Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Don't Look for the Pirates to Fade Away This Year

Currently, the Cardinals are behind not only the Reds, but the Pirates as well. Despite leading the NL in runs scored, the Cardinals find themselves in third place. There is still time to get it turned around, and the Cardinals were in a bigger hole last year. However, the Reds and Pirates have pretty good teams themselves. With the extra wild card, it's possible that three teams could make the playoffs from the NL Central.

The Reds have been on a roll lately, even without Joey Votto, who is injured. Most people expected the Reds to be good this year. Expectations for the Pirates weren't as high, I was thinking they would be a .500 team this year. Last year, the Pirates were 53-47 after 100 games and in first place. On July 26th, the Pirates lost to the Braves in a controversial call at home plate. The umpire called the Braves Julio Lugo safe, even though he was clearly out. The Pirates went in a tailspin after that game, and lost 10 in a row soon after. They went 19-42 after that game, and finished the year 72-90 in fourth place.

The Pirates pitching let them down in the second half last year. Besides that, Andrew McCutchen went in a big slump and finished with a .259 average. McCutchen was batting over .290 at the All Star break in 2011. Neil Walker also went in a slump. Trade deadline acquisitions Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick did not work out last year. The Pirates also had a young, inexperienced team.

This year, I wouldn't expect the same outcome. McCutchen is the frontrunner for NL MVP, and is currently batting .368. He is a five tool player and the best player Pittsburgh's had since Barry Bonds. This is a deeper team, with better starting pitching. Here's five reasons why the Pirates aren't going away.

1) The Pirates have a better rotation this year

James McDonald is starting to live up to his potential. In his second full year as a starter, McDonald is 10-5 with a 3.38 ERA. The Yankees pretty much gave AJ Burnett to the Pirates, and ate most of the money he was owed. Burnett has turned it around this year after posting ERA's above 5 the last two years. Burnett has gone 12-3 with a 3.52 ERA with the Bucs. The Pirates have also added two lefties to the rotation this year, Erik Bedard, and recently acquired Wandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez has had a ERA under 3.60 since 2008, and was the last remaining member of the 2005 NL Champion Astros at the time of his trade. Kevin Correia made the All Star team last year, and was bumped from the rotation to make room for Rodriguez. In the next year or two, the Pirates have two highly rated pitching prospects who should make their debut in Gerrit Cole and James Taillon.

2) The Pirates have a good bullpen

Joel Hanrahan has been a dominant closer the last couple of seasons. He's always had good stuff, but wasn't able to harness it until recently. He currently leads the National League with 31 saves, and has a 2.18 ERA. The Pirates are also proof that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a good bullpen. Jason Grilli was in the minors last year, when the Pirates traded for him. He has been lights out this year. Jared Hughes came up through the system, and has an ERA below 2 right now.

3) McCutchen is having a great year

The last couple of months in 2011 were not a good indicator of what kind of player McCutchen is. Despite his second half struggles, McCutchen's on base pct. and slugging pct. were around his career norms. He also set a career high for home runs and RBIs in 2011. He is a five tool player who can do it all. He plays great defense, steals bases, has a good arm, hits for average and power. He is only 25 and just entering his prime. This year, he leads the National League in batting average and slugging percentage. He is also third in home runs with 22, and sixth in RBIs with 66.

4) There is a offense besides McCutchen this year

Neil Walker started off slow this year, but is starting to pick it up. He raised his average to .291 and has started to hit for more power. He is a Pittsburgh native, and he was only 7 years old the last time the Pirates made the playoffs. Pedro Alvarez has improved upon a miserable season last year. He still isn't hitting for average, but is second on the team with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs. For a team that gave up on Aramis Ramirez and Jose Bautista, the Pirates have been patient with Alvarez.

The Pirates are still weak at catcher, shortstop, and right field. Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee have been platooning at first base, and they have given them average production. Jose Tabata was sent to the minors earlier this month after struggling this year. Top outfield prospect Sterling Marte was just called up last week and hit a home run in his first at bat. He should be a big help for the Pirates, and lessens their need to trade for an outfielder.

5) Clint Hurdle has changed the culture in Pittsburgh

The Pirates haven't had a winning season in 20 years, which was the last time they made the playoffs. Hurdle vowed to change the attitude in Pittsburgh after taking the job before the 2011 season. Last year, they started out well but collapsed. With more experience and a deeper roster, I wouldn't expect that to happen again. He has worked well with the younger players, and they have played smarter baseball than they have in the past. Hurdle was able to lead a turnaround with a young group of players in Colorado during the 2007 season, and he's trying to do the same here in Pittsburgh. I certainly respect the way the Pirates play and they act way more professional than the punks from Cincinnati. There isn't any jerks like Johnny Cueto, Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, and Dusty Baker on the Pirates.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ichiro a Yankee, Other Big Moves

A surprise trade happened earlier this week with Ichiro Suzuki getting traded to the Mariners for two pitching prospects. Ichiro had spent his whole MLB career with the Mariners, and before that spent 7 seasons in the Japanese league. Ichiro has made 10 All Star appearances, has 10 Gold Gloves, won two batting titles, won the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year, and was named 2001 AL MVP. Ichiro also set a single season record in 2004 with 262 hits. For his career, Ichiro has over 2,500 hits, and could reach 3,000 if he plays long enough. He also has over 400 steals as well.

The only thing missing from Ichiro's resume is a World Series ring. He has only played in the postseason once, during his rookie year when the Mariners won 116 games. The Mariners fell to the Yankees in the ALCS that year, and Seattle hasn't been back to the playoffs since. Ichiro is 38 now, and I'm sure he's ready to play for a contender after years of playing on bad Mariners teams.

Ichiro isn't the player he used to be, though. Last season, Ichiro only batted .272, the first time in his career that he hasn't batted over .300. This year, he is only batting .262. Ichiro isn't as quick as he used to be, but is still above average on the basepaths. Ichiro is still a good defender as well, but he's not at an elite level like he used to be. Still, a trade to a contender should energize Ichiro, and he might get a boost in play now that he's surrounded by good players.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman asked Ichiro if he was willing to bat lower in the order, play left field, and take some days off. Ichiro was willing to do that to play for a contender. Ichiro has plenty of personal achievements, so at this point of his career he's willing to do what it takes to be on a winning team. With Brett Gardner out for the year, Ichiro should provide a boost for the Yankees.

It looks like the Marlins are having another fire sale this year. Their spending spree in the offseason hasn't worked out, and they are currently 7 games under .500. Mark Buehrle has worked out well, but Jose Reyes, Carlos Zambrano, and especially Heath Bell haven't worked out as well. Manager Ozzie Guillen has also stirred up controversy. They traded Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers for Jacob Turner and other prospects. They have put Josh Johnson on the market. They traded away onetime franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers on Wednesday for two pitching prospects.

Han-Ram is only three seasons removed from winning the batting title. From 2007 to 2010, Ramirez batted over .300, hit over 20 home runs, and stole over 25 bases each season. In 2011, Ramirez had a subpar year, and batted .243 and missed 70 games. This year, Ramirez moved from shortstop to third base to accomadate Reyes. His defense was average at best at short. Ramirez' average was down again this year, but he was hitting for more power.

Even with Han-Ram's struggles the last couple of seasons, he's still a vast improvement from Juan Uribe and Adam Kennedy. With Dee Gordon out as well, Ramirez could play some short as well. A change of scenery could do Ramirez well. The Dodgers are hoping so, because they need another bat to go along with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Currently, they are 2.5 games back from the Giants in the West.

Another big move made recently was the Phillies signing Cole Hamels to a six year, $144 million extension. Hamels is now the second highest paid pitcher ever after the Yankees CC Sabathia. The Phillies now have three pitchers making $20 mil plus a year, with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee being the others. Even with that, it's been a dissapointing season for the Phillies,and they are currently in last place. Hamels is a three time All Star, and the 2008 World Series MVP. For his career, Hamels is 85-58, with a 3.38 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP. This signing leaves Zack Greinke as the only ace pitcher on the free agent market this offseason.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Worst Deadline Deals

There is usually at least a couple of major deals towards the trading deadline every year. Sometimes, picking up a player or two will propel a team to a lengthy playoff run. A good prospect may turn into a great player, but if the team wins the World Series, it's looked at a more positive light. However, sometimes a team gives up a good prospect, and it doesn't work out. Today, I'll look at the worst deadline deals.

10) 7/31/10: Dodgers trade James McDonald and Andrew Lambo to the Pirates for Octavio Dotel

The Dodgers needed pitching help in 2010, and made a couple of trades. They traded for Ted Lilly, and then acquired Octavio Dotel from the Pirates. The Dodgers ended up in fourth place, and Dotel left in free agency. McDonald has turned into the Pirates ace this year.

9) 7/12/06: Rays trade Aubrey Huff to the Astros for Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot

The Rays made a similar trade a couple years back when they traded Victor Zambrano for Scott Kazmir. Huff was going to be a free agent after the season, and the Rays were horrible during this time. So, they traded him away for prospects and came up with Ben Zobrist.

8) 8/28/83: Indians trade Len Barker to the Braves for Brett Butler, Brook Jacoby, and Rick Behanna

Len Barker once threw a perfect game in 1981. The Braves were in a pennant race with the Dodgers in 1983, and badly needed some pitching help. The Braves didn't make the postseason, but they re-signed Barker anyway. He only won 10 games total as a Brave. Butler and Jacoby were future All Stars.

7) 7/21/88: Yankees trade Jay Buhner, Rich Balabon, and Troy Evers to the Mariners for Ken Phelps

This is the trade from the Seinfeld episode where George Constanza asks George Steinbrenner how he could make such a trade. Buhner was a fixture in the Mariners lineup for the next decade plus. The Yankees also traded away Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Fred McGriff,  and Willie McGee during the 80's.

6) 7/4/98: Reds trade Jeff Shaw to the Dodgers for Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes

Fox just took over the Dodgers in 1998, and they were trying to get as many big names as possible during this time. Shaw had some good years as the closer for the Dodgers, too. But, the Dodgers traded away Paul Konerko, who turned into a great player. How much better would the Dodgers of been if they kept Konerko? I'm not sure, but the Reds didn't keep him for long, either. They went with Sean Casey at first base, and traded Konerko to the White Sox for Mike Cameron, who was part of the Ken Griffey Jr. trade a year after that.

5) 7/31/07: Rangers trade Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to the Braves for Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones

This trade has helped the Rangers out tremendously, and got them some key players that contributed to them making the World Series two straight years. Feliz, Andrus, and Harrison have all made All Star teams with the Rangers. At the time, Salty was the big name for the Rangers haul, but he was later traded. The Braves traded Teixeira to the Angels a year later for Casey Kotchman, yikes.

4) 7/31/97: Red Sox trade Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe

The Mariners had a powerful offense that scored 925 runs, and a formidable rotation that included Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer. They also had an awful, terrible bullpen that got rocked. So, the Mariners traded rookie outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. for Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. Then, they traded Varitek and Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb. Slocumb had a 4.97 ERA in 96 innings over a year and a half for the Mariners. Varitek and Lowe combined to make 5 All Star teams with the Red Sox, and helped them win their first championship in 86 years in 2004.

3) 8/12/87: Braves trade Doyle Alexander to the Tigers for John Smoltz

The Tigers were in a pennant race with the Blue Jays and Brewers, and thought they needed another pitcher to go with Jack Morris and Frank Tanana. So, they acquired Alexander from the Braves. Alexander pitched really well down the stretch, going 9-0 with a 1.52 ERA. The Tigers made the playoffs, but Alexander lost two games in the ALCS, and the Tigers were upset by the Twins. Smoltz was a Detroit native, but a prospect that had poor control and command. Smoltz pitched 20 years for the Braves, making 8 All Star teams as a starter and closer, winning a Cy Young, won over 200 games, and was part of their 1995 championship team.

2) 8/30/90: Red Sox trade Jeff Bagwell to the Astros for Larry Andersen

The Red Sox thought they needed to shore up their bullpen down the stretch, so they traded for Andersen. He did pitch well in September, but was rocked by the A's in the ALCS. He left as a free agent after that. The Red Sox traded Jeff Bagwell, a third base prospect to the Astros. They figured he was expendable, since that he was blocked by Scott Cooper in Triple A, and Wade Boggs in the majors. They also had 1989 first round pick Mo Vaughn at first base in the minors at the time. Bagwell ended up having a Hall of Fame caliber career with the Astros, and was the 1994 NL MVP.

1) 6/27/02: Indians trade Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Expos for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens

The Expos were surprise contenders in mid-2002. The Expos were owned by MLB, and were nearly contracted in the offseason before. MLB appointed Omar Minaya as Montreal's GM. This was an unusual circumstance, but Minaya mortgaged the farm to get Colon. The Expos didn't make the playoffs, and Colon was traded to the White Sox in the offseason for Rocky Biddle, Jeff Leifer, and El Duque(who was hurt all of 2003). Sizemore, Lee, and Phillips all ended up being All Stars. Perhaps, the Expos/Nats wouldn't of been as bad in the years after that if they didn't make this trade. But, they never would of been in the position to pick Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper in that scenario.

                        Colon with the Montreal Expos: Traded for 3 All Stars

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Card's Bullpen

                            Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal has been a fast mover in the Cardinals system since being drafted in the 21st round in 2009. Only 22 years old, Rosenthal was drafted after a year of community college. Rosenthal grew up a Cardinals fan, and is from Lee's Summit, Missouri. He throws in the high 90's, and drew raves from the coaching staff and Chris Carpenter during spring training. When Rosenthal makes his major league debut, he will be the 2,000 Cardinal player in Cardinals history, according to Derrick Gould. That is if you count the Cardinals days in the American Association in the 1880's. The club doesn't officially count that, and lists its first year in 1892, when the Cardinals joined the National League.

Rosenthal wasn't expected to pitch in the big leagues this year. He already skipped High A ball, going straight to Double A this year. Rosenthal has been a starter in the minor leagues, going 8-6, with a 2.78 ERA in 94 innings pitched. While his future is probably in the rotation, Rosenthal will work out of the bullpen for the Cardinals this year. That's the same way Dan Haren, Adam Wainwright, and Lance Lynn started out, and they all ended up in the rotation. Unfortunately, Haren had his success elsewhere, since he was dealt in the ill fated Mark Mulder deal.

Of the Cardinals big pitching prospects, Rosenthal was having the best year. He wasn't drafted high like Shelby Miller or Tyrell Jenkins, nor was he a big international signing like Carlos Martinez, but Rosenthal has made a name for himself. Rosenthal gets a lot of strikeouts(9.1 per 9 IP in his minor league career), but has the art of pitching down better than other prospects. For example. Miller is still learning how to use his secondary pitches, and has experienced his first struggles of his career. Hopefully, Miller will learn from his failures, and develop into the ace he is expected to be.

I think that Rosenthal should help out the Cardinals struggling bullpen. His pitches have more movement than a Maikel Cleto, and he has better command than a Eduardo Sanchez. If he can succeed, it would negate the need to trade prospects for a reliever. Barret Browning has done well in the lefty specialist role, and the Cardinals recently signed Brian Fuentes. The onus is on Marc Rzepczynski, Victor Marte, and Fernando Salas to improve.

The best case scenario would be for Rosenthal to provide a Lance Lynn like boost to this year's bullpen. Lynn helped shore up the bullpen late last season, and pitched well during the playoffs. Right now, Mitchell Boggs has been the only consistent member of the bullpen. Jason Motte has had some hickups, but he still has a respectable 2.93 ERA. The Cardinals have the 8th and 9th inning guys, so if Rosenthal could shore up the middle relief, we'll be in decent shape.

It will be interesting to see what the Cardinals do at the deadline. Do they make some major moves, or do they stay pat? Do they add a top starter, and move Joe Kelly to the bullpen? Or, do they trade for a couple of relievers? Maybe, a second baseman? There has been some talk about trading Shelby Miller, but I wouldn't move him unless you're getting something good in return. Miller is still only 21, and it would be a mistake to trade him for a rental.

Despite his struggles this year in Triple A, Miller was rated #8 prospect of all baseball prior to the season. While the Cardinals are loaded with pitching prospects, they shouldn't sell low on Miller. Tyrell Jenkins has struggled in High A ball, a level that Miller dominated. This year's first round pick, Michael Wacha, is the same age as Miller. Miller has been dominant at every level until this year. The Cardinals have instituted a no shake rule to get Miller to use his secondary pitches more. It will probably be good in the long run, because now Miller has to learn how to pitch, instead of just throwing hard.

                                 Shelby Miller

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Are 300 Game Winners a Thing of the Past?

                  Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan: Two 300 Game Winners

There has only been 24 pitchers in baseball history to win 300 games in their careers. A lot of great pitchers haven't won 300 games. Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, Bert Blyleven, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Juan Marichal came short of 300 wins. Besides skill, it takes longevity and health to attain that many wins. Of the last ten pitchers to reach 300 wins, noly Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux did it before they turned 40. Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson won over 70 games after they turned 40, and Phil Niekro won 121 games after turning 40.

Some pitchers had to pitch past their prime to win 300. Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine are two recent examples. Sometimes, pitchers will fall just short despite their best efforts. Bert Blyleven and Tommy John pitched into their fourties, but fell less than 20 wins shy of 300. Niekro relied on his knuckleball to stay in the big leagues until 48. Don Sutton was known to use emory boards and doctor the ball, and Gaylord Perry liked to throw an occasional spitball.

It may be awhile before there is another 300 game winner. Some people say it will never happen again, but that's been said before. Six of the 24 300 winners pitched in the 19th century, and a seventh, Cy Young, pitched in the 1890's and 1900's. Five more won their 300th game before World War II. After Lefty Grove won his 300th game in 1941, it was 20 years until Warren Spahn became the next member of the 300 win club. Early Wynn got to 300 a couple years later, and it was almost another 20 years until Gaylord Perry became the next to do it. Nolan Ryan won his 300th in 1990, and some experts said that would never happen again. Four pitchers got to 300 wins from 2003 to 2009.

Right now, Jamie Moyer leads active pitchers with 269 wins. That's a loose description of active, and Moyer has been released three seperate times this year. He is also 49 years old. Moyer did set a record this year, becoming the oldest pitcher to ever win a game. Andy Pettitte is next with 243 wins, but is now 40. Pettitte's already retired once, and I doubt he sticks around long enough to get 57 more wins.

Roy Halladay has 192 wins at age 35. Let's say Doc gets to 200 wins by the end of the year, he would still need to pitch another six or seven years(or more) to get to 300. He would half to average 17 wins a year to do it in 6 years. Tim Hudson is at 188 wins at age 36, so the odds are even longer for Hudson than Halladay's.

After Halladay and Hudson, there is CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle. Sabathia has 185 wins, and Buehrle has 169 wins. Livan Hernandez, Bartolo Colon, Derek Lowe, and Kevin Millwood, are all around that range, but they are barely hanging on. Sabathia and Buehrle are both lefties, and have a chance to pitch another ten years. Sabathia is two years younger than Buehrle, and CC is only 31 years old. Sabathia will have to keep in better shape to pitch long enough. Buehrle is a crafty lefty, and those types of pitcher's tend to have long careers. Recent examples are Moyer, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells. Still, Buehrle is a long ways off.

Justin Verlander has 116 wins at age 29. Let's assume Verlander doubles his win total of nine this year, giving him 125 wins. He would half to average 16 wins a year for the next 11 seasons, or 15 wins per year for the next 12 seasons to win 300. Dan Haren and Jake Peavy are around Verlander's win total, but they are both two years older than Verlander. It's hard to project what a pitcher will do for the next 10 years. There is always the risk of a shoulder injury, or a elbow injury.

Of pitchers younger than 30, I would say Felix Hernandez has the best shot to win 300. He is 26 years old, and has 91 career wins as of right now. If he doubled his win total to 12 this year, he would have 97. He would have well over 100 wins right now, if he didn't pitch for such a shitty team. I would think at some point, that either the Mariners will get good, or that King Felix will get traded/leave as a free agent. Still, King Felix has averaged 14 wins per 162 games. If he averaged that, and pitched until his early 40's, he would have 300.

Right now, I would say that CC Sabathia has the best chance of any active pitcher to win 300 games. Sabathia is a workhorse, and pitches for a perennial contender. He is about to turn 32, and is likely to have 200 wins before his 33rd birthday. CC had 176 wins after his age 30 season, which is more than the last 13 pitchers who won 300 games had. For example, Randy Johnson only had 81 wins after his age 30 season. I said that Sabathia's weight could be a problem, but he doesn't need to pitch into his mid-40's like Johnson did. Sabathia's averaged 17 wins per 162 games, and if he averaged that for another 7 years he would be at 300. CC would be 39 then, and even if he slacked off could hang around another year or two to get to 300 wins.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Who's Got the Best Middle of the Order

          Holliday and Beltran: A Force in the Middle of the Card's Lineup

At the halfway point of the season, I decided to find out which team has the best trio of hitters. Most of these guys are primarily 3-4-5 hitters, but there is some #2 hitters as well. Coming into the season, I thought that the Tigers would have the best middle of the order with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They still have one of the better ones in the league, but they are not the best statistically.

Honorable Mention

San Francisco Giants(Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval)
Boston Red Sox(Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Jarod Saltalamacchia)
Baltimore Orioles(Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis)

10) Los Angeles Angels(Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo)

    .281 BA(T-10th), .341 OBP(14th), .500 SLG(9th)
    46 HR(T-7th), 143 RBIs(T-10th), 124 Runs(12th), 432 TB(12th)

Notes: Trumbo has provided protection for Pujols, and Mike Trout has been a great tablesetter for these guys. Hunter has been good out of the #2 spot.

9) New York Yankees(Mark Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano)

    .279 BA(12th), .356 OBP(T-11th), .498 SLG(11th)
     48 HR(5th), 143 RBIs(T-10th), 152 Runs(T-3rd), 467 TB(5th)

Notes: Curtis Granderson bats #2 in this lineup, and Cano should probably bat #3 instead of #5. A-Rod is past his prime, but still is a good hitter. Tex has had a down season, only hitting in the .250s.

8) Pittsburgh Pirates(Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker)

     .298 BA(5th), .365 OBP(6th), .508 SLG(8th)
    40 HR(T-13th), 151 RBIs(T-7th), 137 Runs(9th), 494 TB(T-9th)

Notes: McCutchen has carried this trio, and the Pirates for that matter. Walker has started hitting better, and is in the .290s. Alvarez doesn't hit for average, but he has been hitting for power this year.

7) Milwaukee Brewers(Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart)

   .277 BA(13th), .357 OBP(T-9th), .524 SLG(4th)
    50 HR(4th), 151 RBIs(T-7th), 153 Runs(2nd), 486 TB(3rd)

Notes: This lineup isn't as powerful without Prince Fielder, but Braun has still put up monster numbers, and leads the NL in home runs. Ramirez and Hart have had decent seasons.

6) Chicago White Sox(Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios)

    .285 BA(9th), .370 OBP(4th), .517 SLG(5th)
    51 HR(3rd), 152 RBIs(T-5th), 138 Runs(T-7th), 464 TB(6th)

Notes: Konerko is having another great season this year. Rios and Dunn have rebounded from subpar seasons last year. Dunn still doesn't hit for a high average, but is drawing walks and hitting for power again this season.

5) Detroit Tigers(Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Delmon Young)
    .299 BA(4th), .356 OBP(T-11th).496 SLG(12th)
     43 HR(10th), 171 RBIs(3rd), 127 Runs(T-11th), 478 TB(4th)

Notes: Delmon Young holds this trio back, but he is the Tigers #5 hitter. Cabrera is having another terrific year, and has over 70 RBIs so far. Fielder hasn't hit for as much power in Comerica Park, but still is hitting well.

4) Toronto Blue Jays(Colby Rasmus, Joey Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion)

     .266 BA(14th), .356 OBP(T-11th), .532 SLG(2nd)
     67 HR(1st), 176 RBIs(1st), 160 Runs(1st), 502 TB(1st)

Notes: Encarnacion has had a breakout season with the Jays this year. Bautista started slow, but has been crushing home runs this year, and may hit 50 again. Rasmus has already hit 3 more home runs than he did last year, and has 17 home runs and 53 RBIs for the year.

3) Cincinnati Reds(Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce)

     .291 BA(6th), .374 OBP(2nd), .515 SLG(6th)
     42 HR(T-11th), 152 RBIs(T-5th), 141 Runs(5th), 457 TB(7th)

Notes: Votto might be the best all around hitter in the game right now. Dusty Baker has batted Phillips in the cleanup spot to seperate Votto and Bruce, two lefties.

2) St. Louis Cardinals(Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig)

     .308 BA(2nd), .387 OBP(1st), .549 SLG(1st)
     47 HR(6th), 165 RBIs(4th), 138 Runs(T-6th), 435 TB(11th)

Notes: Beltran has had a better year than Albert Pujols this year, and the Cardinals still have the NL's best offense. Holliday has been on fire the last month in a half. Craig missed half the year, and still has put up impressive numbers. If he was healthy all year, the Cardinals could of had the best trio.

1) Texas Rangers(Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz)
    .300 BA(3rd), .359 OBP(8th), .530 SLG(3rd)
    53 HR(2nd), 182 RBIs(1st), 152 Runs(T-3rd), 497 TB(2nd)

Notes: Hamilton is having another MVP type season, and had a 4 HR game earlier in the year. Beltre has made his third straight All Star team, and has been a better option at cleanup than Michael Young last year.

Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton - Florida Marlins v Texas Rangers


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cards Should Get More Pitching

                           Carp: Out for the season

It's official now, Chris Carpenter will not pitch this year. He had season ending shoulder surgery to try to repair his nerves a couple of days ago. Kenny Rogers and Matt Harrison have made successful comebacks from this type of surgery, so Carpenter could be alright next year. But, he is 37 now, and there are no guarantees. Carpenter has dealt with the nerve issue for several seasons, and tried to rest it this year. Carpenter now wishes he would of had the surgery in March, because he would be on his way back now.

Carpenter has been a dominant pitcher for the Cardinals when healthy. Since 2004, he has the highest winning percentage of any big league pitcher at .693. As a Cardinal, Carpenter is 95-42 with a 3.06 ERA. He won the NL Cy Young in 2005, when he went 21-5. He also finished 2nd in 2006, and 3rd in 2009. He made 3 All Star teams, and was the ace of two championship clubs. Carpenter is 9-2 during postseason play, and won the decisive Game 7 of the World Series last year.

Injuries have plagued Carp throughout his career. He was injured in 2002 with the Blue Jays, and was not re-signed for 2003. The Cardinals signed him with the knowledge that he was hurt, and he missed all of 2003. Carpenter came back the next season, but had to miss the 2004 postseason due to injury. After starting the season opener in 2007, Carpenter didn't pitch again that season. He underwent Tommy John surgery, and didn't come back until mid-2008. He was shut down after 4 appearances that year. The nerve condition has bothered him ever since.

The Cardinals know that Carpenter is out for the year, but they aren't sure about Jaime Garcia yet. He's been out for over a month with a shoulder strain. John Mozeliak recently said he might be back by mid-August. Joe Kelly has pitched decent in his place, but could be moved to the bullpen if another starter is acquired. There is some concern over other starters as well. Adam Wainwright is in his first season post-Tommy John surgery, and he hasn't been as sharp as usual. Lance Lynn has never pitched over 200 innings in a season. Jake Westbrook has been up and down this season, as well.

I'm not sure if the Cardinals are going for a reliever, starter, or both at the trading deadline. John Mozeliak recently said after Carp's injury, "We're not guessing anymore." "Now we know. If we can find a starter that would make the most sense for us." The Cardinals could definately use another reliever as well, and I'm sure that's on the radar. Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas have been shaky this year, after being solid last season. Kyle McClellan has been hurt, and Eduardo Sanchez lost his command this year. Barret Browning could be the answer for a lefty reliever, but there is still a need for another right handed arm for the pen.

The next question is who would be available at the deadline? There has been talk of the Cardinals getting Matt Garza from the Cubs. But, would it be wise to trade top prospects to a division rival. The Cubs gave up a lot to get Garza, and would probably want a lot in return. Garza is 28, and would be under control next season, too. Zack Greinke might be available, but it's unlikely the Brewers would want to trade him to St. Louis. His comments about Chris Carpenter might not help either, but if he came here that could be forgotten. Greinke is up for free agency after the season, though.

The Cardinals could make a deal with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who is shopping Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and Brandon Lyon. The Astros are moving to the American League West next year. However, Luhnow is very familiar with the Cardinals farm system, since he was farm director in St. Louis prior to taking the Astros job. It's possible we could get burned on a deal with him. Plus, none of those pitchers are worth a top prospect.

Cole Hamels might be shopped at the deadline this year. The Phillies have been in a freefall, and are in last place right now. Hamels will be a free agent at the season's end, and the Phillies might not re-sign him since they've already committed a lot of money to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. For his career, Hamels is 84-58 with a 3.37 ERA. He is a three time All Star, and has been a good postseason pitcher. The Cardinals have made deals in the past for pending free agents(Scott Rolen, Matt Holliday), and been able to convince them to re-sign. Is the Phillies asking price reasonable, and would the Cardinals be able to re-sign Hamels? I'm not sure, Hamels is rumored to be looking for a nine figure deal.

Another guy who could be on the market is the Mariners Felix Hernandez. The Mariners are a lousy team, and could move King Felix for some prospects. Hernandez would be worth giving up some talent for, and is signed for two more seasons after this one. Hernandez is scheduled to make $20 million the next two years, but the Cardinals do have some money coming off the books. Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman are free agents after the year, and they make a little more than that combined. Jake Westbrook has an option, but it could be declined.

Hernandez has flown under the radar playing in Seattle. He did win the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, and recently was named to his third All Star team. He hasn't played in the postseason in his career that began in 2005. However, that's not his fault. Hernandez is still just 26 years old, and would add a frontline starter to the Cardinals rotation. He is a workhorse as well, pitching over 200 innings the previous four seasons.

What would it take to get a frontline starter? Shelby Miller would be the first player asked about. I would only trade Miller for King Felix, myself. Miller has struggled in Triple A this season, and hasn't been using his secondary pitches enough for the Cardinals liking. Despite his struggles, Miller is a bigtime talent. Miller was ranked #8 prospect in baseball prior to this season. Sometimes, it takes failure to become a better player. It's possible that Miller is hard headed, but he needs to make some adjustments. Still, Miller is only 21 years old, and I wouldn't want to trade him for a Matt Garza or Wandy Rodriguez. It would be nice to see Miller turn into the ace pitcher he's supposed to be with the Cardinals someday. But, with all of the pitching depth in the minor leagues, Miller could be traded and the Cardinals would still have Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Tyrell Jenkins, and Michael Wacha.

Zack Cox would be a guy I would be willing to part with. He was the Cardinals 2010 first round pick, and is a third baseman. He was struggling in his first year in Triple A, but has picked it up lately. Cox is blocked by David Freese, and would be perfect trade bait. I would even trade him for Garza or Rodriguez, if a better starter couldn't be acquired. I would also be willing to dangle Adron Chambers, Bryan Anderson, Joe Kelly, Adam Reifer, Eduardo Sanchez, Ryan Jackson, and John Gast. I would not consider trading Kolten Wong or Oscar Taveras, two Double A All Stars who will be in the big leagues within a year or two.

Trading for King Felix might be an unrealistic expectation, but John Mozeliak should explore the possibility. It would be awesome to have a rotation of King Felix, Waino, Lohse, Lynn, and Westbrook/Garcia. I would offer a package of Miller, Cox, Gast, Sanchez, and Chambers and see if that would work. The Mariners might ask for Matt Adams as well. I wouldn't want to trade both Adams and Miller in the same deal, myself. If that's the case, I would make the package just Miller, Adams, and a pick of one or two lower level prospects. If you're going to deal frontline prospects, you should get frontline talent. If Miller and/or Adams is dealt, it should be for Felix Hernandez, not Matt Garza.

               King Felix would look good in Cardinal Red

Monday, July 2, 2012

Best Players Who Were Never All Stars

Kirk Gibson: World Series Hero, Never an All Star

Yesterday, the All Star rosters were announced for this year's game. There were some snubs and strange picks like every other year. I was thinking after that, who were the best players to never be an All Star selection. Today, I'll put together a list of the best non-All Stars.

Catcher-Chris Hoiles(1989-98, Orioles)

Hoiles was the Orioles catcher for most of the 90's, and flew under the radar. His finest year was in 1993, when he batted .310 and hit 29 home runs. Hoiles was the Orioles starting catcher when the made the playoffs in 1996 and 1997.

First Baseman-Eric Karros(1991-2004, Dodgers, Cubs, Athletics)

Karros was the Dodgers first baseman for a decade, and still holds the LA Dodgers record for home runs with 270. Karros won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1992, and hit over 30 home runs five different times during his career.

Second Baseman-Tony Phillips(1982-1999, A's, Tigers, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, Mets)

Phillips was a valuable utility guy throughout his career, playing second, third, and outfield. His primary position was second base. Phillips was a patient hitter and led the league in walks two different times. Phillips was the second baseman of the 1989 World Champion Athletics, and signed a free agent deal with the Tigers following that season.

Shortstop-John Valentin(1992-2002, Red Sox, Mets)

Injuries cut Valentin's career short, and he only played 7 full seasons. In 1995, Valentin finished 9th in AL MVP voting. That was a career year for him, he batted .298, hit 27 home runs, 102 RBIs, and stole 20 bases.

Third Baseman-Eric Chavez(1998-current, Athletics, Yankees)

It's amazing that Chavez never made an All Star team, considering he was one of the best all around third baseman in the league for awhile. Chavez won six straight Gold Gloves from 2001 to 2006. He also has four 100 RBI seasons. Injuries took a toll on Chavez, and he hasn't been a fulltime player since 2007. He now serves as A-Rod's backup in New York.

Left Fielder-Kirk Gibson(1979-1995, Tigers, Dodgers, Royals, Pirates)

Gibson is the only MVP to never be an All Star. He was selected in both 1985 and 1988, but declined the invitation. Gibson had power and speed, hitting 255 home runs and stealing 284 bases during his career. Gibson was best known for his leadership, and that played a big role in him winning the 1988 NL MVP. During the postseason, Gibson also hit one of the most famous World Series home runs off of Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1. He did so with a bad knee, and it was his only at bat during the 88 World Series.

Center Fielder-Garry Maddox(1972-1986, Giants, Phillies)

Maddox was known as the "Secretary of Defense" because of all the ground he covered in center field. Maddox won 8 Gold Gloves during his career, and was a good base stealer. He was the 70's version of Shane Victorino.

Right Fielder-Tim Salmon(1992-2006, Angels)

Perhaps the best player to never make an All Star team, Salmon finished his career with 299 home runs and 1016 RBIs. Salmon was the 1993 AL Rookie of the Year, and finished in the top ten of the MVP voting twice. Salmon hit over 30 home runs five different times during his career. Salmon was a slow starter, and that could of played a role in him getting shut out of the All Star game. Salmon was also part of the 2002 Angels, who won the World Series. He batted .346 with 2 home runs in that series.

Designated Hitter-Kevin McReynolds(1983-1994, Padres, Mets, Royals)

McReynolds hit over 20 home runs six times during his career. His best season was in 1988, when he finished 3rd in NL MVP voting. He hit .288, with 27 home runs, 99 RBIs, and 21 steals that year.

Right Handed Starting Pitcher-Bob Forsch(1974-1989, Cardinals, Astros)

Forsch accomplished a lot during his career, winner of 20 games, World Series champion, third most wins in Cardinals history, and author of two no-hitters; but he never made an All Star team.

Left Handed Starting Pitcher-John Tudor(1979-1990, Red Sox, Pirates, Cardinals, Dodgers)

In 1985, Tudor was absolutely dominant. He went 21-8, with a 1.93 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, in 275 innings pitched. Most seasons that would win a Cy Young, but Doc Gooden had an even better year in 1985. Tudor pitched in 2 World Series with the Cardinals in 1985 and 1987, and was traded to the Dodgers in 1988 for Pedro Guerrero. Tudor finally was part of a World Series winner in 1988, and re-joined the Cardinals for a final season in 1990.

Starting Pitcher-John Denny(1974-1986, Cardinals, Indians, Phillies, Reds)

Denny started his career in St. Louis, and was the NL ERA champion in 1976 with a 2.52 ERA. He was traded to the Indians in 1980, and spent three years in Cleveland. In 1983, with the Phillies, Denny won the NL Cy Young Award. Denny was 19-6, with a 2.37 ERA, and the Phillies were NL Champions that year.

Relief Pitcher-Gene Garber(1969-1988, Pirates, Royals, Phillies, Braves)

Garber was a good reliever for a long time, having his best years with the Phillies and Braves. His best season was in 1982, saving 30 games, with a 2.34 ERA in 119.1 innings pitched. He finished 7th in Cy Young Award voting, and the Braves won the NL West that year.