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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 236

post #7051 of 77346
^ Wright smiley: nerd

jk but Bourn has played good leads NL in hits so far. He just gets caught stealing to much for my liking.


post #7052 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by wildKYcat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Cleveland

In another direction, Joey Votto is on pace for 71 doubles, 31 home runs, 107 runs batted in, 131 walks and 10 steals, to boot. On-base at .486 right now. That's like Barry Bonds Lite territory.

and 200 hits.  only one player in the history of baseball has walked that many times with 200 hits...some guy named Babe Ruth.

and the doubles record is 67.  

I think Votto is hitting .490 for June.smiley: laugh



sick.gif
post #7053 of 77346
Mike Trout > Bryce Harper


*runs away
post #7054 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by dako akong otin

Mike Trout > Bryce Harper


*runs away



laugh.gif @ *runs away.
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
post #7055 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by dako akong otin

Mike Trout > Bryce Harper


*runs away

As of right now, yes he is. 
post #7056 of 77346
Don't run away. You're not alone in that opinion in this thread...

Oswald looked really strong last night. Threw strikes by the boatload and only got hit hard once or twice. Really encouraging,
post #7057 of 77346
I just voted for my all star ballot honestly just based on stats, standings, bias (Miami) and other knowledge. I haven't watched that many games. Would love to hear any opinions on who really deserves to go. Honorable mentions are players I truly had to think about.

AL
C Pierzynski
1B Konerko HN Fielder
2B Cano
SS Jeter HN A. Cabrera
3B Trumbo HN Beltre & M. Cabrera
OF Hamilton, Bautista, Adam Jones
DH Encarnacion HN Ortiz

NL
C Molina HN Ruiz
1B Votto
2B Infante HN B. Phillips
SS Ian Desmond HN S. Castro
3B D. Wright
OF Beltran, Braun, McCutchen HN C. Gonzalez
post #7058 of 77346
that looks pretty good to me............no issues with anybody besides starlin castro.

id pick Rafeal Furcal ahead of him at least on defense alone, and his offense has been pretty consistent in the leadoff spot.

and no mike trout??? THATS a mistake..........
post #7059 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by pacmagic2002

that looks pretty good to me............no issues with anybody besides starlin castro.

id pick Rafeal Furcal ahead of him at least on defense alone, and his offense has been pretty consistent in the leadoff spot.

and no mike trout??? THATS a mistake..........

That all sounds fair.
post #7060 of 77346
I'm worried about Chapman. 
REDS/WILDCATS/BENGALS
NTWT
Reply
REDS/WILDCATS/BENGALS
NTWT
Reply
post #7061 of 77346
CC vs RA


smiley: pimp
post #7062 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdcurt2

I'm worried about Chapman. 


Stop.
post #7063 of 77346
Did Youkalis have problems in the clubhouse or with management?
post #7064 of 77346
Pretty much just Valentine
...and the Golden State would never paper hate...
Reply
...and the Golden State would never paper hate...
Reply
post #7065 of 77346
Its whatever I guess

smiley: ohwell
post #7066 of 77346
Thread Starter 
CC Sabathia is slowingdown.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

On Monday, New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia shut down the Atlanta Braves, allowing just two runs while striking out 10 and walking one batter. It was Sabathia's first complete game of the season and his second straight in which he performed like the dominant hurler that Yankees fans are accustomed to seeing. Over his previous six starts, Sabathia posted a 3.95 ERA, allowing 21 runs and a .823 OPS against. Those six starts prompted quite a bit of worry and discussion in Yankee land about the ace. Was there something wrong with Sabathia?

It's hard to blame people for wondering. Sabathia was fantastic in 2011 in what was his best season since 2008. Accounting for the hitter-friendly park he pitched in half of the time, Sabathia's 3.00 ERA was 29 percent better than league average. More impressive was Sabathia's 2.88 FIP, which led the American League.

Considering Sabathia's seemingly slow start to the season and his age (he turns 32 later this month), it makes one wonder if we are seeing the beginning of his decline. And a look at the pitch data suggests he's starting to slip in one key category.

It is often said that pitchers have only so many pitches in their arm before they begin to break down. Over time, the unnatural motion of throwing a baseball -- particularly at high speeds -- begins to take its toll. On average, pitchers lose velocity as they age. As a pitcher's velocity declines, so too does his overall effectiveness. Strikeout rates decline and walk and home run rates increase.

Sabathia has been the very definition of a workhorse throughout his stellar career. Looking at pitchers through their age-30 season, Sabathia ranks 34th with 2,364 1/3 innings pitched. If we look just at pitchers who pitched from 1970 to the present, Sabathia jumps to third. Since 2000, Sabathia has thrown the most pitches of any pitcher through his age-30 season (more than 37,000, which is 5,000 more than the next closest pitcher).

It appears all of those innings are beginning to affect Sabathia's velocity. Up until this year, Sabathia had been one of the few pitchers who had been able to maintain his velocity year after year. Research shows that when pitchers do that, they don't really "age" -- their performance is very consistent. This year, however, Sabathia has lost roughly 1.5 mph in velocity. Now it's only June, and some pitchers gain velocity as the season wears on. However, Sabathia is still down relative to this time last year.

Through June 2011, Sabathia's fastball averaged 93.4 mph, eventually topping out at 94.4 mph in September. This year, Sabathia's average fastball has been 92.3 mph, more than 1 mph lower than last June. Pitchers who lose at least 1 mph of velocity tend to perform worse in that season, but they also fail to regain velocity the following year. Since 2002 (when data became available), there have been 18 pitchers at least 31 years old who have lost 1 mph or more. Not a single one regained any velocity the following year. Compared with other pitchers age 31 or older who did not lose 1 mph of velocity, those who lost at least 1 mph of velocity were 10 times less likely to regain any velocity the following year. Bottom line, once a pitcher begins to lose velocity, the less likely it is he will regain it as he ages.

Whichever way you slice it, the big lefty has logged a significant amount of work and it appears that workload has finally started to impact his velocity. But is it starting to affect his performance? That's a trickier question to answer.

Through 14 starts, Sabathia has a 3.55 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.8. Last year through 14 starts, Sabathia posted a lower ERA (3.15), but a far less impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.7). In fact, if you look at his adjusted ERA and FIP, he's pitching worse relative to last year, but his ERA is still 14 percent better than the league average (FIP is 24 percent better). His strikeout rate is actually a tick higher than it was in 2011 (23.9 percent versus 23.4 percent) and his walk rate is essentially the same (6.3 percent versus 6.2 percent).

Is Sabathia starting to decline? Given his age and the apparent real drop in velocity, the answer is yes. However, the relationship between declining velocity and performance for starters is not as closely correlated as it is for relief pitchers -- starters tend to age more gracefully. So that's good news for the Yankees, as there is no reason to believe his decline will be drastic or that his performance will significantly decline in the short term. But the fact of the matter is that Sabathia is, quite literally, starting to slow down.

Bill Petti is a staff writer at FanGraphs.com.



The most dominant pitches of all time.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

CC Sabathia loves to hit and gets only a couple of chances to do so every season, and the baseball gods have been unfair to him today. Sabathia will be on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), but does the left-hander get to swing against some mediocre right-hander with a meaty fastball?

No.

He gets to hit against R.A. Dickey, who has been throwing one of the most dominant pitches in baseball history during the past couple of months: a knuckleball that is unlike any knuckler thrown in the past. And Sabathia has a clear strategy for his at-bats. "If it's a knuckleball, I'm not swinging," he said, smiling. "Because I don't want to get hurt, and I don't want to look bad."

If Sabathia does eventually take a hack and looks a little awkward, well, he can take solace in the fact that the best and most experienced hitters have looked that bad against Dickey this year.

The Mets' right-hander explained on Saturday that he has focused on maintaining the elevation of his knuckler this year, which he has a better chance to do than knuckleballers who have preceded him, from Tim Wakefield to Phil Niekro to Charlie Hough to Steve Sparks, because he throws it harder -- about 80 mph or a little faster. The ball stays higher and gives Dickey a better chance at throwing strikes -- and with the dramatic late movement that comes with knuckleballs.

Catcher Josh Thole is convinced that Dickey's unusual knuckleball velocity comes from his legs in the way he drives off the mound. Knuckleballers such as Wakefield have tended to just step toward home plate, but tonight the New York Yankees will see Dickey push off the pitching rubber at them, and when he maintains the proper release point, the ball darts through the strike zone unpredictably.

Dickey's command has gotten so good, Thole said, that he and Dickey have actually focused on location. Typically, catchers working with a knuckleballer set up over the middle of the plate, ready to react like hockey goalies. But Thole and Dickey will talk before the game about whether they want to work inside or outside to a particular hitter, and Thole will slide toward a corner of the plate to set his target. "And I won't change [during the at-bat]," Thole said.

Eric Chavez has had some success against Dickey in the past, but he says that the numbers he generated were against Dickey's old knuckler, not the dominant pitch he's throwing this year. "There really is no approach," Chavez said. "You just swing and you hope you hit it."

The most interesting approach against Dickey this season, Thole believes, was described by Adam LaRoche, who told the catcher he treats his at-bats against Dickey like he's playing slow-pitch softball -- stepping into the swing, Happy Gilmore style.

If he hits it, well, it's probably going to be a home run. But he probably won't hit it. The late movement is so extraordinary that hitters don't usually make contact against Dickey these days.

Earlier this week, I sent an email to some evaluators asking them to note the most dominant pitches of all time -- like Mariano Rivera's cut fastball or Bruce Sutter's splitter, for example. Because right now, Dickey's pitch is a lot like those in their time: almost unhittable. In posing the question, I asked the evaluators to stretch their memories, and some had fun with this purely subjective (but interesting) question. The results:

Multiple votes division

⢠Rivera's cutter (seven votes)

From one evaluator: "Mariano's cutter is the single most devastating pitch in MLB history. Probably the only pitch that was equally predictable and devastating."

⢠Randy Johnson's slider (four votes)
⢠Sandy Koufax's curveball (three votes)
⢠Nolan Ryan's fastball (three votes)
⢠Nolan Ryan's curveball (three votes)
⢠Trevor Hoffman's changeup (three votes)
⢠Pedro Martinez's changeup (three votes)
⢠Johan Santana's changeup (three votes)

⢠Fernando Valenzuela's screwball (two votes)
⢠Dwight Gooden's curveball (two votes)
⢠Sutter's splitter (two votes)
⢠Gaylord Perry's petroleum product ball (two votes)
⢠Dave Giusti's palm ball (two votes)
⢠Mike Scott's cut fastball/splitter (two votes.) "Literally cut," wrote one evaluator.

Other nominations

⢠Steve Carlton's slider
⢠J.R. Richard's fastball
⢠J.R. Richard's slider
⢠Eric Gagne's disappearing ball
⢠John Smoltz's slider
⢠Cole Hamels' changeup
⢠Orel Hershiser's sinker
⢠Brandon Webb's sinker
⢠Bert Blyleven's curveball
⢠Pedro Martinez's whole repertoire -- changeup, fastball, curve
⢠Tom Seaver's slider

⢠Greg Maddux's front-door two-seam fastball
⢠Greg Maddux's changeup
⢠Felix Hernandez's curveball
⢠Rob Dibble's fastball
⢠Jim Palmer's riding fastball
⢠Phil Niekro's knuckler
⢠Tug McGraw's forkball
⢠Burleigh Grimes' spitball
⢠Elroy Face's forkball
⢠%!$%!+ Ford's mud ball
⢠Gregg Olson's curveball

For the readers: Do you have more nominations?

From ESPN Stats and Information, more on Dickey:

Dickey's current streak of innings without an earned run at 42 2/3 is the second longest in Mets history. The franchise record for consecutive innings without allowing an earned run is 49 by Dwight Gooden in 1985 (Aug. 31 to Oct. 2).

Since Orel Hershiser had his record scoreless innings streak, Dickey is close to having the longest streak of innings without an earned run. (Note: Hershiser's streak didn't have any runs, while the below list includes unearned runs.)

Most consecutive innings without an earned run (since 1988)
Zack Greinke: 43 innings, 2008 to 2009
Cory Lidle: 43 innings, 2002
R.A. Dickey: 42 2/3 innings, 2012
Brandon Webb: 42 innings, 2007
Roy Halladay: 41 innings, 2003
Gregg Olson: 41 innings, 1989 to '90

Dickey is the first pitcher in modern baseball history (since 1900) with back-to-back one-hitters of 10-plus strikeouts and the first NL pitcher with consecutive one-hitters since Jim Tobin in 1944.

Dickey has now won his past six starts, with 63 strikeouts and only two runs allowed during that span. No other major league pitcher since 1900 has gone 6-0 with at least 60 strikeouts and two or fewer runs allowed during a span of six consecutive starts.

The knuckleball can be tough on umpires, writes Benjamin Hoffman.

The Yankees and Mets have split the first two games of this series, with Chavez mashing a tiebreaking homer on Saturday.

Frank Francisco has soreness in his side.

Elsewhere

⢠Anthony Rizzo could be summoned to the big leagues for Tuesday's game.

Rizzo made a substantive change in his setup at the plate since last season by lowering his hands, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum explained last week. "There isn't a great hitter in the history of baseball who keeps his hands high," said Sveum.

⢠Chase Utley could be back on Wednesday, reports Jim Salisbury.

⢠The Arizona Diamondbacks are the hottest team in the majors, with 14 victories in their past 21 games, and they are talking about the possibility of calling up top prospect Trevor Bauer.

⢠The Philadelphia Phillies got contributions from two guys at both ends of the home run spectrum on Saturday. First, Juan Pierre hit his 17th career homer -- and the first three-run homer in his career.

Then Jim Thome hit his 609th career home run to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.

From ESPN Stats and Info: Thome's 13th career walk-off bomb broke a tie with a few Hall of Famers for most all time.

Most career walk-off homers:
Thome: 13
Mickey Mantle: 12
Jimmie Foxx: 12
Babe Ruth: 12
Stan Musial: 12
Frank Robinson:12

⢠Max Scherzer pitched days after a terrible tragedy.

⢠Kevin Youkilis is unhappy with how his situation has been handled, Brian MacPherson writes.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Chicago White Sox are among the teams interested in Youkilis, writes Dave van Dyck. James Loney is dealing with trade rumors again.

2. The Rays are going to use a series of relievers today.

3. A decision on Brad Penny's future will come in the next few days.

4. The O'Malley group hopes to have a deal in place by the All-Star break, which may or may not leave enough time for the San Diego Padres to make some kind of offer to Carlos Quentin for him to consider.

5. The Baltimore Orioles are ready to add pieces for a run at the playoffs.

Dings and dents

1. Drew Stubbs is making progress.

2. Franklin Gutierrez is feeling better about his health.

3. Brandon McCarthy was scratched from his Sunday start and is headed to the DL again.

4. The Detroit Tigers are hoping that Jose Valverde will feel better by Monday.

5. The Royals' pitchers have become part of an epidemic, writes Sam Mellinger.

6. Jason Bay is feeling better, writes Mike Puma.

7. Ryan Zimmerman may go back on the disabled list.

NL East notes

⢠The Miami Marlins are in a complete nosedive: For the 15th time in the past 17 games, they lost.

From ESPN Stats and Info: The Marlins are reeling in June, with the league's worst record at 4-16. This follows up a May in which they led the majors with a 21-8 record (see chart). This follows a pattern from 2011, when the Marlins went 5-23 in June. They followed that up with a 17-10 record in July.

The Marlins haven't scored more than five runs since May 25, a stretch of 25 games. That's the fourth most since 1973 (the '79 Mets went 40 games).

⢠Randall Delgado was blasted.

⢠Edwin Jackson was The Man for the Washington Nationals.

AL West notes

⢠Colby Lewis had a really tough day.

⢠Felix Hernandez was on a roll on Saturday, punching out 10, Larry Stone writes.

⢠The Angels' defense made mistakes behind Ervin Santana, writes Bill Plunkett.

NL Central notes

⢠You can't stop the Pittsburgh Pirates, you can only hope to contain them. Brad Lincoln kicked in some more great pitching for a team that's been getting lot of great pitching.

⢠Johnny Cueto is quietly building a Cy Young candidacy for 2012, and he shut down the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

⢠Paul Maholm described his feelings after getting lit up.

Adam Wainwright is back to being an ace.

From ESPN Stats and Info: How Wainwright shut down the Royals:

A. Wainwright pitched backwards, throwing 48 percent first-pitch fastballs, tied for his lowest percentage this season. He threw 26 percent first-pitch curveballs, his highest percentage this season.
B. Wainwright threw just 52 percent first-pitch strikes, but he battled back. He retired all five hitters he took to a 2-0 count, including two via strikeout. He had just six strikeouts after going 2-0 in his first 14 starts this season.
C. He went to a season-high seven three-ball counts, but just one ended with a walk.

⢠The Brewers' pitching squandered a lead.

AL Central notes

⢠Jeanmar Gomez started well but faltered.

⢠Dayan Viciedo spurred a White Sox rally.

AL East notes

⢠Colby Rasmus has been killing the ball since being moved to the No. 2 spot in Toronto, and on Saturday, he mashed a ninth-inning grand slam, Ken Fidlin writes.

⢠Franklin Morales had another strong outing, Peter Abraham writes.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Before Morales, the last pitcher to strike out eight-plus in his first two starts for the Red Sox was Pedro Martinez, who did it in four straight starts from April 1-17, 1998.

NL West

⢠Dee Gordon pushed the envelope, and it paid off.

⢠The San Francisco Giants held off an Oakland Athletics rally and won again.



Oswalt, Lincecum show mound mojo.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

There is something in the way that Roy Oswalt launches himself off the mound that hitters have always found to be a little unnerving. Like a terrier, teeth bared, going for your shins.

Oswalt isn't very big, about 6 feet tall. But he taught himself these mechanics when he was in grade school, imagining himself as a sprinter coming out of the blocks. Right after Oswalt was drafted, some instructors tried talking him out of this delivery; they wanted to turn him into something more conventional. But after he got a sore arm, Oswalt decided to ignore what experts were telling him. This is his personality.

Oswalt is 34 years old and a little heavier than he used to be, with a rickety back. But his self-assuredness -- his mound presence -- was intact as he pitched against the Rockies Friday. Working quickly through his mechanics, Oswalt drove toward the Colorado hitters time and again, his fastball touching 93 mph repeatedly, his slider breaking downward sharply. Just when the Rockies' hitters started taking better swings, seemingly timing Oswalt better, he spun a curveball of 67 mph to Dexter Fowler, a pitch 26 mph slower than his fastball. It was a pitch he used to keep the Rockies' hitters off-balance.

Executives who passed on his asking price during the winter might have watched wistfully in other parts of the country, as he limited Colorado to just one run in 6 2/3 innings.

At about the time that Oswalt was finishing his work Friday evening, Tim Lincecum started for San Francisco -- badly. Oakland opened the game with an infield hit and then a clean single and another single, loading the bases -- with each hit coming after Lincecum reached two strikes. He hadn't generated a single missed swing. He and catcher Hector Sanchez were at odds, with Lincecum repeatedly throwing pitches that Sanchez didn't expect.

And then it got worse.

[+] Enlarge
Tim Lincecum
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesTim Lincecum rebounded after a rough start Friday.

Lincecum walked Yoenis Cespedes to force in a run, and then, after a misplay by Brandon Belt -- scored as a fielder's choice -- a reliever began throwing in the San Francisco bullpen. Lincecum walked Brandon Inge to force in Oakland's third run of the inning, and after 28 pitches, the two-time Cy Young Award winner hadn't gotten anybody out and was trailing 3-0.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti went to the mound, and Lincecum was furious. Righetti said to him, "Well, take it out on the other team!"

Lincecum fell behind in the count to Brandon Moss, two balls and one strike, and it appeared that he might be throwing his last pitches of the night. Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Righetti stood side by side, watching carefully, Bochy chewing rapidly.

Then, in an instant, everything changed. Lincecum threw a changeup to Moss, at 84 mph, and Moss swung weakly, like he was trying to hit a mosquito with a pencil. Lincecum threw another, Moss struck out, and Lincecum's mound demeanor suddenly evolved. He went from looking uncertain and confused to -- well, like a terrier with his teeth bared.

Lincecum worked quickly, like Oswalt, firing shin-high changeups and chest-high fastballs, varying velocity and location. He looked like he had in the past, like he was making this statement: I'm bleepin' Tim Lincecum and you're not.

He looked mad. He felt mad, apparently. This is what he told Henry Schulman and other reporters after the game:

"I just got mad in the right way. When things are going rough, your first emotion is obviously being upset with yourself, then ashamed and then [ticked]. I tried to channel that madness out on the field and stop worrying about the stuff that happened behind me that I can't control."

It worked for him. Lincecum retired 18 of the last 20 hitters he faced and kept the Giants close before they pulled out a victory. It's too soon to know whether this is a foundation he will build upon -- there is more hope for him and Bochy and Righetti than there was six batters into the first inning. For at least one night, Lincecum appeared to find his mound mojo.

Lincecum was awful for five hitters and brilliant afterward, writes Schulman. He had a long talk with his dad recently, writes Daniel Brown.

Oswalt had a solid debut, writes Jeff Wilson. He pitched like Roy Oswalt, said Ron Washington.

Notables

⢠The O'Malley family appears to be on the verge of getting back into baseball as the owners of the Padres.

The sale price is expected to be about $800 million, because John Moores informed some bidders that this is what is required to get the deal done.

⢠Officials involved in the Kevin Youkilis trade talks expect a deal could come as soon as Saturday, and the feeling of some execs is that the White Sox might be the most aggressive club in play -- maybe more than the Dodgers.

An attempted third-base upgrade makes sense for the White Sox, because Brent Morel has been hurt and Orlando Hudson hasn't hit. The collective OPS of those who have played third for the White Sox this season is .460 -- the worst in the majors, and 111 points lower than any other team.

Will Middlebrooks played for the Red Sox on Friday, and Youkilis sat.

Youkilis spoke about his situation in a radio interview.

⢠Meanwhile, Daniel Bard is moving back to the bullpen, as Kevin McNamara writes. The Red Sox have had tremendous work from their relievers the past two months, and after Bard joins that group, Andrew Bailey may, as well.

⢠Mike Trout is getting on base a little more than 40 percent of the time from the leadoff spot, and Albert Pujols is doing well in the No. 3 spot. So it's little wonder that the guy recently placed in the No. 2 spot, Torii Hunter, is hitting well: Hunter is 19-for-51 while batting in that slot, with a .998 OPS.

Trout and the Angels dug themselves out of a 5-0 hole Friday to beat the Dodgers.

From Landon Hall's story:

"He's the total package," teammate Mark Trumbo said [of Trout]. "I've never seen anything like it, never played with anybody anywhere near as advanced as he is at this age, and he's a big part of the reason we've been playing a lot better."

⢠Brett Lawrie has scored 17 runs in his 16 games in the leadoff spot, with some help from Jose Bautista, who has been on a roll of late.

Most home runs on pitches out of the strike zone, since 2010:
Miguel Cabrera -- 24
Jose Bautista -- 22 (HR on pitch out of zone Friday)
Albert Pujols -- 17
Pablo Sandoval -- 15

Dings and dents

1. Chris Carpenter threw to hitters and could be close to a rehab assignment.

2. Nolan Reimold is having neck surgery and could miss the rest of the season, writes Dan Connolly.

3. As mentioned within this Scott Bordow notebook, Stephen Drew will rejoin the D-backs next Wednesday.

4. Felipe Paulino is having Tommy John surgery.

5. Phil Humber landed on the DL.

6. Mitch Moreland's going to be out at least a month.

7. Bud Norris is making progress, as mentioned within this notebook.

8. Emilio Bonifacio hopes to return next month.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Davey Johnson is thinking about dropping Ryan Zimmerman in his lineup.

2. A struggling Shane Victorino was benched.

3. Todd Helton was dropped in the Colorado lineup.

4. The Tigers have two pressing needs, writes Lynn Henning.

5. Salvy Perez is back, and he homered on Friday.

6. Livan Hernandez was signed by the Brewers.

7. For now, Fredi Gonzalez intends to leave Jason Heyward in the No. 7 spot.

8. Joel Peralta dropped his appeal.

By the numbers

From ESPN Stats & Info

5: Runs allowed by Andy Pettitte in the first inning Friday -- just the third time Pettitte has allowed that many runs in the first inning in his career.

7: Consecutive starts won by A.J. Burnett, becoming the first Pirates pitcher to win seven straight starts since Dock Ellis in 1974.

26: Consecutive games with a hit for Ryan Braun in interleague play -- the third-longest streak all time.

427: Career home runs for Andruw Jones -- tying Mike Piazza for 43rd all time.

Friday's games

1. Jason Hammel dominated, this time against the Nationals.

2. Frank Francisco got the save against the Yankees, and was probably greatly relieved. Francisco was surprised his remark became a big deal, but he stood by his words.

The Yankees weren't laughing at the chicken thing, writes Pete Caldera.

3. Boston's winning streak ended.

4. Ricky Romero provided some relief for an overworked bullpen.

5. Clayton Richard got a big hit and helped himself.

6. The D-backs continue to gather momentum: They opened up a series against the Cubs with a win.

7. The Mariners were taken down by an unlikely hitter.

8. A throwing error helped to take down the Tigers, writes Shawn Windsor.

9. The Cardinals held a parade on the base paths.

10. The Twins' bullpen had another strong day.

11. Ubaldo Jimenez was good, again. He's pitched well in three of his last four outings and lowered his ERA from 5.79 to 4.59.

12. Jair Jurrjens returned from the minors and was excellent. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Jurrjens shut down the Red Sox:

A) He threw 37 changeups out of 103 pitches (35.9 percent), his highest percentage in a start in the past four seasons. Red Sox hitters were 1-for-11 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with a changeup.

B) Eighteen of Jurrjens' 34 pitches with two strikes were changeups (52.9 percent). Red Sox hitters were 1-for-12 in two-strike at-bats, including 0-for-7 against the changeup.

C) Red Sox hitters were 0-for-13 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch down in the zone or below, including 0-for-7 against the changeup.

D) Threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of 28 hitters, went to 2-0 counts on just two hitters, and did not go to a 3-0 or 3-1 count all game.

13. Chris Sale was excellent, again, as Toni Ginnetti writes, but he didn't get run support.

14. The Reds' losing streak reached four.

15. The great Zack Greinke was in the house.

16. Anibal Sanchez and the Marlins were lit up.



Contenders' defensiveconcerns.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Heading into July last year, the St. Louis Cardinals had a problem. During the previous offseason, the Cardinals' front office had grown tired with no-hit shortstop Brendan Ryan and sent him packing for Seattle. In his place, they signed free agent Ryan Theriot with the hopes that the former Cubs infielder would become a top-of-the-order table-setter for sluggers Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman.

Unfortunately, by June it became apparent that Theriot did not provide the offensive upgrade they were seeking and represented a significant defensive downgrade behind baseball's heaviest ground-ball pitching staff.

General manager John Mozeliak had a solution, however -- trading for veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal. The former Braves and Dodgers shortstop wasn't the same defender he used to be, but he was still capable of anchoring a good defensive infield. Combined with Jon Jay's increased playing time in the outfield, Furcal upgraded the Cardinals' defense just enough to help them sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the season. Just three short months after Furcal's addition, the Cardinals were crowned World Series champions.

Like last year's Cardinals, several of 2012's contenders have glaring defensive weaknesses. And as with the Cardinals and Furcal, the best moves aren't always the ones involving big names. A subtle defensive upgrade might be enough to push each of the following teams over the top:

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Detroit Tigers (Corner outfield)

Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder aren't moving anywhere, especially when Victor Martinez returns, so the Tigers would be wise to look at upgrades elsewhere if they want to boost their playoff chances in a winnable division. Fortunately, there is plenty of room for improvement. Delmon Young has never been an adequate defensive left fielder, and he hasn't hit well enough to justify his spot in the outfield. The Tigers still haven't given up on him, however. Now that Austin Jackson is back from an injury, manager Jim Leyland is trying Quintin Berry in left field, though his offensive upside is limited.

Over in right, Brennan Boesch has struggled with the transition from a platoon role to playing full-time this season. Facing righties almost exclusively the previous two seasons, Boesch hit well enough to tolerate his below-average defense in right field (-6 in our defensive runs saved statistic). Historically, Boesch has handled left field much better (+12 runs saved in his three-year career, compared to -16 in right).

If the Tigers aren't ready to give up on Young and Boesch entirely, perhaps they would be best suited with a left-field platoon of the two. That would represent an upgrade by itself, and it also opens up right field for a better bat or glove. If an internal option such as Berry or Andy Dirks isn't sufficient, they might pursue Carlos Quentin, who has taken great strides to improve his outfield positioning, or one of several defensive-minded outfielders available.


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New York Mets (Right field and second base)

The Mets have two fielders playing out of position, and it shows. Between Daniel Murphy at second and Lucas Duda in right, the Mets have two of the league's weakest defenders at both positions. Oddly enough, both have experience at first base, and in Murphy's case he played it very well (19 defensive runs saved in 1,200 innings). Ike Davis has been a black hole in the lineup, but he's a big part of the Mets' future and will hold the position for the foreseeable future. As a result, the Mets will have to look for creative solutions to their defensive woes.

Like Davis, Murphy is having a disappointing season at the plate in addition to his struggles at second base (-10 runs saved). If he doesn't show signs of turning it around, the Mets might be tempted to improve the defense by giving Jordany Valdespin more time at the position. The Mets also could look for help externally, perhaps from Rockies infielder Marco Scutaro.

In right field, Duda's glove (-11 runs saved this year, after -12 runs saved in 2011) essentially negates all of the positive contributions the team gets from his bat. With Jason Bay back on the disabled list, the team already needs some help in the outfield, and there are plenty of defensive-minded options available. Peter Bourjos, Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gomez are all Gold Glove-caliber defensive outfielders relegated to fourth-outfielder roles in their current situations and might be available. Denard Span might also be dealt from a Twins team that appears to be going nowhere fast.


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Baltimore Orioles (Third base)

The Orioles somehow are still in contention this far into the season with Wilson Betemit (-4 runs saved this year, -32 runs saved career) and Mark Reynolds (-8 runs saved, -55 career) at third base. Both hit well enough to keep their head above replacement level, but that might not be enough if the Orioles want to stay in contention into September.

The Chase Headley rumors actually make some sense, as Headley has proven himself an above-average defender and has a respectable career batting line, with a .300 average away from Petco Park. Just on defense alone, Headley is possibly a dozen runs better than Betemit or Reynolds for the rest of the season.


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Miami Marlins (Left field)

Logan Morrison rated as the worst left fielder in baseball last year at -26 runs saved, and his smaller sample 2010 and 2012 seasons support the same conclusion. Coming in or going back, Morrison just doesn't make the plays that other outfielders do. You can't really blame him; he played first base almost exclusively throughout the minors and the Marlins had him penciled in as their first baseman of the future. Placeholder Gaby Sanchez had a surprisingly good rookie season in 2010, so Morrison was shuffled to left field, where he's been ever since.

If the Marlins cut bait on Sanchez and move Morrison to first permanently, the organization would be wise to consider external outfield options. Secondary options such as Austin Kearns and Greg Dobbs have combined for -10 runs saved in left field on top of Morrison's -8 runs saved. Bourjos, Parra, Gomez and Span would be significant defensive upgrades that could improve the outfield defense by as many as 20 runs the rest of the season.


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St. Louis Cardinals (Second base)

With Furcal solidifying the left side of the infield, the Cardinals hoped that Tyler Greene could step in as his double-play partner. Unfortunately, Greene has failed to meet expectations at the plate and in the field (-6 runs saved). Already 28 years old, Greene has little upside left and represents a weakness on an otherwise strong Cardinals roster.

Veteran infielders Jason Bartlett, Jack Wilson and Scutaro all might be available. Although none of those options would boost the offense substantially, the Cardinals don't need them to be more than defensive upgrades.


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Pittsburgh Pirates (Catcher)

The Pirates brought in veteran Rod Barajas last offseason to shore up a weak position. They again find themselves in the thick of the playoff race around midseason, but Barajas hasn't been much help on either side of the ball. Once a catcher with good control over the running game, the 36-year-old has thrown out just two of 41 base-stealers this year. According to defensive runs saved, he's cost the Pirates five runs solely due to stolen bases this year.

The Pirates likely are hoping prospect Tony Sanchez can take over in the not-too-distant future, so a one-year defensive upgrade might come in handy. With Salvador Perez returning from the disabled list, the Royals might make defensive whiz Humberto Quintero available. Quintero has never played full-time, but he shuts down the opposing running game everywhere he goes. Additionally, Quintero excels at blocking pitches in the dirt, which always comes in handy for any pitching staff that includes A.J. Burnett.

Ben Jedlovec is a research analyst with Baseball Info Solutions and co-author of The Fielding Bible -- Volume III. You can follow him on Twitter (@BenJedlovec).



Rumors.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Plenty of interest in Garza

10:27AM ET
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The market appears to be heating up for Cubs righthander Matt Garza.

In Sunday's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo says at least six teams -- Braves, Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Jays, and Royals -- have expressed their interest in Garza to Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Garza, eligible for arbitration for the final time in 2013, could end up as Epstein's most valuable bargaining chip. The interest from the Braves may have escalated in the past week over the season-ending injury to Brandon Beachy.

We asked Buster Olney about a possible price, and Eric Karabell whether a trade will give Garza a fantasy bump.

- Doug Mittler

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Buster Olney

He won't be cheap

"It would take one Bü prospect, plus a couple of other above-average guys to get him. The Cubs will wait closer to the deadline to deal Garza, unless they're overwhelmed now, because they longer the wait, the more likely it is that teams will be aggressive to plug a hole in the rotation. A bidding process will begin. Garza's price is higher than Dempster's because Garza is under control next year, so you have more moving parts involved. "


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Eric Karabell

Not a big bounce

"Garza's fantasy owners should be careful to avoid overrating him. He's good, but not great. A trade to a contender won't make him great. There's no evidence a trade will add so many more wins that his value explodes. If anything that perception makes him a sell high in real life and fantasy. Garza's K rate is down some from 2011 and his BABIP way down. He's won more than 11 games one year. Don't be shocked when his ERA in Atlanta or Boston stays near 4. "


3B trade market after Youkilis

9:53AM ET
Kevin Youkilis | Red Sox
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Trade deadline season unofficially opened for business with Sunday's deal that sent Kevin Youkilis from Boston to the Chicago White Sox.

Youkilis was at the top of the market of available third basemen, but he was not alone. Nick Cafardo says Baltimore's Mark Reynolds is more than available to the many teams looking for a righthanded-hitting corner infielder.

We at Rumor Central see the Athletics peddling Brandon Inge, a free agent after the season who has restored some of his value in Oakland. If the Phillies continue to stumble and end up as sellers, Placido Polanco would be shopped.

Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com says the Angels could use a power upgrade at third base, but says the Halos are more interested in adding pitching depth.

- Doug Mittler

Bauer to debut Thursday?

9:30AM ET
Arizona Diamondbacks
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All signs are pointing to Trevor Bauer making his major league debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday against the Atlanta Braves.

Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, was pulled from his start Sunday at Triple-A Reno after 50 pitches and 22/3 innings, leading to speculation he'll get the start Thursday in Atlanta place of the injured Joe Saunders. While the D-backs have made no formal announcement, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic said it would "a shocker" if Bauer does not start Thursday.

Bauer is 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 starts this season and leads all minor-league pitchers with 116 strikeouts.

- Doug Mittler

The Marlins at the deadline

9:14AM ET
Miami Marlins
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The Miami Marlins made the biggest offseason splash this side of Anaheim, adding Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. Despite the roster boost and the fancy new digs at Marlins Park, the Fish (34-38) are not even treading water almost three months into the season.

Deadline Strategy
Owner Jeffrey Loria is publicly unfazed by the June swoon, calling his Marlins "an excellent team," but admitted that they need a couple of extra parts. Expect the Fish to be active buyers the closer we move to the July 31 deadline.

Money
The payroll is already at $118 million (seventh in MLB) and there are plenty of long-term commitments. If the club was willing spend well north of $200 million on Albert Pujols, there should be enough in the bank to spend on an expensive short-term rental.

Bait
The ability to add salary is a huge advantage, especially since the farm system is thin (29th in Keith Law's farm rankings). Outfielder Christian Yelich, a 2010 first-round pick at High-Class-A Jupiter, would bring back value.

Targets
The Fish could use some speed in the outfield while Emilio Bonifacio recovers from thumb surgery that could keep him out until the All-Star break. Even when Bonaficio returns, it will help to have another fleet-footed outfielder at cavernous Marlins Park.

The Twins' Denard Span and the Angels' Peter Bourjos, the subject of numerous rumors in recent months. could be high on their list. The Fish also could be among the teams taking a look at Houston first baseman Carlos Lee.

Bell is pitching better than he was in April, but the bullpen ERA still ranked 29th in the majors as of last weekend. Another arm such as Grant Balfour or James Russell wouldn't hurt. As for the other side of the battery, Oakland's Kurt Suzuki could be made available by Oakland, but he is hitting .216 may not be an upgrade behind the plate over John Buck (.167 BA).

- Doug Mittler

Lowrie a fit in Detroit?

8:53AM ET
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Jed Lowrie's trade prospects have been discussed -- I began a conversation right in this space earlier this month -- and while he's cooled off a bit at the plate, he did hit his 13th homer of the season last Saturday.

The switch-hitter could serve as quite the upgrade for a contender in need of help at shortstop, third base or second base -- all three positions at which Lowrie has experience. One scout told Nick Cafardo, however, that Lowrie's injury history clouds his value.

The Phillies could be in such a market should Placido Polanco continue to miss time. The veteran will be out for five more days, tweeted Matt Gelb Friday.

In Sunday?s Boston Globe, Cafardo says the Tigers could pursue Lowrie with the intention of moving him to second base.

Lowrie, as previously mentioned, could also be a player the Astros look to hang onto for the next few years as they continue their rebuild, and the Phillies certainly wouldn't be the only club interested. Lowrie will not eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season.

ESPN Insider's Chris Sprow joined David Schoenfield on SweetSpot TV to discuss Lowrie's trade prospects:

- Jason A. Churchill

Capps to the DL?

8:28AM ET
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The list of available relievers this month should include the Twins? Matt Capps, given that he will be a free agent after the season and he pitches for a last-place team.

A red flag regarding Capps, however, went up over the weekend with word that the righthander appears headed for the disabled list for the first time since 2008 due to right shoulder pain, reports Joe Christensen of the Star-Tribune. Capps' value could take a serious hit if he is not healthy by late July.

The Twins promoted lefthanded reliever Tyler Robertson from Triple-A Rochester, knowing they will likely have to fill Capps' roster spot. Manager Ron Gardenhire hasn't named an interim closer, although he used lefthander Glen Perkins for two saves last week. Jared Burton got as chance Sunday and earned his first career save.

- Doug Mittler

Quiet July in Seattle?

8:12AM ET
Seattle Mariners
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Last week, Rumor Central's Jason A. Churchill wrote that the Seattle Mariners are well on their way to another summer of selling at the trade deadline, but their crop of available veterans may not draw much interest.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times also doesn't expect the Mariners to be making blockbuster moves, or at least nothing close to last July, when they dealt Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers on July 30, and Erik Bedard to the Red Sox on July 31. The year before, they sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers on July 9.

Stone says Kevin Millwood has demonstrated enough flashes of effectiveness to entice a contender, but the Mariners will not get a top prospect in return for the 37-year-old righthander. The Mariners' most valuable commodity, of course, is Felix Hernandez, but GM Jack Zduriencik has expressed no desire to deal the franchise cornerstone.

- Doug Mittler

Fill-in for Francisco

7:24AM ET
Frank Francisco | Mets
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All chicken jokes aside, Mets closer Frank Francisco won't be making it to the mound any time in the immediate future.

The Mets placed Francisco on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a left oblique strain he may have suffered earning the save in Friday's 6-4 win over the Yankees.

With Francisco out, manager Terry Collins says he will turn to Bobby Parnell as his closer. Parnell (3.30 ERA), who failed in an audition as closer late last season, has earned another chance by pitching better in a set-up role. Losing Francisco is a tough blow for a Mets bullpen that entered Sunday with a collective ERA of 5.30, worst in the major leagues.

While the Mets need bullpen help now, they will probably have to wait until the All-Star break before they dig into the market because there are few sellers, tweets Buster Olney. Oakland's Grant Balfour. Houston's Brett Myers and Minnesota's Matt Capps are relievers who could become available as the deadline gets closer.

- Doug Mittler

Rizzo promoted by Monday?

6:55AM ET
Anthony Rizzo | Cubs
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The Chicago Cubs have cleared the way for the arrival of prospect Anthony Rizzo by moving Bryan LaHair off first base to the outfield. Rizzo's arrival now appears to be hours away.

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times says Rizzo will be called up Monday or Tuesday to face the New York Mets. The only reason the Cubs may put off the move until Tuesday is to avoid having Rizzo making his Cubs debut Monday against southpaw Johan Santana.

The 22-year-old lefty hitter has been tearing up Triple-A pitching all season. He's currently hitting .349 with 23 homers, so there's not really much more he can do or learn on the farm.

The Cubs had good reason to hold off on promoting Rizzo so far. According to Bruce Levine and Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com, if he had been called up to the major leagues before Saturday, Rizzo would have qualified for free agency in 2017 instead of 2018 because of his service time accumulated. Remember, he played in 49 games in 2011 (128 ABs).

- Doug Mittler

O's to make moves?

6:39AM ET
Baltimore Orioles
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The Baltimore Orioles have not been buyers at the deadline since July of 2005, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, but GM Dan Duquette hinted Saturday that such a streak could end this summer.

The O's are indeed in contention and Duquette says he has the backing of the ownership and that the team will add to its roster "if it makes sense."

Right fielder Nick Markakis could return relatively soon, though the club learned recently that left fielder Nolan Reimold will miss the rest of the season. Still, outfield isn't the most likely position Duquette will look to fill, as the Orioles' pitching staff has struggled since early May and could use a boost.

It's extremely unlikely that Duquette will part with top prospects such as right-hander Dylan Bundy or shortstop Manny Machado in any deal this summer -- technically Bundy cannot be dealt until mid-August, but could be included as a player to be named later -- as both are considered elite talents and a huge part of the organization's future. Others, however, such as Jonathan Schoop, Xavier Avery and L.J. $!@%, among others, may be available for the right proven veteran.

Among the starting pitchers expected to be available include Ryan Dempster, Wandy Rodriguez, Matt Garza, and perhaps Zack Greinke.

- Jason A. Churchill

post #7067 of 77346

Marlon Byrd, Victor Conteâs Most Famous Client, Suspended For PEDs

Deadspin.com

Marlon Byrd was supposed to be Victor Conte's character witness. For the past three-plus seasons, the journeyman outfield has been the only high-profile client of Conte's supplement business, a product line that's a tough sell since the whole BALCO mess. The BALCO name's gone (it's SNAC now), but Conte could always point to the fact that Byrd never once tested positive for PEDs.

Until today, when Byrd was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for tamoxifen, and estrogen-blocker often used to treat breast cancer. Tamoxifen's also good for counteracting certain unwanted effects of steroid use, i.e. @!!#* %@*%.

Here are some "stand by your man" quotes from Byrd in recent years that Conte probably wishes didn't exist:

June 24, 2009:

"I don't know if people are blackballing him. I don't know how they will look at me. I'm not worried about it. I don't care. Everybody who ever tested positive can get a second chance but he can't? That doesn't make sense to me."


July 20, 2010:

"Victor's supplements have become so much a part of my routine, I can't imagine not using them. I think other guys are missing out."


Feb. 15, 2011:

"[They said] 'Why in the world are you working with Victor Conte? It was a choice I made, to work with him. It's me believing in him which a lot of people do not."


Feb. 20, 2011:

"The first thing everyone thinks is PR nightmare, steroid king, BALCO. There's nothing positive that comes with Victor's name. But now he's associated himself with positive people and we're going to get his name back out there as being a great guy."


March 13, 2011:

I'm not going to say I have a bull's-eye on my back, but I think a lot of people are waiting for me to get my first positive test and miss 50 games. They'd like that just so they can say, 'We told you so.' I know that won't happen. I know I'm clean.


Byrd is a free agent after being released by the Red Sox earlier this month, but the turnaround on MLB testing and appeals makes it unlikely that this is something Byrd turned to in desperation in just the past couple of weeks. Add this to boxer Andre Berto, another Conte/SNAC client, failing a steroid test last month, and maybe it's time for a new company acronym.


post #7068 of 77346
Mat Latos was dominant tonight. Hopefully the extra day's rest he was given gets him going. 
REDS/WILDCATS/BENGALS
NTWT
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REDS/WILDCATS/BENGALS
NTWT
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post #7069 of 77346

 Youklis told Bobby V "F you" when he walked by him in the dugout on his way to the clubhouse Sunday

post #7070 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Frost

 Youklis told Bobby V "F you" when he walked by him in the dugout on his way to the clubhouse Sunday



Sounds classless, but I need to know more of the story to go that far. What's the deal with these two?
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
post #7071 of 77346
I get the feeling he hears that often.

Sidebar: Berto. smiley: tired
post #7072 of 77346
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Cleveland

I get the feeling he hears that often.

Sidebar: Berto. smiley: tired


?
post #7073 of 77346
Quote:
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Frost

 Youklis told Bobby V "F you" when he walked by him in the dugout on his way to the clubhouse Sunday



Sounds classless, but I need to know more of the story to go that far. What's the deal with these two?




Valentine wanted him gone from Day 1, called him out early.  Youkilis has been reported to be the "snitch" related to the Beer & Chicken fiasco from last year. 
post #7074 of 77346
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Youk didn't give a F
post #7075 of 77346
Thread Starter 
Texas called up Martin Perez.
post #7076 of 77346
Thread Starter 
Fixes for five October sleepers.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

As we move closer to July, the truly good and bad teams begin to really soar or sink. But in between, there are 10-15 teams whose place in the ESPN Power Rankings will vary from week to week, and a few teams that currently reside in the bottom half of the rankings may find themselves with tickets to the dance come October if they are able to improve in certain respects.

Four of the teams in the bottom 15 of the rankings -- the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies -- entered Sunday's play in the top 15 in team wins above replacement, and a fifth -- the Detroit Tigers -- still finds itself in an enviable position despite its lackluster play.

Despite their recent struggles, these five teams should not be written off. Let's look at what each needs to do to vault back up the Power Rankings, and, more importantly, the standings.

Last season, the Cardinals rode to the World Series thanks in large part to a bullpen that combined to post a 2.55 ERA in the National League Division and Championship Series. But while that bullpen returned most of its members this season, its stellar play has not.

As a unit, St. Louis' bullpen has posted a 4.26 ERA that ranks 23rd in the game this season, and its 4.23 FIP ranks 27th overall. Losing Jaime Garcia hurts, and guys like Rafael Furcal and Matt Adams are not pulling their weight lately. (Adams was sent back to Triple-A, in fact.) If Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman return in the next month, that will help tremendously. But the bullpen needs to improve -- particularly Jason Motte and Marc Rzepczynski, whose four meltdowns apiece in the past 30 days place them among the worst relievers in the league.

June has been a good month for the Diamondbacks -- they have the best run differential (plus-41) for the month, and only the New York Yankees have won more games than the D-backs, who are 14-7 now after sweeping the Chicago Cubs this past weekend. And with Stephen Drew possibly -- finally -- returning from the disabled list this week, the offense could get even better.

But the key for Arizona is the level of its competition. While the D-backs are 24-12 with a plus-48 run differential against teams worse than .500 this season, they are just 13-23 and have been outscored by 24 runs against teams that are better than .500. They haven't won a series against a team better than .500 since the first series of the year against the San Francisco Giants. This has not changed even in June, as the club dropped four of six to the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels in interleague play. The Diamondbacks will face a good test this week on the road against the Atlanta Braves, who took three of four in Arizona back in April.

The Phillies' descent to the basement has come from a lot of little things going awry. The combination of Ty Wigginton playing more and Freddy Galvis getting hurt has helped downgrade the team from middling to subpar. The bullpen keeps finding ways to fail at the worst possible times, like Sunday when Antonio Bastardo coughed up a three-run homer right on the heels of seven shutout innings from Cole Hamels.

And all of a sudden Cliff Lee is pitching like Joe Blanton, as the lefty has allowed 31 baserunners and compiled a 6.30 ERA in his past three starts. But even with the losses mounting this month, the club still finds itself only 5½ games back in the wild-card hunt. If the Phillies can find a way to start putting whole games together, they can get back in the race.

Also 5½ games back in the NL wild-card race are the Brewers. The Brew Crew is ranked 23rd in the Power Rankings this week, but they entered Sunday with the ninth highest WAR, giving them a case for the most underrated team in the game. Milwaukee has posted a positive run differential since the end of April but does not have the winning record to match.

One of the reasons the two have not matched up may be the team's defense, which ranks in the game's lower third. Chief among the laggards has been Rickie Weeks. The All-Star second baseman has picked up his efforts at the dish recently, but so far this season his fielding has reverted to 2005-06 levels, when he was still trying to break into the league. Weeks entered Sunday's play with one of the five worst UZRs (minus-10.9) in baseball.

The Brewers, however, look like a squadron of Gold Glovers compared to the Tigers. Detroit continues to pitch remarkably well, but its defense has already cost the team the equivalent of more than three wins. The Tigers' minus-35.2 UZR would already be one of the 11 worst defensive seasons of the past three years, and the season isn't even half over yet.

Much has been made of Miguel Cabrera's switch back to third base, but Cabrera is just one of 11 Tigers who has posted a negative UZR this season (min. 100 innings played). In fact, the only Tiger who has posted a positive UZR is center fielder Austin Jackson. The Tigers -- who have not seen first place since May 1 -- have hit much better during the past month, but they simply need to field the ball better.

Comebacks happen all the time in baseball, and usually right when we least expect them. There's no guarantee that one of this season's middling teams emerges in the second half to claim a postseason berth, but these five teams that currently find themselves on the outside looking in could be poised for such a comeback if they tighten up their problem areas.



Nick Swisher's intangible value.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

I live in the New York area, but my 12-year-old had never been to a game at Yankee Stadium until Monday night. She loved the massive scoreboard and hated the foul balls that zoomed past us repeatedly on the left field side.

And while she decided as a child to give her allegiance to the Boston Red Sox -- her Kevin Youkilis shirt is now outdated, I told her Monday morning -- she got a kick out of the exuberance of Nick Swisher. "I think he's my favorite player," she said as he ran off the field after the top of the eighth inning.

Her response was directly related to his effort -- nothing more, nothing less.

By the eighth inning, the New York Yankees had control of the game against the Cleveland Indians, carrying a 7-0 lead. Hiroki Kuroda came out to start the inning with his pitch count at 100, with an outside chance at a shutout. Lonnie Chisenhall laced a ball into right-center field, a hit, and as he came out of the box, the Cleveland DH was thinking about taking second base.

But Swisher rushed into the alley, hustling to cut the ball off, and he fired back toward the infield, holding Chisenhall to a single.

In a perfect world, this is what Swisher and others should always do. But the reality is that this doesn't always happen, especially when the outcome is decided, as it was by the eighth inning last night. Sometimes players don't hustle, don't care enough.

But Swisher had scrambled after the ball and made a nice play, and at least one 12-year-old fan noticed.

Shin-Soo Choo doubled Chisenhall to third base, after Kuroda was relieved, and Asdrubal Cabrera hit a line drive toward right-center field -- and Swisher again rushed over to glove the ball, spin and fire toward the plate. Chisenhall hadn't tagged up, so the Yankees' shutout was intact, and the fans in Yankee Stadium cheered.

Swisher was challenged again. Jason Kipnis hit a ball to right field, Swisher made a nice catch, and Chisenhall tagged up and scored. But the baseball gods weren't through with Swisher yet: Carlos Santana lifted a long fly ball down the right field line, and Swisher raced toward the corner, catching the ball before he reached the padding along the line.

From the stands on the opposite side of the field, you could see Swisher laughing about his crazy half-inning, his exuberance filling the giant scoreboard as he jogged off and some of the fans in the park gave him a standing ovation.

Some opposing players and coaches -- and fans -- don't like Swisher because they think he's too expressive, too showy, and that some of what he does is for effect and nothing more.

All I can say is this: Swisher's energy level is the same four hours before a game as it is when the cameras are on. He is loud and boisterous for batting practice. He is grinning and waving his hands when you talk to him in the clubhouse. He wears the same big smile when he's chatting with a teammate alone in the runway that leads to the Yankees' dugout.

The guy loves to play and consistently competes with the same level of energy in the eighth inning of a forgettable June game as he would in the playoffs in October, and there is value in that. It might not be worth nearly as much as Stephen Strasburg's pure stuff or Joey Votto's ability to get on base or the defense that Adam Jones provides for the Baltimore Orioles.

But it's worth something. Ask Charlie Manuel, who arrives at the park every day knowing that Juan Pierre will be on the field 5½ hours before a game practicing his bunting or his throwing or his break from first base. Ask Jim Leyland, who knows that Justin Verlander will always be prepared and will always be in shape and will always take him through at least six innings. Ask Ron Washington, who knows that any effort to take Adrian Beltre out of the lineup might require some sort of argument, regardless of whether Beltre is limping or bruised.

Or ask a 12-year-old, who went to a ballgame and came away appreciating a ballplayer -- a member of a team she does not like -- because of the passion he played with and showed on her first trip to a big league park.

Swisher has no regrets about what he said last weekend.

Dewayne Wise also had a good night for the Yankees, writes Zach Berman.

The Yankees hit their 115th home run in their 72nd game of the season Monday. That tied the 2002 team for the most homers through 72 games in franchise history (the '09 team, which won the World Series, had 108).

A new Youk era

The Kevin Youkilis era began for the Chicago White Sox on Monday, and the Anthony Rizzo era starts tonight for the Chicago Cubs.

Youkilis was in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, with Gordon Beckham being bumped down.

Whether Youkilis can still be a productive hitter remains to be seen, but at the very least, he and Adam Dunn will force opposing pitchers to work hard. They rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in pitches per plate appearance at 4.58 and 4.55.

Youkilis said that what he went through Sunday was the most emotional thing he's felt in baseball. Youkilis is going to be missed in Boston, writes Bob Ryan.

Elsewhere

⢠Chris Carpenter had a setback, as Derrick Goold writes.

⢠Other clubs are monitoring the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies to see if they're going to become sellers in the next few weeks, but at least one of the would-be trade targets is dealing with an injury: Shaun Marcum tried to play catch, and it didn't work out that well.

To this point, by the way, the Phillies have not put Cole Hamels or Shane Victorino on the market, sources say.

⢠Trevor Bauer is going to make his major league debut Thursday, and this is expected to bolster an already strong Arizona Diamondbacks surge.

And meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers know that Matt Kemp will be out at least a few more weeks. This probably means, of course, that Kemp won't be able to participate in the Home Run Derby, for which he is a captain.

⢠The Blue Jays' injury situation has gotten absurd: A fourth member of their rotation got hurt.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Houston Astros signed a top pick.

2. The San Francisco Giants have to make a decision on Brad Penny.

3. A couple of Twins relievers are splitting the closer's role.

4. Adam Lind was promoted to the big leagues and will face some lefties, says John Farrell.

5. The Kansas City Royals are going to shake up their rotation.

6. Miguel Tejada was granted his release by the Orioles.

Dings and dents

1. Derek Holland is making progress in his rehab.

2. Troy Tulowitzki says he's been battling pain all year.

3. Knee tendinitis is affecting Alex Avila.

4. Victor Martinez could provide a big lift for the Detroit Tigers.

5. Jeremy Hellickson will likely return to the Tampa Bay rotation Saturday.

6. The Cincinnati Reds are hoping for a jolt from Drew Stubbs.

7. Within this notebook, there is word that Josh Beckett is making progress.

8. Mark DeRosa came off the disabled list and replaced Xavier Nady.

9. The Phillies should never again wait for Chase Utley in the way they did this year, writes Phil Sheridan.

By The Numbers

From ESPN Stats and Info

16: Games with four or more strikeouts by Adam Dunn, the second-most such games behind Ryan Howard since 2001.
24: Consecutive strikes thrown by Mat Latos on Monday, the longest streak by a Reds pitcher in a game since pitch data is available (going to 2000).
398: Career home runs by David Ortiz, tying Dale Murphy for 51st on the all-time list.
1998: The last time a pitcher allowed at least eight runs in a complete game prior to Alex Cobb on Monday.

NL West notes

⢠The Giants are now only two games behind the Dodgers after a Barry Zito-led shutout.

⢠The D-backs' hitters have been on a roll.

⢠Jeff Francis and the Colorado Rockies found a way to beat one of the best pitchers in the majors, as Patrick Saunders writes.

⢠Dee Gordon proves you can't keep a good young man down, writes T.J. Simers.

⢠Carlos Quentin hoisted the San Diego Padres on his shoulders.

NL East notes

⢠Heath Bell and the Miami Marlins blew a huge lead. Bell says he deserves a slap in the face.

⢠Jason Heyward was the player of the week.

⢠The New York Mets looked lifeless in a loss to the Cubs, writes Andrew Keh.

⢠Stephen Strasburg's winless streak was snapped. Tyler Moore is much more at ease in his second time around.

⢠The Philadelphia bats came to life, with Jimmy Rollins mashing another homer.

NL Central notes

⢠Milwaukee got shut down.

⢠St. Louis mounted a huge comeback.

⢠Travis Wood shut down the Mets, writes Paul Sullivan.

⢠Mat Latos was dominant, racking up 13 strikeouts.

From ESPN Stats and Info, how Latos was so good:

A) Latos threw a career-high 43 sliders and induced a career-best 16 swings-and-misses on the pitch. The 16 swings-and-misses were the most any pitcher has had on sliders in a game this season.
B) Latos also had eight swings-and-misses on his fastball, giving him a career-best 24 whiffs. That's the fourth-most by any pitcher this season and the most by a Reds starter in the past four seasons.
C) Latos finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts, which came on fastballs (six) and sliders (seven). Seven of his strikeouts were on three pitches, tied for the most by any starter this season.
D) Latos pounded his fastball in the zone and used his slider as a chase pitch. He threw 35 of his 49 fastballs (71 percent) in the strike zone, the highest percentage of his career. He threw just 10 of his 43 sliders (23 percent) in the zone, but Brewers hitters chased 17 out of the zone. Nine of the 12 outs he recorded on his slider, including all seven strikeouts, were out of the zone.

⢠Jeff Karstens was knocked around, writes Bill Brink.

AL West notes

⢠Justin Grimm was given a taste of reality.

⢠Josh Hamilton is searching for answers, writes Jeff Wilson.

⢠Tommy Milone was The Man for the Oakland Athletics.

⢠Bill Plunkett asks the question: Are Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo headed to the All-Star Game?

AL Central notes

⢠Rick Porcello had one of his best outings of the year.

⢠Francisco Liriano helped the Minnesota Twins and built his trade value, as well.

⢠Luke Hochevar was excellent against the Rays.

⢠Cleveland has its top two starters in order, it appears.

AL East notes

⢠Alex Cobb was lit up.

⢠Felix Doubrant was shelled, writes Brian MacPherson.



Yordano Ventura a work in progress.

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The Kansas City Royals will be represented at next month's MLB Futures Game, held at Kaufman Stadium, by three prospects, including outfielder Wil Myers and right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Their third Futures Game participant, Yordano Ventura, started for the high Class A Wilmington Blue Rocks on Monday night at Pfitzner Stadium against the Potomac Nationals.

Ventura has an electric arm, reaching 100 mph in the past and topping out at 98 on Monday night (although that particular pitch ended up over the left-field fence), coming from the Pedro Martinez model of pitcher -- undersized but loose-armed with comically easy velocity. Ventura sat 94-97 for most of seven easy innings, with that home run, by a Nationals hitter who was sitting fastball, the only real blemish on his stat line. His control was fine but his command wasn't -- you could see the concept of an approach, but execution was spotty. He threw predominantly fastballs, mixing in an 81-83 mph curveball with depth that he threw for strikes but that didn't have tight rotation despite its velocity, maybe an average pitch but not the off-speed weapon he'll need to be an effective big league starter.

Ventura's arm action is pretty clean in back and he boosts his velocity with a long stride and good hip rotation to generate torque, but his landing is very inconsistent -- he nearly knocked himself over more than once after release. That inconsistency probably drives the spotty fastball command, and his trouble finishing well out over his front side may be why he can't get sharper break on that hard curveball. I would love to see Ventura work out as a starter, and since he just turned 21 earlier this month there is still plenty of time for him to develop into one, but he has several steps to take before he'll project as a guy who can turn a lineup over three times.

⢠The Blue Rocks' lineup included three big-bonus prospects, two of whom looked promising. Orlando Calixte has bat speed and loose, quick wrists; his swing gets a little long and he can get his weight out front early, but he did a nice job of dropping the bat head in his last at-bat for a dead-pull home run to give Wilmington the lead in the ninth. He showed good actions at short and plenty of arm to stay there, although he was challenged on only one play. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, a top-50 prospect for me coming into the season, showed the good approach and simple, strong swing that I liked from him in the past; he's very balanced throughout the swing and should produce plenty of line drives to all fields, making his season to date something of a mystery. I wouldn't give up on him at all. Outfielder Brett Eibner looks like a lost cause right now; he's always had trouble recognizing breaking balls and that's all he's going to see until that changes, with 30 punchouts in his past 67 games. I wonder if we'll see Eibner -- who was a good two-way player at Arkansas -- on a mound in instructional league this September.

⢠Cole Kimball started for Potomac, going two innings in a rehab appearance, and was 88-90 with a big, very slow curveball at 69-71. His arm slot is high, which can give some hitters trouble the first or second time they see him, but the stuff was below-average, and, as Josh Collmenter can attest, that trick doesn't work twice.

⢠A few readers asked for my take on the Kevin Youkilis trade, which isn't that different from the takes offered by many other analysts: This is just a modest salary dump for the Boston Red Sox, and a modest upside play for the Chicago White Sox. The main concerns I have about Youkilis are health (obviously) and his unexpected tendency in 2012 to hit everything into the ground, with a career-high ground ball rate of 50.9 percent according to FanGraphs; his bat looks slower, and his swing looks flatter, but it's possible that those are tied to the back injury rather than just age, which is probably Chicago's hope in making this deal. A return even partway to where he was last year would be a big boost for the White Sox, who have been playing a mushroom at third for much of the season.

As for the players headed to Boston -- I was a big Zach Stewart fan after seeing him in the 2010 Eastern League playoffs, but his velocity has been down the past two years and unless it returns he's just a bullpen piece, a sinker/slider guy who has been disgustingly homer-prone as a big league starter. Brent Lillibridge can play many positions but doesn't field well enough to be an everyday shortstop and, last year's weird power spike notwithstanding, doesn't have the bat to be a regular anywhere else, but has value in this era of 12- and 13-man pitching staffs as someone who can fill in at five or six spots.



Joey Votto lines up a record.

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Some records in baseball have become legendary over the years, to the point where most baseball fans know exactly the number and the record holder. The records for most career no-hitters (seven, Nolan Ryan), longest hitting streak (56 games, Joe DiMaggio), consecutive games played (2,632, Cal Ripken) and stolen bases in a season (130, Rickey Henderson) are some of the more famous numbers in the sport and have stood the test of time, with few challengers since they were established. There's another record that hasn't been seriously threatened in 75 years that is coming under assault this season, but you probably haven't heard much about it yet -- Joey Votto is poised to make a run at the record for most doubles in a season.

The current record holder is Earl Webb, who hit 67 doubles for the Boston Red Sox in 1931. He broke George Burns' record of 64 doubles, set five years earlier. In fact, only six players in history have recorded 60 or more doubles in a season, and all of six of them did it in the 11 seasons from 1926 to 1936. For hitters, it was the golden age of the double.

The last player to make a run at Webb's record was Todd Helton in 2000. Aided by playing in Coors Field during the peak of the offensive surge at the turn of the century, Helton finished the season with 59 doubles, and his season represents the gold standard for modern-day doubles production. Yet with 30 doubles in his first 68 games, Votto is on pace to obliterate Helton's mark and actually run down Webb as well.

At his current pace, Votto would end the season with 71 doubles, and while history suggests he probably can't keep hitting doubles at this pace, he is the perfect modern-day hitter to challenge Webb's record.

[Votto] hasn't hit a single popup all year, which might be weird if he didn't go the entire 2010 season without hitting an infield fly.

Doubles require line drives, because line drives are hit hard enough to get into the gaps or down the lines and are not hit high enough to clear any fences for a home run. Among the 330 players with at least 2,000 plate appearances since 2002, only two (Mark Loretta and Helton) have a higher line-drive rate than Votto's 24.8 percent. He's turned things up in 2012, posting a ridiculous 33.0 percent line-drive rate this season, up from the 27.5 percent mark he posted last year and easily the best single-season line-drive rate since batted ball data began being collected.

In addition to hitting line drives, Votto is also remarkable at avoiding infield flies -- the kinds of balls in play that are outs nearly 100 percent of the time. He hasn't hit a single popup all year, which might be weird if he didn't go the entire 2010 season without hitting an infield fly. In fact, his one popup from last year is starting to look like the aberration. When Votto hits the ball, it goes out, not up.

He also excels in one other skill critical to racking up a lot of doubles -- driving the ball to the opposite field. Taking out his 13 home runs, Votto has put 170 balls in the field of play this season -- 60 to left, 63 to center, 49 to right. His opposite-field power is the driving force behind his run at Webb's doubles records, as half of his 30 doubles have come on balls hit to left field. He's the league leader in opposite-field doubles with 15, but his eight doubles to center field rank fourth in the league, and there are 45 hitters with more pulled doubles this season than Votto. For Votto, left field is his doubles sweet spot.

This combination of high line-drive rate and willingness to go to the opposite field is the perfect recipe for a lot of extra-base hits that don't quite clear the wall, and while Votto runs pretty well for a first baseman, he doesn't run so well that he's likely to keep on going for third. If Votto was a right-handed hitter, he'd likely have a better chance at turning some of those doubles into triples, but given his average speed and the fact that he's hitting the ball toward third base, he's more likely to settle for two bases instead of trying for three. Being a high doubles hitter requires an interesting combination of skills, and no player in today's game specializes in these more than Votto.

If anything is going to keep him from the record, though, it might just be his home park. Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati has historically been a below-average park for doubles because the shorter fences convert would-be doubles into home runs. In fact, GABP has historically inflated home runs by right-handed hitters (most of whom pull the ball to left field, which is Votto's doubles field) by 13 percent, while playing as a just slightly-below-average doubles park due to those home runs.

When you look at the parks that historically inflate doubles (Colorado, Boston, Arizona), you begin to understand why Helton, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Holliday have all managed seasons with at least 50 doubles in the past 10 years. Since the Reds opened their new stadium, they've had only two hitters get even 40 doubles in a season -- Sean Casey in 2004 and Votto last year.

So, can Votto break Webb's record?

It won't be easy, as he'll need 38 doubles over the Reds' remaining 94 games, and he's never hit more than 40 in 161 games in any prior season. Even with Votto's predilection for line drives to the opposite field, the game has changed dramatically since Webb played, as the league average strikeout rate is now more than twice what it was back in 1931, while the average home run rate is twice as high. More strikeouts and more home runs equal many fewer chances for doubles, which is why no one has crossed the 60-double mark in 75 years. Votto's halfway there, though, and has more than half the season remaining, so Webb could be in for his first real challenge in a very long time.



The worst rotation ever?

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
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This year, the combined ERA of all major league pitchers is 3.97, which strongly suggests that last year's 3.94 ERA -- MLB's lowest since 1992 -- wasn't simply a fluke. Whether you think the cause of the 1990s surge was juiced players, juiced baseballs or something else, runs are a lot harder to find than they were in 2000, when baseball's ERA peaked at 4.77.

However, not all teams received the memos, apparently, with the rotations of the Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies not noticing the age of austerity we've entered.

Being the best at something is a terrific way to be remembered in history, but terrible is another path to immortality. The 1962 Mets are fondly remembered despite going 40-120, but other recent teams that weren't quite as good at being bad have been forgotten.

So, just how bad are Minnesota's and Colorado's starters this year? Bad like losing your car keys? Bad like breaking your foot? Bad like the sun running out of hydrogen and growing into a red giant that finishes the job of incinerating the earth?

Entering Tuesday play, Twins starters have combined for a 5.89 ERA, sneaking below 6.00 only in the past few days. The Rockies aren't even close to the happy day of getting their starting ERA to that point, with a rotation ERA of 6.36 just a couple of weeks from the All-Star Game.

Levels of offense and park effects can have a gigantic effect on a team's runs allowed. Pitching at Coors Field and Petco Park are very different experiences, even with the former's addition of a humidor. So, to compare teams, I'm using Baseball-Reference.com's ERA+, which compares ERA to what a league-average ERA in that particular park and year would be -- 100 is league average, with larger numbers being good and smaller numbers being bad.

Since 1950, there have been 1,532 teams. Among those teams, the Twins' starters, with an ERA+ of 66.3 -- serve as the caboose, bringing up the rear at 1,532nd (see chart). At this point in the season, it's not even close. The second-worst team -- the 2003 Reds -- had a 71.5 rotation ERA+. Minnesota is not alone among current squads near the bottom, as Colorado ranks 1,527th with a 73.7 ERA+, albeit practically a Strasburg-esque performance compared to what we've seen in the Twin Cities.

Batters are hitting .307/.359/.518 against Minnesota starters, meaning they turn a league-average hitter into the 2012 version of Miguel Cabrera.

The natural question is to what degree this should have been expected going into the season, whether it's the quality of the pitchers, bad luck or some combination of the two. To get a look at this, I used the preseason ZiPS projections for the Twins' and Rockies' rotations as a starting point and added the actual 2012 innings totals.

With the actual inning distribution for 2012, ZiPS projected the Twins would have a rotation ERA of 4.97 at this point, about a run below their actual figure but not exactly something they should be crowing about. Minnesota's rotation consists of one strikeout pitcher with less control than a bumper car (Francisco Liriano) and a whole horde of pitchers who never strike anybody out. P.J. Walters is the team's second-best strikeout starter this year at a woeful 5.6 K's per nine.

Using actual innings, ZiPS expected the Rockies to have a 5.02 ERA at this point, more than a run better than the current 6.36 ERA, so the team has a little to complain about with a 5.02 ERA being only a little below league average for a starter in Coors Field in 2012. A Rockies team without a healthy Troy Tulowitzki, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa just doesn't have the depth to be a contender, even in a weak division.

With 90 games still to go, the Minnesota starting pitchers are seriously vying to put their own stamp on history. It'll take a lot of clutch run allowing to make them the greatest at being the worst.



Rumors.

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Moyer to face Hultzen

4:19PM ET
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FUN FACT: Moyer will start for the 51s Thursday in Tacoma -- the Triple-A club of Moyer's former team the Seattle Mariners -- versus last June's No. 2 overall draft pick Danny Hultzen, who will be making his home debut and just his second start in the PCL.

...

Unwanted in Baltimore, the Blue Jays signed veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer to a minor league contract on Monday night.

Moyer was /toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120626&content_id=33942560&vkey=news_tor&c_id=tor%u201D">http://toronto.bluejays.m...s_tor&c_id=tor%u201D" target=new>given no guarantees by the Jays and will report to Triple-A Las Vegas for a few starts.

The 49-year-old Moyer has a realistic shot to land with the Blue Jays, at least temporarily, since Toronto's starting rotation has been devastated by injuries during the past two weeks. Right-handers Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison were all placed on the 15-day disabled list, while Henderson Alvarez was forced to depart Monday night's game in Boston because of soreness in his right elbow.

The Blue Jays tried the same type of deal a few weeks ago with Vladimir Guerrero before parting ways with the former AL MVP.

- Doug Mittler

Puig still waiting

4:17PM ET
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Cuban defector Yasiel Puig, a 21-year-old outfielder, has already established residency in Mexico and is slated to work out for MLB clubs next week, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. And if all goes according to plan, Puig could be declared a free agent and signed by a team as soon as next weekend, according to his agent Jaime Torres.

Puig could get a contract similar to that of Jorge Soler, who received a nine-year, $30 million deal from the Chicago Cubs earlier in June.

The reason for such a high price? Well, aside from his age and talent, there's a key timing factor that could give Puig a lot of leverage. The new regulations set forth by the CBA allow clubs all of $2.9 million to spend on international free agents (including Cuban defectors), but that doesn't kick in until July 2. So if Puig is declared a free agent before then, teams will be fighting over his rights -- and have more money to spend.

As for the teams expected to be after Puig, ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com's Enrique Rojas mentions the following in the link above: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks.

- Jason A. Churchill and Jason Catania

Sizemore's progress

3:45PM ET
Grady Sizemore | Indians
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When Grady Sizemore had surgery to repair a herniated disc in March, the hope was that the Indians center fielder would be back sometime in June. The centerfielder told Paul Hoynes last month that the optimism has waned.

General manager Chris Antonetti said last week, however, that he believes Sizemore still has a chance to contribute this year despite Sizemore having yet to resume running after his May setback.

There is no timetable for Sizemore's return, but we do know he won't see the field in Cleveland before the All-Star break, so we're talking late July at the earliest, and that is assuming no further setbacks.

Nick Camino tweets Tuesday, however, that Sizemore has been hitting and throwing, which could be a sign he'll be sent out on a rehab assignment early in July.

- Jason A. Churchill and Doug Mittler

What to expect from Rizzo

3:30PM ET
Anthony Rizzo | Cubs
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Anthony Rizzo has been a top talent in three organizations, going from Boston to San Diego to Chicago in the past two-plus years, and while his first stints in the majors did not go well -- .141/.281/.242 in 49 games -- there is reason to believe this time will be different.

For one, he's gained more experience, tearing up the Pacific Coast League for the second year in a row. Second, his home ballpark will be much more hitter friendly. Wrigley is more of a lick-your-face lap dog, whole Petco, no pun intended, is more that of the barking guard dog that won't let you get your baseballs from its backyard.

Rizzo has even performed a little better versus left-handed pitching this season than last.

Rizzo's expected call-up pushes Bryan LaHair to the outfield regularly where the 29-year-old will gain eligibility for fantasy purposes sometime early next week, leaving first base for Rizzo for the long hail.

ESPN's Fantasy Baseball Expert, Eric Karabell, discusses whether or not fantasy owners should rush to the wire to grab Rizzo:

- Jason A. Churchill

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Eric Karabell

Rizzo's fantasy prospects

"When it comes to ESPN standard (10-team) formats, I can't say I'm actively pining to add Rizzo, but there's obviously major upside here. We do need to forget about the 2011 big league numbers and open our minds to the potential, but at the same time most every hotshot minor leaguer with fancy numbers gets a bit overrated by overeager fantasy owners. Some prospects turn out to be Mike Trout or Will Middlebrooks. Others struggle initially like Matt Adams or Devin Mesoraco, or eventually look like Justin Smoak. I like Rizzo, and he can't help but hit better than he showed in 2011 for the Padres, but I suspect many of us also don't have leagues in which we're hurting at first base or corner infield."


Who needs Greinke?

3:17PM ET
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Zack Greinke can become a free agent after this season and if the Milwaukee Brewers cannot extend his contract soon, they'll try and trade the right-hander, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Rosenthal notes that the Brewers, who sit 7 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central and 5 1/2 back in the Wildcard race, have yet to decide whether or not to buy or sell. Barring a hot streak, they're likely sellers, however, as eight teams are ahead of them in that Wildcard hunt and they are in fourth place in their division race.

Among the clubs that need a pitcher such as Greinke include the usual suspects -- New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers -- but the Detroit Tigers may need him the most.

After Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, the Tigers lack reliable starting pitching. Greinke could also be ideal in St. Louis if the Cardinals lose faith that Chris Carpenter will return in near-top form. The Toronto Blue Jays cannot be counted out, either.

- Jason A. Churchill

The Rangers and the deadline

2:40PM ET
Texas Rangers
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Rangers have trade bait

The Texas Rangers, who have already added Roy Oswalt to their rotation this month, may not be done tinkering with their 2012 roster as they look to hold off the Los Angeles Angels and make another run through he American League playoffs. Could more pitching be on GM Jon Daniels' wish list, or will the Rangers look to add another bat?

Deadline Strategy
The Rangers are definite buyers, though it's anyone's guess who might be their prime targets. They'll likely use their farm system and as well as any non-core players from their 25-man to get what they need, and it's more likely that Daniels seeks the kind of help that is under contract beyond 2012 first and foremost.

Money
With the new TV deal in effect and franchise records being set and broken for attendance, payroll does not appear to be any kind of issue for the Rangers this summer. The club is nowhere near the luxury tax threshold, either, even including Oswalt's pro-rated salary for the season, and all signs point to the ownership as a highly-motivated group willing to spend money on the roster.

Bait
As listed above, right, the Rangers have young talent to offer in return for proven veterans, and the recent performance by Perez, especially, could make an impact on the club's abilities at the deadline. Perez was called up Tuesday and could be auditioning for his future in the Rangers organization or as part of a future deal.

Olt, who is putting up big numbers in Double-A Frisco and may be the most likely of trade bait, tweaked a hamstring this week and will miss some time. He shouldn't be out long, however, and remains a valuable trade piece.

Profar is among the very best prospects in baseball and the chances he's included in any deal are extremely remote. One would have to believe it would require a superstar player in return, and one under contract for at least a couple of additional seasons.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that a core player could be included in the right trade -- Michael Young, perhaps? -- and while it's not unheard of (See: Red Sox, Boston), contenders aren't known for dealing away valuable veterans in July.

Targets
It's my opinion that no matter how well Oswalt pitches, the Rangers will consider starting pitchers Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Wandy Rodriguez and Zack Greinke -- if available -- before the deadline. Bullpen arms are always in play and the one thing the Rangers lack is a left-handed weapon to neutralize the better lefty hitters in the league. Perhaps the Twins' Glenn Perkins will be available at a price the Rangers like. The San Diego Padres could be willing to moving Joe Thatcher and if the Royals are open to discussing Tim Collins, either might be a fit for the Rangers.

If other big-name talents become available, we have to consider the Rangers in the same light we've considered the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox the past several years. If he's good and available, the Rangers are interested. Justin Morneau? Denard Span?

- Jason A. Churchill

Bauer to debut Thursday?

1:36PM ET
Arizona Diamondbacks
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All signs are pointing to Trevor Bauer making his major league debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday against the Atlanta Braves.

Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, was pulled from his start Sunday at Triple-A Reno after 50 pitches and 22/3 innings, leading to speculation he'll get the start Thursday in Atlanta place of the injured Joe Saunders. While the D-backs have made no formal announcement, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic said it would "a shocker" if Bauer does not start Thursday.

Bauer is 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 starts this season and leads all minor-league pitchers with 116 strikeouts.

- Doug Mittler

Pipp'd closers?

1:09PM ET
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With Tampa Bay's Kyle Farnsworth and Washington's Drew Storen each on their way back to the big leagues from the disabled list and Brandon League having held opponents scoreless in seven of his last eight appearances including the last four in a row, one might expect each of the three to return to their closer roles and start racking up saves.

There is one problem, however: Their replacements have performed at such high levels, none of the three are likely to get their jobs back anytime soon.

The Rays' Fernando Rodney has 20 saves in 21 chances and has compiled a 31-5 K/BB ratio and a 1.10 ERA in 34 appearances. Tyler Clippard, the Nationals' top setup man a year ago, has 12 saves in 13 chances and has not given up a run since May 16, a span of 16 appearances.

Seattle's Tom Wilhelmsen, the owner of one of the most devastating curveballs in the game, has five saves in June and enters play Sunday with a 16 2/3 scoreless innings streak. He's also whiffed 17 and walked just three in that span, perhaps leaving League in a setup role for the long haul.

All three certainly have a chance to eventually get back their ninth-inning responsibilities, but it doesn't appear it will occur anytime soon for League, and both Storen and Farnsworth seem headed for a setup role once they return from the disabled list. Nationals skipper Davey Johnson said as much in regards to Storen.

- Jason A. Churchill

Headley drawing interest

1:08PM ET
Chase Headley | Padres
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As we have speculated all season, San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley is a player of interest as the trade deadline nears. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets Monday afternoon that teams have called on the switch-hitter.

Heyman adds that the Padres will ask for a lot in return for Headley, and rightfully so. The Third base market, especially now that Kevin Youkilis has been moved, is quite barren, and Headley is not due for free agency until after the 2014 season.

Clubs that might see Headley as a worthy target include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and perhaps the Los Angeles Angels.

Whether contact by clubs develop into true negotiations remains to be seen. This is one to watch as the deadline gets closer.

- Jason A. Churchill

The Indians at the deadline

12:40PM ET
Cleveland Indians
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Potential Targets for CLE

Although they didn't get out of the gates quite as quickly this year as they did last season, the Indians have still been a surprise in the first half of 2012. No doubt, the club is looking to prevent another fool's-gold campaign -- remember, after starting out 30-15 in 2011, they went 50-67 -- and a trade or two could set the club up nicely as they try to keep pace in the AL Central with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Deadline Strategy
While it's possible GM Chris Antonetti could get cold feet after his big deadline deal a year ago for Ubaldo Jimenez didn't exactly put them over the top -- and doesn't look any better this season, either -- the fact is this is a team that doesn't necessarily need to make a splash to stay in the race. A minor adjustment here, a solid veteran there and the Indians could be in better position to make a run at the division title than they were in 2011.

Money
The Indians operate on a small-budget payroll structure that can handcuff Antonetti when it comes to taking on any additional salary. That just means he has to be a little creative by unearthing players who offer a certain skill or fit a specific need, ideally at a minimal cost. Still, it wouldn't be out of the question to see Cleveland make a run at players with expiring contracts, knowing full well that the salary comes off the books at year's end.

Bait
Thanks in part to the recent graduations of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall and dealing Drew Pomeranz and Alex White (among others) for Jimenez, the Indians farm system isn't exactly overflowing with major league-ready players. If another team is willing to gamble on a skilled yet flawed shortstop prospect, though, either Ronny Rodriguez or Tony Wolters (both at High-A) could bring back a helpful piece. Some other assets include filler types like potential back-end starters Zach McAllister, Scott Barnes and T.J. McFarland or utility man Cord Phelps, most of whom have some big league experience.

Targets
The Indians' biggest need is a first baseman who can hit like, well, someone other than Casey Kotchman (sub-.650 OPS). Problem is, there aren't many on the market, and those who are won't be cheap enough to fit (think: Carlos Lee and Justin Morneau). That leaves the likes of Wigginton and Doumit, neither of whom is a real first baseman by trade, as the best options.

The other problem area is an outfield bat with some pop. The best candidate to fill both the power void and the hole in left field is Willingham. Granted, he's signed for two more years, but the rate ($7 mill per) is something Cleveland could actually afford (and they were hot after him in the offseason). If Victorino becomes available, the Indians would probably check in on him, too, even if he's not a true power threat.

The last area that could be addressed is the rotation. The Indians have no ace and lack a No. 2, too, so even if the money makes it unlikely, it would behoove them to consider Greinke or Garza if at all possible. Otherwise, Dempster, once healthy, would be a nice fit as a veteran to lead the rotation. Liriano -- yes, another Twin -- could be an intriguing gamble, whereas Vargas would be a more stable possibility with less upside.

There's unlikely to be a headline-grabbing move out of Cleveland this year, but if the Indians can make a smart under-the-radar addition or two, the club would be in much better position to battle it out for the division title against the Tigers and White Sox, two teams who are certain to be active.

- Jason Catania

The Braves at the deadline

10:44AM ET
Atlanta Braves
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On the bright side, the Braves are less likely to squander a huge lead in September simply because they won't have one. They play their best baseball when Chipper Jones is in the lineup and have a realistic shot of sending him out with one more round of October baseball.

Deadline Strategy
General manager Frank Wren is not afraid to pull the trigger -- right at last year's deadline, he landed outfielder Michael Bourn from Houston. The season-ending injury to Brandon Beachy suddenly has the traditionally-rich pitching franchise looking to add a starter. It could ride on how Jair Jurrjens performs over the next few weeks. If he is pitching well, as he did Friday in Boston, the Braves could be less desperate and other clubs will not be able to hold them hostage.

Money
The Braves are in the middle of the MLB pack with an $83 million payroll. Jones' $13 million salary comes off the books after the season, giving them some flexibility.

Bait
Mike Minor was viewed as almost an untouchable last July, but the lefthander's stock has fallen a bit and the Braves could be more open to deal this time. Juan Francisco would be a nice addition to any team looking to add depth at third base. The Braves had four players in Keith Law's preseason list of top 100 prospects, but it seems unlikely they would deal a pitcher such as Julio Teheran.

Targets
Look for the Braves to be among the teams to be talking regularly with Theo Epstein about Cubs righthanders Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. The D-backs may be more willing to deal southpaw Joe Saunders than they were last July. If the Brewers decide to deal Zack Greinke, the Braves would be a nice fit. There is some talk the Braves could look to add a reliever due to the recent struggles of Jonny Venters. Another veteran bullpen arm would enable manager Fredi Gonzalez to spread around the workload more than he did last September, when Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel may have been running on fumes.

If the Braves add a bat, they could kick the tires on a short-term rental with the Padres' Carlos Quentin. Martin Prado, already having a productive year in left field, could be freed up to give the injury-prone Jones some rest at third base.

- Doug Mittler

Rotation shuffle in KC?

10:14AM ET
Kansas City Royals
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The Kansas City Royals may call up lefthander Everett Teaford from Triple-A to start Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a rotation shakeup.

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star says the Royals are pondering changes after Vin Mazzaro, Luis Mendoza and Jonathan Sanchez combined to surrender a combined 17 runs in 11 1/3 innings over the weekend in three losses to the Cardinals. Mazzaro already has been assigned to the bullpen.

The first change could come Wednesday when Teaford is in consideration to start, as are two of the organization's top prospects: right-hander Jake Odorizzi and lefty Mike Montgomery.

- Doug Mittler

Mets' quest for bullpen help

9:48AM ET
New York Mets
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The New York Mets have the worst bullpen ERA in baseball (5.17), and that was before closer Frank Francisco landed on the disabled list Sunday with an oblique strain. If the Mets are to continue their surprising start, they will need some improvement, whether it be internal or external.

Mets assistant GM John Ricco is well aware of the predicament, telling Ken Davidoff of the NY Post that while it's probably too early to make a move, "it's not too early to do the research."

Davidoff lists Houston's Brett Myers, San Diego's Huston Street, Oakland's Grant Balfour and Minnesota's Matt Capps (who landed on the DL Monday) as some of the best pieces potentially available.

General manager Sandy Alderson hasn't ruled out the possibility of taking on payroll, although he has yet to say whether the Mets will definitely be deadline buyers. Alderson will be very reluctant to giving up prospects, so it could come down to how much contract money the Mets are willing to absorb.

While the Mets need bullpen help now, they will probably have to wait until the All-Star break before they dig into the market because there currently are few sellers, tweets Buster Olney.

- Doug Mittler

Bench role for Huff

9:19AM ET
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The Giants' Aubrey Huff will need to be content with a bench role when he comes off the disabled list, says Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News.

Huff, who sprained his knee in the celebration of Matt Cain's perfect game, is eligible to come off the DL Thursday, but manager Bruce Bochy would like the veteran to take a minor league rehab assignment before returning.

Even when Huff returns, he can expect no more than an occasional start at first base. Brandon Belt has been the regular starter at first the last two weeks and has a 1.033 OPS in June. Huff has started in left field, but that is the domain of Melky Cabrera.

- Doug Mittler

ETA for Dempster

8:55AM ET
Ryan Dempster | Cubs
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When the Cubs' Ryan Dempster landed on the disabled list June 16 with a sore lat, it was widely reported the righthander would miss only a few starts and be back well before the July 31 deadline.

While manager Dale Sveum said there is no timetable for his return, Dempster experienced no discomfort after throwing off flat ground on Monday, reports the Sun-Times. While Dempster is unlikely to pitch during the current homestand, a return around the All-Star break seems feasible.

That would give Dempster a few starts to audition for interested teams and prove he is healthy. The Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are among the teams recently linked to the 35-year-old.

- Doug Mittler

Closing duties in Minnesota

8:32AM ET
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The list of available relievers this month should include the Twins' Matt Capps, given that he will be a free agent after the season and he pitches for a last-place team.

A red flag regarding Capps, however, went up Monday when the righthander landed on the disabled list for the first time since 2008 due to right shoulder pain. Capps' value could take a notable hit if he is not healthy in a few weeks.

Manager Ron Gardenhire says the closing duties will be split between lefthander Glen Perkins and Jared Burton, who earned saves Sunday and Monday. La Velle Neal suggests Perkins could get a few more opportunities because the Twins will be careful not to overwork Burton due to his injury history.

- Doug Mittler

End of 4-man rotation in Denver?

8:05AM ET
Colorado Rockies
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The Rockies optioned slumping right-hander Alex White to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Monday, a move that could lead to manager Jim Tracy scrapping his highly-publicized four-man rotation.

MLB.com's Thomas Harding says left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who was sent down in May to correct delivery flaws, is the obvious candidate for a promotion. One issue is that Pomeranz pitched Sunday for Colorado Springs, throwing 101 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.

The next available start would be Thursday against the Nationals and Pomeranz would be working on short rest. The Nats could give Thursday's start to right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who has pitched well in two long-relief appearances since being removed from the rotation.

If the Rockies decide to return to a five-man rotation, Pomeranz would fit in nicely to start Friday against San Diego. There would be no need to keep the well-rested Pomeranz under the 75 pitch limit used with the four-man rotation.

- Doug Mittler

Impact of Carpenter setback

7:44AM ET
Chris Carpenter | Cardinals
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The St. Louis Cardinals were cautiously optimistic that Chris Carpenter' ailing shoulder was healing to the point where the ace righthander would be making a minor league start within a week.

That timetable has been scrapped after Carpenter still experienced weakness following a 34-pitch throwing session Friday in Kansas City.

GM John Mozeliak has recently said that knowing Carpenter's availability by July 1 would influence the players he pursues at the trade deadline. Carpenter's shaky status should only intensify the Cardinals' quest to land another starting pitcher.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported the Cardinals are interested in Cubs starter Matt Garza, who is under club control through 2013. If the Cardinals are thinking bigger, the Brewers' Zack Greinke and the Phils' Cole Hamels could be pursued as expensive short-term rentals.

- Doug Mittler

High price for Garza?

7:19AM ET
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We mentioned Monday the market appears to be heating up for Cubs righthander Matt Garza.

In Sunday's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo says at least six teams -- Braves, Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Jays, and Royals -- have expressed their interest in Garza to Cubs president Theo Epstein. The interest from the Braves may have escalated in the past week over the season-ending injury to Brandon Beachy.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says Epstein can ask for plenty because Garza is under contract through next season. Even if arbitration is likely to take his salary well past $12 million, it's for only a season, and teams never balk at one-year commitments. Passan says Garza might bring back even more than impending free agents Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels in a July deal.

We asked Buster Olney about a possible price, and Eric Karabell whether a trade will give Garza a fantasy bump.

- Doug Mittler

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Buster Olney

He won't be cheap

"It would take one Bü prospect, plus a couple of other above-average guys to get him. The Cubs will wait closer to the deadline to deal Garza, unless they're overwhelmed now, because they longer the wait, the more likely it is that teams will be aggressive to plug a hole in the rotation. A bidding process will begin. Garza's price is higher than Dempster's because Garza is under control next year, so you have more moving parts involved. "


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Eric Karabell

Not a big bounce

"Garza's fantasy owners should be careful to avoid overrating him. He's good, but not great. A trade to a contender won't make him great. There's no evidence a trade will add so many more wins that his value explodes. If anything that perception makes him a sell high in real life and fantasy. Garza's K rate is down some from 2011 and his BABIP way down. He's won more than 11 games one year. Don't be shocked when his ERA in Atlanta or Boston stays near 4. "




post #7077 of 77346
Thread Starter 

Angels Bullpen Takes Flight.

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Spoiler [+]

On April 30, the Los Angeles Angels had a record of 8-15 and sat 9.5 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers. Today, the Angels are 40-33. They are now only 4.5 games behind the Rangers, and tied for the second wild card with the Tampa Bay Rays. Much of the focus for the Angels success in May and June has been on rookie sensation Mike Trout, Albert Pujolsâ re-found stroke, and the overall play of Mark Trumbo.

But donât overlook the Angelsâ bullpen. After a poor start, Angels relievers have been hugely important to the teamâs revived play. And it wasnât just the addition of Ernesto Frieri in early May that turned things around for the Angelsâ relief corps.

In April, Angels relievers were 0-6 with three saves, a 1.52 K/BB, and a 4.42 FIP.  Jordan Walden, then the closer, was a mess, with a 17.4 % walk rate and a 6.05 FIP. Middle relievers Jason Isringhausen and Hisanori Takahashi also lagged, with 7.43 FIP and 5.09 FIP, respectively. Scott Downs, the veteran left-hander, was the bright spot, with a 2.00 K/BB, a 0.86 WHIP, and a 100% LOB.

After Frieri arrived, things began to settle down. He shared closer duties with Downs in May. Neither allowed an earned run in the month. Waldenâs move to middle relief paid off, as he raised his K/BB to 2.00 and lowered his FIP to 2.57 in 12+ innings of work. Isringhausen and Takahashi also pitched well in May, posting 2.06 FIP and 3.26 FIP, respectively. David Pauley and David Carpenter, who pitched poorly in April, continued to lag in May.

In 21 games and 55.1 innings pitched in June, the Angelsâ bullpen sports the lowest team ERA in the majors at 1.95, although they are eighth in FIP at 3.20. The relievers are 4-0 with eight saves, a .226 batting average against, and a 0.49 HR/9, nearly half of home run rate as they posted in April. Frieri still hasnât allowed an earned run since joining the Angels. Downs allowed his first of the season on June 10. As a group, the bullpen has pitched 18.1 consecutive scoreless innings over the last six games.

But there are trouble signs. (Of course there are trouble signs. Nobodyâs perfect).

LaTroy Hawkins came off the disabled list in early June and added 13.2 innings to the bullpenâs efforts this month. And while his 0.66 ERA looks spiffy, itâs belied by a 3.50 FIP. His strikeout rate of 3.95 K/9 is significantly below his career average of 5.96, and his walk rate of 3.95 BB/9 is significantly above his career rate of 2.96. Not surprisingly, his first pitch strike rate (47.4%) and his swinging-strike rate  (4.0%), are at the lowest of his career.

Isringhausen, at 39, is holding batters to a .175 average with a .204 BABIP, numbers very likely to rise as the season wears on. His walk rate is in line with his career average but his strikeouts are down. Like Hawkins, his swinging-strike rate (6.6%) is the lowest of his career.

Frieriâs been untouchable but that may very well change. His 14.97 K/9 is the fifth highest among all qualified relievers since 2002 and nearly 3.00 K/9 higher than his career average. His 4.81 BB/9 is in line with his career marks and, therefore, unlikely to drop. Both his batting average against (.116) and his BABIP (.204) are well below his career norms.

Through Mondayâs action, the Angelsâ bullpen has pitched only 189 innings, the third least in the majors. Only the Giants and Phillies relievers have pitched fewer innings. Obviously, Angelsâ starters have gone deep into games the first three months of the season, weathering the 15-day disabled list stint by Jered Weaver. But Dan Haren and Ervin Santana havenât pitched well consistently. If that trend continues, manager Mike Scioscia is likely to rely more heavily on the âpen down the stretch. It remains to be seen whether the relievers will continue to pitch as well with a heavier work load.

In March, many crowned the Angels as the likely American League pennant winner. In April, many were tossing their pre-season picks out the window. Now, more than a third into the season, the Angels are playing as well as expected and are in the hunt for a postseason berth. The bullpen has been an important part of the teamâs turnaround. It will need to maintain its current level of effectiveness to keep the Angels in the hunt for October.



Anthony Rizzoâs Swing.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Few players have had the swings of fortune that Anthony Rizzo has experienced.

After being drafted in the sixth round by the Red Sox in 2007, he had an unspectacular but promising debut for an eighteen year-old in rookie ball (.286/.375/.429). Then he found out he had Hodgkinâs lymphoma and spent most of 2008 eating, sleeping, and getting chemotherapy. It took him until 2010 to really bounce back, but that year he hit .263/.334/.481 in Double-A for the Red Sox and suddenly appeared on prospect lists. Then he was traded to the Padres and hit .141 with the big league club in 153 plate appearances. Then he hit 26 home runs in Triple-A. Then he was traded to the Cubs. Then he hit 23 home runs in 284 Triple-A plate appearances.

Now the 22-year-old first baseman has been called up a second time, perhaps to stay. Thatâs a lot of back-and-forth swings for Rizzo. It should be no surprise, then, that his fortunes hang on his ability to sustain the changes heâs made to his swing.

If you only look at Rizzoâs best years in the minor leagues, youâd think that he didnât need to make any changes. He had isolated slugging numbers over .200 in good parks and bad parks. When he tore up Double-A, he did it in Portland of the Eastern League â not the Pacific Coast League, where he put in a .331/.404/.652 line a year later. He struck out around 22% of the time, and had double-digit walk rates. He even stole some bags and looked good around the bag.

But there was that year he struck out 23.7% of the time in High-A for the Red Sox. And even in a short 153-PA sample, it was worrisome that he came up and whiffed on 14.3% of the pitches he saw (major league average is around 8.5% most years). A 30.1% strikeout rate, like the one he had with the Padres, takes a lot of the shine off a prospect.

And there was some reason to worry. He moved his hands a lot. He seemed to take a long path to the ball. He might have had a hole on the inside, near his hands. People began wondering if he had a slider-speed bat.

Now Rizzo has swung back to fortune. He turned 2011â²s .331/.404/.652 into .342/.405/.696 this season (both PCL) and almost equaled his home run total in over 100 fewer PAs his second time in that hitter-friendly league. But more importantly, he cut his strikeout rate to 18.3% â the lowest heâs shown since he hit the high minors. Subjective reports lined up with the results. Heâs cut down the wiggle. Heâs moved his hands. Heâs not taking as long of a path to the ball. Heâs âfixedâ his swing. Right?

The angle isnât great, but there isnât a ton of publicly available Anthony Rizzo video from this year. You could try this video of his final batting practice in Des Moines, if you like. From this armchair, the reports seem warranted. He does look like heâs setting up differently. He does look like he spends less time getting into his swing. He does seem more direct to the ball.

153 plate appearances is not a huge sample, but the Padres must have seen something they were worried about. Thatâs a team that could use some power, and they traded away their powerful first base prospect, along with A-ball pitcher Zach Cates, for fireballer (but reliever) Andrew Cashner and A-ball outfielder Kyung-Min Na. Perhaps it was the fact that Rizzo was a pull-power lefty, and their park is not well-suited to that sort of player. Maybe it was the fact that Rizzo had some flaws in his swing.

Rizzo now has a new team and a new lease on life. His home park now augments lefty home runs by 4% compared to PetCoâs league-worst 17% suppression of the same. Heâs altered facets of his swing. There isnât much more he can learn in the minor leagues, and he seems primed for takeoff. Maybe we should have known that the pendulum would once again swing in Rizzoâs favor.



FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch â 06/26/2012.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Houston Astros
Current Level: A
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 8th
Current Value: Increasing

When it comes to prospects and stolen bases, Cincinnatiâs Billy Hamilton gets all the love. However, former first rounder DeShields has been quietly having a nice year in low-A ball. The 19-year-old second baseman is repeating the level (130 wRC+) after struggling there in 2011 (79 wRC+) but heâs already surpassed his steals from all of last year (30) with 51 in 58 attempts. Heâs doing a better job of getting on base, both in terms of hitting for average (.274) and walking (13.4 BB%), and heâs starting to chip away at the too-high strikeout rates. DeShieldsâ development is going to require patience but the reward could definitely be worth the wait.

Randal Grichuk, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Current Level: A+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: NR
Current Value: Penny Stock

The Los Angeles Angels club possessed two first round draft picks in 2009 and the organization used its 25th overall pick to select outfielder Mike Trout out of a New Jersey high school. However, the club also had the 24th overall selection and actually took Texas high school outfielder Randal Grichuk one pick ahead of the potential superstar. The Texanâs career has been derailed by injuries and inconsistencies but the good news is that heâs still just 20 years old and is looking much better in June after a dismal May in high-A ball. He has shown some power but the prospect needs a better approach at the plate, which includes more patience and better pitch recognition. Donât give up on Grichuk just yet but itâs probably safe to say itâs going to be hard to live up to being taken one pick before Trout.

Joe Musgrove, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Current Level: R+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: NR
Current Value: Undervalued

Toronto has some very impressive arms in its system, including the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, and Aaron Sanchez, but Iâm also quite fond of 2011 supplemental first rounder Musgrove, who was taken out of a California high school with the 46th overall selection. The right-hander can fire his heater up into the 95-96 mph range and induces a plethora of ground-ball outs. In two appearances in advanced rookie ball in 2012, heâs struck out nine batters and allowed five hits, without issuing a walk, in 8.0 innings of work. At 6â5â

post #7078 of 77346
Thread Starter 

Angels Bullpen Takes Flight.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

On April 30, the Los Angeles Angels had a record of 8-15 and sat 9.5 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers. Today, the Angels are 40-33. They are now only 4.5 games behind the Rangers, and tied for the second wild card with the Tampa Bay Rays. Much of the focus for the Angels success in May and June has been on rookie sensation Mike Trout, Albert Pujolsâ re-found stroke, and the overall play of Mark Trumbo.

But donât overlook the Angelsâ bullpen. After a poor start, Angels relievers have been hugely important to the teamâs revived play. And it wasnât just the addition of Ernesto Frieri in early May that turned things around for the Angelsâ relief corps.

In April, Angels relievers were 0-6 with three saves, a 1.52 K/BB, and a 4.42 FIP.  Jordan Walden, then the closer, was a mess, with a 17.4 % walk rate and a 6.05 FIP. Middle relievers Jason Isringhausen and Hisanori Takahashi also lagged, with 7.43 FIP and 5.09 FIP, respectively. Scott Downs, the veteran left-hander, was the bright spot, with a 2.00 K/BB, a 0.86 WHIP, and a 100% LOB.

After Frieri arrived, things began to settle down. He shared closer duties with Downs in May. Neither allowed an earned run in the month. Waldenâs move to middle relief paid off, as he raised his K/BB to 2.00 and lowered his FIP to 2.57 in 12+ innings of work. Isringhausen and Takahashi also pitched well in May, posting 2.06 FIP and 3.26 FIP, respectively. David Pauley and David Carpenter, who pitched poorly in April, continued to lag in May.

In 21 games and 55.1 innings pitched in June, the Angelsâ bullpen sports the lowest team ERA in the majors at 1.95, although they are eighth in FIP at 3.20. The relievers are 4-0 with eight saves, a .226 batting average against, and a 0.49 HR/9, nearly half of home run rate as they posted in April. Frieri still hasnât allowed an earned run since joining the Angels. Downs allowed his first of the season on June 10. As a group, the bullpen has pitched 18.1 consecutive scoreless innings over the last six games.

But there are trouble signs. (Of course there are trouble signs. Nobodyâs perfect).

LaTroy Hawkins came off the disabled list in early June and added 13.2 innings to the bullpenâs efforts this month. And while his 0.66 ERA looks spiffy, itâs belied by a 3.50 FIP. His strikeout rate of 3.95 K/9 is significantly below his career average of 5.96, and his walk rate of 3.95 BB/9 is significantly above his career rate of 2.96. Not surprisingly, his first pitch strike rate (47.4%) and his swinging-strike rate  (4.0%), are at the lowest of his career.

Isringhausen, at 39, is holding batters to a .175 average with a .204 BABIP, numbers very likely to rise as the season wears on. His walk rate is in line with his career average but his strikeouts are down. Like Hawkins, his swinging-strike rate (6.6%) is the lowest of his career.

Frieriâs been untouchable but that may very well change. His 14.97 K/9 is the fifth highest among all qualified relievers since 2002 and nearly 3.00 K/9 higher than his career average. His 4.81 BB/9 is in line with his career marks and, therefore, unlikely to drop. Both his batting average against (.116) and his BABIP (.204) are well below his career norms.

Through Mondayâs action, the Angelsâ bullpen has pitched only 189 innings, the third least in the majors. Only the Giants and Phillies relievers have pitched fewer innings. Obviously, Angelsâ starters have gone deep into games the first three months of the season, weathering the 15-day disabled list stint by Jered Weaver. But Dan Haren and Ervin Santana havenât pitched well consistently. If that trend continues, manager Mike Scioscia is likely to rely more heavily on the âpen down the stretch. It remains to be seen whether the relievers will continue to pitch as well with a heavier work load.

In March, many crowned the Angels as the likely American League pennant winner. In April, many were tossing their pre-season picks out the window. Now, more than a third into the season, the Angels are playing as well as expected and are in the hunt for a postseason berth. The bullpen has been an important part of the teamâs turnaround. It will need to maintain its current level of effectiveness to keep the Angels in the hunt for October.



Anthony Rizzoâs Swing.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Few players have had the swings of fortune that Anthony Rizzo has experienced.

After being drafted in the sixth round by the Red Sox in 2007, he had an unspectacular but promising debut for an eighteen year-old in rookie ball (.286/.375/.429). Then he found out he had Hodgkinâs lymphoma and spent most of 2008 eating, sleeping, and getting chemotherapy. It took him until 2010 to really bounce back, but that year he hit .263/.334/.481 in Double-A for the Red Sox and suddenly appeared on prospect lists. Then he was traded to the Padres and hit .141 with the big league club in 153 plate appearances. Then he hit 26 home runs in Triple-A. Then he was traded to the Cubs. Then he hit 23 home runs in 284 Triple-A plate appearances.

Now the 22-year-old first baseman has been called up a second time, perhaps to stay. Thatâs a lot of back-and-forth swings for Rizzo. It should be no surprise, then, that his fortunes hang on his ability to sustain the changes heâs made to his swing.

If you only look at Rizzoâs best years in the minor leagues, youâd think that he didnât need to make any changes. He had isolated slugging numbers over .200 in good parks and bad parks. When he tore up Double-A, he did it in Portland of the Eastern League â not the Pacific Coast League, where he put in a .331/.404/.652 line a year later. He struck out around 22% of the time, and had double-digit walk rates. He even stole some bags and looked good around the bag.

But there was that year he struck out 23.7% of the time in High-A for the Red Sox. And even in a short 153-PA sample, it was worrisome that he came up and whiffed on 14.3% of the pitches he saw (major league average is around 8.5% most years). A 30.1% strikeout rate, like the one he had with the Padres, takes a lot of the shine off a prospect.

And there was some reason to worry. He moved his hands a lot. He seemed to take a long path to the ball. He might have had a hole on the inside, near his hands. People began wondering if he had a slider-speed bat.

Now Rizzo has swung back to fortune. He turned 2011â²s .331/.404/.652 into .342/.405/.696 this season (both PCL) and almost equaled his home run total in over 100 fewer PAs his second time in that hitter-friendly league. But more importantly, he cut his strikeout rate to 18.3% â the lowest heâs shown since he hit the high minors. Subjective reports lined up with the results. Heâs cut down the wiggle. Heâs moved his hands. Heâs not taking as long of a path to the ball. Heâs âfixedâ his swing. Right?

The angle isnât great, but there isnât a ton of publicly available Anthony Rizzo video from this year. You could try this video of his final batting practice in Des Moines, if you like. From this armchair, the reports seem warranted. He does look like heâs setting up differently. He does look like he spends less time getting into his swing. He does seem more direct to the ball.

153 plate appearances is not a huge sample, but the Padres must have seen something they were worried about. Thatâs a team that could use some power, and they traded away their powerful first base prospect, along with A-ball pitcher Zach Cates, for fireballer (but reliever) Andrew Cashner and A-ball outfielder Kyung-Min Na. Perhaps it was the fact that Rizzo was a pull-power lefty, and their park is not well-suited to that sort of player. Maybe it was the fact that Rizzo had some flaws in his swing.

Rizzo now has a new team and a new lease on life. His home park now augments lefty home runs by 4% compared to PetCoâs league-worst 17% suppression of the same. Heâs altered facets of his swing. There isnât much more he can learn in the minor leagues, and he seems primed for takeoff. Maybe we should have known that the pendulum would once again swing in Rizzoâs favor.



FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch â 06/26/2012.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Houston Astros
Current Level: A
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 8th
Current Value: Increasing

When it comes to prospects and stolen bases, Cincinnatiâs Billy Hamilton gets all the love. However, former first rounder DeShields has been quietly having a nice year in low-A ball. The 19-year-old second baseman is repeating the level (130 wRC+) after struggling there in 2011 (79 wRC+) but heâs already surpassed his steals from all of last year (30) with 51 in 58 attempts. Heâs doing a better job of getting on base, both in terms of hitting for average (.274) and walking (13.4 BB%), and heâs starting to chip away at the too-high strikeout rates. DeShieldsâ development is going to require patience but the reward could definitely be worth the wait.

Randal Grichuk, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Current Level: A+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: NR
Current Value: Penny Stock

The Los Angeles Angels club possessed two first round draft picks in 2009 and the organization used its 25th overall pick to select outfielder Mike Trout out of a New Jersey high school. However, the club also had the 24th overall selection and actually took Texas high school outfielder Randal Grichuk one pick ahead of the potential superstar. The Texanâs career has been derailed by injuries and inconsistencies but the good news is that heâs still just 20 years old and is looking much better in June after a dismal May in high-A ball. He has shown some power but the prospect needs a better approach at the plate, which includes more patience and better pitch recognition. Donât give up on Grichuk just yet but itâs probably safe to say itâs going to be hard to live up to being taken one pick before Trout.

Joe Musgrove, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Current Level: R+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: NR
Current Value: Undervalued

Toronto has some very impressive arms in its system, including the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, and Aaron Sanchez, but Iâm also quite fond of 2011 supplemental first rounder Musgrove, who was taken out of a California high school with the 46th overall selection. The right-hander can fire his heater up into the 95-96 mph range and induces a plethora of ground-ball outs. In two appearances in advanced rookie ball in 2012, heâs struck out nine batters and allowed five hits, without issuing a walk, in 8.0 innings of work. At 6â5â

post #7079 of 77346
This dude Chapman rolling around after his save smiley: rolland his teammates are upset over it.
post #7080 of 77346
dude was just relieved ......the unwritten baseball rules is what makes it annoying at times


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