Sunday, December 18, 2011

Latos for Alonso, Who Wins?

Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Dustin Moseley, Cory Luebke--sound like an all-star team?  Maybe not, but all four of these Padres pitchers had ERAs below 4.00 last season (Clayton Richard's 3.88 was the highest of them).  In fact, Luebke and Moseley posted lower ERAs than--the now passé--Mat Latos (although Moseley pitched in 11 fewer games and Luebke spend the majority of the season as a reliever).

But nevertheless, the Padres do not have a completely nonexistent pitching staff without their former number one.  No, none of these pitchers had winning records last year (including Latos), but it's a difficult feat to accomplish when one's team only wins 71 games.

As for the Reds, Latos slots in nicely behind Johnny Cueto and gives Cincinnati a strong one-two punch for next season.  Clearing out Edinson Volquez was a good move as well seeing as, since 2008, his best season included a 4-3 record and a 4.31 ERA with a 1.50 WHIP.  And while he finally able to stay healthy last season, a 5-7 record with a 5.71 ERA tells me that some fans wish the disabled list would be expanded to accept players who are not injured, as well.

Who's going where?

To the Padres: Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger

Alonso: The 24 year-old first base prospect looked good enough that some believed that the Reds may have been willing to trade 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto in order to provide Alonso with playing time.  In 47 big-league games last season, he put up a .330 BA and batted in 15 runs with 5 HRs.  In Louisville, he's put up .296 BAs with 12 HRs and 56 RBI in each of the past two seasons.  Alonso and Jesus Guzman will have to battle it out for a starting position in 2012, which will create pressure on both to play to the best of their abilities.  This will be valuable for the Padres.

Volquez: He went 17-6 in 2008 with a 3.21 ERA.  If he can return to that form, he may be the biggest steal in the deal.

Grandal: Grandal jumped from High-A to AA to AAA last season, putting up combined numbers of 14 HRs and 68 RBI, supported by a .305 BA.  2 of those RBI came during his short (4 game) stay in AAA, where he batted .500.  Grandal is 22 years old and is entering only his third season of Pro-Ball in 2012.  With only Nick Hundley ahead of him, look for Grandal to make the majors soon, possibly as a September call-up. 

Boxberger: This 23 year-old AAA reliever posted a 2.93 ERA in 25 appearances with Louisville last season.  He also spent time in AA, putting up a 1.31 ERA in 30 games.  He managed 11 saves over the two levels and pulled out a combined 0.97 WHIP.  Boxberger is also entering his third year of professional baseball next season.  While the Padres' bullpen is relatively strong, most of its players are young, so Boxberger would fit right in--and possibly quickly.

To the Reds: Mat Latos

Latos: Breaking with tradition, the Reds' sole acquisition had a stellar sophomore season in 2010--posting a 14-10 record with a 2.92 ERA with an amazing 1.08 WHIP.  The numbers dipped a bit in 2011--9-14, 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP--but they were some of the best on the NL West bottom-feeding Padres.  Latos will be the number two after Johnny Cueto and gives the Reds a strong pitcher who may be able to push the team from third in the NL Central into second (last year's Wild Card spot), and with the extra Wild Card for next season, the Reds will certainly be a threat.  But Latos will not be able to do it alone, and the Reds definitely need to make some more moves before the winter is up.

So, who wins the deal?

In the short term it looks like the Reds will reap the benefits of the trade more so than the Padres.  The addition Latos and the subtraction of Volquez will make the rotation significantly better, possibly enough to contend.  In the long term, however, the loss of Yonder Alonso will hurt the team.  If Edinson Volquez returns to 2008 form, the Padres will have won hands down, but even if he does not, the rebuilding franchise has certainly added key assets for the future.  Alonso could be a superstar and the pick-up of Grandal cannot hurt.  Throw in Boxberger and the Padres have a good future looking back at them.  They still need a few more parts and will not be ready to contend for a couple more years, but this deal moves them much closer to that goal.

Neither team can live solely from this trade.  Other moves will need to be made before either is ready to make the post-season. 

So for 2011, this is a great trade for the Reds.  After that, it is Padres all the way.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prince Fielder: Where will he go?

Now that Albert Pujols has sold his soul to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the biggest name left on the Free Agent market is Prince Fielder.  Not that he really needs an introduction, but for anyone who has needs a refresher: the former Brewers' first baseman, and son of ex-MLB first baseman Cecil, has hit 230 home runs and recorded 656 RBI to go along with a .282 batting average over the course of 6 seasons (and 39 games).

Halfway through the 2011 season, he made it quite clear that he would not be returning to Milwaukee, and it does seem to be true that the team cannot afford to bring him back--although with this banned substance mess surrounding Ryan Braun, one wonders if the Brew Crew made the correct decision when choosing who to lock up on long-term deals.

So, team-less and in search of a 7- or 8- year contract, where will the 27 year old slugger end up?  Let's run down all thirty teams (noting that American League teams have a distinct advantage because of the Designated Hitter, a position where the 275 lb Fielder will probably end up by the end of his career).

Arizona: Paul Goldschmidt, Lyle Overbay, and Geoff Blum is not the best set of first basemen in the league, but Goldschmidt did show some good potential in his rookie campaign.  It has been reported that the D-backs' payroll will raise in 2012, but probably not enough to sign Fielder.  With a solid team for hitting, the Diamondbacks do not seem to be the most probable fit for Fielder.

Atlanta: Freddie Freeman's first full season was a promising one and the Braves are already up to $87-million in salaries.  While it has been rumoured that the team's payroll may increase for next year, first base probably is not the first place that Atlanta is looking to solidify.

Baltimore: One of the worst teams in baseball over the last decade, the Orioles begin with the distinct disadvantage of having very few players wanting to play for them.  With a hole on the right corner of the infield, it must be expected that the O's will (or perhaps already have) kicked the tires, here.  After throwing $8-million at an aging Vladimir Guerrero last season, it would seem that money is not too much of an issue for the Orioles.  That said, it is hard to afford anything when the seats are always empty.

Boston: The Red Sox have said that they do not want to go over the cap and have to pay luxury tax.  Also, with Adrian Gonzalez at first, the Sox are pretty much set.  Besides, we all remember how well acquiring numerous big-name players worked out for them last year...

Chicago (AL): The ChiSox are in a rebuilding phase, so adding a player who is at his most valuable right now makes very little sense.  It also seems improbable that the team would bring in a replacement for captain Paul Konerko.

Chicago (NL): With Carlos Pena gone to Free Agency, the Cubs do not have a first baseman.  The team has been linked to Fielder over the past few weeks and would certainly love to have him.  Chicago is rebuilding and will not be ready to compete for a few more years--this may be a turn-off for Fielder.  With the sixth highest payroll in the MLB, the team does not have much room to maneuver--especially if they wish to avoid the luxury tax.  If the Cubs are able to unload Carlos Zambrano--perhaps to the Marlins, a rumour which has died down, but may still have some essence of truth--they will certainly have room to sign Fielder, although they may be wary of big, long contracts after the Zambrano and Soriano incidents.

Cinncinnati: Joey Votto is the incumbent and, if they are not going to trade him--which is what they are saying right now--there is no spot for Fielder here.  We cannot forget Yonder Alonso, either, who some believe may one day be as good as, if not better than, Votto.

Cleveland: Here is another team without a first baseman.  Carlos Santana may move from his catcher position to first, and this does seem to be a move the team is considering.  If the Indians ignored Santana's knees and left him behind the plate, they would have an opening for Fielder.  With relatively little money currently invested in players for next season and an announcement of an impending payroll raise from the General Manager, the Tribe could certainly afford Fielder.  With the rate at which the team has progressed in the past few years, a big bat could be just what they need.  There has not been much in the way of talk about the Indians and Fielder, but the Angels did seem to fly in out of nowhere and sweep up Pujols.  This is something to watch out for.

Colorado: Todd Helton and Jason Giambi must be one of the olders first base tandems in the league.  While the team is likely looking for a younger player to take over when these two old-timers disintegrate, Fielder may not be the answer.  In spite of their terrible record in 2011, the team does wish to contend next season, but this seems to be an unrealistic goal.  While there are rumours that the team's payroll will increase, Fielder may still be a bit out of range--particularly because the Rockies have numerous other holes to fill, as well.  First base is probably not the team's primary point of focus.

Detroit: Miguel Cabrera is not going anywhere.  Being relatively immobile in the field, and with the DH spot filled, Cabrera will be staying at first, leaving no spot for Fielder.

Houston: Carlos Lee is getting older, but is nevertheless a solid first baseman.  The Astros are arguably the worst team in baseball and adding Fielder right after having traded their two best players (Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence) does not seem to make much sense.  If the team is looking to get younger, Fielder is not the way in which to do it.  It also seems that the Astros are looking to go the trade route, rather than through Free Agency, to build a team.  A poor team which will soon be headed from a tough division to another tough division does not seem sound like Fielder's ideal team, either.  That said, the Astros are moving to the AL, so the DH option will become available.

Kansas City: Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler.  If the Royals have one position where they do not need to improve, it is first base.

Los Angeles (AL): Albert Pujols, 'nuff said.

Los Angeles (NL): James Loney is not a bad first baseman, but Fielder would certainly be a great improvement.  Of course, the Dodgers do still have that small issue of having no money...

Milwaukee: As was previously mentioned, the Brewers cannot afford Fielder, otherwise they would most likely have already signed him.  If, however, Prince cannot get the seven year deal he wants, look for the Brew Crew to sweep in and try one last time to resign their superstar.

Miami: They have already signed everyone else this offseason; why not add one more to the list.  Replacing Gaby Sanchez is something the Marlins would not hesitate to do, and to do it with Fielder would make them very happy.  There have been rumours connecting Prince to the Marlins--but then again, just about every everyone has been connected to the Marlins is some way.  The team certainly seems to have the money to get a deal done, and if Jose Reyes is any indication, a baffling contract may be headed Fielder's way any day now.

Minnesota: If Justin Morneau is healthy, the Twins do not need a first baseman.  Also, the team has the ninth highest payroll in the league and may not be able to afford the slugger anyway.  The Twins, as was proved last season, have many holes--but first base is not the first one that needs to be plugged.

New York (NL): The Mets would certainly love to have a first baseman better than Ike Davis (who is not a the worst player with whom to be stuck), but if the Mets have enough money to sign Prince, they would have used it one Jose Reyes.  There is no chance that Fielder ends up here.

New York (AL): With Mark Teixeira locked up through 2016, the Yanks are not looking for a first baseman.  However, they do have a hole at DH.  The team is already in luxury tax territory and certainly has enough money to bring Fielder into the fold.  This is one to watch as the Yanks have proved over the years that they are not afraid of spending big if it means creating a winning team.

Oakland: The Athletics would probably like an upgrade on Brandon Allen, but the team is likely looking for speed, not power.  Also, the A's main issue right now is in the outfield, where all three of the team's starters from last season have gone to Free Agency.

Philadelphia: Ryan Howard may be injured, but the Phillies will give him a chance to return to his old self before they go in search of a permanent replacement.  Fielder has no place here.

Pittsburgh: Garrett Jones is a solid first baseman, but Fielder would be a welcome upgrade.  That said, the Pirates are still developing and may not be ready to go after a player like Prince right now.  There is also some uncertainty as to how much the Bucs will be able to spend next year and it seems improbable that they will be able to give much to Fielder.  First base may not be the first place where the Pirates need to look, anyway.

San Diego: They could not afford to bring back Heath Bell, so they certainly do not have enough money to entice Fielder.  The Padres would probably prefer a cheap temporary player than a long-term money-eater.  This is a team that needs to get worse before it can get better.

San Francisco: Aubrey Huff is a good player, but he is getting a bit old.  The Giants went from winning the World Series to just missing the playoffs (well, a little more than just) in one season.  Carlos Beltran could not do the trick, but maybe Fielder could.  With a relatively high payroll, the Giants may not be looking to add any more big contracts.  They have a little room to maneuver (about $30-million), but they may wish to use it on multiple players rather than throw it all at one.

Seattle: An upgrade for Justin Smoak would not be out of the question.  There have been some rumours that the Mariners may attempt to sign Fielder, but rumours may be all they are.  The team may be able to increase its payroll (this is not certain, but possible), and in that case, there would be no issues from the Mariners' end.  Fielder may not wish to play for a team as poor as Seattle, however.  The Mariners are not out of the question, but may not be the most probable destination for Prince's services.

St. Louis: Would the Cardinals pick up all of the money they offered to Pujols and throw it at Fielder?  This is not impossible, but if it was not enough for Albert, Prince will likely decline the offer as well.  Also, Pujols is a much better player than Fielder, so it is improbable that he receive even close to the same offer from the Cards.  Lance Berkman is an acceptable first baseman, so the Cardinals will probably look to fill other holes before returning to first base.

Tampa Bay: The Rays are currently without a first baseman, but Fielder is not really their type of player.  Tampa is full of fast players who manufacture runs--Fielder is a lumbering guy who makes runs with his bat, not on the basepaths.  Besides, with no protection, Fielder would constantly be walked, becoming a baserunning liability on an otherwise fast team.  There is no fit here.

Texas: Moreland is far from a sure thing and the Rangers will certainly make a push for Fielder.  The team may not have enough money to sign Prince, however.  As much as they would certainly love to have such a valuable asset, like the Mets, if they were able to afford Fielder, they would have spent the money on the player they knew and loved--in this case CJ Wilson--instead.

Toronto: Over the past few weeks, it has become popular belief that Prince will return to the city where his father once played.  There are, however, a few problems with this theory.  For one, Prince and Cecil are not on the best of terms, so it is unlikely that Prince feels any attachment to Toronto at all.  Even if Prince did not care about his rift with Cecil, his father did not make his name with the Blue Jays, but with the Tigers.  Another issue is the fact that the Jays have made it quite clear that they will not sign players to contracts longer than five years (Prince, of course, wants seven).  The rumours that the Jays are favourites for Fielder is more likely an agent's ploy to drive up prices than a fact.

Washington: Do not count out the Nats.  The team is lacking at first and is clearly not afraid to spend money (as proven by the Jayson Werth signing of last year).  Werth's disappointing production may have done one of two things: made the team wary of long-term, high-money contracts, or proved that Werth needs protection in the lineup.  With Werth locked up for six more years, it is more probable that the team looks towards the latter.  Look for the Nationals to make a move.

So where will Fielder end up?  Personally, I would pick the Yankees as a favourite, but the Indians are my sleeper pick.  The Nationals cannot be discounted, either.  An AL team seems a more likely destination, but there have been numerous surprises in recent years.

Where do you think Prince Fielder will sign?  Please comment, as we would love to hear your ideas.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mathis for Mills (aka Why Do the Angels Keep Making Trades with the Blue Jays?)

The last time the two teams made a deal, the Angels ended up with $80 million of Vernon Wells.  Now, they are getting a struggling AAA pitcher.  So why did the Angels make this deal?

In all honesty, this is a great trade for both teams.  Mills never had any chance of cracking the Blue Jays rotation--currently compiled of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, Dustin McGowan, and Brett Cecil, with Kyle Drabek, Joel Carreno, Nestor Molina, Drew Hutchison, Chad Jenkins, and Deck McGuire breathing down their necks (and let's not forget the ever inconsistent, but highly valuable Jesse Litsch).  Plus, due to being in the difficult AL East, Mills's opportunities were only getting slimmer.

In Los Angeles (or Anaheim, if you prefer) Jeff Mathis had become irrelevant.  With newly-acquired Chris Iannetta as the clear starter and Hank Conger coming up behind, there was no need for an extra back-up.  It is highly probable that the Angels would have non-tendered Mathis rather than go to arbitration with him.

So they made the trade.

Now the Jays have a backup catcher to replace the aging Jose Molina--who just signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, which gives his former team a compensation pick in next year's draft--who can help J.P. Arencibia in his sophomore season.  Molina has been on the decline for the past few years, and the former defensive stalwart had began to, well, stall.  Mathis brings a bit more youth to the position as well as a much better glove.  In 698.0 innings last year, the 28 year-old backstop had an astounding .995 fielding percentage behind the plate.  Arencibia would do well to learn from such a professional.  For his defence, Mathis's low offensive numbers can be forgiven.  His acquisition also gives Alex Anthopolous one fewer hole to fill this offseason.

As for Brad Mills, he finally has a chance to make a name for himself.  He may still be a year or two away, but the fears of AL East competition are gone--though in Salt Lake he will still be stuck in the PCL.  The 26 year-old southpaw will likely start next season AAA and will have a chance to prove himself.  Due to the weak back-end of the Angels' rotation, the 26 year-old southpaw may get a chance to show what he has learned in his small amounts of Major League service over the past three seasons.  He provides the Angels with some return for a player who they otherwise may have received nothing for.

Overall, this is a win-win situation.  Both teams have uses for their new acquisition and neither had any for the player traded away.  Mike Scioscia may be a bit heart-broken over the loss of Mathis, but in the end, there are no real losers of this trade.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If the Yankees didn't resign Garcia . . .

They could insert the following people as starters (pure speculation on my part)

  • David Phelps
  • Adam Warren
  • Hector Noesi
  • Joba Chamberlain (now it's dreamland territory)

Or they might be stuck with these guys as starters (again, pure speculation)

  • Sergio Mitre
  • Tom Alex Brian Gordon (remember him? Neither do I)
  • Andrew Brackman (probably a nice late-inning flamethrower, but starting? No thank you. Not until he learns four, not seven balls result in a walk how to throw strikes)
  • Jamie Moyer
  • Brett Favre Roger Clemens (hey, he never officially retired five times yet)

Of course, some of these people aren't even in the organization anymore and some others may end up in a different capacity, while a few might actually be a starter later on in the year. Thank goodness we've got Freddy there for now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Papelbon: Goodbye 30+

Since 2006--the first year Jonathan Papelbon became the closer for the Boston Red Sox--the reliever has never had fewer than 31 saves in a season.  The 31 total came in 2011.

Since saving 41 games in 2008, the four-time all-star has been on an unsteady decline in production (38 in 2009, and 37 in 2010).  To be fair, Papelbon did have fewer chances this year than he has ever had before--in fact, he had fewer chances than he's ever before had saves--but, he did blow three saves.  Blown saves--another disturbing trend in Papelbon's short career.  Over his Red Sox tenure, he had 219 saves in 249 attempts (248 since 2006).  That's 29 blown saves in six seasons--an average of almost 5 blown saves per year.

Next season, the right-hander will close for the Phillies.  Even if Brad Lidge does not return--as many expect he will--Papelbon will have limited save opportunities (we must remember that Lidge had a solid season last year, recording a 1.40 ERA and .225 batting average against in 25 appearances).  Ryan Madson had just 34 chances to record a save last season.  Based on his average of 5 blown saves per year, Papelbon will miss the 30 mark next season.

Some may argue that Papelbon managed 31 saves in spite of having the same number of opportunities last year.  His worsening ERA must, however, be taken into account.  In 2010, his ERA was a bloated 3.90.  He brought it back down to a reasonable 2.94 in 2011, but this number is still the second highest of his career.

Papelbon's career has been similar to that of Kevin Gregg's 2010 season.  He almost always gets the save--but he makes it exciting.  It cannot be known whether or not NL opponents will be able to capitalize on this.  Also, with Washington and Miami looking to bolster their lineups, Papelbon may have entered a division which will be filled with some of the most talented hitters in the game next year.

It will be difficult for the former Rex Sox closer to reach 30 saves next year.  If he can perform as he did in the AL, the Phillies will be very happy with this pickup.  But renewing ties with Brad Lidge may not be the worst idea for the NL East division winners of last season.  If at any point next season Papelbon begins to struggle, it could be a long time before he finds the confidence to pitch at an all-star level again.  At this point, he could well have already been replaced.

Jonathan Papelbon may have just experienced his last 30 save season.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Battle of the Bullpens: Blue Jays vs. Yankees

We are now one month into the 2011 baseball season and it has certainly been an exciting thirty days.  Relievers are always one of the most important parts of a team--after all, you can't lose if the other team doesn't score.
Two teams whose bullpens drew much interest during the offseason were those of the Blue Jays and the Yankees.  After one month of the season, here is an analysis of both 'pens.


Hitting is usually the first thought to come into one's head when s/he thinks of the "Bronx Bombers".  However, after the team's starting pitchers struggled to such a great extent last season, many people have been forced to look at the 27-time World Champs' backup--the men who many Yankees fans worried would be pitching much more often than would be preferable.

Mariano Rivera

Through one month of the season, Rivera (1-0, 2.13) is pitching up to normal standards...or so it would seem.  The 41-year old right-hander is nine for eleven is save opportunities.  Rivera blew just two saves all year in 2009 and one in 2008.  Last season, he blew five.  Some may argue that, over his career, the 568/619 pitcher did not have a below-average season (he blew a career high seven saves in 2001).  In fact, Rivera averages just 3.64 blown saves per season, not including this season, 1995 (when he was a starter), or 1996 (when he had just five save opportunities).  Even though he has saved nine games already, the major question is whether or not fans should worry about his failure 18.18% of the time.  Despite the fact that, right now, he is averaging a 12 BSV season, Yankees fans should not be concerned--at least not this year.  Rivera will, likely, settle down and pitch fairly well for the remainder of the season.  Next year, there is more need for concern (a 42-year old is always unpredictable).

David Robertson

Robertson's past shows that he may eventually falter; however, he is the strongest pitcher out of the Yankees bullpen so far this year.  He has gone 1-0 with the miniscule ERA of 1.93 over 9 1/3 innings.  His twelve K's are impressive for a man who pitches one or fewer innings per game.  He does, however, have one stat category which will come back to bite him if he does not improve in the area.  His WHIP is 1.39.  Though not terrible, no pitcher wants to give up as many baserunners as he has.  A player cannot score from the bench, but there are hundreds of ways to bring him home if he is on the basepaths.

Mariano Rivera

Rivera can still save games--but his most valuable trait is the ability to strike fear into opponents.  No matter how well he is pitching, the batter will always lose confidence--("I'm facing the best closer in the league, maybe ever.  I'm not going to get a hit.")  And confidence most certainly has an effect on a player's ability to perform.

Boone Logan

This is sort of by default seeing as Logan is the only lefty in the Yanks' bullpen.  However, he showed last year that he has the potential to be a solid pitcher (his previous seasons aside [5.78 ERA over 127.2 innings]).  He is strong against lefties and, therefore, fills the position the Yankees need.  In other words, he does exactly what he is asked to do and, so, he is valuable to his team.

Rafael Soriano

This is the easiest title to hand out.  Signed to be a star set-up man who could potentially fill in at closer in Mariano Rivera faltered, Soriano has been the falterer.  He is 1-1 with a 7.15 ERA and a WHIP of 1.85 over 11 1/3 innings pitched.  People are beginning to understand why he could not find a team to sign him to be their closer during the offseason.  His career 2.86 ERA is the only hope the Yankees have that this deal will not be a complete bust.


After a pathetic 2010 season, the Jays acquired three proven closers to help out in the back end.  So far, the bullpen has been solid--some of the production coming from the least expected sources.  The Jays may not be quite there yet, but it is starting to look more and more promising.

Jon Rauch & Frank Francisco

Jon Rauch emerged as the closer early in the year.  At this time, however, Frank Francisco and Octavio Dotel were both on the DL.  He has remained solid throughout the month, getting the save in all five of his opportunities.  He also has a 2.45 ERA.  When Frank Francisco returned, he showed that the Blue Jays have more than one closer.  After giving up a first pitch home run to his first batter of the year, Francisco has kept opponents to only one hit since.  Through 5 1/3 innings, he has an ERA of 1.69.

Casey Janssen

How can a pitcher who was sent down in the middle of the month, only to be recalled as an injury replacement, be the team's best reliever.  Let the numbers speak for themselves: 0.87 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 6K's, .237 Opponent's Avg., 10 1/3 innings pitched.  Once a starter, Janssen has translated well into a strong reliever.  It is fairly safe to say that, if he can keep this up, he will not be sent down again.  (One must remember that he was only placed in Triple-A because he had options left.)

Carlos Villanueva

Acquired for cash early in the offseason, nobody expected Villanueva to make the team.  When multiple pitchers began the year injured, many assumed that he and Casey Janssen would be the first players sent down.  In 14 2/3 innings, Villanueva has posted a 1.84 ERA and has given up runs in only two of his 8 appearances.  His WHIP is 0.82 and his opponent's average is .093.  Villanueva, being a former starter, can go multiple innings and is, by far, the most valuable pitcher on the staff.  He finishes a close second to Janssen for Best Pitcher.  If not for his outing against Tampa Bay on April 23rd, the title would have been his.

Marc Rzepczynski

Like with the Yankees, this choice is by default.  However, also like Boone Logan, Rzepczynski deserves praise.  He is the most versatile pitcher in the 'pen.  Sometimes used as a lefty specialist, sometimes used as a long-relief man, Rzepczynski has made the translation from the rotation to the bullpen with ease.  In 12 2/3 innings, he is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA, a 0.71 WHIP, and an opponents' average of .103.  Even if there was another southpaw in the bullpen, Rzepczynski would likely still be the best left hander.

Octavio Dotel

His opponents' average of .179 and 9 K's make one wonder how Octavio Dotel could possibly be the greatest disappointment out of the 'pen.  The answer: a 4.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  In other words, the Blue Jays have a very strong bullpen.  No one is very close to Dotel for this title.  And Octavio has shown some promise to Jays fans this year (he went 1-2-3 in his first outing).  Also, one must remember that he was injured at the start of the year.  His career numbers: 3.76 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, Opponents' Avg. .218.  Dotel has never been the best pitcher, but Blue Jays fans can count on his improvement later this year--even if that improvement is small.

So who wins the battle of the bullpens?  Right now, the Jays are a mile ahead, but one must remember that the season is young and the Yankees always battle back.  This competition is far from over.  It will be interesting to see who is winning after next month.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Initial Reactions (After Much Thinking) Opening Weekend

New York:
1) Joba Chamberlain gained a lot of weight
2) Rivera is still Rivera
3) April Teixeira, meet your counterpart.

1) I still hate Pavano
2) They should have kept Slowey as starter
3) Nishioka looks a bit lost

1) They should have kept Pena
2) What did they do with their revenue sharing money?

1) Scoring 4 runs off Bard is impressive
2) They looked like the contenders they should be

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coach Loses Eye

Just another piece of evidence proving that even coaching baseball is dangerous.
Luis Salazar, a coach with the Braves, lost an eye because he got hit by a foul ball. On the bright side, he's still alive, unlike that poor guy in the Rockies' minor league system.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Remembering the 2009 WBC (and Wondering When's the Next One)

The 2009 World Baseball Classic held many surprises. Some of them stood out more than others. These were the things that stood out to me (and forgotten soonafter, until now)

1) China beats Chinese Taipei 4-1
I've always thought Chinese Taipei were only bested in Asia by Japan and South Korea. Hmmm.. guess I was wrong.
Interesting side notes:
i) The manager for the Chinese side was none other than Mets manager Terry Collins.
ii) The hero of the game, Ray Chang, was named Eastern League's Best Defensive 3B in 2010 by Baseball America. Who knew? So far he can hit A and AA pitching, but stunk at AAA.
iii) The two prospect, Kai Liu and Zhenwang Zhang, signed by the Yanks. Liu went back to China a few years later, but I can't seem to find any info on Zhang. I can't even find anything in the past two years about the entire Chinese team. Rumors say Zhang went back to China too. Either way, they weren't in the MiLB database. Oh well, their appearance in the WBC was after their 2007 signing anyways.

2) Netherlands beats Dominican Rep. twice
Almost every name looked weird back then, with the exception of Ponson, plus a few other guys who had some time in the majors.
Today, more familiar names came up. Kenley Jansen, who is now pitching instead of catching. Hainley Statia, with the Angels. Halman, Vanden Hurk and Smit joins the group too. Looks like they may do something at the next WBC too.

Main problem: Anyone got any idea about when is the next one?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cubs Bullpen The Best? Hardly.

Recently Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs said that the Cubs' bullpen is the best bullpen in the game. Some may agree with him, but I don't.

Let's talk about the usual suspects. The Yankees have a nice bullpen, and the Red Sox have three guys in there that can be closers for most teams. Now onto other teams. The Athletics looks pretty good too. The Dodgers have a solid pen. The Orioles don't look too bad either. Oh, and don't forget the Padres, Phillies and Rangers.

To save time, let's just compare 3 people in each bullpen.
Athletics: Bailey is a solid closer. Fuentes may be shaky in the past few years, but he's is still a good reliever. Balfour rounds out the trio, and he's a solid reliever too.
Dodgers: Broxton got banged around a bit the past summer, but he has a good track record, and he's still pretty young. Kuo and Guerrier will probably do well as setup-men, and they step in and close when Broxton falters.
Orioles: Gregg is certainly not fantastic, but he's consistently tolerable. Gonzalez and Uehara are fine pitchers who will help shorten the game.
Padres: Adams and Gregerson are fine setup men and they are a solid bridge to Bell, one of the best closers in the game today.
Phillies: Lidge is ok, and Contreras and Madson performs.
Rangers: I'll go with the depth chart for now. Feliz is absolutely reliable as the closer,and Rhodes and Oliver are fine lefties who continue to defy age.
Red Sox: Papelbon, Bard and Jenks. Three legit closers. Three reliable arms (at times).
Yankees: If Rivera wasn't enough, Soriano will close the gap. Robertson will help, and not hurt the team.

Cubs: Marmol and Wood are high K and high BB pitchers. Marshall the lefty is a nice complementary piece to the other two, with good strikeout rate but a lower BB rate.

I'd say that the Cubs aren't even in the top 3.
1) Red Sox
2) Padres
3) Yankees

The Sox, of course, with their three closers, wins the top spot.
The Padres deserves the second spot, with three solid and reliable arms. However, they can't match the awesomeness of three closers.
The Yankees, with Robertson, a good but not great reliever, gets the third place. If they had a better player to join Rivera and Soriano, they'd have the best bullpen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jose Bautista Officially Signs

Details: 8 million in 2011,14 million each season in 2012-15, with 14 million team option for 2016.

Pro: A hitter in the heart of the lineup that needs one.
Con: Potentially a .250 hitter with 30 home runs annually, not worth the pay.
Reaction: One of the sides will regret signing this contract. Only time will tell which side got the bad end.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why the Angels Will Finish the 2011 Season With a Sub-.500 Record

It is much easier to ask a power-hitting team to play small ball than it is to ask a powerless team to hit home runs.  Sure, a power-hitter may struggle to bunt properly and may not have the speed to beat out a soft grounder, but sometimes an average attempt is good enough.
Take the Toronto Blue Jays of last year (assuming Cito Gaston would ever have permitted his team to lay one down).  In the rare situation where a bit of small ball was, in Gaston's mind, the best option, he could ask Travis Snider to bunt a runner over instead of swinging for the fences--and if he doesn't succeed the first time, he may get another chance.
The LA Angels, however, do not have a luxury such as this.  Yes, their defence is superb and their speed is above average, but who can hit for power?  In a 6-3 game with two on in the bottom of the ninth, do you want Jose Bautista at the plate...or Alberto Callaspo?  The Angels do not have anyone who can hit for power consistently on their roster.

Bobby Abreu: Let's face it, he's not the type of hitter he used to be.  The Angels' probably #4 outfielder (or DH?) for next season is a valuable asset, but his production has suffered significantly since he was in his prime.  He will hit no more than 15 home runs next year (partially due to a slight loss of playing time) and will be lucky to break 80 RBI.  He is not an answer: he is a vetran presence who the Angels hope will be able to help out the young players.

Peter Bourjos: Defensively, I have more respect for Bourjos than any other player in the MLB.  I saw him play in only one series last year, but that was enough to form an opinion.  Everything hit to centre field was caught--no matter where it was.  That being said, he was also the greatest offensive liability in the lineup.  He may prevent any doubles to the gap from occurring, and he may win numerous Gold Gloves, but he'll keep making up for it each time he steps into the batter's box.

Torii Hunter: His numbers have been fairly consistent over the past few years, but, like Abreu, his age will catch up to him.  His stolen bases dropped significantly last season.  For a player whose top qualities are speed and defence, declining quickness is a grim sign of things to come.

Vernon Wells: Wells, or as I sometimes call him, First-Pitch-Pop-up Man, has an uncanny ability to live up to his nickname.  The only reason the Angels added Wells to the fold was for power, but--in spite of his 31 home runs last year--Vernon is much too inconsistent to have any major value to his new team.  His acquisition was a loss for the Angels: in money and ability.  The one positive for LA is that Wells' speed may finally be utilized.


Erick Aybar: Another inconsistent player offensively, Aybar is completely unpredictable for next season.  The one thing everyone can be fairly certain of is that he will fail to hit more than 5 homers.  A new shortstop would definately be a plus for the Angels.  Aybar will, one day, end up becoming more like Alex Gonzalez than Derek Jeter.  He is faster than A-Gon, and his defence is far more mediocre, but--my point is--he will one day be lost in a sea of average backup shortstops.

Alberto Callaspo: Callaspo does his job.  You get what you ask of him--around 10 home runs and 60 RBI.  He is not a power hitter, but he does not need to be.  Callaspo is not the Angels' major problem, he is simply not the type of player they need.  However, as the team will struggle for power, Callaspo will end up near the top of the team in homers.

Howie Kendrick: Kendrick is much like Callaspo when it comes to numbers.  The major difference is that Kendrick is faster.  The Angels do not need two of the same player.  One of Kendrick or Callaspo should be traded away sometime during the season.  It will be interesting to see which the team would be more willing to part with.  Kendrick is probably a bit better than Callaspo, so trading the latter would be better for the team as it currently stands.  However, Kendrick would probably draw more interest--and higher return.

Brandon Wood: Possibly the greatest liability on the team, Wood struggles offensively and defensively.  Why he is even on the team is beyond me.  Just another hole in a swiss-cheese lineup.


Jeff Mathis: One of the best defensive catchers in the game, Mathis is, most certainly a--(I'm sorry, I feel like I've overused this term in this blog)--liability when it comes to offence.  Every now and again he can convert on an opportunity, but he is not going to pull a garbage team out of the trash can.  I like Mathis' game, but his bat is most certainly not what the Angels need right now.

Pitching is a different story for a different day. Short overview:

Dan Haren
Joel Pineiro
Jered Weaver
Ervin Santana

Scott Downs

Scott Kazmir
Fernando Rodney

The pitching is really and truly irrelavent with this team.  It's impossible to win if you can't score.  Even if your pitchers can hold off the opponent, they cannot pitch perfectly forever.  A team that will struggle to score runs will not win games.  I think it's time the Angels' went for a full-out make-over.  Gut the team and try again.  Anaheim has had a solid team for a number of years, now.  Their best bet is to take three to five years off, and reclaim their division title.


A New Idea About Joba

As I heard that Joba still has options and not a "lock" for the bullpen in New York, an idea has sprouted in my mind.

1) Option him to AAA
2) Use him as starter
3) See how it goes

Best Scenario: With some extra time in AAA, Joba rediscovers his old form and becomes a fabulous pitcher like he was expected to be back in 2007.

Worst Scenario: Joba screws up, loses favour in AAA, gets traded, then become a fixture on the other team. Meanwhile in New York, that one bullpen spot gives up the winning run in the deciding game of playoff spot/postseason series.

Likely Scenario: He's used as a reliever for the rest, or at least majority of the rest of his career. While he is involved in some memorable moments, people still hold thoughts on what could have been, if he was a starter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Short Thoughts On Bautista

1) Bautista's 2010 blew every prediction away.
2) Bautista never had a season of 100 OPS+ before this year.
3) Bautista never hit with a SLG of .500, or even .450, before this season's .617 .

Safe Assumptions:
1) Bautista will have similar protection in the lineup, if not better.
2) Bautista will never have a season like this again
3) Bautista will be a commodity when he hits the FA market if he hits 30 out of the park in 2011.
4) Toronto need him to be at the heart of their lineup.
5) Toronto has some payroll flexibility after trading away Wells and his loaded contract.

My Theories:
1) Bautista thinks that he won't do as well next season, so
2) he should get some leverage using his current year, and
3) the Jays are happy to oblige
4) He will get a book about his 2010 season.

Jose Bautista's Arbitration Hearing Postponed

Four days.  That's the amount of time the Blue Jays have to sign Jose Bautista to a long term deal before three arbitrators make the contract decision for them.  So, if it's taken this long all ready, why would four more days result in the multi-year pact all Jays fans are so desperately hoping for?

First of all, we must ask ourselves why the clubs have failed to come close to signing even a short-term contract.
From the Blue Jays' perspective: Jose Bautista is a hard-working, middle-aged player who shockingly broke out of his career-long drought to hit 54 home runs last year.  Not to be forgotten: he hit most of his home runs at home, hit only one to right field throughout the entire duration of the season, and posted a measly .260 average.
From Bautista's perspective: He is a versatile player who plays his heart out every game.  He managed a well-deserved 54 home runs last year and he expects that he can do so again.  His batting average was below-average, but not unreasonably low, and it improved as the season progressed.

An interesting fact about the contract negotiations is that, according to JoBau's agent, the Jays had not offered Bautista a multi-year deal up until this point.  Why they would wait until the last minute is completely and utterly inexplicable.  General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has, during his tenure as the Jays' GM, seemed determined and confident with all of his decisions.  This last-minute decision is somewhat out of character.

Bautista's apparent wish to remain in Toronto long-term may also have an effect on the contract negotiations.  Due to this fact, four days may be plenty of time for the two sides to work out a deal.

What to expect: If a deal is made (and it seems likely as the Jays probably would not have requested the deadline's postponement if they were not expecting to to come to an agreement) it will probably be no longer than 2 years with a club option.  Alex Anthopoulos loves to throw a club option in there and likely won't finalize accept any contract without one.  Expect Bautista to receive a salary closer to the Blue Jays' arbitration submission in the first year and closer to Bautista's in the second.  The thrid year (the club option year) would see Bautista awarded around $12.5-$13.5 million.  I wouldn't be surprised to see some incentives thrown in there, as well (especially in that lower-paid first season).

The Jays signing Bautista would be the optimal decision for a team whose fan base needs something to be excited about.  I will post more information as I receive it as to the contract situation.


Blue Jays Pitching Rotation Analysis

The Toronto Blue Jays have had a busy offseason when it comes to pitching.  From the early December trade of Shaun Marcum to the acquisition of Frank Francisco, the Jays have certainly concentrated on pitching in the last few months.

The first thing I want to concentrate on is the rotation: How will it look next season?  How will it perform?  Here it goes:

Ricky Romero: The Jays' top pick in the 2006 MLB amateur draft (sixth overall) will likely be asked to fill the vacancy left by 2010 Opening Day starter Shaun Marcum.  The new #1 went 14-9 last season with a 3.73 ERA in 32 Starts.  While Romero only improved his victories by one in his sophomore season, his ERA dropped substantially.  He is far from a number one pitcher, but still has the potential to improve.  The wins will come with better run support.  Romero's most significant fault is his inability to recover his confidence if he pitches a poor inning.  He will often slow to a snail's pace if there are runners on base.  In other words, he chooses to throw off his own timing.  If Romero ever wants to be a star in this league--which I believe that he could one day be--he has to learn to forget about the last pitch and concentrate on the next one.

Brandon Morrow: The Blue Jays were the clear winner of the Brandon-for-Brandon deal which took place last offseason.  Morrow learned to trade power for control last year.  This adjustment to his game--thank you Bruce Walton and Jose Molina--left him the most dominant pitcher on the Jays last season.  After early season struggles, he and Molina became permanent partners.  Morrow finished the 2010 season--which had begun with speculation about his impending demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas--with a 10-7 record and a 4.49 ERA.  The ERA almost certainly would have been lower had he been able to pitch at the beginning of the season as he did at the end.  This is a good sign for Blue Jays fans.  Also, one mustn't forget Morrow's 17K one-hitter.  This was arguably the best-pitched game of the year (and remember that six no-hitters, including two no-hitters must be taken into account).  Morrow has the stuff to be the Jays' ace in days to come--so long as he does not revert to his old ways and become AJ Burnett #2.

Brett Cecil: The third, and final, lock for the Jays' rotation next year had more wins than any other pitcher on the Blue Jays last season with 15.  The Jays' top pitching-prospect in 2008 and 2009 showed why he was so highly regarded last season after an early call-up to replace the injured Brian Tallet.  Cecil's 4.22 ERA is a terrible representation of the season he had last year.  If he could learn to pitch better against Texas and Boston (a similar problem to that of Ricky Romero) then he could be an All-Star in the near future.  There are only two worries I have about Cecil.  1: Will he be able to pitch a full season in the majors (something he has yet to be given the opportunity to do)?  And  2: Will he be able to come to his senses and shave off that atrocious mohawk?

Questions folllow for Toronto as to who will fill out the rotation.  The leading candidates seem to be:

Kyle Drabek: The son of former MLB pitcher Doug Drabek, Kyle is by far the Jays' top prospect.  Drabek received three "try-out" games with the team at the end of last season.  I think I speak for many Jays' fans as I express my disappointment in his performances--not that I don't retain high expectations for the future.  Drabek, who was made out for the entire year as a future super-star was grossly average (0-3, 4.76 ERA).  I liked what I saw from Drabek in the early innings of his games, but it seemed that, once hitters figured him out, he was much less effective.  Personally, I do not believe that Kyle is ready for the majors.  However, it seems highly likely that he be in the number 4 slot next year,

Jesse Litsch: Litsch once showed some potential, however, injuries have limited his appearances in recent years.  When Litsch did pitch last year, he was ineffective (save for one start), and soon found himself back on the disabled list.  I don't trust him to be successful in the rotation next year.  Litsch's 1-5, 5.79 ERA in 9 starts last season has left him a huge question mark for 2011.  Jesse Litsch, if he could return to 2008 form, would be a welcome addition to what would be a solid pitching rotation.  However, he is simply too unpredictable for any fan to have even the slightest trace of confidence in him.

Marc Rzepczynski: If you have never heard of Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-chin-ski) you probably think that he is just a modern version of Sidd Fitch.  That no one could possibly have a name this crazy and, thus, he must be fake  (so I'm about to tell you about his impossible super-abilities).  No, Zepper is most certainly real and, in my opinion, is the best choice for number five in the rotation.  Rzepczynski would make an effective long-reliever (which I will touch upon in my upcoming Blue Jays bullpen analysis), but he would be better in the starting rotation.  Unlike Jesse Litsch, he has actually pitched consistently over the past two seasons.  The major worry concerning him, like Brett Cecil, is his ability to pitch a full major league season.  This is a risk that I think the Blue Jays should most certainly take.  When Rzepczynski is on his game, he is practically unhittable.  He may have the more confidence on the mound than any of the Jays' other Starter options.  Starting Rzepczynski in the rotation would make the most sense for the Blue Jays as, if he falters, he can easily be shifted into a long relief role.

Brad Mills's inconsistencies will likely prevent him from obtaining a Major League roster spot.  Scott Richmond will have to climb a long way back from his injury to come within spitting distance of the competition in front of him (though he could also take on a reliever's spot).  And Dustin McGowan may as well be forgotten about at this point.  If, and only if, he ever pitches again, it likely will not be as a Blue Jay as proving himself as better than anyone else mentioned in this article (including Mr. Fitch) would be near-impossible.

Keep checking back.  I will soon post my Blue Jays Bullpen Analysis.

Until next time, I must bid you,

Michael Young Trade Possibilities: If Salary Was Ignored

Michael Young, though old and declining (and not much of a fielder), can still hit with a respectable average, some power, and 100 OPS+. If money was not a problem, and he would allow any trade, where would he fit? I'll examine the left sides of the infield for the other 29 teams.

Angels: With Aybar and Izturis on the left side of the infield, Michael Young suddenly looks pretty good. If Reagins traded for Wells, why not Young?

Astros: Barmes make Young look like Hanley. Defensively too.

Athletics: Probably would be an upgrade over Kouzmanoff, but he can still have a nice season. Pennington on the other hand, had a higher WAR than Young last season, due to his superior defense.

Blue Jays: Bautista is listed at third, so that is out of the question. Compared to Escobar at short, Young would be better offensively, but worse defensively.

Braves: Young probably would hit better than Gonzalez at short, but no way will the Braves sit Chipper for him.

Brewers: Yuniesky at short. Who wouldn't sit Betancourt for Young at short? (Dayton Moore?) McGehee had higher WAR and OPS+ compared to Young, so no thank you.

Cardinals: Freese looks okay at third, but Theriot is no match for Young.

Cubs: Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez. Looks solid here.

Diamondbacks: Drew and Mora looks okay too.

Dodgers: Blake and Furcal. Not too bad.

Giants: Sandoval and Tejada. Let's leave them alone.

Indians: Nix and Cabrera looks okay from last year's stats. However, Young would be slight upgrade over both.

Mariners: Replacing Wilson with Young looks fine. Why is this guy a starting shortstop again?

Marlins: Sitting Hanley? No. Sitting Helms? Yes!

Mets: Reyes and Wright. Looks about right.

Nationals: Desmond could improve next year. Zimmerman will still be Zimmerman (and not Zimmermann).

Orioles: Hardy and Reynolds seem set. Hardy could do better, and Young could do worse.

Padres: Barlett and Headley, though not big power hitters, can contribute as much as Young can.

Phillies: With Polanco and Rollins, Young won't find a spot.

Pirates: Alvarez is a no-touch, because he is still improving, but Cedeno benched for Young won't kill the team.

Rays: Brignac earned a spot at short. Can you imagine picking Young over Longoria?

Red Sox: Scutaro, why not. Youkilis, you tell us.

Reds: Janish can outperform Young this season, but there's also a large possibility that he won't. Rolen on the other hand, probably will outperform Young.

Rockies: With Tulowitzki and Stewart manning the positions, I don't see Young starting.

Royals: Young can hit better than Escobar and Aviles, right?

Tigers: Peralta and Inge: two guys who can, and probably will be benched for Young if given the choice.

Twins: Casilla and Valencia looks respectable there, assuming Casilla will finally be Good Alexi and not Bad Alexi.

White Sox: Some people might choose Ramirez and Morel, which could pay off. Me? Welcome to Chicago, Michael Young.

Yankees: Jeter and Rodriguez. Two FAT contracts, two guys not getting benched anytime soon.

Looking back, 16 out of 29 teams can get a considerable upgrade in Young. However, his contract and no trade clause is in the way, and might not budge easily.

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Welcome to the Bunt Double baseball blog.  Here at Bunt Double we will update you on the most recent MLB news and occurances as well as presenting our own opinions on the happenings in the baseball world.