Monday, July 29, 2013
Despite getting swept by the Braves this weekend, the Cardinals still retain the best record in the National League. The team doesn't have many holes outside of shortstop and middle relief. The NL Central is a strong division this year and the Pirates and Reds are right on the Redbirds heels. Many games remain against these two teams and the Cardinals will need to play well in those games to win the division. The Cardinals possess many top prospects for a potential trade and have been linked to several players. At this time of year, it's hard to tell how much stock to put in these rumors.
John Mozeliak said recently that he doesn't expect to make any major moves at the deadline. Mozeliak usually does his work under the radar, though. Last year's trade for Edward Mujica is a good example of that. Mozeliak has also stated that he doesn't want to trade Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez, or Michael Wacha. The team has several other prospects it could trade, but teams are going to inquire about those four players in any trade talks.
It was rumored that the Cardinals inquired the White Sox about shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez has a solid glove and is batting .282 with 21 steals this year. He would be an upgrade over Pete Kozma and bring some much needed speed to the team. Ramirez is 31 years old and has another year on his contract. However, it was rumored that the White Sox turned down a deal involving Martinez. I find that highly unlikely, though. It's hard to believe the Sox GM would not want an electric young pitcher like Martinez. It's also hard to believe that Mozeliak would offer Martinez for Ramirez.
The Cardinals have also been rumored to be in the starting pitching market. Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, and Bud Norris are names that have been mentioned. Norris wouldn't be much of an upgrade, although he is a Cardinal killer. The Royals are asking a lot for Santana, who's a free agent at the season's end. The Sox are asking a lot for Peavy, who's having an off-year with a 4.28 ERA. Lee might be available with the Phillies struggles, but is he worth the price? Lee is due $25 million a year for the next two years, and his contract includes a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 if he reaches innings incentives.
The Phillies don't want to eat his contract and will want a big haul of prospects for Lee. Lee is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in the postseason. A rotation of Adam Wainwright, Lee, Lance Lynn, and Shelby Miller would be formidable in October. Still, it doesn't guarantee a World Series championship. Lee's 2011 Phillies had him, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, and fell short to the Cardinals in the Division Series. The 2009 Phillies and 2010 Rangers fell short in the World Series after acquiring Lee mid-season. Any trade will likely have to include a player or two on Mozeliak's no trade list of Taveras, Wong, Wacha, and Martinez. Mozeliak's past indicates that he isn't likely to risk the future at the deadline.
If the Cardinals do make a move, it will most likely be for a reliever. The Padres Luke Gregerson could be a target after the Padres indicated they are shopping their relievers. Gregerson was once a Cardinals farmhand who was traded away for Khalil Greene. Mozeliak has also indicated he could stand pat. Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrist have been solid this year. The Cardinals still have plenty of arms in the minors. I'm not sure if the Cardinals feel good about Fernando Salas or Marc Rzepcynski. The Cardinals could also make a move for a right handed bat off the bench. Mozeliak doesn't have the reputation for big trades like his predecessor Walt Jocketty, but he has made some big moves at the deadline. Here's a look back at some of his deals.
The Cardinals finished a respectable 86-76 in 2008, but that was only good for a fourth place finish. Mozeliak decided that the team wasn't good enough in 2008 and decided to hold on to his top prospects, much to the chagrin of then-manager Tony La Russa. The Cubs added Rich Harden and the Brewers added CC Sabathia at the deadline. The Cardinals had several weak spots on the club in 2008 and Mozeliak ultimately held on to Colby Rasmus, Allen Craig, Chris Perez, Jason Motte, and other top prospects of that time.
Chris Carpenter pitched his first healthy season since 2006 in the 2009 season. Carpenter and Adam Wainwright finished 2-3 in the Cy Young voting in 2009. Albert Pujols was off to his 3rd MVP season, but needed some help offensively. Besides Yadier Molina and Ryan Ludwick, Pujols didn't have much protection in the lineup. In June, the Cardinals acquired Mark De Rosa from the Indians for Perez and Jess Todd. Todd never panned out, but Perez turned into an All Star closer with Cleveland. De Rosa took over at third, which had been in flux because of Troy Glaus' injury. De Rosa injured his wrist soon after joining the Cardinals and wasn't productive during his Cardinals tenure. He left as a free agent after the season.
A week before the trading deadline, the Cardinals made a major move, one of the biggest trades in Mozeliak's tenure. They inquired the Rockies about Matt Holliday the prior offseason, but Holliday ended up getting traded to Oakland. He was a free agent at the season's end and the Cardinals were worried he might be a rental. They went ahead and traded 2008 top draft pick Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson to the A's for Holliday. Holliday hit .353 with 13 home runs after getting traded to the Cards and helped take them to the postseason. It was a brief stay and Holliday made a critical error in the NLDS.
Holliday ended up staying in St. Louis, signing a club record 7 year, $120 million contract. Holliday has been a 3-time All Star with the Redbirds and has batted .302 with 103 home runs and 382 RBIs with the club. Holliday does take some criticism for his contract, defensive struggles, lack of clutch hitting, and knack for hitting into double plays. Still, this was a good deal for St. Louis. Wallace has yet to do much in his 4 seasons with the Astros and neither Mortensen or Peterson has panned out.
Big things were expected from the Cardinals in 2010, but this club faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs. Brad Penny was signed as a reclamation project for Dave Duncan, but didn't pitch after June. Kyle Lohse was also injured during parts of this season. Lefty Jaime Garcia finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, but was limited down the stretch. Mozeliak felt that the team needed more pitching depth after Carpenter and Wainwright. Jon Jay was hitting nearly .400 after his callup mid-season 2010 as a fourth outfielder. Mozeliak had decided that Ludwick was expendable and traded him in a three way deal involving the Indians and Padres. Ludwick was sent to the Padres and the Indians sent Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals. Westbrook was billed as an innings-eating sinkerballer. He has had moderate success in St. Louis, but wore down the stretch in both 2011 and 2012. Ludwick struggled for the next year and a half, but had a good season with the Reds in 2012. This year, Ludwick has been hurt all season.
Colby Rasmus was billed as a five tool player when he was drafted in the first round in 2005. Rasmus was ranked the number 3 prospect in all of MLB prior to his 2009 rookie campaign. He had a up and down rookie season, finishing 8th in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Rasmus was one of the few Cardinals that hit during the 2009 NLDS, going 4 for 9 with two walks. In 2010, Rasmus hit .276, had a .361 OBP, 23 homers, 66 RBI's, and 12 steals. Big things were expected in 2011 and Rasmus played well the first two months. He then fell into a deep slump in June and his relationship with La Russa hit an all time low. Mozeliak was still hesistant to trade Rasmus, turning down a deal prior to the season involving Rasmus to Boston for Jacoby Ellsbury.
Tony La Russa would manage his final season in 2011 and Albert Pujols would leave as a free agent after the season. That was not known in July 2011. The Cardinals were 10 games behind the Brewers and needed some pitching help. They traded Rasmus to the Blue Jays along with Brian Tallet, Trever Miller, and PJ Walters for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Scrabble, and Corey Patterson. I hated the trade at the time and thought it was a mistake to trade Rasmus for rentals(I especially questioned the Patterson acquisition. Dotel and Jackson both left at the end of the season, but along with Scrabble helped the Cardinals out in their miracle turnaround and eventual World Series title. Rasmus has had some struggles, but is showing glimpses of his potential in Toronto. He has played very good defense and is batting .272 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI's this year. He still strikes out too much and hasn't developed into a base stealer as predicted. Still, the Jays seem to be happy about their part of the deal considering that none of those players could of gotten the weaker Jays over the hump.
The trade of Rasmus also eliminated the La Russa/Rasmus feud from the clubhouse. Mozeliak decided to go the route he did in early 2008 when he traded Scott Rolen to Toronto for Troy Glaus. Rolen had feuded with La Russa over playing time and his injuries. The Rasmus trade wasn't the only big move in 2011, though. The most important move was acquiring Rafael Furcal for minor leaguer Alex Castellanos. Ryan Theriot had been the starting shortstop and had very little range. Theriot was brought in the improve the offense over weak hitting, good glove Brendan Ryan. Furcal greatly improved the Cardinals defense. I'm not sure if the Cardinals would of made the playoffs if they kept Theriot at short that year, considering they didn't get in until the season's final day.
The move to get Edward Mujica made very little headlines last year. Mozeliak traded 2010 top draft pick Zack Cox to the Marlins to get Mujica. Mujica had moderate success in parts of 7 seasons with the Indians, Padres, and Marlins. With the Cardinals, he took it to another level. In 71 innings, Mujica has a 1.65 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. Nicknamed the Chief, Mujica took over as the Cardinals closer early in the season after Jason Motte's season ending surgery and Mitchell Boggs' struggles. He has saved 30 games and made the All Star team this year. Cox is in Double A in the Marlins organization. Cox may be a Brett Wallace type player who doesn't pan out.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Carlos Beltran has recently said that he wants to play three more years in the major leagues. And, why not? Beltran just recently appeared in his 8th All Star Game, is batting .306, eighth in the NL with a .525 slugging pct., and fifth in the NL with 19 home runs. At age 36, he is still producing at a high level. Beltran is still searching for that elusive World Series ring that he's fallen short of several times. The Cardinals denied him in the seventh game of the NLCS in 2004 when he was with the Astros, and again in 2006 when he was with the Mets. Beltran joined the Cardinals before last season, but again fell one game short of the World Series.
Hopefully, 2013 will finally be the season for Carlos Beltran to be on a championship season. Either way, his contract is up at the season's end. Beltran was signed in the aftermath of Albert Pujols leaving, for 2 seasons at $ 26 million. The Cardinals will have an interesting decision to make on Beltran this offseason. Should they try to re-sign him, or should they open up a spot for Oscar Taveras(or even Matt Adams with Allen Craig moving to right field)? Could they make Taveras the fourth outfielder next year, put Taveras in center and Jon Jay on the bench, or will they start him in the minors if Beltran was re-signed? Also, how long would the Cardinals sign Beltran for? I don't think they will give him a three-year contract, but a season or two could be possible.
Taveras has been limited to 46 games in Triple A this season due to various injuries. He had exceptional seasons in 2011 in Single A and in 2012 in Double A. Even with the injuries this season, Taveras has hit .301 in Memphis. He will surely be ready for the big leagues in 2014. I could see John Mozeliak re-signing Beltran for another season and having him be Taveras' mentor. It would be a good experience for Taveras to be under the wing of a player who could be a Hall of Famer someday. That been said, there's a good possibility some other team could offer Beltran a better deal. Especially, an American League team where he could DH. Beltran likes playing for the Cardinals and may be willing to take a lesser deal to stay around. But, its hard to envision a scenario where he would get a three-year deal with the Cardinals.
Beltran has been a bargain for the Cardinals and has been an All Star both seasons in St. Louis. He led the team with 32 home runs last season and currently leads the club with 19 home runs this year. Beltran has even put up slightly better numbers than Pujols over the last season and a half. At a lot less of a contract burden. Pujols contract was backloaded and he has only earned $2 million more than Beltran during the last two seasons. However, Pujols' deal jumps up to $23 million next year and goes up a million per year every year until the deal expires in 2021. Beltran's short term deal was a way wiser investment than Pujols burdensome ten year contract. Here's a quick comparison of the past two seasons.
AVG OBP SLG GP AB R H 2B HR RBI SB
Pujols .273 .336 .485 248 976 132 194 69 46 163 9
Beltran .283 .344 .507 237 884 135 250 39 51 152 15
Besides a desire to win the World Series, Beltran also has a chance to make the Hall of Fame. He may not be there yet. A couple more big season would give Beltran a big boost. Comparing him to players of the past, Larry Walker hasn't gotten much support for the Hall and Bernie Williams has gotten even less. It yet to be seen if Jim Edmonds will get in since he retired in 2010. Center fielders are under-represented in the Hall of Fame. Beltran was a center fielder most of his career, and won three Gold Gloves in center. He moved to right field in 2011. On baseballreference.com, they list Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield as the most comparable players to Beltran at age 35.
Dawson and Winfield are good comparisons to Beltran. They were Gold Glove center fielders early in their career and where switched to right field(and later DH) later in their careers. Dawson's last All Star season was in 1991 with the Cubs at age 36. Like Beltran, he made 8 All Star teams, but also won an MVP in 1987. Dawson had a respectable year at age 37 in 1992, hitting 22 home runs and driving in 90. He then went to the Red Sox to DH, later going to the Marlins as a part time player before retiring in 1996. Dawson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010 on his ninth try. Dawson was a big time run producer, but some critics pointed out his career .323 on base pct. Beltran's career OBP is 36 points higher. Both Beltran and Dawson stole over 300 bases in their careers and won multiple Gold Gloves.
Winfield was able to play at a high level for longer than Dawson was. Part of the reason why is that Dawson played 11 seasons on the turf in Montreal. Winfield only played 222 career games at center, much less than Dawson or Beltran. Winfield's last All Star campaign was also at age 36 with the Yankees in 1988. He missed the next season, but returned in 1990 after being traded to the Angels. He was a regular outfielder until he joined the Blue Jays in 1992 to DH at age 40. Winfield had a big year, finishing 5th in MVP voting and helping the Jays make the postseason. Winfield struggled in his first postseason with the 1981 Yankees, but came up big with the Jays in 92 as they won the World Series. Winfield ended up with over 3,000 hits and made the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2001. Below, it a comparison of Winfield, Dawson, and Beltran's career numbers
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB GG ASG
Winfield .283 .353 .475 11003 1669 3110 540 88 465 1833 223 7 12
Dawson .279 .323 .482 9927 1373 2774 503 98 438 1591 314 8 8
Beltran .283 .359 .498 7651 1319 2167 429 76 353 1298 308 3 8
Beltran's rate stats are either tied or slightly better than Winfield and Dawson's. His counting numbers are not as impressive, but would look better with a few more seasons. Beltran debuted in 1998 and is in his 16th season(15th full). Dawson played 21 seasons and Winfield played 22 seasons, a significant amount more. Beltran was a five tool player when he came up with the Royals and won the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year. Beltran has never won a MVP, and his highest finish was 4th in 2006 with the Mets. He received MVP votes in 5 other seasons. 400 home runs is a realistic possibility for Beltran. A World Series ring would certainly boost his candidacy. He still probably won't be a slam dunk candidate like Winfield was. It will be interesting to see where Beltran plays next year. Will the Cardinals have a role for him next year or will he move to an AL team with a longer deal?
Thursday, July 18, 2013
AL MVP Candidates Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis
Now that the All Star Game is in the books the season turns to the second half. The trading deadline is fastly approaching and the pennant races are heating up. Many teams are in the hunt right now, but the serious contenders will start pulling away in the next couple of months. Here's a few things to look for.
With the second wild card, many more teams think they are in the hunt and that makes them reluctant to make deals. Some teams are ready to commit to selling, like the Chicago teams. The White Sox already traded reliever Matt Thornton to the Red Sox and could put Armando Rios, Jake Peavy, and others on the market. The Cubs traded away pitcher Scott Feldman and are looking to move Matt Garza, Kevin Gregg, Nate Schierholtz, and possibly Alfonso Soriano if they can move that contract. The Brewers could trade away Yovani Gallardo and the Astros are shopping Bud Norris.
There are a few other struggling teams that could be sellers, but there are some teams on the fence. The Phillies are the most intriguing team. They sit at 48-48, an even .500. They have an aging team, but there is still some major talent that could help some teams. Phillies management seems to think they still have a chance to contend, so they might hold on to what they have. However, they could pick up some prospects if they put Chase Utley or Cliff Lee on the market. Lee would be the best pitcher on the market, but carries a hefty contract. He is owed $25 million a year for the next two years. Still, Lee is a true ace and could be a difference maker for any team that acquires him. He pitched very well when joining the Phillies in 2009 and the Rangers in 2010 in their postseason runs.
It will be interesting to see what John Mozeliak does at the trading deadline. He has the prospects to deal, but I don't expect him to make a major deal unless it's for a shortstop. There isn't much on the market right now for a shortstop. The Indians will likely hold on to Asdrubal Cabrera, since they are contending this year. Cabrera would be a major upgrade, but Cleveland's asking price last fall for Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn was unreasonable. I think the most likely trade would be low key, like a reliever or a bat of the bench.
Mariano's Last Waltz
Strangely, Mariano Rivera was chosen to pitch in the eighth inning in a set up role in the All Star Game, a role he hasn't pitched in since 1996. At age 43, Rivera will retire at the season's end. The all time saves leaders has had a nice comeback season after tearing his Achilles heel in Kansas City last year. The Yankees have been devastated with injuries this year and their core players are aging. Still, they have a respectable 51-44 record. That is good for fourth in the AL East, a very competitive division this year. It remains to be seen if Rivera's Yankees rally to make the postseason this year or if they will miss the playoffs for only the second time since 1995. The Red Sox, Orioles, and Rays will have a lot to say about that.
Cuban defector Yasiel Puig has turned around the Dodgers season. The Dodgers struggled out the gate and languished in last place in mid-May. With Puig in the lineup, the Dodgers have a 23-15 record. They have evened their record to 47-47, but are only 2.5 games back of the Diamondbacks for first place in a weak NL West. The Padres and Rockies have fallen off, and the defending champion Giants have slumped badly and have many key injuries. The Dodgers are in the thick of the mix again and calls for firing manager Don Mattingly have disappeared in the last month. Puig has played in only 38 games, but has been the Dodgers best hitter since being called up. Puig is batting .391 with a .422 OBP, .616 slugging pct., 8 home runs, 19 RBI's, and 5 steals. He is a dynamic player who can do a lot of things.
Besides Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers big stars have been slumping or injured much of the season. Carl Crawford missed some time, and Hanley Ramirez has just recently got healthy. Matt Kemp's shoulder has been ailing him this year and has hampered his production. Andre Ethier has been a big disappointment this year and giving him a 5 year, $85 million dollar extension last year looks like a huge mistake. Still, there's plenty of talent on this team and they have a strong rotation. Clayton Kershaw is one of baseball's best pitchers, and Zack Greinke, Hyun-ji Ryu, and newcomer Ricky Nolasco is a formidable rotation. The Dodgers have the highest payroll in the league and ownership expects to win.
The AL MVP Race
Miguel Cabrera might end up having an even better season than last year, but not win the Triple Crown. Cabrera has 30 home runs and 95 RBI's at the break, but is competing with Chris Davis, who has 37 home runs and 93 RBI's. Davis is having a breakout season, already at a career high in home runs. Davis was up and down with the Rangers, but has blossomed since being traded to the Orioles two years ago. I would say Cabrera's chances of winning a second straight MVP is good, but Davis could give him a run. Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Robinson Cano are also having standout seasons.
The Biogenesis Rulings
There will be some controversy coming when baseball announces suspensions for the Biogenesis PED scandal. Reportedly, the suspensions will be for next season and the Players Association will most certainly challenge them. However, the Players Association says it doesn't want to protect PED users. It is rumored the suspensions could be up to 100 games. Up to 20 players could be suspended, including Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, and Bartolo Colon.
The NL Central Race
It's very possible that the NL Central will have 3 playoff teams this year. The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds have 3 of the 4 best records in the National League. The Cardinals have the NL's best record at 57-36. The Pirates are only a game behind at 56-37. The Reds sit at third at 53-42 and at 5 games back. While the Reds are in third place in the division, they have the lead for the second wild card spot. In fact, they have a 5 game lead over the Nationals. There is still plenty of baseball to be played, but there's a good chance of a NL Central showdown in the wild card game this year.
The Cardinals have been the class of this division for years and have a stacked team with very few weaknesses. There is some concern about shortstop and relief pitching. Another concern is if Miller and Lynn will hold up for the stretch run. I think the Cardinals should win the division, but they will have to earn it. I don't think the Pirates are going to fade down the stretch again this season. They are a much deeper team this year, and I think Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and company would like to redeem themselves this year. The Reds are also a very strong team and would be in first place in the NL West. They have a good offense led by OBP machines Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto, and have a solid pitching staff. It will be a interesting race.
A's/Rangers Redux in the AL West
The Angels were the preseason favorite to win the division after signing Josh Hamilton away from the Rangers. Instead, they have been a major flop, sitting five games below .500 at 44-49. The Angels were expected to have a Murderer's Row type of offense with Hamilton, Albert Pujols, and Mike Trout leading the way. Trout has had a All Star season to follow up his great rookie season, but the other two-thirds of the trio have disappointed. Pujols has been dealing with several injuries and is only batting .249 for the season. He still hits for power, but not at the level he used to, and isn't as patient of a hitter as he used to be. Even worse, Hamilton is only batting .224 for the season and it's looking like the Rangers made the right move not re-signing him. The Angels still are sixth in runs in the American League, so that's not all the problem. Their pitching has been a culprit this season. Ace Jered Weaver missed some time to injury and some other pitchers have pitched poorly. They rank 11th in the AL in ERA, which is the biggest reason for their underachievement.
Last year, the Rangers led the AL West all season until the final series with the Athletics. The A's tied the Rangers in Game 161 and won the division on the season's final game. Hamilton had a brutal series and missed a fly ball in the outfield. The A's came from nowhere last year, but they are proving they are not a fluke this year. They currently have a two game advantage on Texas. It looks like this year race will come down to the A's and Rangers again this year, unless the Angels can make a miracle run.
Baseball's Young Arms
There has been a lot of young, talented arms come up in the last few years. The Cardinals seem to have an endless supply of young hard-throwers. Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller have cemented their spots in their rotation. Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez look to have bright futures with the Cardinals. Elsewhere, there is Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler with the Mets, Patrick Corbin with the D-Backs, Jose Fernandez with the Marlins, and Stephen Strasburg with the Nats. The Diamondbacks also have several other top pitching prospects. Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner have already accomplished a lot, but are only age 25 and 23. That's just in the National League. The White Sox Chris Sale, the Rays Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, and the Rangers Yu Darvish have emerged on the scene the last couple of years. The Rangers, Athletics, Rays, and Orioles all have younger pitching staffs. There has understandably been a lot of buzz about young phenoms like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, and Manny Machado, but there is a bunch of young pitchers to get excited about, too.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Molina and Mujica:Two of the Six Cardinal All Stars
A record 38 first time All Stars have been named to this year's rosters. That been said, there is a few veterans returning. Mariano Rivera made his 13th All Star team in his final season at age 43. Rivera's 13 All Star appearances is a record for a relief pitcher. Goose Gossage is the closest with 9 and pitchers of Rivera's generation like Billy Wagner or Trevor Hoffman only made 7. David Ortiz is next, getting voted into his 9th All Star appearance, which is a record for designated hitters. Carlos Beltran returns for his 8th appearance.
A couple other players will make the first All Star Game in their mid-30's. The Pirates Jason Grilli is 36 years old and with his ninth organization, but has revived his career since joining the club in mid-2011. Grilli was a first round draft pick by the Giants in 1997 and was traded to the Marlins for Livan Hernandez two years later. Grilli made his major league debut in 2000 with the Marlins, but struggled and bounced around for the next decade. The Pirates traded away Joel Hanrahan last offseason and moved Grilli into the closer role. Mark Melancon was one of the players acquired for Hanrahan, and has also been named to the All Star team after a dominant first half in relief. Marco Scutaro has been a solid middle infielder for many years, but never a big name. Scutaro was key in the Giants World Series run last year after being acquired at the trading deadline. He is batting .313 this year and is easy to see why Bochy rewarded the 37 year old second baseman with his first All Star appearance.
Sometimes, a highly touted prospect struggles when they first reach the big leagues and have to be sent back down to the minors. There are a few players on this year's team that have revived their careers after some early struggles. The Royals Alex Gordon was one of the top prospects in baseball in 2007 and had a OK rookie season as their third baseman that year. He struggled after that and was spent parts of 2008 and 2009 in the minors. He came back as a left fielder and has won two Gold Gloves and improved as a hitter. Gordon is one of three Royals on this years team, joining teammates Salvador Perez and Greg Holland. The Royals haven't had that many All Stars since 1988 when George Brett, Mark Gubicza, and Kurt Stillwell made the team.
Gordon was able to revive his career with the team that drafted him, but Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion needed a change of scenery. Davis has a league high 37 home runs and could threaten to hit 60 this year. Davis was traded to the Orioles from the Rangers in 2011 in a deadline deal. He had a good year last season as the Orioles made their first postseason appearance in 15 years. This year, he's a MVP candidate. Encarnacion was traded to the Blue Jays from the Reds for Scott Rolen in 2009. He had a up and down career until last season when he broke out. Encarnacion, like his All Star teammate Jose Bautista; took awhile to develop.
For the most part, the fans picked the right choices for starters, although there is a couple debatable choices. One could argue that Andrew McCutchen or Carlos Gomez should be starting over Bryce Harper, who has missed a good chunk of games due to injury. Matt Carpenter has a case over Brandon Phillips. The starting pitchers haven't been named yet, but I think the Tigers Max Scherzer and the Mets Matt Harvey are the most likely choices for starter. Since the game is in New York, I would be shocked if Harvey didn't get the start. Jim Leyland talked about starting Rivera, but Rivera said he wanted to close the game.
The Cardinals have six All Stars for the second straight season. Yadier Molina and Beltran were voted in, Carpenter and Allen Craig were picked as reserves, and Adam Wainwright as a pitcher. Wainwright won't pitch in Tuesday's game since he started Sunday night's game, so teammate Edward Mujica was named to replace him. Carpenter is the Cardinals first All Star second baseman since Tommy Herr in 1985. Carpenter, Craig, and Mujica are all first time All Stars. Since 2000, the Cardinals have had 24 different players named to a combined 51 All Star appearances.
The Yankees only had two representatives this year with Rivera and Robinson Cano making the team. That is their lowest amount in 20 years when Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key made the team. The Pirates are represented by Grilli, Melancon, Jeff Locke, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez, giving them five All Stars. That is their most since 1972, a year after they won the World Series. The Orioles also have five All Stars in Davis, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Tillman, which is their most since 1997. Despite star studded rosters, the Angels and Dodgers only have one rep apiece with Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw making the team.
All Star Rosters
Starters: Yadier Molina, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Troy Tulowitzki, David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Carlos Beltran
Reserves: Buster Posey, Brian McCann, Paul Goldschmidt, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Marco Scutaro, Jean Segura, Everth Cabrera, Pedro Alvarez, Dominic Brown, Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Michael Cuddyer
Pitchers: Matt Harvey, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Patrick Corbin, Travis Wood, Jose Fernandez, Madison Bumgarner, Mark Melancon, Edward Mujica, Craig Kimbrel, Sergio Romo, Aroldis Chapman, Jason Grilli
Named, Won't Play: Freddie Freeman, Jeff Locke, Jordan Zimmermann, Adam Wainwright
Starters: Joe Mauer, Chris Davis, Robinson Cano, JJ Hardy, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Adam Jones, Jose Bautista, David Ortiz
Reserves: Jason Castro, Salvador Perez, Edwin Encarnacion, Prince Fielder, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist, Jhonny Peralta, Manny Machado, Alex Gordon, Nelson Cruz, Torii Hunter
Pitchers: Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Chris Tillman, Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Justin Masterson, Chris Sale, Greg Holland, Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Grant Balfour, Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera
Named, Won't Play: Justin Verlander, Bartolo Colon, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jesse Crain, Clay Buchholz
Monday, July 8, 2013
Years from now, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera will be remembered as the two best hitters of their generation. It would be comparable of past debates about Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Stan Musial, and Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. Both Pujols and Cabrera have won an MVP, batting title, multiple home run crowns, and a World Series. The past couple of seasons, Cabrera has clearly been the better hitter. When talking about careers and how to project in the future, it gets a little more interesting.
Career Numbers of Pujols and Cabrera
AVG OBP SLG R H 2B HR RBI TB
Pujols .321 .410 .599 1418 2330 523 488 1485 4347
Cabrera .321 .398 .568 1028 1927 406 349 1213 3408
Right now, Pujols has the edge in career numbers, but he has also played two and a half more seasons. Pujols debuted at age 21 with the Cardinals in 2001 and Cabrera debuted with the Marlins at age 20 in mid-2003. Cabrera isn't far behind in many statistics, but Pujols has a big edge in career home runs. Pujols has a 139 home run advantage and it will be hard for Cabrera to catch up. It's certainly not impossible, but Pujols has 8 seasons left on his megadeal with the Angels. Cabrera does have the advantage of being 3 years younger and without the lingering injuries Pujols deals with. Pujols play has been in decline, and one has to wonder if the injuries(plantar fasciitis in left foot, bad right knee, elbow problems) have finally taken its toll on him.
Cabrera flew under the radar when he played for the Marlins, who don't have much of a fan base. He won a World Series his rookie year, but has yet to win another. He did return to the World Series last season, but the Tigers were swept. Pujols won the World Series in his sixth season in 2006 and again in 2011, his final season with the Cardinals. In the 00's, Pujols was universally seen as the better player among the two. Cabrera was almost as steady and productive, but not quite as good. He also dealt with some drinking problems when he was younger. Cabrera has grown up since he first was traded to the Tigers from the Marlins. Since the beginning of 2010, there is no doubt that Cabrera has been the superior player.
Cabrera/Pujols from 2010-present
AVG OBP SLG R H 2B HR RBI TB
Pujols .290 .366 .617 347 613 136 122 373 1117
Cabrera .340 .426 .529 398 707 153 140 460 1284
Pujols decline has been more pronounced since he joined the Angels prior to the 2012 season, but his numbers were falling off his last season in St. Louis. Then, some thought the contract situation was the problem just as last year's struggles could of been blamed on adapting to a new league. This year, it's obvious he is declining, but injuries could have a role in that. I don't think Pujols has declined to a .240 hitter this soon, at age 33. Cabrera has been on the rise as Pujols has been on the fall. He has taken it to a different level the last few seasons. Cabrera has a .340 average since 2010, which is 50 points higher than Pujols. There career averages are the same. Cabrera's power numbers are also better since 2010. Cabrera's on pace for his second 40 home run season, but Pujols has had 5.
Cabrera already has 90 RBI's this season and could have a ridiculous number by year's end. He has a 87 RBI advantage on Pujols since 2010. Cabrera won the Triple Crown last year, and is in the running for it again this year. Cabrera won the batting title last year, hitting .330, but is currently batting .368 this year. He leads the AL in RBIs as well, but is behind Baltimore's Chris Davis in home run. Pujols led the league in home runs and RBIs in 2010, and the batting title in 2003, but could never get all three in one season. Comparing these two from 2010 on is a little unfair to Pujols because it leaves out two MVP seasons in 2008 and 2009. 2008 was Cabrera's first season in Detroit. Here's a look below.
Cabrera/Pujols from 2008-current
AVG OBP SLG R H 2B HR RBI TB
Pujols .308 .397 .572 571 986 225 206 624 1833
Cabrera .328 .407 .589 579 1085 223 211 690 1949
Even with Pujols two MVP seasons, Cabrera's numbers are superior over the last six seasons. There closer with the extra two years, but Cabrera still has a 20 point advantage in average. I think it is very possible that Cabrera finishes with a better average and on base pct. for his career than Pujols. He has a shot to surpass him in counting stats, although it will be hard to catch up with Pujols in home runs. At age 30, Cabrera is having one of the best seasons of his great career. Pujols is at a crossroads of his career. He has some lingering injuries that he needs to get taken care of. It's unclear if he will bounce back or become a player like Griffey, who wasn't as good in his 30's due to injury.
Most certainly, both of these players will be in Cooperstown someday. If Pujols can get healthy and regain his form, Cabrera will have a tougher time catching up. Pujols still has 8 years left on his deal that carries on until he's 41 years old. There's no telling what kind of production the Angels will get out of Pujols in those years or if he finishes the contract. They could be looking at a A-Rod situation that the Yankees are dealing with now. Cabrera's contract with the Tigers goes for two more seasons after this year. He will be 32 when it runs out. Cabrera will get another deal, but I think teams might be leery of giving a player over 30 a ten year deal after seeing Pujols and A-Rod. Regardless of what happens, Pujols and Cabrera will always be linked as two of the greatest hitters of their generation. History will decide which one has the better career, but it wouldn't surprise me if Cabrera ended up with better numbers.
Monday, July 1, 2013
The All Star Game is right around the corner and the rosters will be announced on Saturday. Like every year, there are some interesting decisions on who makes the roster. There will be some deserving players left off and some questionable players put on. Occasionally, the fans pick for a starter isn't the best pick. Sometimes, the players choices don't make sense(see last year's Bryan LaHair pick). Today, I'll take a look on who's deserving and who is likely to make the 34 man roster.
Likely Starter: Yadier Molina
Reserve Candidate: Buster Posey
This is a close race for the NL's catcher. Molina overtook Posey last week, but the vote is very close. Either way, both players will make the roster, one as a starter, and one as a backup. I doubt the NL carries a third catcher, but if they did, Colorado's Willin Rosario or Atlanta's Brian McCann would be the most likely choices.
Likely Starter: Joey Votto
Reserve Candidates: Paul Goldschmidt, Allen Craig, Freddie Freeman
Votto has a big lead and is off to his 4th straight All Star appearance. Goldschmidt is having a monster year with Arizona and could be the DH for the game. Craig should make it, but Freeman or Adrian Gonzalez could challenge for that. The Cubs have better candidates at other positions, but Anthony Rizzo could be forced on the roster if their pitchers can't make the team.
Likely Starter: Brandon Phillips
Reserve Candidates: Matt Carpenter, Marco Scutaro
It will be interesting to see if Bruce Bochy picks his own guy in Scutaro, or Carpenter for second base. Scutaro won the NLCS MVP and Bochy might want to reward him with an All Star selection. Scutaro's deserving, but Carpenter is having a superior season. Carpenter is also would be a versatile player for late innings if Bochy goes with three second baseman.
Leading Vote Getter: Troy Tulowitzki
Reserve Candidates: Jean Segura, Everth Cabrera, Ian Desmond, Brandon Crawford
Tulowitzki leads the voting, but will miss the game due to injury. Most likely, Segura will take his place as the starter. Cabrera leads the NL in stolen bases and would make sense to be the Padres rep for the game. If it isn't Cabrera, it would like be reliever Luke Gregerson. There is also a chance Crawford could make it since his manager is picking the team.
Likely Starter: David Wright
Reserve Candidates: Pablo Sandoval, Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Zimmerman
Wright has gained the lead over Sandoval in the voting which makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, Wright is having a better year, and two, the game is in New York. Sandoval still might get selected by player vote or manager selection. Alvarez has hit 20 homers and has improved his average and defense. The Pirates also have the NL's best record right now, which could help his case.
Likely Starters: Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, Carlos Beltran
Reserve Candidates: Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez, Sterling Marte, Dominic Brown, Nate Schierholtz, Hunter Pence
There's a lot of deserving candidates, but probably only 4 spots for reserves. I think McCutchen makes it and Gomez probably makes it. Cuddyer is batting .344 and Cargo is having a big year, but I don't think both make it, probably only one of them. Choo has a .418 OBP, which is second in the NL, but might not get noticed because he has a .268 average. Brown and Schierholtz could make it as their teams lone rep. Schierholtz is a former Giant, now a Cub. There are also calls to put rookie phenom Yasiel Puig on the roster, but that could mean a guy like Gomez, Choo, or Brown get left off the roster. None of them have ever made a All Star game and Puig has only played 26 games. That's only 18 less than Harper, who will get voted in by the fans, but it's unfair to punish a guy who played a full season to put Puig on the roster. Puig will have his day someday soon.
Locks: Matt Harvey, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, Clayton Kershaw
Top Candidates: Cliff Lee, Patrick Corbin, Jeff Locke, Jose Fernandez
On the Edge: Shelby Miller, Travis Wood, Mat Latos, Mike Minor, Madison Bumgarner
A lot will be made out of the pitcher's who don't make the roster. There will certainly be some snubs, although spots will open up. Pitchers who start on the Sunday before the game are ineligible to pitch, thus needing a replacement. There is usually at least once pitcher who gets hurt before the game. Fernandez is the best candidate from the Marlins, so I think he makes it. Wood could also be the Cubs rep if Schierholtz isn't. Harvey is a lock to make it, and possibly even start the game. Other younger pitchers like Locke, Miller, and Corbin are less certain right now.
Locks: Jason Grilli, Craig Kimbrel, Sergio Romo
Top Candidates: Edward Mujica, Aroldis Chapman, Steve Cishek, Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Trevor Rosenthal, Luke Gregerson, Jonathon Papelbon
I imagine that 5 relievers make the roster and I think Grilli, Kimbrel, and Romo are locks. That leaves 2(3 at the most) spots for everybody else. Cishek only makes it if Fernandez don't make it for the Marlins. Melancon has been the NL's most dominant setup man for the Pirates, so I think he's in. One more closer could make it, so Mujica has a shot.
Lineup: Phillips, Wright, Votto, Goldschmidt, Beltran, Molina, Upton, Harper, Segura, Harvey(P)
Reserves: Posey, Craig, Carpenter, Scutaro, E Cabrera, Sandoval, Alvarez, McCutchen, Gomez, Cuddyer, Scheirholtz
Pitchers: Wainwright, Kershaw, Zimmermann, J Fernandez, Lee, Corbin, Locke, Melancon, Mujica, Romo, Kimbrel, Grilli
34th Man: D Brown, Puig, S Miller, Minor, C Gonzalez
Likely Starter: Joe Mauer
Reserve Candidates: Jason Castro, Carlos Santana, Salvador Perez
I think Jason Castro is the Astros most likely rep. If there is a third catcher it will be Cleveland's Santana or Kansas City's Perez.
Likely Starters: Chris Davis, David Ortiz
Reserve Candidates: Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, James Loney, Mark Trumbo
I don't think both the Blue Jays Encarnacion or Lind goes to New York, but one of them likely will. Fielder will likely make it as a reserve either by player vote or manager's selection.
Likely Starter: Robinson Cano
Reserve Candidates: Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Howie Kendrick
All three of these guys are having terrific seasons, but at least one of them will be disappointed Saturday. Kipnis has been the Indians best hitter and I think he gets on the roster this year.
Likely Starter: JJ Hardy
Reserve Candidates: Jhonny Peralta, Jed Lowrie
I would say Peralta has a better chance of making it since his manager is picking the roster. Both Peralta and Lowrie are pretty close on the numbers.
Likely Starter: Miguel Cabrera
Reserve Candidates: Evan Longoria, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre
Third base is stacked in the AL with four worthy candidates as backups. I think Longoria will make it and there should be a third selection for this position. Machado has a lead leading 38 doubles and plays great defense. Donaldson has arguably been the A's best hitter this year.
Likely Starters: Mike Trout, Adam Jones, Jose Bautista
Reserve Candidates: Alex Gordon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp, Alex Rios, Nelson Cruz
Bautista is in a tight battle for the final outfield spot with Nick Markakis and Torii Hunter. Markakis and Hunter are having fine seasons, but I don't think they make the team if they aren't voted in as starters.
Locks: Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez
Top Candidates: Chris Sale, Hisashi Iwakuma, Bartolo Colon, Derek Holland
On the Edge: James Shields, Justin Masterson, Hiroki Kuroda, Matt Moore, Chris Tillman, Ervin Santana
Scherzer looks like the likely starter since he is off to a 12-0 start. Colon looks like a solid pick as long as he doesn't get into any trouble with his Biogenesis connection. Shields has a losing record, but that's due to poor run support, not ineffectiveness. Shields stats are among the leagues best, but could get overlooked due to his record. Clay Buchholz will make the team, but might not be able to start since he's injured right now.
Locks: Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour
Top Candidates: Greg Holland, Ernesti Freiri, Glen Perkins, Jesse Crain, Joaquin Benoit, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Brett Cecil
Rivera is in his final season and is All Star worthy on performance alone. He will most certainly be honored with his 13th All Star selection. The Rangers bullpen has been dominant this year, and setup men Scheppers and Ross will get consideration for the team.
Lineup: Trout, Cano, Cabrera, Davis, Ortiz, Bautista, Jones, Mauer, Hardy, Scherzer(P)
Reserves: J Castro, Fielder, Encarnacion, Pedroia, Kipnis, Peralta, Longoria, Machado, Gordon, Ellsbury, Cruz
Pitchers: Hernandez, Darvish, Sale, Colon, Masterson, Iwakuma, Kuroda, Scheppers, Ross, Nathan, Balfour, Rivera
34th Man: Crisp, Donaldson, Lind, Beltre, Kendrick