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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 269

post #8041 of 73654
But he still throws out baserunners like no other.
post #8042 of 73654

man i cant believe my phillies after this weekend, the ****** astros how do you lose to a AA and AAA team is beyond me


Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   







Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   





post #8043 of 73654

What are the O's chances of making the post season? And if they make it there you think they will be able to do any damage?

post #8044 of 73654
Thread Starter 
Who will get Josh Hamilton?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A general manager preparing for the offseason recently asked others in his organization what they thought of Josh Hamilton, and of course, the response was nothing but raves for Hamilton as a player. They talked about the damage he can do at the plate, his ability to carry a team, his ridiculous strength. Hamilton leads the majors with 42 homers and 123 RBIs, and it's within the realm of possibility that he'll finish the year with 50 homers and 140 RBIs.

But Hamilton's ability as a hitter is almost a given, so the next question the GM asked might be the more important one, and maybe even the most-asked question of the offseason:

How many years in a contract would you give Hamilton?

If Major League Baseball's contracts were structured like those in the NFL, Hamilton would draw some level of interest from almost all teams on a short-term deal. But baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, unlike NFL contracts, so if Hamilton went into serious regression or had some sort of lingering off-field issues, his next team could be on the hook for years.

The Texas Rangers clearly have their doubts about how long they want to invest in Hamilton, because they are preparing for Plan Bs: They have done background work on Justin Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury and others, knowing they may be in the market for an impact outfielder if somebody outbids them for Hamilton.

"I think they already have a very defined set of parameters on what they want to do with him," an AL official said last week. "I don't think they'll budge from those."

Does that mean they'll offer him a high salary for two years? Three? Four? Hamilton turned 31 in May, and the Rangers have the strongest sense of how much his off-field issues are a day-to-day factor. Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry played together with the Yankees and they both were, by definition, recovering addicts. The Yankees didn't worry about Raines at all; on the other hand, Strawberry's demons lingered.

Where does Hamilton stand? For a team that will be asked to invest $20 million to $25 million annually during the course of a multiyear deal, it's a major consideration.

One executive said earlier this summer: "He's so athletic, and there isn't anything he can't do on a baseball field. But he was out of the game for a long time because of [his substance-abuse problems], and you have to ask, what kind of a toll did that take on his body?"

The potential market for Hamilton is murky. The Los Angeles Dodgers are out, having locked themselves into an outfield of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford (and even before adding Crawford, they had no intention of bidding on Hamilton this winter). The Los Angeles Angels would seem to be a long shot, given their relative glut of OF-DH types: Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells, Kendrys Morales. Torii Hunter has expressed a desire to come back, too, and he's a productive player.

The Boston Red Sox have the money to sign Hamilton, having created the payroll flexibility with the Adrian Gonzalez/Josh Beckett/Crawford trade, but it makes no sense for Boston to veer away from pricey contracts on older players -- then immediately dive back into another long-term deal with a player beyond his 30th birthday. Boston is probably out.

The New York Yankees have money to spend, always, but their offseason focus will be on locking up Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, within the confines of the luxury-tax cap (a prospect that could change dramatically if the Yankees don't make the playoffs.) The New York Mets are expected to be very conservative in their player movement this winter, as they wait for the Johan Santana and Jason Bay deals to expire.

The Philadelphia Phillies don't have a lot of payroll flexibility, given their long-term investments in Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. The St. Louis Cardinals' payroll already includes significant obligations to Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday, and available funds will be devoted to pitching.

There are many teams that wouldn't conceive of taking on a massive long-term contract: Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins (who have been in cutback mode after bloating their payroll last winter), Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays.

Milwaukee's focus is on starting pitching. The Houston Astros have money to spend and really could use a marquee name to draw some fans -- as we've seen in the Roger Clemens flirtations -- but to date, the Astros have signaled their intentions to build organically. The Minnesota Twins are paying Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

That leaves the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. Atlanta has some expiring contracts, with the retirement of Chipper Jones and the impending free agency of Michael Bourn, but its budget hasn't grown beyond the $85 million to $90 million range in years; it's hard to imagine the Braves extending themselves for Hamilton, who would be another left-handed hitter in a lineup that already is heavy in lefties.

If the Nationals have one need, it's for a true center fielder, and given the team's long-term investment in corner outfielders Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, the pursuit of Hamilton seems highly unlikely.

The Cubs are at the outset of a long-term rebuilding plan and may not be competitive for a couple of years, at least, so paying Hamilton $20 million to $25 million would make little sense other than to provide a Sammy Sosa-like presence for the daily matinees. Keep in mind, too, that team president Theo Epstein has spoken of veering off course in his last years in Boston, when the Red Sox signed players to long-term, big-money deals -- and that last winter, the Cubs never really got serious about Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.

The Giants' future business model is to build around pitching and Buster Posey, and there will be efforts made to get Posey locked up to a long-term deal. As with the Cubs, it's possible for the Giants to find budget space for Hamilton, but the guess here is that if San Francisco has interest in Hamilton, it will be conservative.

The Orioles have made some inroads toward winning back their fans. But manager Buck Showalter places a high value on stability and predictability, so as long as he has an influential voice, signing Hamilton -- who in the last days of the regular season could reach 150 games played for the second time in his career -- wouldn't seem to be his typical choice.

The Mariners could use Hamilton's power, of course, but it's unclear whether Seattle will be in the market for a big-money free agent -- or whether Hamilton would be open to the idea, because a lot of marquee hitters have had no interest in going to Safeco Field.

The White Sox have salary flexibility forthcoming, with the contracts of Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski set to expire. But while Chicago has players in the $12 million to $14 million range in Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, there has been no indication they are ready to jump into the $20 million to $25 million neighborhood.

Detroit? "They're always the wild card, aren't they?" a GM said.

Yep. And Hamilton could play left field for the Tigers, given Austin Jackson's presence in center field. Only Mike Illitch knows if he'd be willing to give yet another slugger huge dollars, as he did with Fielder last winter.

All it took for Fielder to get a $214 million contract was the sudden and surprising interest of Detroit. All that Pujols needed to get a $248 million deal was the sudden and surprising interest of Angels owner Arte Moreno.

That's all it will take for Hamilton. But there would appear to be a very confined field of potential bidders.

How Braves learned from 2011 collapse.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ATLANTA -- There was a basketball court of sorts set up in the Braves' clubhouse on Saturday, with two shopping carts positioned as baskets on opposite sides of the room, about 20 feet apart. The object was to fire the ball into the top part of the cart -- where a toddler would sit -- and with great focus and intensity and laughter, various Atlanta players took turns attempting to successfully drop high-arcing shots into that very small space.

Dan Uggla was consistently good at this; Freddie Freeman got better when he made more athletic moves, rather than standing still as if he was shooting free throws. Craig Kimbrel had his right shoulder wrapped as part of his daily treatment and tried shooting with his left hand, which was unfortunate.

The players laughed with and at each other as this went on, and it was in the midst of that hilarity that one of them raised the subject of last September's collapse with a reporter.

"Hey, it happened," the veteran said. "There's no sense in avoiding the topic."

And they don't. It's just an acknowledged element of their shared history, in the way that an employee remembers the job interview he botched before joining his current company, or how a divorced man jokes about the alimony paid to an ex-wife. The context for the present is provided by the past.

Fredi Gonzalez will tell you flatly that he learned from what happened last September. This September, he's been much less patient with the status quo and much more willing to make changes. Uggla was benched, and the slumping and injured Brian McCann was moved down in the lineup. Ben Sheets pitched well and was in the rotation, but then he struggled and has now been shifted into the bullpen.

Because of the near-complete collapse of what had been one of the best bullpens in the majors last season, Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters each have about 20 fewer appearances than they did a year ago. Last year, those three pitchers had been used so often that they had almost nothing left down the stretch; this September, they are all throwing well.

Kimbrel struck out the side with 10 pitches Friday, with a ferocity that was striking to some of his teammates, and he got three strikeouts again Saturday.

"Everybody in the ballpark knows a fastball is coming," said Uggla, "and it doesn't matter."

Dating back to Aug. 28, Kimbrel has struck out 24 of the 36 batters he has faced, allowing four hits, two walks and one run. He has 104 strikeouts in 55.1 innings this season, with 23 hits and 14 walks. O'Flaherty has an 0.47 ERA in the second half and hasn't allowed an earned run since July 13. Venters struggled earlier this season, raising questions about whether he had recovered from his 2011 workload, but he's allowed runs in only two of his 20 appearances since the All-Star break.

The Braves were swept in Milwaukee earlier this week, raising questions about whether another collapse was in the making. But they beat the Washington Nationals on Friday and again on Saturday. What happened last year will always be a part of the Braves' shared history, but they are working to create something new.

Chipper Jones walked into the room Saturday, aimed a shot at the shopping cart and drilled his first and only attempt, and raised an arm in celebration, the same thing you see when he hits a walk-off. The other players reacted loudly, not all of them generously.

It's the same team, but a different time for all of them.

The Braves rallied in a big way Saturday.

A call went against the Nationals here Saturday, and what followed was a lot of ugliness, Adam Kilgore writes.

In the Nationals' clubhouse, a thick skin is required.

McCann is day-to-day with knee tendinitis.


• A week ago, Clayton Kershaw arrived at the ballpark in San Francisco determined to show that he could pitch that night, that the discomfort he felt in his hip area wouldn't stop him. He played catch and jogged, but Don Mattingly decided to give Kershaw a couple of extra days, and the pitcher was furious about this. He wanted to pitch against the Giants that night.

But it turns out that his injury is much more serious than he thought. Kershaw could be out for the rest of the season after being scratched from his Saturday start. Kershaw is going to see a hip expert.

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat St. Louis anyway with a late-inning comeback to move into a tie with the Cardinals for the second wild card.

St. Louis had a chance to push its lead to two games, but Jason Motte blew a save and the Cardinals dropped into a tie with the Dodgers.

From Joe Strauss' story:

Instead of taking a two-game lead over the Dodgers, the Cardinals find themselves tied for the NL's second wild-card berth entering the final game of a 1-5 road trip. Saturday's outcome also assured the Dodgers of winning the teams' season series, meaning any playoff for the berth will require the Cardinals returning here for an October 4 play-in.

"It gets pretty simple now: We have to win. We need to come out and win tomorrow," said left fielder Matt Holliday. "They beat us tonight. It's not fun. There's not a lot else to say."

[Daniel] Descalso called it "a must win." Several players questioned umpire Doug Eddings' safe call at second base when [Dee] Gordon stole his way into scoring position after replacing Andre Ethier at first base.

"He missed the call. I know he missed it," said catcher Yadier Molina, who also thought he stopped Shane Victorino's first-inning steal attempt before Victorino scored the Dodgers' first run. "I know those guys (umpires) have a tough job to do. But those calls cost us the game. Gordon was out. The ball was there. The tag was there."

Another player who saw the replay asserted the same thing as he left the clubhouse. Regardless, the Cardinals were left reeling from a piece of inspiration turned bad.

The loss left manager Mike Matheny draped over the dugout rail for a long minute as his players cleared. The clubhouse remained closed for 15 minutes afterward with the manager still inconsolable when the doors opened.

Chris Carpenter threw a 90-pitch simulated game Saturday and is expected to return to the rotation in the week ahead.

• Ozzie Guillen believes he'll be back as the Marlins' manager in 2013, writes Joe Capozzi.

• There are questions about Jim Leyland's future with the Tigers, writes Tom Gage.

• Here's a thought: The Oakland Athletics might be the best team in baseball. They are within two games of the Texas Rangers in the AL West after beating Baltimore on Saturday, as Susan Slusser writes.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how A's starter Jarrod Parker beat the Orioles:

A. Parker tied a season high with eight outs on his changeup. While his changeup is usually reserved for lefties, he threw a season-high 21 percent to righties Saturday.
B. Orioles hitters swung at 20 of Parker's 49 pitches (41 percent) that were out of the strike zone, the second-highest percentage for Parker this year.
C. Five of the seven outs Parker recorded on pitches out of the zone came on his changeup.
D. Seventy-five percent of his second pitches went for strikes, and despite starting 14 hitters with a first-pitch ball, he went to just four three-ball counts.

Teams that have the greatest need for a win today:

1. The Los Angeles Angels, who had their guts ripped out Saturday in the span of four pitches. They are 3½ games out in the wild-card race.

2. The Tampa Bay Rays, who are now hanging on the precipice after losing to the New York on Yankees on Saturday. The Rays appear to be headed for an early knockout, writes Martin Fennelly.

3. The Cardinals, who've lost the past two games to the Dodgers.

4. The Philadelphia Phillies, who are squandering a great chance to gain ground in Houston.

5. The Pittsburgh Pirates, now just a half-game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers but still two games behind St. Louis.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Sheldon Ocker wonders what the Indians should do with Chris Perez and Ubaldo Jimenez.

2. Scott Feldman's spot in the Texas rotation could be on the line, writes Gil LeBreton.

3. The Pirates might skip James McDonald in their rotation, writes Bill Brink.

4. The Colorado Rockies continue to work on their strategy for competing at 5,280 feet, writes Patrick Saunders.

Dings and dents

1. Mike Napoli is back for the Rangers after a shaky rehab stint.

2. The durability of a couple of K.C. outfielders is a concern.

3. Terry Collins thinks Jason Bay is still suffering the effects of concussions.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info

7: Streak of consecutive losses snapped after the Pirates defeated the Cubs on Saturday; the win also snapped a 10-game road losing streak (both streaks were the team's longest of the season).
11: Walk-off wins for the Dodgers, tied for most in the National League.
37: Home runs for Miguel Cabrera, one shy of his career high set in 2010.
39: Home runs for Curtis Granderson, two shy of his career high set last season.

NL East notes

• On the day the Phillies sent out emails preparing season-ticket holders for a possible playoff berth, the team came up flat, writes Matt Gelb. Chase Utley continues to do work at third base.

• The Marlins beat the Cincinnati Reds again.

NL Central notes

• Johnny Cueto lost again. A few weeks ago, I thought he was the front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award, but he is not anymore.

• The Houston Astros took down the Phillies again; that's 47 wins for Houston.

• The Brewers took down the New York Mets again with a big inning. The second wild card has been a lifesaver, writes Tom Haudricourt.

• Matt Dominguez has been hitting well of late for the Astros, writes Zachary Levine.

NL West notes

• Barry Zito has been pitching well, and he stepped up again Saturday, with some help from Buster Posey. The Giants are 19-9 since Melky Cabrera was suspended.

I agree with what Henry Schulman writes here: It's going to be very interesting to see whether the Giants players vote a full playoff share for Cabrera. Even if they are required by rule to give Cabrera a share, I wonder if they'll make a statement with their vote.

• You can't stop the San Diego Padres, you can only hope to contain them. If this season had an additional two or three more weeks, San Diego would be looked at as a very dangerous team.

• Drew Pomeranz struggled again.

AL East notes

• Ivan Nova came off the disabled list to step up big for the Yankees, writes Zach Schonbrun. Alex Rodriguez picked up another big hit.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Yankees secured their 20th straight winning season, a streak that started in 1993. That is the second-longest such streak in MLB history. The Yankees also own the longest streak, finishing above .500 in 39 straight seasons from 1926 to 1964.

• The Orioles were knocked out of their first-place tie, writes Dan Connolly.

• As the song goes, the Rays came up short again, says Joe Maddon. Matt Moore starts today, and his velocity dropped in his last start, but he's not sure why, Marc Topkin writes.

• The Boston Red Sox are playing out the string, and they won again Saturday. Clay Buchholz had another good outing. Dustin Pedroia is back with the Red Sox following the birth of his second son.

• Carlos Villanueva is trying to prove himself, writes Mike Rutsey.

AL Central notes

• Francisco Liriano gave the Chicago White Sox a big lift. Adam Dunn was back in the lineup, and he did some damage.

• Anibal Sanchez was The Man for the Tigers.

• Billy Butler helped the Kansas City Royals mount a late charge, after Zack Greinke was removed.

• The Indians managed to spoil a no-hit bid, Dennis Manoloff writes.

• A Twins rally fell short. Ben Revere made a catch to remember. Here's the video.

AL West notes

• Justin Smoak's clutch hitting helped the Mariners hold off the Rangers, writes John Tranchina.

• The Rangers rallied, but couldn't make it all the way back.

Braves have the arms to beat Nats.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
You may have heard the Washington Nationals are suddenly without their ace as the playoffs approach. Stephen Strasburg, like it or not, will not pitch again this season.

But even without their ace, the Nationals still feature Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler and John Lannan, which is nothing to sneeze at. By FanGraphs WAR, Gonzalez is second only to Clayton Kershaw this season in the NL, meaning there are 14 other teams in the National League that would love to have the Nationals' "problem" of having Gonzalez atop the rotation. But Tommy John surgery, and its subsequent innings limit for Strasburg, still weakened the Nats' rotation by depriving it of its ace.

The Braves have a young sensation in Kris Medlen, who also had Tommy John surgery in 2010. But the Braves handled Medlen differently than Washington handled Strasburg -- Medlen began the season in the bullpen to keep his innings total down -- and now they're reaping the benefits late in the season, and Medlen's recent run has helped the Braves put up the best ERA in the NL during the past month.

While Washington still has the better rotation and plenty of pitching (even without Strasburg) to win in the postseason, the Braves have enough arms to beat the Nationals should the two teams meet in October.

Medlen joins Mike Minor to solidify the back end of an Atlanta rotation fronted by Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and newcomer Paul Maholm, a group that is surging at the right time of the season. In the past month, Medlen has a 0.46 ERA, Minor has a 2.30, and the Braves' rotation ERA of 3.22 beats Washington's 3.36.

If we use fielding independent pitching (FIP) instead of ERA, however, we get a slightly different story. The Nationals have struck out 8.39 batters per nine in the past month, second only to the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL, and walked 2.67 batters per nine, good for fifth in the NL. The Braves (7.38 and 3.15, respectively) have not been as good as the Nationals in those categories and have also benefited from a better batting average on balls in play (.281 to Washington's .293), with assistance from their MLB-leading 8.0 UZR/150. Therefore, their 3.64 FIP is not as sterling as the Nationals' 3.33.

We also have to account for Medlen's historic run. While he certainly could continue to pitch well throughout the rest of the season and the postseason, it's unlikely he can sustain his recent numbers. So if we're comparing Atlanta's rotation and the Strasburg-less Nationals staff, Washington would be ahead in the aggregate.

But playoff series are not played in the aggregate. They depend on matchups and depth, and even a rough head-to-head comparison of the staffs shows that Atlanta has enough of the latter to compete in a short series.

Hudson, even though he's getting a little older, is still a fine pitcher and capable of leading a postseason rotation. He'd likely match up against Gonzalez. In the past three seasons combined, Hudson's 3.19 ERA is nearly equal to Gonzalez's 3.10. Hudson's number is built mostly on his ground-ball rate (59.1 percent since the beginning of 2010, best in MLB), while Gonzalez strikes out more batters (8.6 K/9 compared to Hudson's 5.83). There's no question Gonzalez is better today than Hudson, but Hudson has proved he still has plenty left.

After those two, the matchups could go any number of ways, but let's take a brief look at pitchers individually. Zimmermann would likely pitch Game 2 of a series for the Nats, and he's posted a 3.24 ERA in the past three years (while missing some time for Tommy John surgery) and seems to be trending upward. Jackson could follow Zimmermann, and he's posted a 3.89 ERA this season. If Washington doesn't want to go with three righties in a row, it could pitch Detwiler -- who has a 3.16 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 30 games (24 starts) this year -- third.

The Braves could go with Medlen second; he has better strikeout (7.85 K/9 to 6.98), walk (1.62 BB/9 to 1.88), ground ball (52.8 percent to 43.4 percent) and swinging-strike (9.7 percent to 8.5 percent) rates than Zimmermann, although Medlen has spent a good chunk of 2012 in the bullpen. Or they could choose Maholm, whom the Braves traded for at the deadline for this specific instance. Hanson has struggled this season (4.33 ERA in 158 innings) but has the stuff to shut down any lineup. Then there's Minor, who has a 2.35 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 13 walks in 69 innings since the All-Star break.

We still can't say that the Braves have a better rotation than the Nationals, whose starters have combined to be the best in the NL all year and appear to have enough weaponry to thrive without Strasburg. But again, it's no longer about "all year."

If these two teams face each other in October, Strasburg will still be gone, Medlen may still be on this crazy streak of superb starts, and we all know what can happen in a playoff series. A couple of great starts from a Braves staff capable of producing them, and suddenly the best rotation in the NL is preparing for next spring.

5 pitchers who could swing pennant races.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Starting pitching is what got division leaders to where they are now and it is what many believe will decide the four wild-card berths. Just look at the teams vying for those slots and the pitchers they boast: the Tampa Bay Rays are led by David Price and James Shields, the Los Angeles Angels by Jered Weaver and Zack Greinke, the Detroit Tigers by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, and the Philadelphia Phillies by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

The thing is, it's not always the aces who make the difference down the stretch. For example, in 2011, we saw Doug Fister take charge for the Tigers, posting a 0.53 ERA in September while helping them win the AL Central.

Here are five starters who aren't household names but could be this year's version of Fister and step to the forefront down the stretch:
Brett Anderson, LHP Oakland Athletics

The Athletics didn’t know what to expect when they reinstated Anderson from the disabled list in August after more than a year of rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery. However, Anderson has quickly become the top-of-the-rotation starter his potential had always hinted of prior to his injury. His mid-90s fastball and unhittable breaking ball have been dominant, and he has 1.93 ERA in his five starts. He’s given the A’s a chance to not only make the playoffs but keep them alive in the race for the AL West title and remain a serious World Series threat.

Phil Hughes, RHP, New York Yankees

Hughes went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 2010 before struggling with health issues last year, going a disappointing 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA. This year, however, Hughes has had an impressive bounce-back season, posting a 3.96 ERA and a strikeouts-to-walk ratio of 3.70, which is a career high. But he’s really stepped it up the last month, allowing just 10 runs in his last 39 1/3 innings, right when the Yankees needed him most. His 91-93 mph four-seamer at the top of the strike zone is getting swings and misses, and his curveball is back and has regained its nastiness coming out of the arm same slot as the four-seam fastball. He gets hit and gives up home runs when he tires and can’t command his four-seamer in the zone, so it’s important that manager Joe Girardi takes him out before that happens. But Hughes should continue to provide a solid six innings per start for the remainder of the season and the postseason.

Kyle Kendrick, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Most people are so impressed with the Phillies' trio of aces in Halladay, Hamels and Lee that they fail to realize how good Kendrick has become since moving from the bullpen into the rotation. He can be a real separator in his final three starts as the Phillies try to make an improbable comeback and earn the second NL wild-card berth. He’s lasted six innings or more in seven of his last 10 starts and allowed more than two earned runs just twice in those 10 starts. He had a hiccup on Saturday against the Astros, but if he can pitch like he did in his six starts prior, the Phillies might be able to pull off a miracle.

Marco Estrada, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Like the Phillies, the Brewers weren’t supposed to jump back in the wild-card race. But because of a revitalized bullpen, a rebounding offense led by Rickie Weeks and strong starting pitching, the Brewers are relevant again in mid-September. Estrada, 26, has led the way by posting a 1.92 ERA with 38 K's in his last five starts. His fastball has much better downward plane, and he’s making significantly fewer mistakes in the middle of the plate.

Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, Baltimore Orioles

Chen, who signed for $11 million over three years last winter, was one of the best bargains of the offseason and a big reason GM Dan Duquette is a serious contender for executive of the year. The southpaw pitches backwards -- meaning he uses his offspeed stuff to set up his fastball -- but owns the black on both sides of the plate with late movement and really knows how to add and take off velocity on all his pitches. He’s pitched very well against A's and Rays this year, posting a 0.71 and 3.38 ERA respectively against the O's main wild-card competition.

Brewers' bats fueling comeback.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last week, we mentioned that the Milwaukee Brewers were threatening to move from extreme spoiler to actual playoff contender. The threat is over, as the Brewers, fresh off a week in which they won five of six -- including a sweep of the Atlanta Braves -- are now firmly lodged in the playoff race with two weeks to go in the season. The Philadelphia Phillies had put themselves in prime position as well, winning seven straight through Wednesday, but losing three of four over the weekend to the Houston Astros has taken the shine off of their run.

Nevertheless, both teams moved up one spot in the ESPN Power Rankings this week -- Milwaukee from 17th to 16th and Philadelphia from 16th to 15th -- and with the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates not asserting themselves in the race for the second National League wild-card berth, the Brewers and Phillies are very much alive.

Of course, this isn't the first time that we've spoken about the virtues of the Brewers and Phillies. Back in early June, we implored you to not give up on the Phillies, and way back in April, we discussed how the Brewers had played better than their record. Yet when it came to analyze what wild-card contenders needed to do in the last month of the season at the end of August, neither squad made the list.

But hot starts to September have put them back on the map, particularly Milwaukee -- its 11 September wins are the most in the majors.

The Brewers' offense, already one of the best in the league, has kicked it up several notches -- since the start of August, the Brewers lead the National League in runs scored. Contributions have come from across the board, as during the two-month period each regular on the team has been hot at one point or another, but the charge has been led by lineup linchpins Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Ryan Braun.

Ramirez generally heats up in the second half, and this season has been no exception. The 34-year-old slugger hit a respectable .272/.346/.475 in the first half, but he's hit an outstanding .333/.387/.605 since the All-Star break. And it's not just Miller Park -- his 139 wRC+, which adjusts for both park and league, is tied for 16th best in the majors this season among qualified hitters, and it is ninth best among NL hitters.

Braun hasn't been as hot as Ramirez since the start of August, but he has been the team's rock all season. The slugger has reached the 40-homer plateau for the second straight season and now has 200 for his career. Since his debut in 2007, only five players have hit more home runs than Braun.

While everyone knows that Milwaukee can hit, few would have expected the team to trade away Zack Greinke and see its pitching staff improve. But that's exactly what has happened. Since the start of August, Milwaukee is allowing 0.41 fewer runs per game than it did in April-July. While Mike Fiers, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers (before he was shut down) have all pitched well, the biggest reason for the turnaround has been the performance of Marco Estrada.

Since returning to the rotation at the end of June, the soft-tossing righty (his average fastball velocity is 90.3 mph this season) has compiled a 3.46 ERA and struck out 91 batters in 83 1/3 innings. Since the start of August, Estrada has been even better, posting a 2.82 ERA across eight starts. He has more than compensated for the loss of Greinke, who has not pitched nearly as well in Anaheim.

In Philadelphia, the returns of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have been negated by the trades of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, so the team isn't really scoring more runs than it was earlier in the season (Howard, in fact, has been terrible). But the Phillies stopped allowing more runs than they score. Much of this can be traced to the return of Roy Halladay and the departure of Joe Blanton.

Halladay has posted six quality starts in his last nine outings, and Kyle Kendrick -- who took Blanton's place in the rotation -- has a 3.13 ERA the past two months, including one stretch with six straight quality starts. Thanks to Halladay, Kendrick, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, Philly has allowed only 3.73 runs per game since the start of August, compared with 4.51 runs per game in the season's first four months.

The Brewers have combined an overpowering offense playing at its peak with an improved pitching staff, and as a result entered Sunday's action with the third-highest team WAR in baseball. The Brewers have passed the Pirates, whom they will meet this week in Pittsburgh, and are just 2½ games out of the second wild card, and their chances of snagging that spot seemingly go up every day. Milwaukee, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia, has put itself back on the postseason map. And while the Brewers may not get there, the fact that they are once again charting a course to October is an exciting development.

Top defensive rookies of 2012.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When Prince Fielder swings the bat, he demands your attention. Nobody else in baseball has his swing, oozing with so much power that you can practically feel it in the bottom of your shoes. Over the past five seasons, only Albert Pujols has hit more home runs than Fielder. So when he connected hard off a Garrett Richards fastball last weekend in Anaheim, Calif., you had to hold your breath.

There was only one problem: Angels rookie Mike Trout circled back to the wall in center field, perfectly timed his jump at the wall and stole Fielder's home run to end the game.

Jaw-dropping power, meet show-stopping defense.

It was the fourth time Mike Trout has taken away a home run this season. Nobody else has four home run robberies this season or last season, combined. Since Baseball Info Solutions started tracking these plays in 2004, only three other outfielders have seasons with four home run robberies: Nook Logan in 2005, Gary Matthews Jr. in 2006 and Adam Jones in 2009.

Trout's season is historic in many more ways than just highlight-reel catches. He is very likely going to join Ichiro Suzuki and Fred Lynn with coinciding MVP and rookie of the year seasons, not to mention the other awards. A lot of that has to do with his hitting -- he's third in baseball in OPS -- but his defensive season has been one for the ages.

Defenders with 30+ defensive runs saved, since 2003

Player Season Runs Saved
Adam Everett 2006 34
Jack Wilson 2005 32
Franklin Gutierrez 2009 32
Troy Tulowitzki 2007 31
Albert Pujols 2007 31
Scott Rolen 2004 30
Craig Counsell 2005 30
Chase Utley 2008 30
Michael Bourn 2010 30
Ichiro Suzuki 2004 30

Trout has 26 defensive runs saved, as calculated by Baseball Info Solutions, taking into account his arm, range and the ratio of great plays and misplays he makes in the field. With just under 20 games left to play, Trout has a chance at joining the elite company of the 10 players (see chart) with 30-plus runs saved in a season. He also has a chance at usurping the crown of best defensive rookie season from Troy Tulowitzki, who saved a whopping 31 runs for the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

Trout is far from the only rookie who is making his defensive presence known in the playoff races this season. In Atlanta, the Braves are just now getting shortstop Andrelton Simmons back from a broken hand he suffered in early July. Simmons was initially beaten out for the big league job in spring training by Tyler Pastornicky, but Pastornicky proved to be a below-average batter and a below-average fielder, hitting for a .605 OPS and fielding for -15 Runs Saved, when he was replaced by Simmons in June.

Top defensive rookie seasons, since 2003

Player Season Runs Saved
Troy Tulowitzki 2007 31
Mike Trout 2012 26
Mark Teixeira 2003 19
Jeff Francoeur 2005 18
Tony Pena Jr. 2007 18
Joey Gathright 2005 16
Denard Span 2008 15
Jason Heyward 2010 15
Elvis Andrus 2009 15
Curtis Granderson 2005 14

Simmons played only 33 games for Atlanta before his injury, but he was ESPN's defensive player of the month in June, showing above-average range to both his right and left, good hands and a strong arm. He instantly improved the Braves' infield defense, which lowered the rate at which batters reached on ground balls from 28 percent (pre-Simmons) to 22 percent.

Simmons has 13 Runs Saved in only 305 innings played, compared with Trout's 26 Runs Saved in more than three times as many innings. While Simmons' primary defensive replacement, Paul Janish, played very well in his absence, it's easy to wonder what kind of eye-popping numbers Simmons could have put up if he had stayed healthy this summer.

In Cincinnati, the Reds have the second-best record in baseball and the sixth-best team defense by Runs Saved. At the center of that defensive excellence is their best individual fielder, rookie shortstop Zack Cozart. Currently recovering from a strained oblique, Cozart has taken a backseat to big names on the Reds such as Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto. Regardless, he has been a legit top-10 shortstop this season.

Defensive Runs Saved are calculated for middle infielders by combining three categories: turning double plays, defensive misplays and good plays, and a range score using BIS' plus/minus system. The plus/minus score is by far the most important of these categories and that is where Cozart draws all of his defensive value. Only Yunel Escobar has covered the second-base side of shortstop better than Cozart this season. Cozart ranks fifth among shortstops with 12 Plus/Minus Runs Saved, and his overall total of 11 Runs Saved ranks him No. 8 among fielding shortstop.

The best team in baseball is home to one of the game's rookie sensations. Bryce Harper plays the game as if he's going to explode, and so far that attitude has served him very well in the field. He has saved 13 runs as a center fielder, and, like Cozart, it comes entirely from his range -- Harper is above average on shallow-hit balls and above average on deep-hit balls.

Harper's 13 Runs Saved makes him the fifth-best defensive center fielder this season. And since 2003, when Baseball Info Solutions started tracking defense, center fielders with 13 Runs Saved in a season have always ranked among the top five players on defense.

Harper, 19, already has an elite defensive season under his belt. If your favorite team is in the NL East and isn't the Nationals … good luck. You'll need it for the next few years.
post #8045 of 73654
Without clicking on the section for the Braves' 2011 collapse, first guess is Fredi not riding Kimbrel and Venters into the ground like any smart manager would do.
post #8046 of 73654
Speaking of the Brewers offense in that article.

Ramirez and Braun are the highest run producing duo in the NL.. Prince who?
All while getting much better defense in return.

This also reminds me of everyone who said last year that Braun didnt deserve the MVP because his stats were inflated due to batting in front of Prince mean.gif

But anywhoo... If the brewers don't make it I reallly want my dude chipper to win it and end his career on a good note.
Edited by Jay02 - 9/17/12 at 5:29pm
post #8047 of 73654
The Pirates defeated the Cubs 3 - 0 in regulation at 1:28 AM Chicago time

post #8048 of 73654
Tigers mean.gif
Lookin to get a discover card? Contact me and sign up under me and $100 FREE when you get approved. GET 10-15% cashback on NDC FNL FTL, etc etc
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post #8049 of 73654
White Sox smokin.gif
post #8050 of 73654
Well, dland, it looks like you and I were way off about the signing of Cespedes for the A's, huh? More you than me, I think smokin.gif
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #8051 of 73654
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Well, dland, it looks like you and I were way off about the signing of Cespedes for the A's, huh? More you than me, I think smokin.gif

Yep. I dont think even the biggest A's homer could have expected this. And I cant remember what article I posted but it shared my sentiments. Glad things are working out for you guys.
post #8052 of 73654

Big series for the A's and Tigers.

post #8053 of 73654
Originally Posted by Jay02 View Post

A's and O's smokin.gif really want these teams to make it.
My mind is blown at what Trout has done this year, def could see him getting MVP. Here I am reading and seeing all this stuff about Bryce Harper being the next big thing but Trout is doing all this and he's pretty much the same age. You guys seeing Harper ending up being better or no? Or at least offensively considering he's still adapting to the outfield.

Harper is 19...Trout is 21.

In comparing their 1st go-rounds in the bigs, Harper >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Trout. Trout is the goods, but the hype surrounding Harper is VERY real.
post #8054 of 73654
Originally Posted by SCuse7 View Post

Big series for the A's and Tigers.

Going to be tough for us seeing Scherzer and Verlander back to back.
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post #8055 of 73654
Originally Posted by Jay02 View Post

This also reminds me of everyone who said last year that Braun didnt deserve the MVP because his stats were inflated due to batting in front of Prince mean.gif

People were saying that? I would say it's more the ballpark. Although his home/road splits aren't that bad. However, most of his road games are at Wrigley, Great American Ball park and Minute Maid Park. 81 games at Miller Park would be nice for any hitter.
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?
post #8056 of 73654
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

Harper is 19...Trout is 21.
In comparing their 1st go-rounds in the bigs, Harper >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Trout. Trout is the goods, but the hype surrounding Harper is VERY real.

I understand the age argument but Trout is having one of the greatest seasons in recent memory right now. I think Harper has the better career but I don't think either of them come close to having this type of season ever.
post #8057 of 73654
Originally Posted by ayodude View Post

What are the O's chances of making the post season? And if they make it there you think they will be able to do any damage?

Very real chance. 3 games up for the final wildcard spot, 1/2 game back in the division, plus only one series left against a contender (Rays). Meanwhile, the teams they are chasing (Yankees & A's) have a 3 game series against each other coming up.

If they get in, I think it depends who they draw. Texas has given them problems all year. They've played everyone else pretty well. Their bullpen, defense and ability to play well on the road will be very key in playoffs.
post #8058 of 73654
Thread Starter 
Wild rules could alter playoff games.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Some of the San Francisco Giants spoke recently about how they view the Atlanta Braves as a really dangerous postseason team because of their dominant bullpen pieces and the power in their lineup. It's possible that the Braves will finish this season with the second-best record in the National League, a reflection of how well they've performed.

But it's also possible that their postseason will last exactly one game. If the Braves finish as the No. 1 wild-card seed -- and right now, that appears likely -- then they'll have to win the wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers or one of the other five teams vying for the last NL playoff spot. "When it's just one game, the worst team in baseball can knock out the best team," a GM mused last week. "Anything is possible."

The wild-card games will be conducted under circumstances we've never seen before in the postseason. The participating teams will set 25-man rosters for this one-game, winner-take-all extravaganza -- rosters that don't have to carry over to the division series matchup.

So the Braves and the other wild-card entrants don't have to carry multiple starting pitchers.

If Atlanta decides to start Kris Medlen in the wild-card game, there won't necessarily be any reason to carry Mike Minor, Paul Maholm and Tommy Hanson. Rather, the Braves could round out their roster with specialists. They could carry a third catcher, for example, whose presence would allow Fredi Gonzalez to aggressively pinch-run for Brian McCann or David Ross, and extra pinch-hitters, pinch-runners and relievers. You might see the wild-card teams carry rosters of 11 pitchers and 14 position players -- but with 10 relievers available, allowing the managers to focus on matchups batter after batter down the stretch.

Because the new playoff format and rules had to be put together quickly, it may be that changes will be forthcoming, as the practical use is evaluated. As part of the reward for division winners, for example, it might make sense to ask the wild-card teams to declare their 25-man rosters for the first two rounds of the playoffs -- forcing them to carry starting pitchers for the wild-card game and perhaps use them.

But on the other hand, allowing a separate 25-man roster for the wild-card games alone could be very fair, giving the managers as many weapons as possible in a winner-take-all situation. The work of an entire summer will be at stake.

The Cincinnati Reds have time to put together their playoff roster, as John Fay writes.


• Watched the Tigers' loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday, a crusher for Detroit, and yet again the Tigers had to try to overcome a defensive play not made -- the turn of a double play -- a failure that cost them two runs in a 5-4 loss. Jim Leyland said the Tigers have been talking about defense. From Lynn Henning's story:

They didn't field ground balls with enough skill to compensate for some isolated pitching miscues, nor did they handle double-play tasks with the flair to support those precious leads Detroit hitters had gouged from White Sox pitchers.

"Yes, that's the one thing we've been preaching," Leyland said after the Tigers had lost their ninth consecutive one-run road game. "Twenty-seven outs, not 30.

"And we've paid for it."

Omar Infante's defense has been a problem, writes Drew Sharp. Alex Rios helped to create the error with his hard slide into second base, writes Mark Gonzales.

The Tigers know that time is running out.

Meanwhile, Alex Avila suffered a sprained jaw on a collision with Prince Fielder.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information

7: Double plays lost on bad throws by Omar Infante, most of any player this season.
8: Consecutive relief decisions won by Nate Jones, the most ever by a White Sox rookie.
19: 10-strikeout games for Cliff Lee since 2010, most in the majors.
217: Minutes the Pirates/Cubs game was delayed by rain before first pitch at 10:42 p.m. CT on Monday.

The five contenders most in need of a victory today:

1. Detroit, which is in jeopardy of falling out of the AL Central race. The Tigers play host to Oakland.

2/3. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, two teams tied in the standings, 2½ games behind St. Louis. The Pirates got a badly needed victory Monday.

4. Philadelphia, which beat the New York Mets to pick up a half-game in the wild-card race.

5. The Los Angeles Angels, who are three games out in the AL wild-card race and open a home series today against the Texas Rangers.

• The Milwaukee Brewers have won 20 of their last 26 games to give themselves hope, writes Tom Haudricourt.

• We'll learn more today about the words written on the eye-black patches of Yunel Escobar, as Major League Baseball begins its investigation. Will Escobar say that he's a victim of a prank from an unknown teammate? We'll see. But if he says he applied the patches without use of a mirror, he might be the first.

Dings and dents

1. Danny Espinosa is having an MRI on his shoulder.

2. Andy Pettitte is set to be activated from the disabled list, writes David Waldstein. The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays may have trouble playing today, though, as the New York weather forecast today is awful.

3. Giancarlo Stanton was out with a sore oblique.

4. Jorge De La Rosa will take the mound for the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Amanda Comak wonders: Does Adam LaRoche's impressive season price him out of Washington?

It's an interesting question, for any number of reasons. LaRoche will get some votes in the lower half of the 10-rung MVP ballots for the season he's had, and his left-handed bat has helped balance what is generally a very right-handed lineup. He's got good hands defensively, too.

But the Washington Nationals already have Ryan Zimmerman locked up well into the future, and as they negotiate with LaRoche, the Nationals will naturally assess what they project Zimmerman's position will be in three years, four years, etc., and how former No. 1 pick Anthony Rendon fits into that equation.

2. Chase Utley is seemingly preparing for a shift to third base.

3. Lonnie Chisenhall is making a case to be the Indians' third baseman.

4. Denard Span wants to stay with the Minnesota Twins.

5. The Houston Astros are targeting Mexico.

6. Colby Lewis agreed to a one-year extension.

7. The Angels had big signings, but this hasn't translated in attendance, writes Bill Plunkett.

AL East notes

• The Tampa Bay Rays keep taking on water: They lost to the Boston Red Sox on Monday, and in the midst of the defeat, a couple of teammates had a heated exchange. Alex Cobb says he didn't initiate it.

• The Baltimore Orioles gained a half-game on the Yankees after wrecking the Seattle Mariners.

• No team will have more opportunities to be a spoiler than Boston, and it took advantage of that Monday, as Peter Abraham writes.

AL West notes

• The Rangers hope to lock up their division soon, and their last 16 games are against AL West teams, writes Drew Davison.

• Hector Noesi had a really bad day.

• Jonny Gomes has become the heart and soul of the Athletics, writes John Shea. From the piece:

It was speculated that Jonny Gomes, hitting in the low .200s, would lose his job once [Manny] Ramirez arrived, considering there was some redundancy. Both right-handed hitters. Both designated-hitter/left-field types, though left field was more of a memory for Ramirez.

On June 15, Ramirez was released. Gomes stayed.

The A's kept the right man.

"He's been great all year," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "He makes things easier to deal with. He takes tension out of the clubhouse and dugout. It doesn't matter if he plays four in a row or misses four in a row, he's the same person every day."

"Anytime I have a question," third baseman Josh Donaldson added, "Gomes is my dude."

NL East notes

• That's four straight wins for the Braves, and counting, and they got some help from Dan Uggla on Monday.

• The Mets lost, and R.A. Dickey was unable to pick up his 19th victory.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Cliff Lee beat the Mets:

A. Lee threw 38 cutters, tied for his second-most in the last four seasons. He recorded a season-high 11 outs on the pitch, including five via strikeout.
B. Lee threw 30 of his 38 cutters (79 percent) for strikes. He recorded 12 called strikes on his cutter, his most in the last four seasons.
C. Lee threw 11 first-pitch cutters, 10 for strikes. He started 24-of-32 hitters (75 percent) overall with a first-pitch strike and went to only one 2-0 count.

Lee recorded his fourth 10-K game of the season and his 19th since the start of 2010, easily the most in the majors. James Shields and Felix Hernandez are tied for second with 15.

From Elias Sports Bureau: Lee has pitched at least six innings and not issued more than one walk in each of his last 14 starts, including Monday, when he walked one batter in eight innings against the Mets. That ties Lee for the longest single-season streak of that kind in modern major league history (since 1900). Christy Mathewson (1908) and Greg Maddux (1997) also made 14 straight starts in which they went six or more innings and didn't walk more than one batter.

• A Miami Marlins rally fell short.

NL Central notes

• The Cardinals have run out of time and need a final push.

• The Reds' magic number is down to five.

• The Chicago Cubs lost at 1:28 a.m.

NL West notes

• Arizona's mental approach is crucial down the stretch, writes Nick Piecoro.

• The Giants weren't sharp but still won, cutting into their magic number even more. Xavier Nady was back in the lineup, writes Ron Kroichick.

• Jamey Wright would love a chance to pitch in the postseason.

Players who've exceeded my expectations.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Players change all the time, and my opinions need to change with them. A player might get stronger or weaker, might change his mechanics, might acquire a new skill, or he might not change at all I may have just come up with an incorrect evaluation. Here are five notable big leaguers who have shown themselves to be better than what I projected for them coming into the 2012 season.

Gio Gonzalez, LHP

I was never a Gio fan when he was coming up in the minors for two major reasons. One, every time I saw him, he was working with a fringy fastball -- down in the 86-88 mph range in one outing, and never above 91. The other, and the bigger concern, was that he wasn't just a guy with fringy control, but had a tendency to see his control and command disintegrate in tough situations, such as when a fielder behind him failed to make a play. Even last year, sources of mine who knew or saw Gonzalez indicated this was still something of an issue, just that his raw stuff had improved enough to allow him to overcome it.

While Gio still does things that concern me -- too many walks, allowing too many balls hit in the air -- that meltdown potential hasn't been there in games, and his stuff continues to miss bats, more than ever thanks to the switch in leagues. He's a solid No. 2 starter for just about any club that doesn't have a Stephen Strasburg/Jordan Zimmermann combo up top.

Jon Jay, CF

I first saw Jay when he played for Team USA in 2005, where he was primarily a corner outfielder due to the presence of Drew Stubbs, a plus defender in center, on the roster. Jay had a solid if somewhat linear swing that generated line drives but not power, and he never showed me the kind of approach or patience that would indicate he'd be a high-OBP hitter, so he'd have a hard time profiling as an everyday player in a corner because he didn't have the secondary skills.

Two things have become clear about Jay since he first arrived in the big leagues. One is that he's become an average defender in center, an improvement even over where he was in 2010, and a big leap over where he was coming out of college. The other is that even without patience or power, he can make enough line-drive contact to keep his batting averages high -- a career .301 average and a career .348 BABIP -- and thus make himself an above-average player overall. He will probably have a year where he runs into some bad luck on balls in play, but in years where he hits .300 and plays average defense he'll be worth at least 3 wins above replacement.

Josh Reddick, RF

I pegged Reddick as an extra outfielder when he was traded from Boston to Oakland last winter because his plate discipline was so poor that there seemed to be no reason for pitchers to throw him hittable strikes. He has bat speed and the loft in his swing for power, but there's a popular (and well-founded) scouting axiom that you can't hit for power if you can't hit.

Reddick has hit and walked just enough this year -- he ranks 60th in the AL of 83 qualifiers in both batting average and OBP through Sunday -- to get to his power, which has also proven to be more than I expected, even producing power in Oakland's pitcher-friendly park. He's also been an excellent defensive outfielder in right. One small red flag here: While he's become more patient, he's still below-average in that regard, and is more likely to fall behind in the count than the typical AL hitter this year, so he's probably dancing on the edge of what's required to let that raw power come through.

Jeff Samardzija, RHP
Had you asked me my opinion of Samardzija after last season -- and it's probably telling that no one really did -- I would have said he was just a middle relief candidate, and someone who'd probably be traded or non-tendered once he started to get expensive. He showed up in spring training this year with a cleaner delivery that allowed him to improve his command of everything he threw, and would flash an improved split-change and/or slider depending on when you saw him. (He was better, but not great, when I saw him in late March.)

Over the course of the season, Samardzija was similarly inconsistent, but at times looked like an ace, driving the ball down in the zone, getting the slider and/or cutter in under left-handed hitters' hands or at their back feet, showing good arm speed on the changeup. If he can bring that arsenal and command to more and more starts, he could be a No. 1 or 2 starter, with the latter a much more likely outcome.

Doug Fister, RHP

When the Tigers acquired Fister last summer for four young players, none an elite prospect, I thought they'd overpaid for a back-end starter who'd benefited from a great ballpark and great defense in Seattle, which is what Fister was for his first two years in the majors.

This year, however, Fister's curveball has become a legitimate out pitch for him, 74-76 with a severe, late-appearing vertical break, right off the table, so even with some loss of velocity (probably due to a strain to a rib muscle on his left side) this year he's been able to increase his strikeout rate. He also has been throwing more two-seamers to generate ground balls, a change that dates back into 2011. The improved breaking ball this year is huge for him, but the two-seamer and the plus control were already there at the time of the trade, something I should have weighed more heavily when Detroit made the move.

Nasty stuff.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
RYAN MADSON. Nick Masset. Bill Bray. After those three fell to injury this spring, it would've been easy to write off the Reds. After all, the Rangers and Cards showed the importance of bullpens last October. And here was a team without its closer and two of its other top relievers.

That narrative was wrong. Led by Aroldis Chapman -- who, with 35 saves, a 1.61 ERA and 118 strikeouts, might be having the best relief season ever -- the 2012 Reds bullpen (2.73 ERA) isn't just better than the Rob Dibble and Randy Myers-led Nasty Boys from the 1990 Series-winning Reds (2.91 ERA), it's also one of the best pens in the modern-reliever era. Its ERA is 33 percent below the league average; only seven teams in the past 30 years have posted a better mark over a season. Zero bullpens have struck out batters at a higher rate.

This wasn't predictable from such a band of misfits. Jose Arredondo was nontendered by the Angels and stabbed in the Dominican Republic in December 2009 before the Reds signed him as a free agent. Sam LeCure, drafted in 2005, flamed out as a starter (4.83 ERA in '10 and '11) before moving to the pen. Alfredo Simon was claimed off waivers in April after he bounced around the minors and struggled last season as an Orioles starter. And it's easy to forget that Chapman -- now feared tired when his fastball averages 94.4 mph -- wasn't named the closer until late May. As the year has unfolded, roles have constantly shuffled. Chapman ends games, but it's possible to see anyone else anytime. "Many relief pitchers thrive on a defined role, but this group has embraced the 'ready when you need me' mentality," pitching coach Bryan Price says. Case in point: Jonathan Broxton was ready to fill in at closer when Chapman needed a rest.

None of which would matter if the Nasty Boys II didn't have go-to swing-and-miss pitches: curveball for Sean Marshall, split-finger for Arredondo, slider for Broxton, fastball for the rest. They strike out a staggering 26.6 percent of batters faced, and while Chapman (45.9 percent) gets the most credit, Marshall (28.6 percent), rookie J.J. Hoover (27.2 percent), Arredondo (24.2 percent) and LeCure (23.9 percent) are all high-K guys, giving the Reds an unfair number of ways to get out of a jam. But the goal isn't just whiffs. "Our philosophy is to work ahead and try to get the out early in the at-bat," Price says. If that means hitters putting the ball in play, that's just fine.

The pen also has MLB's lowest home run rate (0.68 per nine innings), despite playing in a dinger-friendly park. The combo of K's without HRs makes a late rally against it nearly impossible; the Reds are plus-12 in one- and two-run games, tops in the NL. To stop the Reds in October, a team better get ahead early.
post #8059 of 73654
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I understand the age argument but Trout is having one of the greatest seasons in recent memory right now. I think Harper has the better career but I don't think either of them come close to having this type of season ever.

Statistically, what is considered the best season ever for a teen?

Right, now Trout is the better player. No doubt. But like you said...Harper will have the better career. Everything that Trout gets this offseason (MVP, etc) is WELL deserved.

It's going to be interesting to see how good Bryce Harper will be next year as a 20 year old in the bigs. Just wait until he figures out how to hit lefties eek.gif
post #8060 of 73654
Thread Starter 
IDK, there's a couple I can think of off the top of my head in Ott and Griffey. Harper is definitely up there.
post #8061 of 73654
Is it too early to toot my own horn about Texas finishing above the Angels and potentially winning the AL West (Oakland might throw a wrench into my prediction), as well as SF taking the West from the LAD and representing the NL in the WS?

Even after Albert, Greinke, Trout.

Even after Han Ram, Beckett, Adrian, Crawford, League, etc.
post #8062 of 73654
Rooting for Miggie.... Leading BA. RBIs and 2 Homeruns behind Hamilton..

He's got my vote for MVP.
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post #8063 of 73654
Originally Posted by Essential1 View Post

Rooting for Miggie.... Leading BA. RBIs and 2 Homeruns behind Hamilton..
He's got my vote for MVP.

Then you are crazy.

Trout is the MVP and it is not. even. close.
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post #8064 of 73654
Originally Posted by Osh Kosh Bosh View Post

Then you are crazy.
Trout is the MVP and it is not. even. close.
Pretty much. I can't even make a case for anyone else in the AL for the sake of argument, just to be different. Everyone else is truly fighting for second place in the voting.
post #8065 of 73654
Originally Posted by RaWEx5 View Post

People were saying that? I would say it's more the ballpark. Although his home/road splits aren't that bad. However, most of his road games are at Wrigley, Great American Ball park and Minute Maid Park. 81 games at Miller Park would be nice for any hitter.

Soo Weeks had the biggest slump of career this year and even got moved to 6th in the order for most of the year. He finally got over .200 not too long ago. And there's no Prince.

Proshares, you were bashing me last year, along with everyone else, when I used the argument that Braun deserved it because he took the Brewers to the playoffs. How come Braun is only now being considered now that theyre in the Wild Card race? His numbers have been this consistent all year.
post #8066 of 73654
Braun has been a top 5 contender all year, but is among the front-runners now because Cutch and Wright slowed down a bit, and Votto got hurt. And Kemp still deserved it last year, despite your continued (and tired) attempts to defend your opinion.

Took about 6 hours, but the O's finally put it away. Awful at bats all night, but another W is worth the 3 hours of sleep I'll get before work pimp.gif
post #8067 of 73654
These O's just won't go away.

New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #8068 of 73654
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

Braun has been a top 5 contender all year, but is among the front-runners now because Cutch and Wright slowed down a bit, and Votto got hurt. And Kemp still deserved it last year, despite your continued (and tired) attempts to defend your opinion.
Took about 6 hours, but the O's finally put it away. Awful at bats all night, but another W is worth the 3 hours of sleep I'll get before work pimp.gif

laugh.gif Damn, bro. U a trooper. I couldn't stay up for the game.
post #8069 of 73654
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Jay02 View Post

Soo Weeks had the biggest slump of career this year and even got moved to 6th in the order for most of the year. He finally got over .200 not too long ago. And there's no Prince.
Proshares, you were bashing me last year, along with everyone else, when I used the argument that Braun deserved it because he took the Brewers to the playoffs. How come Braun is only now being considered now that theyre in the Wild Card race? His numbers have been this consistent all year.

Because now he's doing it alone? With that so-so rotation and horrific bullpen? He's been near the top with Cutch and Wright all year. Lineup protection is a joke but it's still astonishing what he's doing. Like it or not, the saga from last offseason is going to hurt him. IDK what you wanna hear, you were right?

BTW, I can already tell this AL MVP race is going to piss me off. I don't know why people can't get it through their heads that RBI's and BA are pretty useless. Or the fact that terrible defense and baserunning adds runs and takes away runs respectively from your team. Or the fact that amazing CF defense and extremely precise baserunning adds runs to your team. But hey, we're just stat geeks who don't watch games.
post #8070 of 73654
Thread Starter 
Framing the American League MVP debate.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The best front-office minds in baseball have been the engines of change in the sport over the past two decades, and as a result, there are fewer bunts and more lineups stacked according to on-base percentage and a greater value placed on defense.

There has been a gradual trickle-down effect from the front-office spawn of Moneyball to the baseball writers, who have generally adopted and embraced that thinking. This was apparent in 2010, when the pitcher wins statistic was placed on life support after being a primary evaluation tool for decades. Felix Hernandez went 13-12 that year, ranking 18th in pitcher wins, but he won the AL Cy Young Award anyway. For some baseball officials, the pitcher wins statistic still has a heartbeat as a small measure of how a pitcher can push across a finish line in a tough inning, but it is mostly extinct.

In a few months, when MVP votes are tallied, we will know whether another statistic, the RBI -- rendered obsolete by most front offices as an evaluation tool during the past decade -- is being treated similarly by the baseball writers.

By the measures of past generations, Miguel Cabrera would be a solid bet to win the AL Most Valuable Player award. After his
If you go by the new metrics, however, Mike Trout would win the MVP in the way that Lyndon Johnson thrashed Barry Goldwater in 1964, or how Richard Nixon crushed George McGovern in 1972. According to the advanced numbers, Trout versus Cabrera is not close.

As of Wednesday morning, the wins above replacement leaders -- the WAR leaders -- for the American League:

1. Mike Trout, 10.2
2. Robinson Cano, 6.7
3. Miguel Cabrera, 6.1

WAR takes a much broader overview of a player's skills, also incorporating baserunning and defense, as the FanGraphs definition details here.

In the MVP voting of years past, defense and baserunning have tended to be treated like ugly stepchildren, and batting average and RBIs have been the favored categories. The accumulation of RBIs is the traditional way that players have evaluated themselves and one another; you hear constant references to this in conversations with those in uniform.

But in the past decade -- and in particular the past five years -- defense and baserunning metrics have gained a lot of attention in front offices because they fill out the broader picture of what a player is.

Cabrera is an extraordinary hitter; as I wrote here recently, if he retired today, he would have done enough to be voted into the Hall of Fame for work at the plate alone. He is also one of the worst defensive players in the majors; it's a simple fact that his presence at third base costs the Tigers runs. He is, on his best days, a station-to-station baserunner.

Trout, a rookie, is among the best hitters in the majors and will finish this season with something close to these numbers: 130 runs, 85 RBIs and a .950 OPS. He is also arguably the fastest baserunner and the most efficient, with 46 stolen bases in 50 attempts, constantly taking extra bases. And he is a spectacular defensive player, to the point that one club official recently evaluated his range as extending 7 feet beyond the fence because of his ability to get back to the wall. (Trout leads the majors in home run takeaways.)

Defense for baseball teams and players has not traditionally been viewed as a separate entity in the way it has been in the NFL. During the prime of Peyton Manning's career, the Colts' defense was thought of as something that the quarterback had to overcome.

The most progressive baseball front offices now do think of defense as another way of creating value. "It's a zero sum game," a GM said recently. "If you can save a run with your defense or create a run [on the basepaths], it's the same as hitting a home run."

By their way of thinking, Cabrera could be Manning -- and that old Colts defense as well. On the other hand, Trout could be thought of as Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson, Clay Matthews and Darrelle Revis all rolled into one player.

How will the MVP vote turn out? It's hard to say. There are 28 voters who will pick the AL MVP, two in each of the 14 American League cities -- which means 28 different perspectives, 28 different standards.

If they go with the old-school numbers, the MVP will be Cabrera or maybe Josh Hamilton.

If they evaluate through the prism used by most front offices -- as they did in 2010, with the Felix Hernandez Cy Young vote -- the only question will be whether Trout is a unanimous selection.

For the readers: Whom would you pick?

Cabrera says he would thank Prince Fielder if he wins the MVP.

From ESPN Stats & Information: After a huge night Tuesday, Cabrera leads the American League in batting average (.333) and RBIs (129) and is tied for second with 40 homers, just two behind leader Josh Hamilton. Cabrera's first home run Tuesday was off a pitch in the "middle-middle" part of the zone, an area where he has unsurprisingly feasted on pitches this season. Cabrera is 39-for-65 (.600 BA) with 12 HR in at-bats ending with a middle-middle pitch, both best in the major leagues. In addition, the home run came off a 68 mph curveball, the slowest pitch he has hit for a home run in the past four seasons.

Most homers off middle-middle pitches this season
12: Miguel Cabrera
12: Curtis Granderson
12: Corey Hart
11: Three tied with

.300 BA, 40 homers and 125 RBIs in single season (Tigers history)
2012: Miguel Cabrera
1961: Norm Cash
1940: Hank Greenberg
1938: Hank Greenberg
1937: Hank Greenberg

The Tigers didn't gain any ground on Tuesday, however, and Max Scherzer came out of the game with shoulder pain.

The contenders most in need of a victory Wednesday:

1. Los Angeles Dodgers, who are now 1½ games back in the wild-card race.
2. Detroit.
3. Angels.
4. Pirates.
5. Brewers.

By The Numbers, Cabrera edition
From ESPN Stats & Info

6: Cabrera hit his 40th home run Tuesday, becoming the sixth player in Tigers history to have that many in a season. The last to do so was Cecil Fielder in 1991.
9: 440-plus-foot homers this season for Cabrera, most by any player this season. His first home run Tuesday went 446 feet.
129: Cabrera had six RBIs on Tuesday to bring his season total to a MLB-leading 129. His previous high for a season was 127 in 2008.
.441: Batting average during Cabrera's current eight-game hitting streak. He's hitting an AL best .333 this season, and his career high for a season is .344, which he had last year.


• Clayton Kershaw has been cleared to pitch.

• I wrote here the other day about which teams might go after Hamilton, and since then, one NL executive put in a vote for the San Francisco Giants. They could create some room on their payroll, he noted, by trading Hunter Pence or by not tendering him a contract, and at the end of 2013, the contracts of both Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum are set to expire. "The middle of their lineup could be Hamilton, [Buster] Posey and [Pablo] Sandoval, and that could be pretty amazing," the exec said.

Hamilton has power that could have an impact in any park, including San Francisco, where home runs don't come often. He could play any of the three outfield positions there as well.

• While you were sleeping, the Baltimore Orioles won a crazy 18-inning game in Seattle, Dan Connolly writes.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: It was the first game to go 18-plus innings without an error by either team since Cubs versus Astros on Aug. 15, 2006 (18 innings).

From ESPN Stats & Info:

1. The Orioles have 14 straight extra-inning wins (longest single-season streak since 1949 Indians, who won 17 straight).
2. Taylor Teagarden had the go-ahead RBI single in the 18th, and six of his seven hits this season have driven in runs, with three coming in extra innings.
3. Time of game: 5 hours, 44 minutes (second-longest game by innings, third-longest by time this season).
4. The Orioles' Nos. 4-8 hitters: 1-for-35, 10 strikeouts.
5. The Mariners went 0-for-17 with RISP (left 16 runners on base).

• There is surging interest in the Orioles and Athletics based on the ticket prices in the secondary market.

Chris Matcovich of sent over these numbers:


• Average ticket price from Sept. 1, 2011, to end of regular season: $45
• Average ticket price from Sept. 1, 2012, to end of regular season: $94.99
• Percentage change year-over-year: plus-111.1 percent


• Average ticket price from Sept. 1, 2011, to end of regular season: $49
• Average ticket price from Sept. 1, 2012, to end of regular season: $62.16
• Percentage change year-over-year: plus-26.86 percent

• Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting is unhappy with the Pirates' collapse and is asking hard questions, writes Dejan Kovacevic.

Dings and dents

1. Danny Espinosa has a bruise.

2. Brett Gardner is going to help out on defense and as a pinch runner, writes Mark Feinsand.

3. Jim Thome is expected to join the Orioles this weekend.

4. Jake Westbrook is working to come back.

5. A couple of Cincinnati Reds are working their way back toward getting into action -- Zack Cozart took batting practice, and Aroldis Chapman will throw a bullpen session.

6. Travis Hafner could be back in the Indians' lineup.

7. Andrelton Simmons is out with a sore shoulder.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Yunel Escobar was suspended, David Waldstein writes. Something was lost in translation, writes Bob Elliott. His explanation defied logic, writes Cathal Kelly.

2. Longtime Yankees adviser Billy Connors is being demoted, writes George King.

3. Tim Bogar is going to interview for the Astros' managerial job. Zachary Levine takes a look at the Astros' search.

4. The San Diego Padres extended a minor league affiliation.

AL East notes

• The Tampa Bay Rays are six games behind the Orioles and just about done. It's been a frustrating season, writes Gary Shelton.

• Andy Pettitte is the Yankees' go-to guy again, Harvey Araton writes.

• Felix Doubront threw well, and the Boston Red Sox came back to win.

AL Central notes

• The Chicago White Sox held serve with some old-fashioned power. Meanwhile, they are monitoring the innings of Chris Sale.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Max Scherzer left the game Tuesday after two innings with right shoulder fatigue. His fastball averaged 92.3 mph, his lowest average velocity in a start this season. Scherzer's season average entering Tuesday was 94.3 mph, fifth among qualified starters. Scherzer's fastball velocity had been trending upward as of late; his previous two starts were his two highest-average fastball velocities in the past four seasons.

• The Kansas City Royals are on the verge of elimination. They had to shuffle their rotation.

• The Cleveland Indians wasted chances, Paul Hoynes writes.

• Joe Mauer is going for a batting title.

AL West notes

• Oakland got blasted, writes Susan Slusser.

• Ryan Dempster had a fourth-inning meltdown.

• Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels took down the Rangers. Albert Pujols wasn't able to be at the game. The Angels' closer is back in business, writes Mark Whicker.

• The Seattle Mariners got an iron-man effort from catcher Miguel Olivo -- but lost.

NL East notes

• The Philadelphia Phillies are sticking with Ryan Howard.

• Domonic Brown's patience has paid off, writes John Finger.

• The Atlanta Braves rallied but lost.

• The New York Mets are chasing their own awful record.

• The Miami Marlins pulled out a win in extra innings.

NL Central notes

• The Milwaukee Brewers ran wild against the Pirates. Corey Hart can pinch-hit, but he can't start.

• Kyle Lohse was The Man for the St. Louis Cardinals.

• The Reds' magic number is down to 4.

• The Pirates got steamrolled and fell behind the Brewers in the standings.

• The Chicago Cubs, playing out the string, lost again.

• The Astros have 100 losses.

NL West notes

• Tim Lincecum picked up his 10th win.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how he beat the Rockies:

A. Rockies hitters were 1-for-10 in at-bats ending with a fastball, including four strikeouts.
B. Rockies hitters were 0-for-7 in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inside part of the plate or further in, including 0-for-6 against the fastball.
C. Rockies hitters were 0-for-8 in at-bats ending with a pitch in the upper half of the zone or above, including 0-for-7 with four strikeouts against the fastball.
D. Rockies hitters were 0-for-13 in two-strike at-bats.

• Lincecum still needs polish, writes Carl Steward.

• Wilin Rosario tied a record.

• Ian Kennedy had a strong outing. Gerardo Parra has had difficulty with his limited playing time.

• Chase Headley is worthy of second-half consideration, writes Jeff Sanders.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Will Kershaw pitch this season?
AM ETClayton Kershaw | Dodgers Recommend0Comments0EmailClayton Kershaw was examined Tuesday by a hip specialist who says the ace lefthander can continue to pitch without risking damage to his sore right hip.

The Dodgers, however, want to keep him sidelined if the pain persists and their terse response to the exam seems to raise more questions than it answers, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

Kershaw hasn't been shut down, but he has yet to be scheduled for a bullpen session. With two weeks left, a return by the end of the regular season appears questionable at best.

Rookie Stephen Fife will continue to fill Kershaw's spot in the rotation.

Tuesday's statement on Kershaw made no mention of surgery. Hernandez reported Monday that if Kershaw must undergo surgery, he isn't expected to be pitching in the major leagues until the middle of May.

The Dodgers could enter spring training with three starters coming off notable injuries, a disturbing number for a franchise that is built to win now. Kershaw is under contract next season for $11 million and won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season. Chad Billingsley suffered a season-ending elbow injury and Ted Lilly is scheduled to undergo a shoulder operation Friday.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, Stephen Fife
Young done for season?
AM ETChris Young | Diamondbacks Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Arizona Diamondbacks may have seen the last of center fielder Chris Young for 2012.

The center fielder, back in the starting lineup for the first time since September 3, exited Tuesday's game against the Padres in the first inning with a re-aggravated right quadriceps muscle suffered while chasing a fly ball. "It's getting late (in the season). I tried to push it today and it didn't work," Young told

There has been talk that the D-backs might consider dealing Young and/or Justin Upton, so Tuesday might have been Young's last start in an Arizona uniform.

Gerardo Parra, who has seen limited playing time in September while rookie Adam Eaton has been auditioned, took over for Young in center field Tuesday and could get more at-bats the rest of the way.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Gerardo Parra, Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
Limited role for Gardner
AM ETBrett Gardner | Yankees Recommend0Comments0EmailThe New York Yankees are close to bringing back outfielder Brett Gardner in a limited role for the remainder of the regular season, reports Wallace Matthews.

Gardner, who has missed all but nine games with a right elbow injury, would likely be used as a defensive replacement and a pinch-runner. Manager Joe Girardi also is leaving open the possibility of adding Gardner to any postseason roster. For now, the Yankees are ruling out Gardner as a pinch-hitter.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
A healthy Lackey in 2013?
AM ETJohn Lackey | Red Sox Recommend0Comments0EmailThere was a John Lackey sighting Tuesday at Tropicana Field, where the Red Sox righthander threw two simulated innings.

An report said Lackey "seemed to have pretty good hop on his fastball." Lackey, 26-23 in two seasons with Boston, will pitch in an intrasquad game in Fort Myers, Florida on Sunday that will end his season.

Lackey, who had Tommy John surgery last November, is expected to enter spring training without any restrictions. The righthander is due over $30 million over the next two seasons plus an option for 2015, so there is little chance of a trade (Salary dumps, like the one with the Los Angeles Dodgers, don't happen all that often).

- Doug Mittler
Tags:John Lackey, Boston Red Sox
Ike surprised by trade report
AM ETIke Davis | Mets Recommend0Comments0EmailIke Davis has rebounded from a disastrous start that almost saw him demoted to the minors, but he may no longer be entrenched as the first baseman for the New York Mets.

Adam Rubin of reports Mets will consider trading Davis this offseason as a way to upgrade other areas and possibly open a spot for Lucas Duda.

Rubin adds the Mets are disappointed with Davis' unwillingness to make changes based on coaching advice and worry that he stays out too late after games, which could be a bad influence on younger players.

Davis seemed surprised and confused by the report, telling Andy Martino of the Daily News: "It is unfair to me, and it doesn't make sense."

Mets manager Terry Collins did his best to downplay the report. "There's not a guy in that clubhouse who can't get traded," Collins said.

Maybe not, Terry. The Mets can't find to take Jason Bay off their hands.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Ike Davis, New York Mets
If the Pirates fall short...
AM ETPittsburgh Pirates Recommend0Comments0EmailExactly two weeks remain in the regular season and the Pittsburgh Pirates are scrambling to avoid another epic collapse. Unless they make up 3 1/2 games in the wild card chase, the Bucs will be out of the playoffs for two full decades.

If the Bucs fall short, owner Bob Nutting may not stand idly by, writes Dejan Kovacecic in Wednesday's Tribune Review.

Kovacevic still believes that manager Clint Hurdle and team president Frank Coonelly will be retained, but both will have questions to answer since Nutting, who is far from a detached owner, could be looking to make changes at season's end. Hurdle, in particular, must convince ownership he is the man to avoid a third straight collapse.

A similar case might be the New York Mets, who kept Willie Randolph around following a 2007 collapse before firing him midway through the 2008 season.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Pittsburgh Pirates
Waiting on a Houston skipper
AM ETHouston Astros Recommend0Comments0EmailIt may be a while before the Houston Astros make an announcement on a new manager.

Owner Jim Crane said the club hopes to wrap up its managerial search by the end of next week. But if the Astros decide to hire a skipper who is currently on the staff of a team that makes the playoffs, they'll have to wait until that team's season is complete before announcing the choice, reports's Brian McTaggert.

Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar will interview for job this week, according to, while former Padres and Phillies manager Larry Bowa said Tuesday he is no longer in contention.

Nationals bench coach Bo Porter, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and interim manager Tony DeFrancesco reportedly have been interviewed for the opportunity to replace the fired Brad Mills.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Houston Astros
Bundy to The Show
AM ETBaltimore Orioles Recommend0Comments1EmailWhen a team plays an extra-inning marathon, they almost always dip into the minors the next day to bolster a taxed bullpen. After enduring 18 innings Tuesday in Seattle, the Baltimore Orioles will make a big splash and call up top pitching prospect Dyland Bundy, tweets Ken Rosenthal.

The promotion would cap a meteoric rise for the 19-year-old Bundy, who pitched at three different minor league levels this season, finishing with a 2-0 record and a 3.24 ERA in three starts at Double-A Bowie. He had been working recently in the Instructional League.

The Orioles withstood the temptation to promote to call up Bundy earlier this season, but, with an AL East title in sight, they justifiably are pushing all their chips into the middle of the table. Baltimore used seven relievers for a combined 12 2/3 scoreless frames in Tuesday's 4-2 win.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Baltimore Orioles
Impact of Scherzer injury
AM ETMax Scherzer | Tigers Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Detroit Tigers appear to have dodged a bullet with Max Scherzer, who lasted only two innings in Tuesday's start against the Athletics with right-shoulder fatigue.

An MRI revealed no structural damage and 28-year-old will be reevaluated in a few days. The righthander says he can make his next start, although that's not guaranteed.

Any absence would be devastating for the Tigers, who are three games off the pace in the AL Central. Scherzer, the major league leader in strikeouts (224), entered the game 8-1 with a 2.61 ERA since the All-Star break and has settled in as the No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.

Left-hander Drew Smyly would likely move into the rotation if Scherzer needs to miss a start.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Drew Smyly, Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
No cameo for Clemens
AM ETRoger Clemens | Yankees Recommend0Comments0EmailTime appears to be running out on any chance Roger Clemens will pitch for the Houston Astros this season.

Clemens, even at 50, still has enough stuff to get hitters out in the Independent circuit. He pitched eight scoreless innings for the Sugar Land Skeeters earlier this month, leading to speculation that the Astros would bring him back for a cameo that would reset the clock on his Hall of Fame eligibility.

Owner Jim Crane reiterated Tuesday he does not expect Clemens to pitch this season, according to a tweet from Zachary Levine. although the seven-time Cy Young Award winner is on the attendee list for the Astros' Legends Weekend.

- Doug Mittler
New system in Denver
AM ETColorado Rockies Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Colorado Rockies are not afraid to think outside the box. Just look at the experiment with a four-man starting rotation that recently ended.

Danny Knobler of says the Rockies' next attempt to address their pitching problems is to hire a Director of Pitching, and give that individual authority over all parts of the organization, from scouting and drafting, through development.

Knobler says the Rockies are waiting for permission to talk to Mark Wiley, the former pitching coach of the Marlins who remains with the Fish as a special assistant. Wiley has spent 17 seasons as a big league pitching coach for four different teams and has worked previously for the Rockies.

The Rockies' plan follows the trend of many teams to have more central planning in all aspects of the front office. The injury-plagued Rockies are last in the majors with a 5.13 ERA, so Denver is as good a place as any to institute a new plan.

Troy Renck has more on the Rockies' pitching issues in Wednesday's Denver Post. "The Rockies have to develop more functional big-league starters. There's no bigger issue for the Rockies going forward," Renck writes.

- Doug Mittler
Tags:Colorado Rockies
Yanks hope Pettitte goes five
AM ETAndy Pettitte | Yankees Recommend0Comments1EmailThe New York Yankees will welcome Andy Pettitte to the rotation Wsednesday afternoon against the Blue Jays following a nearly two-month absence due to a broken foot. All that time away has the southpaw contemplating a return for a 15th season in 2013, reports Matt Ehalt of

"I could probably say that when I came back I thought there was no chance that I was coming back, this is a one-year deal," Pettitte said. "But getting hurt and only having 60 innings right now and you were hoping to have a couple hundred innings under your belt, it definitely gives me the option to consider coming back again next year, that's for sure."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he was hoping to get five innings and 70 pitches out of Pettitte against the Blue Jays. Dan Martin of the New York Post says Pettitte will likely be backed up by Freddy Garcia and perhaps David Phelps until he is ready to get to 100 pitches.

Pettitte's was scheduled to pitch Tuesday before the game was called due to rain. He will work the opener of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader.

- Doug Mittler

Padres Could Contend In 2013.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the San Diego Padres extended both Huston Street and Carlos Quentin this summer, they effectively signaled an intent to contend in the NL West in the near future. The organization felt that future was imminent enough to forego acquiring additional young talent via the trade market and instead committed valuable resources to injury-prone (though productive) assets who play non-premium positions.

All this from a team who owned a 34-53 record at the All-Star Break this season. Needless to say, the moves ruffled a few feathers and caused some to question whether the organization was truly intent on building a World Series contender or simply staving off an inevitable attendance decrease that normally accompanies mid-season fire sales.

If the Padres’ recent performance proves to be a believable measuring stick for its future, though, the front office in San Diego understood something that the vast majority of baseball fans did not. Their team was ready to start winning ballgames much earlier than expected.

Since the All-Star Break, the Padres have compiled a 37-24 record thus far in the second half, highlighted by an eight-game winning streak in late August. And one of the perennial question marks in San Diego, the offense, has been brilliant as of late. In the past 30 days, the Padres have the second-highest wOBA in all of baseball at .349.

Third baseman Chase Headley has carried the bulk of the offensive production throughout the year, but he has found some help in recent weeks. Our own Jeff Sullivan wrote about the resurgence of Cameron Maybin, but Logan Forsythe, Will Venable, and Yasmani Grandal have also established themselves at the plate over the past month. Almost everyone in a Padres uniform is hitting on all cylinders right now. Even the light-hitting Everth Cabrera has compiled a .322 wOBA in the past 30 days.

Of course, we should not assume recent offensive production will necessarily carry over to next season. After all, it’s a small sample size of only 30 days, and the Padres are benefitting from a .360 BABIP. This recent stretch, however, could be a sign that the youngsters are collectively turning a corner.

Left fielder Carlos Quentin is currently the oldest player in the Padres’ everyday starting lineup. He’s just turned 30 years old last month. Otherwise, Will Venable and Jesus Guzman are the veterans at 29 and 28 years old, respectively. It’s a young lineup that was built to grow up together and find success together. Every one of their starting position players are poised to return next season with another year of development under their belts.

Even if they’re due for regression based upon the random variation of BABIP, it seems likely we’re going to see more of the second-half Padres’ offense rather than the first-half variety simply based upon their age and the expected trajectory of development of young players.

The offense is currently carrying the team to its current good fortunes on the field. The starting rotation has been mediocre, and the bullpen hasn’t been anything to write home about with a 3.88 FIP in the last 30 days.

Much of the struggles surrounding the pitching staff, however, can be attributed to injury. The starting rotation has been without Cory Luebke and Tim Stauffer for much of the season, after both went down with elbow injuries, and the bullpen has been functioning without their closer, Huston Street. Not to mention Dustin Moseley and promising-prospect Joe Wieland are both on the 60-day DL, and big right-hander Andrew Cashner has fought injuries for the majority of the season.

The pitching staff has a chance to be much improved next season. Many of the injured pitchers should return, and the stability of the position players should allow GM Josh Byrnes to focus his energies on acquiring quality pitching. Cot’s Contracts calculates that the Padres have only $27.98M committed in payroll next season, aside from raises due to arbitration (and Chase Headley is going to get paid handsomely after this season), which suggests the organization could have money to spend on the free agent market to acquire a number two or three starter. Someone like Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson could significantly upgrade the rotation and neither currently project to break the bank.

Josh Byrnes could go a different route, however. He could focus his attention on the trade market. The Padres have a talented and deep farm system — one that Keith Law rated as the best in the league coming into the 2012 season — which could be utilized to acquire quality pitching. We witnessed the Milwaukee Brewers dramatically overhaul their starting rotation prior to the 2011 season via the trade market, and the Padres have a much deeper farm system from which they could deal without mortgaging the future of the organization.

As a whole, the San Diego Padres are perched on the precipice of contention. Their young, cost-controlled core of position players have shown signs this second half of collectively putting it together. The starting rotation and the bullpen have been decimated by injuries this year, but the organization has the resources — both in payroll space and prospects — to upgrade the pitching staff to be more competitive and compliment the promise of its offense.

And in a cavernous home ballpark such as PETCO, it’s much easier to upgrade a pitching staff than it is to upgrade a team’s offensive production. The Seattle Mariners serve as a worthwhile comparison in that regard.

Though far from a guarantee, the Padres could be a much improved team coming into the 2013 season. Their young position players seem to have turned a corner in their collective development and could provide above-average production throughout the year, and the organization is in good position to upgrade a pitching staff that needs a couple of pieces to be above average, as well. If the pieces fall into place this winter and the second-half improvement proves legitimate, the San Diego Padres could be threatening for a postseason berth much more quickly than most predicted coming into this season.

A Somewhat Surprising Thing About the Somewhat Unsurprising Tigers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There exists the perception that the Detroit Tigers are just this total disappointment. The Tigers, you’ll recall, came into the year looking like the favorites in the AL Central, and now it’s the middle of September and they’re three back of first. They’re about as far out of the wild card as the Padres are, which means for the Tigers it’s probably division title or bust. They won’t play the leading White Sox again down the stretch. Many thought the Tigers would be able to coast to the playoffs, and now the Tigers are fighting for their very playoff lives.

Truthfully, I’d say it’s less about the Tigers being surprising, and more about the White Sox being surprising. Major media types liked the Tigers because of their stars, but check out those linked projections above. Statistically, the Tigers didn’t look like an elite team, and they’re on pace to win 85 games. People just didn’t expect for the White Sox to give them such a push.

And you could argue that the standings don’t reflect actual team performances to date. The White Sox are three games ahead of the Tigers in the Central, but the White Sox have posted an OPS 19 points higher than the OPS they’ve allowed, while the Tigers have posted an OPS 32 points higher than the OPS they’ve allowed. That’s the fifth-best gap in the AL, behind the Rays and ahead of the A’s. The rest is basically sequencing and over a large enough sample you’d expect this stuff to even out. The Tigers are in a desperate situation, with dwindling playoff odds, but as a team they have played fairly well.

And they have played fairly predictably. Entering the year people had their general ideas of what the Tigers would be, and here’s where the Tigers rank in the American League in various team-level categories:

wRC+: 4th
Baserunning: 11th
Rotation FIP: 1st
Bullpen FIP: 7th
UZR: 12th

The Tigers were supposed to be able to hit, and the Tigers have hit, with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera leading the way. Alex Avila has dropped off, but Austin Jackson has taken a step forward, and so the Tigers’ offense has more or less been what it was supposed to be. Baserunning hasn’t been a strength, but no one thought it would be, and it hasn’t been a crippling weakness, because it’s baserunning. You can only make so much of a difference when you’re running the bases.

The Tigers were supposed to be able to pitch, and the Tigers have pitched, getting great work out of the rotation. Look at that again, if you need to — the Tigers’ rotation has the lowest FIP in the American League. Justin Verlander, naturally, has been outstanding, and Max Scherzer just struck out the mailman. The rest of the crew has been fine and the Tigers haven’t really needed to lean on any depth. The bullpen has been neither a strength nor a weakness, which makes it acceptable as bullpens go.

So a big problem’s been defense, which literally every person on Earth saw coming. The Tigers have allowed the AL’s highest BABIP, and though they’re 12th in UZR, they’re 15 runs behind 11th. Fielder has started 144 times at first base, and Cabrera has started 138 times at third base. Issue identified, right? Didn’t everyone know at the time of the Fielder signing that defense would be sacrificed?

Well sure, but there’s a funny thing about the Tigers’ team defense: the infield hasn’t really been the problem with it. Everybody assumed, and perhaps rightly so, that an infield with Fielder and Cabrera at the corners would be a nightmare, but here’s the 2012 UZR split:

Tigers infield: -2.2
Tigers outfield: -27.0

Early in the season, I wrote about the Tigers’ miserable defensive performance against groundballs, which I mostly pinned on the infield. They’ve gotten so, so much better ever since, boosted no doubt by the acquisition of Omar Infante. Nobody would tell you that Fielder or Cabrera ought to be Gold Glove candidates, but as a unit, the Tigers’ infield has been just fine, at least if you believe in UZR. And it seems to me there’s little UZR can get way wrong when evaluating an infield.

The outfield has been a defensive catastrophe, more than five runs worse than any other AL outfield. The difference between the last-place Tigers and the first-place Angels, by UZR, works out to nearly 60 runs, or nearly six wins. The Tigers have allowed the highest BABIP on line drives in baseball, and though I know you’re tempted to blame this all on Delmon Young, Young hasn’t played a lot of outfield in a while. He’s actually seventh on the team in outfield innings, at 226. UZR thinks he’s responsible for just a small fraction of the overall negative.

The guy UZR really hates is Brennan Boesch, and while I don’t want to get too deep into talking about single-season UZR, I’ll note that Boesch has batted 500 times and owns a -1.1 WAR. In retrospect, less Boesch and more someone else might have the Tigers in first, in a tie or by themselves. That’s speculation. Let’s forget about Boesch and focus on the overall picture: the Tigers’ defense has indeed been a weakness, but the numbers suggest the weakness hasn’t been in the infield, but beyond it.

First and foremost, that’s interesting, because that isn’t how things were supposed to work out. We can’t say anything conclusively, because UZR isn’t proof of anything but what UZR thinks. This might be sort of encouraging for the Tigers going forward, as playing Fielder and Cabrera in the field every day hasn’t held them back too bad. The Tigers aren’t thinking about the future, though, as they’d really prefer to have a better present. To that end, I might advise playing a little less Boesch, but I’m just a guy with a computer and access to stats. Boesch could conceivably go on to save the whole season, because the less time there is left, the less the numbers really matter.

Deciding Whether or Not to Trade Ike Davis.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In a piece of news that would have seemed impossible at one time, there’s scuttlebutt that New York Mets might be open to trading Ike Davis this offseason. A source told Adam Rubin of ESPNNY that the option of moving Davis in order to both upgrade the team elsewhere and move Lucas Duda to his natural position is on the table. Though much of Queens would be dismayed — “We like Ike” T-shirts abound — it’s definitely possible that this is the right move for the Metropolitans.

In Rubin’s post, one of the reasons given for the idea is that Davis is unwilling to “make changes based on coaching advice” and that “he is out too late after games.” The first is slightly concerning, given a player with his strikeout rate and hitch-filled swing, but the second casts a poor light on both pieces of reason. All sorts of players enjoy the night life — they aren’t due back to the stadium until most people’s lunchtime, and they have expendable cash to spend in a bustling metropolis. Adding Davis’ social life as a negative on top of a supposed lack of coachability suggests a hint of personality clash and the chance that this rumor is entirely the result of one source’s personal desire for change. Davis was (rightly) confused by the pot-shots today as he responded to the story, as well.

None of that changes the core problem of having both Lucas Duda and Ike Davis on your roster, one that has been obvious for some time — they are both first baseman defensively, and playing them both on the field at the same time is part of the reason that the Mets’ defense has been the worst in the National League by UZR/150 (third-worst by DRS). The hope that Duda could fake it in the outfield has waned with every muffed can of corn. Though the player himself has been working doggedly on his glove, and his team has tried him at both corner outfield spots, the eye test and the numbers agree — he hasn’t improved.

And so now comes the big decision for the Mets. Which first baseman do they keep? Or, rather, since Davis’ counting stats and proven defensive work at first base are more likely to be sought after than Duda’s more mellow offensive profile and undecided defensive value at first, the big question is — how do they decide whether it’s worth it to trade the incumbent at the position?

Though Davis has hit counting stat threshholds that Duda has never approached — 27 home runs so far this year is a great example — their bats are actually more comparable than it might at first seem. They’ve already combined for over 2000 plate appearances, and Ike Davis has a better wOBA than Lucas Duda… by .001. One point of weighted offense separates the two. Even if Davis does it with more power and more walks, he also does it with more strikeouts. If those 27 home runs are worth more on the open market — and most assuredly they are — then by bat, and bat alone, it makes sense to shop Davis and install the similar, lower-profiled bat at first once he has departed.

The asterisk comes from the other side of the ball. Davis’ defensive numbers are down a bit this year — worse than scratch for the first time by UZR/150 and DRS — but by the eye test, he’s not far from the asset with a glove that he’s been over the balance of his career (+4.3 UZR/150, +9 DRS). Duda has barely played more than 300 innings at the position, so his close-to-scratch defensive numbers are not so useful. His larger-sample (1300+ innings) outfield work has been so bad, though. Worst in the league among outfielders with 1000+ innings since 2010, that’s how bad he’s been. Ten runs per one-fifty worse than second-worst even.

The defensive spectrum suggests that first base is only about five runs easier than left field, which would in turn suggest that Duda would also be a terrible defensive first baseman. But there is such a thing as not being suited for the outfield. Near the end of his career as an outfielder, Adam Dunn was a -30+ corner outfielder, and since then he’s been something like a -5 first baseman. Shawn Green was a -20 corner outfielder before being a better-than-scratch first baseman for a few seasons late in his career. Duda is no graceful gazelle, but his issues — foot speed in particular — are mitigated at first. Let’s call him a -5 first baseman.

That’s still value he’ll give away compared to Ike Davis. Davis has played 324 games and accrued 5.9 WAR. If you guesstimate him as at true-talent three-win player, and give Duda credit for about the same offensive value despite his different offensive profile, it’s possible that the Ox is no better than a two-win player at the same position. There’s a bit of upside for the 26-year-old Duda, but the same could be said for the 25-year-old Davis. The relative difference between the two, at this stage in their careers and at first base, is somewhere around a win above replacement.

That’s a lot of back-of-the-envelope guesswork, but there’s your number. If the Mets can improve by a win or more at any other position, it would absolutely make sense to trade Ike Davis and replace him with Lucas Duda. If not, the team will have to ask for another year of hard work from the defensively-challenged Duda while also abiding with a short-term defensive caddy in the outfield and putting off the decision for another offseason.

Arizona Fall League Breakdown: Salt River Rafters.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Tentative rosters for the Arizona Fall League were released on Aug. 29. The fall developmental league is designed to help prospects received extra seasoning and coaching at the conclusion of the minor league season. Each organization contributes players to the six-team league. The league typically shifts in favor of the hitters because teams are generally reluctant to assign top arms to the league – unless they’re attempting to make up for lost innings due to injuries.

We’ve already broken down five AFL clubs:
Mesa Solar Sox
Peoria Javelinas
Phoenix Desert Dogs
Scottsdale Scorpions.
Surprise Saguaros

The Salt River Rafters club consists of players from five organizations – Toronto, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, and Chicago (AL). Below are some interesting names set to appear on the roster. Full rosters can be found here.

Sam Dyson, RHP, Toronto: Dyson reached the majors in his first healthy pro season, appearing in two games with the Jays. He spent the majority of the year in double-A and was almost unhittable prior to his promotion. After getting sent back down, though, he struggled. Dyson will look to iron out his command in the AFL and has the ceiling of a middle reliever – or possibly an eighth inning guy. Because he puts a ton of balls in play on the ground, he will always be at the mercy of the infield defense behind him,

Evan Marshall, RHP, Arizona: A former fourth round draft pick, Marshall reached double-A in his first full pro season and his numbers look OK on first blush. Unfortunately, he allows too many hits and doesn’t strike out many guys. His control is ahead of his command and he possesses a low-90s fastball and a promising slider. Arizona will try and get a better handle on his future potential with some additional fall work.

Deck McGuire, RHP, Toronto: The 11th overall pick of the 2010 draft out of Georgia Tech, McGuire signed for more than $2 million and his career has been a disappointment to this point. His stuff hasn’t been as crisp in pro ball as it was reported to be when he was in college. He’s also struggled with his command and overall approach with setting up hitters. McGuire looks like a very expensive future middle or long reliever – unless he starts to make some positive adjustments.

Santos Rodriguez, LHP, Chicago (AL): The hard-throwing Rodriguez has been hanging around the White Sox top prospects lists for a few years now thanks mostly to a very promising fastball from the left side. Unfortunately his secondary stuff is not as good and he’s struggled to command his pitches, leading to modest results from a guy who has looked down right dominant at times.

Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona: Davidson, 21, continued to make good on his offensive potential in 2012 by smashing 23 homers in 135 games. Unfortunately, he swings and misses too much, which drags down his overall effectiveness. Davidson also struggles with the glove although he’s made significant strides at the hot corner – enough so that the club may have abandoned thoughts of moving him permanently to first base.

Jason Martinson, IF, Washington: Martinson shows some interesting tools – including rare pop from a middle infielder – but his massive strikeout numbers are a huge red flag. He struck out 167 times in 136 A-ball games in 2012 but also slugged 22 homers. He’s a good base runner, too, with solid speed and nabbed 30 bags in 35 tries. Martinson, 23, probably won’t hit enough to be an everyday big leaguer but he could carve out a respectable career from the bench.

Matt Skole, 3B, Washington: Skole has some competition – in the form of big leaguer Ryan Zimmerman and prospect Anthony Rendon – if he hopes to eventually play third base in Washington. However, his career has gotten off on the right foot as he’s hit for both power and average during his first two pro seasons. Skole, 23, slugged 27 homers and walked 94 times in 101 low-A games. Moved up to high-A ball he still hit for average but hit .314 in 18 games. He strikes out too much to keep hitting in the .290-.300 range but his combination of power and patience makes him an interesting player to watch.

Corey Dickerson, OF, Colorado: Dickerson shows a promising left-handed bat and performed well both in high-A and double-A this past season. He’s shown impressive power while also maintaining a good batting average and respectable on-base numbers. He’ll have to keep hitting because his defense is fringe average in left field. Dickerson could end up being a great value as a former eighth round draft pick, even if he merely becomes a platoon outfielder.

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