his career (12.3 percent), so many of those would-be doubles were likely going for home runs. This is more evidence that Napoli is not hitting the ball as ahrd in 2012 as he did not only in 2011, but in pre-2011 seasons.

There could be many explanations for Napoli’s problems with contact in 2012 — underlying injuries, Napoli not picking the right pitches to try and pull, or simply aging. Random variation is another (boring) possibility. Obviously, the quantity of Napoli’s contact has been a big issue this year. But this brief look at some numbers also shows that the quality of the contact he is making is not what it has been in the past — even the pre-2011 past.

Are Chapman and Kimbrel Cy Young Contenders?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last night, on the Sunday Night Baseball telecast of the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, announcer Dan Shulman facilitated a discussion surrounding relievers and the Cy Young Award.

Quite simply, should Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel be considered legitimate candidates for the NL Cy Young Award this season?

Relievers possess a difficult time making noise in the Cy Young Award voting because they do not throw nearly as many innings as starting pitchers. Fewer innings equal fewer opportunities to make an impact and provide value to one’s baseball team. This sentiment was largely echoed by Orel Hershiser and Buster Olney on the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

The topic of relievers and the Cy Young Award seems to surface annually. This season, however, the conversation has become more earnest because Chapman and Kimbrel are compiling video game numbers on the mound. Just look at how dominant both have been for their respective teams, prior to Sunday’s games:

Pitcher IP ERA FIP FIP- K/9 BB/9
Aroldis Chapman 56.0 1.29 1.00 26 16.88 2.25
Craig Kimbrel 43.0 1.26 0.97 26 15.70 2.30

Chapman is currently on pace to set a single-season record for most strikeouts per nine innings (min. 50 IP), while Kimbrel owns a FIP under 1.00. To put that in perspective, the lowest FIP last season (again, min. 50 IP) was 1.52 — which also belonged to Kimbrel.

The two relievers are enjoying extraordinary seasons on the mound. However, the issue that relievers pitch too few innings to warrant being the most valuable player throughout an entire season does not suddenly become moot due to the fact that Chapman and Kimbrel are redefining the term “dominance” for a relief pitcher.

If we look at WPA, though, the notion that relievers do not pitch enough innings to have a greater overall impact than starting pitchers becomes more muddled. Prior to Sunday’s games, four of the top five WPAs amongst pitchers are relievers — two of which are Chapman and Kimbrel.

Pitcher WPA
Kyle Lohse 2.99
Huston Street 2.61
Craig Kimbrel 2.56
Joel Hanrahan 2.39
Aroldis Chapman 2.36
Johnny Cueto 2.25
Steve Cishek 2.17
Ryan Vogelsong 2.01
Jordan Zimmermann 1.89
Mike Fiers 1.82

As Tangotiger mentions four years ago, WPA captures “the quantification of your feelings as the game unfolds, assigned to the players involved.” Thus, it feels as if Chapman and Kimbrel have contributed more toward their respective team’s wins than Johnny Cueto, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, and various other starting pitchers who are currently thought to lead the National League Cy Young Award race.

WPA can be misleading, though. Since Chapman and Kimbrel (along with the other relievers listed above) largely pitch the final inning, their performances are naturally going to impact win expectancy more heavily than starting pitchers, who work in earlier innings, when individual outs do not carry as much weight.

Perhaps we should then look at something more accurately connected with talent evaluation. How do Chapman and Kimbrel rank in comparison to starting pitchers in terms of wins above replacement?

Pitcher WAR
R.A. Dickey 4.1
Gio Gonzalez 4.1
Clayton Kershaw 3.9
Johnny Cueto 3.9
Stephen Strasburg 3.8
Zack Greinke 3.8
Josh Johnson 3.5
Adam Wainwright 3.4
Wade Miley 3.3
Aroldis Chapman 3.1

Chapman sneaks in the Top 10, while Kimbrel checks in at #23 with +2.3 WAR through his 43.0 innings of work.

This WAR list more accurately reflects what has been said for years. Starters are simply more valuable than relievers due to the fact that they see more innings, face more batters, and need to have a more diverse skill set to remain effective for multiple innings.

Still, the fact that Aroldis Chapman even appears in the Top 10 WAR list is noteworthy. Last season, Kimbrel posted the highest WAR amongst relievers. He was worth +3.2 wins in 2011. Aroldis Chapman has already compiled +3.1 WAR with a month and a half remaining in the season. Only nine starters in the National League have been more valuable than Chapman, and the left-hander has only thrown 56.0 innings this season. That’s ridiculous.

Legitimate arguments can be made for Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel to be legitimately included in the NL Cy Young Award race this season. They have contributed more toward their respective team’s win expectancy than every single starter not named Kyle Lohse, and Chapman’s name sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the pitching WAR leaders in the National League.

The question then becomes what one believes the Cy Young Award to truly represent. Does it represent the pitcher with the best statistics, or does it represent the most talented pitcher in terms of physical tools and dominance on the mound?

If it’s the former, Chapman and Kimbrel should absolutely be included in the Cy Young discussion. Their numbers are simply extraordinary, and few arguments can be made against that assertion.

If it’s the latter, however, the question becomes much more subjective. ESPN’s Orel Hershiser opined on Sunday evening that two or three starting pitchers on every starting staff could be closers. Would the numbers Chapman and Kimbrel are posting this season appear so utterly dominant and awe-inspiring if Clayton Kershaw transitioned to the closer’s role? How about Stephen Strasburg? How about someone more under-the-radar, such as James McDonald?

The season John Smoltz put together in 2003 is a solid example of what a top-of-the-rotation starter can do in the bullpen as a closer. He compiled a 1.12 ERA and 1.54 FIP in 64.1 innings. In the three years he served solely as the Braves’ closer, he never posted a FIP above 2.72, and his 10.21 K/9 strikeout rate in 2003 was far above his 7.99 K/9 career average. As one would imagine, during a single inning late in the game, his stuff played up in the bullpen.

Comparing starters to relievers on a one-to-one basis in a single season and simply asking which is more talented as a pitcher is difficult because the roles are vastly different. Starters cannot give max effort every single inning. They also pay more attention to pitch sequencing and how to set up hitters for later at-bats in the same game. Relievers, on the other hand, max out their stuff in one inning. They do not need three pitches. Their approach on the mound is not as nuanced in terms of sequencing and setting up opposing batters for later at-bats.

Once again, if the Cy Young Award will simply be based upon the statistics compiled throughout the season, Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel should be in the discussion. Statistics may not make up every piece of the Cy Young puzzle, though, and if that’s the case, Chapman and Kimbrel will have much more ground to make up on the starting pitchers in the National League.

Here Come The Rays.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay activated Evan Longoria from the disabled list; they haven’t lost since. This correlation between Longoria’s return and the team’s six game winning streak seems a bit flukey when you see his .261/.308/.304 line since coming off the DL and note that the’s not healthy enough to play the field yet, so he’s not producing any defensive value either. However, Longoria’s return has produced something of a chain reaction that has helped the team run off six straight victories, and bodes well for their ability to stay in contention down the stretch.

With Longoria manning the DH spot, the Rays had to find a spot to put Jeff Keppinger, who has quietly been one of the Rays best offensive weapons this year. Since he’s a lousy glove guy, it’s easier to hide him at third base than second base, so they installed Keppinger at third and shifted Ryan Roberts over to second base. That closes off second base for Ben Zobrist, so over the weekend, Joe Maddon decided to give Zobrist another shot at shortstop, playing him on the left side of second base for the first time since 2009.

It’s an idea that the Rays should probably stick with, as Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez have been offensive black holes that have dragged the team down all year. Zobrist isn’t a classic shortstop, but defensive metrics have loved his work at second base over the last four years, and it’s unlikely that he’s capable of being a terrific defensive second baseman while being completely unable to handle shortstop. He might not be a great defender there, but the offensive upgrade that is created by opening up a line-up spot for either Keppinger or Roberts in lieu of Johnson or Rodriguez is substantial.

The Rays also have a pitching staff that can cover for some potentially questionable shortstop defense if Zobrist’s glove proves to be an issue; Tampa Bay’s pitching staff leads the AL in strikeout rate, coming in at 22.2%. With a staff that generates a lot of outs on their own, defensive support isn’t quite as critical to run prevention, and the pitchers are good enough to help bail the defense out if they don’t turn as many balls in play into outs. And, if Longoria’s hamstrings heal up enough for him to play third base in September, Zobrist could shift more towards the middle of the field and allow Longoria’s defensive aptitude to help cover the left side of the infield more thoroughly.

Zobrist as a regular shortstop is a potentially large boon for Tampa Bay, and appears to be the best use of resources that the team currently has on hand. After spending the summer using guys like Drew Sutton in the clean-up spot, the returns of Longoria and Matt Joyce — and now, the potential for Zobrist to fill the shortstop hole — give the Rays an actual Major League line-up.

On Saturday, the Rays rolled out the following batting order:

1. Jennings, LF: 104 wRC+
2. Upton, CF: 96 wRC+
3. Joyce, RF: 142 wRC+
4. Longoria, DH: 142 wRC+
5. Zobrist, SS: 125 wRC+
6. Pena, 1B: 91 wRC+
7. Keppinger, 3B: 131 wRC+
8. Roberts, 2B: 77 wRC+
9. Molina, C: 53 wRC+

1-7, that’s actually pretty good. Keppinger is hitting over his actual abilities and Joyce probably is a bit as well, but that’s a line-up that can score some runs. And given the Rays pitching and defense, a little bit of offense has been the only thing holding them back this season.

Thanks to their six game winning streak, Tampa Bay is now atop the AL Wild Card race, and has actually closed the gap in the AL East to just five games. While it’s unlikely that they can make up five games in six weeks, the division title isn’t completely out of the question, and the Rays are clearly a strong wild card contender. Even without Longoria for most of the year and Joyce for a big chunk of it, the Rays offense, defense, and pitching have all performed at the same level as the Angels, Tigers, and White Sox. If Longoria can stay healthy and start hitting, there’s a pretty good argument to be made that the Rays should be the favorites to claim one of the two wild card spots, and David Price is the kind of ace you want to throw in a winner-take-all elimination game.

While they’ve hung on the periphery of the playoff race most of the summer, Longoria’s return and the team’s willingness to try Zobrist out at shortstop has made their offense a lot more interesting, and all of the sudden, the Rays look like a team you wouldn’t want to face in a playoff series.

Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, their success this season should put to rest the notion that the Rays have simply taken advantage of a series of high draft picks in order to build out a contending team. While David Price is certainly providing significant value, they’ve only gotten +2.2 WAR combined from Upton and Longoria, and yet they’re still legitimate playoff contenders while playing in baseball’s toughest division. The 2012 Rays are winning on the backs of Zobrist, Keppinger, Alex Cobb, Fernando Rodney, and Joel Peralta, and they deserve a lot of credit for finding those kinds of contributors.

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Impact of CC's injury.
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The New York Yankees aren't exactly struggling. At 67-47, they have the second-best record in the American League and the fourth-best record in baseball. They rank second in the ESPN Power Rankings this week, giving them nine straight weeks in the top three of the rankings.

Yet, with CC Sabathia out again and the Tampa Bay Rays -- who rank 12th this week -- starting to catch fire, it's fair to wonder whether the AL East title is again on the table for the taking.

Sabathia hasn't exactly been struggling, either. He had struck out 17 batters in his two August starts, but because he had felt elbow stiffness after each start, the team decided to shut him down for the second time this season. Sabathia says that he will be out for just the requisite two weeks, but they are two fairly important weeks, as New York will play the Rangers, Red Sox and the White Sox. With Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia struggling and Sabathia and Andy Pettitte unavailable, the door has been cracked open for Tampa.

From July 6 until Aug. 6, New York maintained at least a 5½ game lead in the AL East, with the lead stretching to 10 games at its high point. But the lead has shrunk. It dropped to 4½ games last week, and on Monday it stands at a very manageable five games. It seems especially manageable given how well Tampa has played as of late.

The Rays have won six games in a row for the first time since early May as well as 11 of their past 14. The great news is that they have managed this success without much of an on-the-field contribution from Evan Longoria. Yes, Longoria returned to the lineup on Tuesday. But he has been limited to designated hitter duty in his first six games back, and he hasn't exactly been knocking the cover off the ball -- he's hit just .261/.308/.304 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in his first 26 plate appearances since returning. Those struggles likely won't continue, but the point is that although the Rays' offense might be getting a boost just from having him back in the lineup, Longoria isn't the one doing the boosting just yet.

One of the boosts this past week came via a position switch. For the first time since 2009, Ben Zobrist slid back to shortstop. Because his limited defensive ability is what moved him off shortstop, manager Joe Maddon has said that Zobrist is likely to start at short only when the Rays have one of their fly-ball pitchers -- namely Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore -- on the hill, but Maddon already violated that guideline by starting him there on Saturday with David Price and his 1.98 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio on the mound.

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Kim Klement/US Presswire
Longoria's return has impacted the Rays' lineup even if he isn't hitting like his old self yet.Now that Longoria and Matt Joyce are back in the lineup and the team has added Ryan Roberts, the Rays' attack is suddenly a lot deeper with Zobrist at short rather than at second, in the outfield or at DH. The early returns were good -- the Rays scored 23 runs in the three games Zobrist played short -- but they came against starting pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Cole De Vries and Nick Blackburn, so the positive results could mean absolutely nothing. Still, credit Maddon for squeezing as many good hitters into the lineup as possible.

Of course, as well as the Rays have hit in the past week, the lifeblood of the team is its pitching, and here, too, we find reason for optimism.

As June turned to July, the Rays were treading water. They were averaging 4.17 runs per game but allowing 4.15. Since then, the runs scored per game average, at 4.06, is in the same neighborhood despite last week's hot streak. But at just 2.92 runs allowed per game, Tampa is now allowing more than a run fewer per game. This is where we expected the Rays to be at the season's outset, and the contributions are coming from up and down the rotation.

During the past month, Price, Moore and Alex Cobb have each posted FIP scores that are more than 20 percent better than league average; James Shields has allowed just three runs in his past 24 innings; and Hellickson is pitching some of his best baseball of the season.

Of course, the Yankees aren't going to roll over and hand the division to Tampa now that the Rays are playing better. Sabathia wasn't the only New York starter pitching well; Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have posted FIP marks of less than 100 in the past 14 days. Kuroda in particular has been one of the best pitchers in the game since June started.

The Yankees are 7-4 in August and have won four of their past five games. Still, their division lead has shrunk thanks to the Rays' six-game winning streak and 8-2 record in August. Better still for the Rays, they have finally pitched to expectations the past six weeks. The Yankees are nobody's pushover, but they are entering a potentially difficult stretch without their best pitcher, and by the time they get him back, the AL East might be a dogfight.

Making sense of 2nd-year slumps.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last year, Eric Hosmer, Dustin Ackley and Matt Moore put themselves on the map in their major league debuts. Hosmer was an above-average hitter at age 21, showing special offensive skills that created expectations he would be able to anchor the Kansas City Royals' lineup for years to come.

Ackley proved he could handle second base and showed more power than expected, giving the Seattle Mariners a legitimate major league hitter they badly needed.

Moore didn't show up until September, but in five appearances between the regular season and the playoffs, he looked like a flamethrowing ace who just might be the guy to put the Tampa Bay Rays over the top.

Instead of building off their remarkable debuts, however, all three have taken significant steps backward.

What can we learn from their struggles in 2012? To answer this question, I used the filters available on the FanGraphs Leaderboards to identify players since 1992 who had similar seasons at a similar point in their careers, allowing us to see whether other players were able to bounce back, or whether this kind of regression was the sign of what would be a long-term problem.

Rather than simply looking at the results, I focused the filters on the metrics that most align with a player's development -- walk rate, strikeout rate, power, and age.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City

Comparable seasons: Jimmy Rollins (2002), Scott Spiezio (1997), Stephen Drew (2007), Pablo Sandoval (2010), Lastings Milledge (2008)

Hosmer's shown very good contact skills with a decent approach at the plate but minimal power, which is not usually the kind of skills you find in a young first baseman. In fact, the filter returns more middle infielders than anyone else, which says something about how poorly Hosmer has hit this year. Sandoval is the name on the list the Royals have to be clinging to, as he put a poor second season behind him and has developed into one of the better-hitting third basemen in the game. Unfortunately for Kansas City, Sandoval looks more like the exception than the rule.

Rollins and Drew eventually developed into good hitters compared to other shortstops, but they never hit as you'd want from a franchise first baseman. Spiezio had the most similar season from a statistical perspective, and while he improved to a degree, he spent his career as more of a role player than any kind of impact bat. Milledge was a highly touted prospect who never developed into what he was projected to be, and in turn was out of baseball by age 26.

Besides Sandoval, the list of comparable players is mostly made up of guys who were never more than league average hitters. Given Hosmer's position and expectations, he'll have to turn into more than that to live up to the hype.

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Steven Bisig/US Presswire
Ackley's proclivity for strikeouts should have Mariners brass worried he's the next Ben Davis.Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle

Comparable seasons: Royce Clayton (1994), Chad Allen (1999), Daric Barton (2008), Ben Davis (2001)

If you thought things were grim based on Hosmer's comps, the list of guys who had similar years to Ackley is even scarier.

Clayton stuck around the league for a long time because he was a good defensive shortstop, but he never turned into much of a hitter. Allen played in parts of seven seasons and was either replacement level or worse in six of them. Barton had one monster season two years later, then saw his offense take a nosedive and he is now toiling in Triple-A. Davis, like Ackley, had been selected No. 2 overall in his draft, but failed to ever turn into more than a part-time reserve catcher.

There are no Sandovals on this list, mostly because the combination of high strikeouts and low power is simply not an effective way to produce offense. To survive as a low power hitter in the big leagues, you have to get on base a lot, and that requires good contact skills. Ackley doesn't have the physique to become a slugger, so he's simply going to have to fix his strikeout problems if he's ever going to turn into a quality big league hitter.

Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay

Comparable seasons: Tony Armas Jr. (2001), Chad Billingsley (2009), Shawn Estes (1998), Gio Gonzalez (2010), Matt Cain (2006)

Finally, we get some good news. Moore's list is essentially a who's who of young pitchers with good stuff who just needed some refinement, with several examples of pitchers who took the necessary steps to become quality hurlers. Cain is probably the best possible outcome, as he's developed into a durable workhorse who now knows how to pound the strike zone, but I'm sure the Rays would be fine if Moore followed in Gio Gonzalez's steps as well.

Billingsley is more of a middle-of-the-road career path, as he's been inconsistent with the Dodgers. Estes and Armas are examples of what can go wrong, but there's plenty of success stories on the list of pitchers who had a similar down year after being loaded with expectations.

Pitchers tend to be ever-evolving, and one minor change can set off a major directional change in their careers. For Moore, even a small improvement in his command could start a large chain reaction on his results, allowing him to pitch ahead in the count more often and forcing hitters to chase a greater amount of pitches out of the strike zone.

Although Hosmer's going to have to figure out how to add some power to his game, and Ackley needs to figure out how to stop striking out, Moore simply needs to figure out how to attack the zone more regularly. Given what history has shown us, Moore looks like the one to bet on for the big rebound.

Top high schoolers to watch for 2013 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The talent at this year's Perfect Game All-American Game (still colloquially known as the "AFLAC game," although that company no longer sponsors the event) was down from previous years, a reflection of the thin crop of arms in the 2013 high school class. That said, the lineups at Petco Park on Sunday did offer a pretty good sample of the best bats available and most of the top arms were there as well.

• Center fielder Austin Meadows (Grayson HS, Grayson, Ga.) was by far the most impressive player in the game for me; only one other hitter could match his bat speed, he showed easy power, and is a plus runner. Meadows has extremely quick hands, so even though his setup is a little high he has zero trouble getting the bat head through the zone.

A left-handed hitter, the ball comes off his bat extremely well with good carry thanks to the natural loft in his swing. I had reports earlier this summer that he was struggling with off-speed stuff, but he had improved in that area by the East Coast Pro showcase two weeks ago. He also hung in against a lefty yesterday, taking a 91 mph fastball away for a single to left field.

• Outfielder Clint Frazier (Loganville HS, Loganville, Ga.) was the one hitter who could argue he had better bat speed than Meadows, although he doesn't have Meadows' power and is an above-average runner rather than plus. Frazier's swing is a little busy from setup to load, but he has lightning in his wrists and can get his hands started quickly from any position. He doesn't stride but his top half can drift forward, taking away a little power, and when he tries to over-rotate to drive the ball he tends to get under it. His bat speed is so good that he could hit for at least average power just by getting a more consistent swing and keeping his weight back better -- and he did that when driving a first-pitch fastball over the center fielder during the game.

• Outfielder Justin Williams (Terrabonne HS, Houma, La.) won the pregame home run derby, not surprising because, when he gets his hands and hips timed right, he's got easy power to line up with Meadows' and above-average bat speed of his own. Williams' load at the plate is pretty small and he doesn't always start from the same spot; with a wide base he also doesn't stride, something that, if changed slightly, could help his rhythm so that his swing path is more consistent.

• Kohl Stewart had the best fastball at the Area Code Games last week and had the best fastball on Sunday as well, sitting 92-95 with a plus changeup and below-average slider, even though during the spring his slider was the better off-speed pitch. He's committed to Texas A&M as a quarterback, but given his athleticism, his fairly easy delivery, and potential for three above-average to plus pitches, he's a possible top-10 overall pick for next year.

• Trey Ball (New Castle HS, New Castle, Ind.) was the most interesting prospect at the Area Code Games but didn't fare quite as well on Sunday, punching out in both at-bats and struggling a little with fastball command. He was 89-92 and showed some feel for a changeup and confidence in his curveball. His swing was loose and easy with good extension but he probably hasn't faced pitching of this caliber much before this summer.

(Aside: Ball's name is actually Trey Ball III, with the Roman numeral appearing on the back of his uniform, but at a glance I thought it said "BALL IN," a bit of wordplay using his home state's abbreviation. He should really go with my version.)

• The pitching overall was not as strong as previous years, when Perfect Game has generally fed scouts a steady diet of kids with plus fastballs. Three other arms of interest from Sunday were Brett Morales (King HS, Tampa), who was 91-93 with a fringy slider but battled well after loading the bases, fanning the next three batters; Chris Oakley (St. Augustine Prep, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.), who was 91-93 again with both a curve and changeup and really gets on top of the ball well to take advantage of his 6-foot-7 frame; and lefty Stephen Gonzalves (Cathedral Catholic, San Marcos, Calif.), who was 90-91 and has shown he can locate but needs to improve his breaking ball.

• Southpaw Robert Kaminsky (St. Joseph HS, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) has gotten a little bit of hype this summer, and I can see some of the reasons in that he's a lefty with present stuff, an 89-92 four-seamer and a hard downer curveball at 80-82 on Sunday. That said, he's 5-11 and I don't see any projection there, so his future grades are going to be very similar to his present ones, and there will be at least a half-dozen prep arms in this draft with higher upsides for teams that prefer to draft for ceiling.

• Two pitchers with good arms but deliveries I don't like: righty Kevin Davis (T.R. Miller HS, Brewton, Ala.), 92-93 with a decent curveball but a severe head-jerk at release; and lefty Jonah Wesely (Tracy H.S., Tracy, Calif.), 91-93 with what I assume was a spike curveball at 76-78, a max-effort guy with below-average command.

• Finally, Clinton Hollon (Woodford County HS, Lexington, Ky.) attended but did not pitch on Sunday due to a forearm/elbow injury sustained earlier this month at the East Coast Pro showcase. Hollon missed part of his junior season for academic reasons, so he has some red flags on his résumé to go with that power arm.
post #7551 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Is Josh Hamilton’s Plate Discipline Improving?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After brutal June and July performances, Josh Hamilton has performed well in the first few weeks of August, hitting .320/.382/.580 in 55 trips to the plate. According to both Hamilton and his coaches, the improvement is the direct result of his willingness to finally make adjustments in terms of which pitches to swing at. After months of hacking away at pitches well out of the strike zone, he’s finally learned his lesson.

“I’m just making my mind up that I’m going to try to focus better on taking more pitches and getting in better hitter’s counts,” Hamilton said. “You see the difference. My third at-bat, I struck out. He didn’t throw me a strike. I asked the umpire, ‘Did he throw any strikes?’ He said, ‘No.’ That was the difference, being patient and getting in good hitter’s counts and knowing that if they’re pitching it there, you can hit it instead of trying to make something happen. Just take your base and score runs.”

He’s definitely saying the right things, and his recent performance is a dramatic improvement. So, is Hamilton really becoming more selective?

Judge for yourself.

Month PA O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact%
April 96 42% 83% 57% 56% 82% 70%
May 111 44% 82% 58% 53% 81% 67%
June 107 39% 80% 56% 41% 75% 60%
July 91 44% 85% 60% 48% 77% 64%
August 55 39% 84% 57% 66% 77% 72%

His O-Swing% — the rate of pitches where he swings at a pitch classified as outside the strike zone by PITCHF/x — is at its lowest point of the season, but it was also at its lowest point in June, when he was terrible. His overall swing rate is pretty similar to where it’s been all season, so he’s not actually taking more pitches. In fact, Hamilton’s swing rate in August is the second highest in the Major Leagues (behind only Mike Morse), so the idea that he’s developing into a patient hitter who works counts doesn’t really seem to stand up to scrutiny.

However, in that same article, Richard Durrett gets an interesting quote from Ron Washington:

“It’s impossible to step in that box and see as many pitches as these guys see and not chase,” manager Ron Washington said. “You just have to minimize your chases and how far you chase them. He quit chasing them a mile out of the strike zone and is just chasing them a half a mile.”

While Hamilton claims that he’s not chasing as often — which seems to not really be true — Washington states that the difference is in the magnitude of the chase rather than the frequency. And this is a point where O-Swing% can’t help us that much, since it just provides a binary strike/not-strike classification for all pitches, no matter whether the pitch is an inch outside or a foot outside. There are obviously some non-strikes that are harder to hit than others, and if Hamilton is varying the types of out-of-zone pitches he swings at, that could have a legitimate impact on his results.

In fact, there is one line in the chart above that would seemingly line up with Washington’s assessment; the O-Contact%. In August, Hamilton’s rate of contact on pitches out of the zone that he chases is 66%, well north of where it was in June and July, and even higher than it was in the first two months of the season when he was crushing the baseball. His Z-Contact% — contact on pitches in the strike zone — isn’t really much different than it was during his slump, so almost the entirety of his improvement in August contact rate can be attributed to putting the bat on the ball more often when he reaches for pitches out of the zone.

This would seem to align with Washington’s observation – he’s chasing, but he’s chasing better pitches to hit. Thanks to, we can look at a breakdown of the locations of pitches in August that he’s taken and that he’s swung at.

There’s no question pitchers have been aggressively attacking Hamilton away, and because of his free-swinging tendencies, they’re going well off the plate with some frequency. But, you’ll notice that there’s not a single data point in the first plot that is to the left of the -2 inch line, meaning that Hamilton has taken 100% of the pitches he’s seen this month that are at least one inch outside the border of the strike zone, and he’s only chased four pitches that were both low and away according to PITCHF/x.

Now, compare that plot to this one from June, which is when Hamilton began his tailspin:

Not only was he chasing pitches that were more than an inch off the plate, but there’s a large cluster of pitches both down and away that he went after. Pitchers were throwing sliders, curves, and cutters that ended up at his ankles and well off the plate, and those are pitches that he just couldn’t get his bat on.

In the first two weeks of August, he’s done a better job of laying off that down-and-away breaking ball. In any two week sample, however, we also have to realize that he could have just faced a series of pitches who aren’t very good at throwing those types of pitches or missed their location, and the fact that he’s still swinging at about the same population of pitches that are away-but-not-low suggests that he’s not really a reformed hack just yet. Is he working on it? It seems like it, and given how bad he was in two months, it would be amazing if he didn’t try to make some adjustments. His results have improved, and there seems to be some evidence that he’s swinging at easier pitches to hit, but I don’t think the data supports the idea that he’s now working counts and forcing pitchers to throw him strikes.

Hamilton’s still an extremely aggressive hitter. His results have probably improved faster than his approach has changed, partly due to the fact that he’s a really talented hitter who can drive pitches that most players cannot. The data doesn’t support Hamilton’s self-evaluation as much as it does support Washington’s, but that’s okay – just swinging at better pitches out of the zone might be enough for Hamilton to succeed. He’s never going to be a guy who only swings at strikes. Getting him to swing at the right kinds of balls might be the best the Rangers can hope for.

Buster Posey Making Strong Case For NL MVP.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Giants took it on the chin Tuesday night, losing 14-2 to the Nationals. But that didn’t stop catcher Buster Posey from adding to the spectacular numbers he’s posted since the All-Star break: .457/.531/.787 with seven doubles and eight home runs in 113 plate appearances. His wRC+ over that time is an astounding 248. Simply put, he’s been the best hitter in baseball in the second half, and it’s not particularly close. Mike Trout — regularly regarded as “the best player on the planet” — has accumulated 2.3 WAR to Posey’s 2.6 over the past 30 days, and that’s with Posey’s catchers-legs base running and lower defensive rating.

For the season, Posey’s batting .332/.406/.547 with 19 home runs. His 158 wRC+ ranks fourth in the National League, behind Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, and Ryan Braun. He’s accumulated 5.0 WAR, good for fifth in the league, behind McCutchen, David Wright, Braun, and Michael Bourn. And again, Posey takes a hit for his base running.

McCutchen is likely considered the front runner for the National League MVP. His offensive numbers are gaudy: .362/.422/.609 with 23 home runs. His league-leading wRC+ sits at 175. The Pirates’ center fielder has accumulated 5.9 WAR, and that includes a negative defensive rating which is hard to understand if you, like me, regularly watch him roam the outfield for the Bucs. But McCutchen has cooled off a bit in the second half, at the same time Posey has amped it up. McCutchen’s second-half line sits at: .347/.427/.525 with four home runs.

If not for his knee injuries, Votto likely would have battled McCutchen for MVP honors to the end of the season, with their respective teams chasing the same National League Central title. But Votto’s been on the disabled list since just after the All-Star break and may not return until September.

Wright was in the discussion, too, particularly in the first half when the Mets were playing surprisingly competitive baseball. But New York’s season has taken an ugly turn in the second half even though Wright has continued to post very good numbers. Braun is having an almost identical season to 2011, when he beat out Matt Kemp for the National League MVP crown. But like Kemp’s Dodgers last season, Braun’s Brewers are not contenting this year. The seasons McCutchen and Posey are having for contending teams, coupled with his somewhat controversial win last season, likely knocks Braun out of the race.

Posey’s unearthly production in the second half has fueled the Giants’ re-invigorated offense. And that has helped keep San Francisco either tied for, or in sole possession of, first place in the National League West since the end of June. And Posey has done all of this while playing the most demanding defensive position on the field and quarterbacking the Giants’ very good starting rotation.

Posey’s played in 104 games to date. Only 81 of those have been as catcher; he’s played first base in the other games, save for three when he served as the designated hitter during interleague play. We’re likely to see a similar catcher-to-first baseman ratio for the Giants’ final 46 games, as manager Bruce Bochy works to keep Posey’s bat in the lineup while also giving his legs a rest. At this point, it’s easy to forget that Posey’s in his first season back after suffering a brutal and season-ending injury to his left ankle and lower leg last May. And while that’s more of a factor for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, I’d be surprised if some voters didn’t take that into account.

If Posey continues to produce as he has through the Giants’ first 116 games, he’d end the season with 6.94 WAR. That would land him on the list of Top 30 seasons in WAR by a catcher in the last 50 years. Johnny Bench‘s 1972 season with the Reds tops that list at 10.2 WAR. Bench won the MVP that year, as he had in 1970, the third-best season by a catcher since 1962 (8.7 WAR). Bench’s 1974 and 1975 seasons are also on the list, but he didn’t win MVP honors either of those seasons, losing out to Steve Garvey and teammate Joe Morgan, respectively. The Reds were in the postseason in 1970, 1972 and won the World Series in 1975.

Only three other catcher seasons in the Top 30 Since 1962 also resulted in MVP Awards: Joe Mauer with the Twins in 2009; Ivan Rodriguez with the Rangers in 1999, and Elston Howard with the Yankees in 1963. All three of those teams played in the postseason.

Mike Piazza has four seasons on the list (1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998). Gary Carter has three (1982, 1983 and 1984), and Joe Torre has two (1966 and 1970). None of the teams those catchers played for in those years made the postseason. None was awarded the MVP.

With a bit more than 25% of games still to be played, the competition for the 2012 NL MVP Award will be spirited. Andrew McCutchen is in the lead but Buster Posey is making a strong second-half push. The Pirates and Giants are in a similar position, each vying for their division title, but also competing with each other for one of the two wild cards. Fasten your seat belt. It’s going to be an exciting ride.

post #7552 of 73441
To sit or not to sit? That is the question.......

Rizzo seems firmly rooted in his stance on sitting Strasburg despite almost everyone involved disagreeing....I think he might be sticking to his word simply to save face and because of his pride/ego. mean.gif
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7553 of 73441
I think it's ridiculous and stupid. Must be frustrating.
post #7554 of 73441
I don't really see why he's being criticized. Management decided with consultation from his doctors that an innings cap would used in his first year back. Same went for Jordan, and everything worked out for him. So why would they abandon that plan if they thought it was the best thing for the health of his arm? I'd rather see them do right by the player. If they play him and his arm blows out then you've destroyed his career, his career earning potential, and all the on/off the field value he would have provided to your franchise in the next five seasons.

Potentially three teams from the AL East in the playoffs - one can only hope. Great win for the Birds last night. As for the Sox and Bobby V : roll.gif
post #7555 of 73441
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

I don't really see why he's being criticized. Management decided with consultation from his doctors that an innings cap would used in his first year back. Same went for Jordan, and everything worked out for him. So why would they abandon that plan if they thought it was the best thing for the health of his arm? I'd rather see them do right by the player. If they play him and his arm blows out then you've destroyed his career, his career earning potential, and all the on/off the field value he would have provided to your franchise in the next five seasons.
Potentially three teams from the AL East in the playoffs - one can only hope. Great win for the Birds last night. As for the Sox and Bobby V : roll.gif

But Strasburg wants to play.....I think it should be his choice.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7556 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Red Sox should let GM decide.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Some of the Boston Red Sox players who met with ownership about Bobby Valentine on July 26 are extremely media savvy. They've played in big markets and speak off and on the record at length to various reporters, and they had to know, as they gathered that day, that eventually word of this summit would get out.

Sure enough, less than a week later, Joel Sherman of the New York Post became the first to make reference to the players' discussion with their bosses: "Outside officials say the clubhouse dislike for Bobby Valentine is so intense, players lobbying ownership for a change is not an overstatement."

More details are out now, reinforcing for all to see the reality that has been in place for months: The Red Sox players don't want to play for Bobby Valentine, not in the way that the Chicago White Sox want to play for Robin Ventura or the Los Angeles Dodgers want to play for Don Mattingly.

The roots of Boston's sub-.500 performance are more deeply tied to the pitching of Josh Beckett and John Lester and the injuries to John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andrew Bailey. The Red Sox have $52 million invested in those five pitchers, and in return they've gotten 11 wins, 23 losses, just 225 innings and a 5.36 ERA.

But the poor relationship between Valentine and some of his players and some coaches is a daily virus for this organization, like a flu that never goes away. On a given day, they can all get their work done, but probably not to the best of their abilities. It is, as reported in June, a toxic mix. The Red Sox ownership has been taken aback by the level of discord, and John Henry is on record as saying he doesn't believe Valentine is responsible for the team's play, so it may be that the manager will last the season -- especially given that in Boston, the players are taking the brunt of the criticism in the last 24 hours. Ownership may be leery of the perception that the inmates are running the asylum.

But there will be a day when Henry must decide what direction he wants to take and whether it's smart to continue with Valentine as the manager for the 2013 season. Henry should draw from an example set by his old friend George Steinbrenner, in the last years of Steinbrenner's life.

In the fall of 2005, the contract of New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman was set to expire, and he was ready to leave after spending seven years fighting to operate through the maze of advisors and friends and office politics that Steinbrenner created with his manic management style.

As part of what Cashman thought was his exit conversation with Steinbrenner, Cashman gave his recommendation to the man who had given him his first job in baseball. The Red Sox had surpassed the Yankees with the strength of their organization, Cashman told Steinbrenner, in their player development and evaluation, and if the Yankees wanted to keep up, they needed a more defined chain of command, with others answering to a general manager who answered to Steinbrenner.

By that fall, Steinbrenner had started to fail, with his memory and his cognitive abilities in regression; he was uncertain in a way he had never been before. But after hearing Cashman's vision of the changes needed, Steinbrenner told Cashman he wanted Cashman to make those recommended alterations, not a new GM.

Steinbrenner and Cashman had a tumultuous relationship, with the two men sometimes screaming at each other. But Steinbrenner trusted Cashman and longtime Yankee Gene Michael in a way he didn't trust others, because he believed no matter what happened, Cashman and Michael would make decisions with clean motives: They would do what was best for the organization, for the Yankees. There might be arguments, there might be fights, there might be disagreements, but Steinbrenner thought that, at heart, Cashman and Michael were loyal to the Yankees, and that they were not basing their suggestions on an effort to curry favor with Steinbrenner or to strengthen organizational alliances or weaken enemies in the office.

This is why Henry should turn to general manager Ben Cherington in the same way that Steinbrenner turned to Cashman. Henry should give full control of the team's baseball operations to Cherington, because the owner should know that above all else, Cherington is devoted to doing what's right for the Red Sox.

In Henry's decade-long stewardship of the team, Cherington has steered clear of Boston's thick culture of palace intrigue. There has been so much in-fighting, joked an AL executive, that interns are probably asked to take the first drink from each chalice -- for fear of poisoning.

For example: As soon as Theo Epstein departed as general manager last fall, leaving a power vacuum in the baseball operations, president Larry Lucchino stepped into the process of the managerial hiring and served as Valentine's patron saint -- something that never would have happened if Epstein had remained.

Cherington's short track record of decisions isn't flawless, because the GM with a perfect record doesn't exist. But Henry can trust that as Valentine's situation is evaluated, Cherington will make a fair-minded recommendation on whether the manager should be retained. Cherington would weigh the clubhouse culture and, moving forward, he could present a clear-headed array of options from which Henry could choose.

Cherington is known among rival general managers as a good and decent person; he's known for his honesty.

This is the type of perspective that Henry should be grabbing for, as he tries to figure out how to pull the Red Sox out of an ugly chapter in their history.

Josh Beckett had another bad outing, and the Red Sox were crushed.

Dustin Pedroia said he doesn't want Valentine to be fired. Valentine continues to talk himself into trouble, writes John Tomase. The meeting adds to the Red Sox drama, writes Tim Britton.

Christopher Gasper think Valentine needs to be fired.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info

5: wins, in as many starts, for Chad Billingsley since the All-Star Break; Billingsley was 4-9 before the break.
6: shutouts in MLB Tuesday, the most on any one day in the 2012 season. The last time there were at least six shutouts on one day was May 14, 2011 (six).
9: consecutive 100-RBI seasons for Miguel Cabrera, the 10th different player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
45: single-season hit streaks of 10-plus games in the career of Derek Jeter, the 4th-most double-digit single-season hit streaks since 1903 (Ty Cobb, 66; Hank Aaron, 48; Tris Speaker, 47).

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Don't bet on the Washington Nationals calling up prospect Anthony Rendon.

2. The New York Mets added catcher Kelly Shoppach.

3. Kevin Gausman was promoted to High-A.

4. The Baltimore Orioles are preparing to move left-hander Brian Matusz into a bullpen role.

5. Brian Fuentes left the St. Louis Cardinals, and they do not expect him to be back.

6. Lorenzo Cain was shifted down in the lineup.

7. Ben Dozier was sent to the minors.

8. Mike Butcher was suspended.

9. The Seattle Mariners look like they have a catcher on the fast track, writes Larry Stone.

Dings and dents

1. Joey Votto won't return until he's 100 percent.

2. Ian Desmond could come off the disabled list Friday, writes Adam Kilgore.

3. Matt Garza's season could be over.

4. Dallas Braden is going to have surgery.

5. Mike Napoli is eager for a quick return.

6. Matt Diaz is headed for surgery.

7. Ben Sheets is dealing with a dead arm.

AL East notes

• Hiroki Kuroda threw a complete game.

From ESPN Stats and Info, how Kuroda shut out the Rangers:

A) Seventeen of the 22 balls in play against Kuroda (77 percent) were hit on the ground, his highest percentage in the last four seasons.
B) Kuroda matched a season-low by going to only two three-ball counts.
C) Twelve of the 14 balls in play (86 percent) against Kuroda's fastball were hit on the ground. Kuroda threw only 18 percent of fastballs in the upper third of the zone or higher, his second-lowest percentage of the season.
D) Kuroda threw 35 percent sliders, his fifth-highest percentage of the season. Ninety percent of Kuroda's sliders were in the outer third of the strike zone or further outside.

• Mark Reynolds mashed a couple of homers.

• The Rays' winning streak ended, and they had their guts ripped out.

AL Central notes

• Jeremy Guthrie was dominant.

• Doug Fister was unfazed. The Tigers' relievers need relief, writes Drew Sharp.

• Ubaldo Jimenez was shelled.

• A.J. Pierzynski keeps doing great stuff for the White Sox, as Darly Van Schouwen.

AL West notes

• Zack Greinke picked up his first win with the Los Angeles Angels.

• Jarrod Parker had another tough day.

From ESPN Stats and Info: Parker's ascension was a big reason for the Athletics' success so far this season, as he went 5-3 with a 2.46 ERA in his first 13 starts. He looks like he might be running out of gas, though, as he has a 6.15 ERA in his last seven starts and failed to make it through five innings on Tuesday. Most importantly, he's now at 121 1/3 innings, and he's never exceeded 135 2/3 in his professional career.

• Eric Thames and the Mariners got to frolic.

• Josh Hamilton wasn't happy with the Rangers' plate discipline.

NL East notes

• Washington was shut down.

• Kyle Kendrick was The Man for the Philadelphia Phillies, writes Matt Gelb.

• The Mets had another bad day, as Andy Martino writes.

• Tim Hudson was dominant.

• The Miami Marlins have stopped scoring runs.

NL Central notes

• The Pittsburgh Pirates are slumping.

• Joe Kelly bounced back for the Cardinals.

• Jay Bruce got it done for the Cincinnati Reds.

• The Milwaukee Brewers tried to mount a comeback.

• Chris Volstad is still looking for a win.

• The Houston Astros had a nice game.

NL West notes

• Chad Billingsley was outstanding, as Dylan Hernandez writes.

• The Giants' lineup looks like a winner, with Brandon Belt part of the middle.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks just keep drifting.

• The Colorado Rockies won a series for the first time in 2 1/2 months.

• The San Diego Padres were blanked.

Time for O's to call up Bundy.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the Baltimore Orioles promoted top positional prospect Manny Machado last week, there was a lot of debate as to whether or not the 20-year-old infielder was ready for the big leagues after just 928 minor league plate appearances. He's proven them right so far, but what is beyond debate is that the Orioles acted aggressively, which brought up the obvious question: If Machado, then why not Dylan Bundy?

For those who have missed it, Bundy is the 19-year-old phenom who has taken the lower levels of the minor leagues by storm. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft had a 0.00 ERA in eight starts for Low Class A Delmarva, and while he was more of a mortal at High-A Frederick, he was bumped up to Double-A Bowie with a 1.92 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings total innings this season.

His fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, both his curveball and changeup are advanced, and for much of the season he hasn't been allowed to throw his low-90s cutter, which many believe is his best pitch. For many, Bundy is the best pitching prospect in baseball.

And when you look at all the circumstances, ranging from the Orioles' unlikely playoff odds and Bundy's current innings count, it's pretty clear that Baltimore should figure out a way to use him in the majors down the stretch. In fact, their division rival gave them a template just a few years ago.

Bundy made his Double-A debut last night with plenty of Orioles officials, and even Jim Thome, in attendance. He allowed a pair of home runs in 5 1/3 innings while striking out three. He has some occasional command issues, but some in attendance believe they saw a few cutters come out of his hand, which could be something to read into in terms of preparing him for a major-league role. Everything is certainly lining up for Baltimore in terms of Bundy's talent, workload and even a precedent to follow.

"The are two questions to ask if you are Baltimore," said a National League official in terms of a potential Bundy call-up. "The first is will the stuff play, and the second is can he handle it emotionally. The answers to the first one seems to be a resounding 'yes.' "

During the spring, the Orioles bandied about an innings count of somewhere around 120 for Bundy. Even with Monday night's outing, he's at just 89 2/3 innings, which leaves another 30-plus in the bank. He'll likely make three more Eastern League starts for Bowie, which will put him somewhere in the neighborhood of 105 innings at the start of September.

Bundy's peers?
The four modern-era teenagers who have pitched in the postseason, including their regular-season MLB innings that year.

Player Season MLB IP
Bert Blyleven 1970 164
Ken Brett 1968 2
Don Drysdale 1956 99
Don Gullett 1970 77 2/3

Scouts believe Bundy could have value in the big leagues right now, at a level ranging from solid-to-big impact, and there's a model for how to use him. In 2008, the best pitching prospect in baseball was David Price, the first overall pick in 2007. Across three levels, Price threw 109 2/3 innings during the minor-league regular season. In the midst of a historic season '08 season for the Tampa Bay Rays, Price came up in September as a bullpen arm. He ended up throwing 5 1/3 innings of relief in his debut, coming in after a disastrous start in Yankee Stadium by Edwin Jackson, and other than a spot start in September, he was used in short stints of 14 to 31 pitches.

Price was exclusively a reliever in the '08 playoffs, throwing 5 2/3 innings in five games, including a dramatic save in Game 7 of the ALCS against Boston. He still threw fewer than 130 innings that season, the Rays never wavered from developing him as a starter, and he spent the majority of the following year in the rotation.

"I love the idea of Baltimore bringing up Bundy in a Price-like role," said another National League executive. "But they have to let him throw that cutter, and the one difference that I'd wonder about is that Price was 23 years old at the time. Bundy is 19."

Only four teenagers have pitched in the postseason, and three of them spent a good amount of the regular season that year in the big leagues (see table). Yes, Bundy is just 19, but he's lauded for his maturity and work ethic, has already spent spring training with the big league club and because he received a big-league contract when signing last August, moving him to Baltimore requires no roster shenanigans.

The Orioles are in the midst of their own historic season, in the sense that they haven't had a winning season since 1997 -- when the first Playstation was the hot video game console, Hanson's MMMBop topped the charts and Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak was still alive.

Bundy can help Baltimore right now as either a starter or reliever. Scouts think he could get hitters out now in one-inning stints, and even as a starter, simply five strong innings four times in September could represent a massive upgrade over what the back of the current rotation has been supplying of late.

You have the potential to make a bit of history Baltimore, and Dylan Bundy has about 30 innings left. Use them wisely.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Limits for Samardzija
PM ETJeff Samardzija | Cubs Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Chicago Cubs' brass is keeping a close eye on the workload of right-hander Jeff Samardzija and couldpotemtially shut him down, reports Bruce Levine of

Samardzija has tallied nearly 140 frames this season, almost 30 more than he has ever before, so at some point in September he very well could be shut down.

"We're monitoring things and talking about it, but it is not something we have engaged him on,%u201D Theo Epstein said. %u201CWe have just let him go, but we have (the whole staff) talking about it. We will do what is best for him long term.%u201D

If you're counting on Samardzija in fantasy ball, make some changes, because it;s highly unlikely he makes it through the end of the season.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Chicago Cubs, Jeff Samardzija
Wallace's future with Astros
AM ETBrett Wallace | Astros Recommend0Comments0EmailBrett Wallace is getting another shot from the Houston Astros and and making the most it thus far.

Wallace struggled in his first few stints in the big leagues but is batting nearly .400 this time around. Skipper Brad Mills has Wallace playing third base, too, a position for which Wallace will soon qualify for fantasy purposes.

With Chris Johnson being traded to Arizona, the Astros have an opening at the hot corner, so it appears Wallace is their first choice and could spend all of 2013 there -- if he continues to hit.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Houston Astros, Brett Wallace
New names for winter deals?
AM ETFuture Trade Candidates Recommend0Comments2EmailWhile several names rumored to be on the trade block this summer that didn't get moved may again be shopped this offseason, there are likely to be new names surfacing once the 2012 season is over and clubs look to reshape their rosters.

Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Josh Johnson, Matt Garza and Justin Upton could again be available, but so could Kansas City's Billy Butler, as the Royals search for impact starting pitching, as well as Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo and Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, two names that were mentioned but talks reportedly did not go very far in either instance.

Both Choo and Ellsbury will be a free agents after 2013, while Butler is signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015. The Royals could entertain offers for Gordon rather than Butler, especially if rivals hold out for a more valuable player -- Gordon can play the field well while Butler is relegated to DH duties -- in return for pitching. Prospect Wil Myers could replace Gordon in the field and eventually as a productive bat, if not right away.

Hunter Pence, who was traded to the Giants last month, could be on the move again as his 2013 salary figures to be north of $13 million via arbitration.

Jed Lowrie could also be shopped over the winter, as could fellow shortstop Yunel Escobar, Arizona outfielder Gerardo Parra. A player such as Upton, Butler, Gordon or Baltimore's J.J. Hardy, could be candidates for trade next summer if things fall just right, including health, performance and the development of players behind them.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Upton, Jed Lowrie, Gerardo Parra, J.J. Hardy
Update on Braden, Anderson
AM ETOakland Athletics Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Oakland Athletics are stacked with starting pitching but while they may get left-hander Brett Anderson back next week to add to that depth, southpaw Dallas Braden will need more surgery and will not pitch in 2012, reports Susan Slusser.

Anderson is slated for one more rehab start with Triple-A Sacramento and could rejoin the big club next week in the heat of the team's Wildcard chase.

Braden's surgery is considered exploratory, manager Bob Melvin said, so he should be ready for spring training come February.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Oakland Athletics, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden
No. 1 prospect to the show?
AM ETTexas Rangers Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Texas Rangers are considering calling up top prospect Jurickson Profar from Double-A Frisco, writes T.R. Sullivan of

The Rangers' timing with such a move could come as early as Monday as late as September when rosters expand. Sullivan explains that the clubs has just three players on their bench right now but when the current road trip ends will likely go back to a 4-man bench, at which time Profar could be the call-up.

The switch-hitting shortstop is widely considered among the very best prospects in the game and could eventually push Elvis Andrus out the door via trade, or even switch positions to second base or center field simply to get him on the field everyday.

The 19-year-old is batting .285/.363/.470 with 14 home runs and 15 steals this season, and could spell Andrus at shortstop, Ian Kinsler at second base and pinch run late in games, if he's summoned ahead of other candidates such as Brandon Snyder, Leonys Martin, Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre. Each of the four on already on the 40-man roster, whereas Profar is not. The Rangers have room, however, so that shouldn't be a factor in the decision making process.

- Jason A. Churchill

Keith Law
Profar at the top

"Profar has the ultimate mark of an elite prospect. He keeps improving even as he is challenged with better competition. In this case, the Rangers jumped the 19-year-old two levels to Double-A, where he has continued to hit for average, get on base, make contact, show surprising power for his size, hit from both sides of the plate and play plus defense. There's no real hole in his game, and he looks as if he'll be more than ready for the majors before he turns 21 -- another mark of a potential superstar -- if the Rangers can create a spot for him."
Tags:Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Julio Borbon, Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers
Morrow's return
AM ETBrandon Morrow | Blue Jays Recommend0Comments0EmailBrandon Morrow tossed a strong 4 2/3 innings on rehab Monday and could be activated as early as next week after one more start in the minors.

Morrow will likely replace left-hander Aaron Laffey in the rotation, sending the journeyman back to the bullpen. Carlos Villanueva would have been another candidate, but he's throwing the ball very well right now and appears to have earned the right to continue starting.

Morrow's arm should be fresh, so he could be lightning in a bottle down the stretch, though it appears to be to little, too late for the Jays' playoff hopes.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, Carlos Villanueva, Aaron Laffey, Brandon Morrow
First rounder to bigs?
AM ETWashington Nationals Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Washington Nationals have promoted 2011 first-round pick Anthony Rendon to Double-A Harrisburg, reports Byron Kerr of Rendon missed several weeks this season due to injury and has now been promoted three times since returning earlier this summer.

Rendon, 22, was the top pure college bat in the draft class but came with an injury history and concerns that his big power wouldn't play as much in pro ball and with the wood bat. He's healthy now -- we'll see if he can stay off the disabled list -- but he's yet to be challenged by solid pitching.

Manager Davey Johnson adds to the news of Rendon's promotion by say the infielder "might be" a candidate for a September call-up when rosters expand, tweets Amanda Comack.

Rendon could otherwise be big league ready sometime in 2013 and may be an option at first base, a position the Nationals do not have a young player penciled in at for the long haul. He's very capable at third, however, so if Ryan Zimmerman continues to struggle to stay off the DL himself, Rendon could help at that position, too.

There's been talk that Rendon could learn to play second base, but considering his leg and ankle injuries, such a transition may not be in the cards. Rendon has played third base or served as the DH in each of his games played in pro ball thus far.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche
Indians to eye hitters
AM ETCleveland Indians Recommend0Comments0EmailWhile we have yet to complete our installation of a Rumor Central wiretap on the phone lines of Cleveland Indians GM Chris Antonetti and his staff -- wink.gif -- skipper Manny Acta is talking about the club's future and potentially cluing us in on their winter plans.

Tuesday on SiriusXM Radio with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, Acta said the club needs three hitters and a starting pitcher to compete in the American League Central. That's quite a tall order, but it's interesting nonetheless.

One of the bats probably has to come at first base, while an outfielder and possibly a third baseman could also be on the wish list. Lonnie Chisenhall could claim the hot corner with consistent play, but he's been on the disabled list most of the season with an arm injury and subsequent surgery.

Among the possible free agents the Indians could make a play for include Mike Napoli, but the club's reluctance to greatly expand payroll may force Antonetti to go the trade route, especially considering the arbitration raises due several key players such as Shin-Soo Choo, which nullifies the savings stemming from the declining of club option on Travis Hafner and the expiring contract of Grady Sizemore.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians
Six-man rotation in Queens?
AM ETNew York Mets Recommend0Comments0EmailIn order to better rest Johan Santana and Chris Young, New York Mets manager Terry Collins is considering a six-man starting rotation.

What Collins will not do down the stretch is use R.A. Dickey on short rest regularly, and if the club does decide to go to six starters, Jeremy Hefner is the likely No. 6 starter.

Collins says the team has not decided for sure if or when such a plan would be implemented and that the team is concerned with disrupting the schedules of Dickey and Jon Niese.

If they go to a six-man staff, fantasy owners will need to adjust accordingly, though it's possible they could do a four and two setup where Niese and Dickey always pitch on regular rest and everyone else gets an extra day or two. Stay tuned.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Jeremy Hefner, New York Mets, Chris Young, Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese
McDonald to the 'pen?
AM ETJames McDonald | Pirates Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Pittsburgh Pirates have a week remaining on their 20-game stretch without a day off and skipper Clint Hurdle says the club will return to a five-man rotation at that point, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune. That means someone will lose their starting spot and be sent to the bullpen.

Biertempfel opines that right-hander James McDonald may be the odd-man out due to his struggles since the All-Star break. McDonald has posted an 8.71 ERA in 31 innings in the past month, suggesting he's the weak link right now.

Kevin Correia could be another candidate to move to the bullpen but he's been string of late and the club is still trying to hang onto a Wildcard berth, a race in which they lead heading into Wednesday's games.

- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh Pirates, James McDonald
How much money for Wright?
AM ETDavid Wright | Mets Recommend0Comments0EmailThird baseman David Wright says he likes the direction the New York Mets are headed and is hopeful and optimistic that the two sides can agree on a long-term extension, writes Mike Puuma of the New York Post. The question, despite Wright saying money would not be the deciding factor, now becomes about the dollars.

Wright has had a rebound season and is could be in line for a deal similar to that of Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Despite Zimmerman being nearly two years younger than Wright, his contract does not begin until 2014, when he'll be about as old as Wright will be this winter when am extension is most likely to occur.

The six-year, $100 million pact the Nats gave their third baseman, may be a bit steep for the Mets on a 30-year-old player, but that is the going rate. Perhaps Wright will be amenable to a five-year deal in the $80 million range, but it's difficult to imagine anything less than that getting it done.

The Mets have cleared payroll space in recent months by trading Carlos Beltran, letting Jose Reyes leave via free agency and avoiding big-money free agents, suggesting they have the available monies to make a fair offer to Wright and keep him around.

The alternative is to shop Wright's services over the winter and try to add multiple pieces to the puzzle. Wright's contract is not up until after 2013 due to a club option for $16 million, making a trade plausible, though not likely.

- Jason A. Churchill
post #7557 of 73441
Why? When players sign for a team they are entrusting their development to that team. Players don't usually know what's best for them, and Stras doesn't have the data or medical knowledge to make the most informed call.
post #7558 of 73441
Thread Starter 
On the Strasburg point - they traded away their high end pitching prospect for Gio, what happens is he goes down again with an injury next year? There's too much risk and not enough upside IMO.
post #7559 of 73441
DC hasn't been involved in a penant race for a long long time, the city would revolt if the Nats miss the playoffs or drop in the standings with Stras on the bench.
post #7560 of 73441
Melky is done for the year. Suspended 50 games.

******g idiot.
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
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