Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Vilification of Ryan Braun or a Lack Thereof

By now most of us Baseball fans have been bombarded with the news of NL MVP Ryan Braun facing a 50-game suspension for the failure of a drug test. The lead story was presented by ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn. In their article Ryan Braun tests positive for PED, they report that according to sources that Braun was found to have an elevated testosterone level. Braun has maintained his innocence and is appealing the findings.

Ok, so where are the cries of outrage from the mountaintop. Sure, there are some that are calling for him to be stripped of the MVP award (which based on comments from some Baseball writers who have an MVP vote he won't be stripped) but many of those are coming from those who thought Matt Kemp should have won the award. What I find interesting is that there are many out there who are taking a stance of cautious comments rather than yelling that Braun is a cheater and guilty. Why is that.

I'm not saying that Braun should be vilified, but why isn't he being vilified as Rafael Palmiero, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were and still are. With the exception of McGwire (who was, and still is in certain areas, one of the most beloved figures in Baseball history), the other five were arrogant, vain, conceited and therefore vilified and treated as if they were guilty from the beginning of the allegations of their steroid/PED use. It is irrelevant for this discussion whether they were guilty or not (which we now know they were for Palmiero, Bonds, Rodriguez and Ramirez) but have we as Baseball fans moved on from the finger pointing, prognosticating and perceived judgments? Or is it as simple as Ryan Braun being a nice guy and a humble well respected figure unlike such arrogant individuals like the aforementioned Bonds, Rodriguez, Clemens and Palmiero. Maybe perception is everything.

The question is, what will the perception of Ryan Braun be after this situation. Will he be vindicated? Will he continue to be respected if it is found to be true that he indeed took a synthetic testosterone willingly? If not taken willingly, will people disregard it as a mistake and give him a free pass though many of the same people refuse to do so in terms of Bonds who claims he took what he took due to a trainer's advice and Palmiero who said it came from a B-12 shot? I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens with the appeal.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Will Carroll's article What we know and what we don't know about Braun's positive test for an informative explanation on what is going and what we might expect to come in the future regarding Braun's failed test from SI.com dated November 11, 2011

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/will_carroll/12/10/braun-positive-test/index.html#ixzz1gGPG3hx0

Friday, December 9, 2011

Who is Hiroyuki Nakajima

Lost amid all the news regarding such free agent signings of Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols was that the New York Yankees had the winning bid for the right to negotiate with Saitama Seibu Lions SS Hiroyuki Nakajima. By the posting rules established between the Nippon Baseball League and Major League Baseball, the Yankees and representatives of Nakajima have thirty days in order to negotiate a contract. If they reach an agreement, then the Lions would receive the posting bid, which according to the Yakyu Baka website was approximately $2.5 million dollars. If an agreement cannot be reached between the team and the player, then the money put up by the Yankees will be returned to them and Nakajima’s rights would return to the Lions. Before I get into my impression of the Yankees bidding for Nakajima, let me go into who Hiroyuki Nakajima is.

As I stated earlier, Nakajima is a SS who plays for the Saitama Seibu Lions of the NPB’s Pacific League. He is a 10-year veteran who will turn thirty in July. He is a career .302 hitter with the Lions with 149 HRs and 664 RBI. His best season with the Lions was in 2009 when he batted .309 with 22 HRs and 92 RBI. In 560 at-bats, Nakajima had a career high 173 hits (31 2B/3 3B/22 HRs) with 113 strikeouts, 75 walks and 20 stolen bases (in 32 attempts) and scored 100 runs. Nakajima’s OPS was .891 (.398 OBP/.493 SLG). He won the Japan Series MVP award in 2008, was multiple time All-Star, won a Gold Glove in 2008 and in the same year was elected one of the Best Nine at the SS position (award voted on by journalists for the best player at each position). Nakajima also played for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic where he batted .364 and .516 on-base percentage helping Japan repeat as World Baseball Classic Champions.

Some of you might be asking yourselves why would the Yankees bid on a SS when they have Derek Jeter signed up for the next two years (possibly a third year due to a player option). Apparently Yankees GM Brian Cashman believes that Nakajima would be a utility player since he was quoted as saying "He’s not a starter for us, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a starting player". Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine vouches for Nakajima ability by saying the following: "He has excellent range to his left…He’s a very good low-ball hitter and a real dedicated player". It is believed that Nakajima would be an infield utility player with Eduardo Nunez.

So what does this mean for Nunez?
It seems that he is not as untouchable of a prospect that he once was. Nunez seemed to have some difficulties this past season especially in the field when Derek Jeter was on the DL with a calf injury. There have been rumors that the Yankees have been open to listening to trade offers including Nunez.

Will Nakajima accept a contract offer?
To be honest, I’m not sure. He is the Captain of the Lions and leaving Japan for a backup position might not be what he expected when he asked to be posted. Nakajima has not made any comments aside from extending thanks to the Yankees for their bid for his potential services preferring to leave the negotiations to his representatives. In the end, I think it will all come down to whether or not Nakajima’s desire to play in the MLB outweighs his desire to be an everyday player.

The dark horse in all this is the potential Yankee bid for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Darvish and Nakajima are good friends and maybe the Yankees brass feel that by having Nakajima on the team, it might be easier to sign Darvish (if their bid is deemed to be the winning bid). This is all speculation on my part so take it for what it is worth.

We’ll know by January 6, 2012 whether or not Nakajima will be wearing Yankee Pinstripes.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Hiroyuki Nakajima's career statistics from the Nippon Professional Baseball website
- Click Here to access David Waldstein's article Yankees Win Right to Negotiate With Japanese Shortstop from the New York Times Baseball Blog page dated December 7, 2011
- Click Here to access a number of articles written by Gen on the Yakyubaka website regarding the Yankees and Nakajima, various dates
- Click Here to access a chart detailing which Japanese players were posted, the posted bids and whether or not they were signed by Yakyubaka

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Neftali Feliz as a Starter for Texas

I know I've touched on this situation a few times in the past feeling that things that aren't broken shouldn't be messed with. The example of Neftali Feliz being converted to a starter by the Texas Rangers is one such scenario where I feel that if something isn't broken then it shouldn't be messed with. This came up due to a Twitter post by Jayson Stark of ESPN (@jaysonst) who mentioned that the Texas Rangers might be one of the teams that would be dabbling in the closer market if it was the right guy. Now it was announced on November 21, 2011 that the Rangers had signed former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan to a two-year, $14.5 million contract with a club option for a third year and a buyout which in effect made the move to place Feliz in the starting rotation. I responded to Stark's comment by saying that the Rangers already had a closer and that was Feliz. As with Twitter, others can comment on posts and my comment was answered by @MLBDirt.

He (or she I'm not actually sure) stated that Feliz should start since he was a starter in the minors. As I stated before, I'm of the frame of mind that if something is not broken then it shouldn't be messed with. With 72 saves in the last two (74 saves in three total seasons), an All-Star appearance in 2010 along with his 2010 AL Rookie of the Year award it seems to me that there isn't any doubt where Feliz's strength lies. But let me take off my blinders for a second and elaborate on another point.

It is my impression that in the Baseball world, there is a mentality that it is harder to cultivate a front line starter than a front line closer. That it is easier to just plug someone into the closer role and have him succeed rather than doing so with a starter. Historically the closer role was dominated by starters who could no longer start due to age or injury and by starters who were not very efficient in the starting role due to diminished stamina or ineffectiveness in the starting rotation. Case in point might be Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. I believe that the mentality has changed with the increased development of closers at the High School and College level, as well as, with more attention placed on the role of closers in the Minor league level. Let me go back to my conversation with @MLBDirt on Feliz.

So @MLBDirt believes that Feliz would better help the team as a starter. This is exactly what they said:

Feliz has more value as a SP. I agree with moving him back into rotation. Rays have proven closers are replaceable...I really liked him as a starter in the minors and I think he can still be a top of the rotation guy.


Ok, I'll bite on the dangling hook. I decided to check out Feliz's stats to see how his numbers looked as a starter. Feliz was signed by the Atlanta Braves as a free agent in 2005. He would be part of the trade that sent Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia Matt Harrison and Beau Jones to Rangers for Ron Mahay and Mark Teixeira on July 31, 2007. The season I will look at is 2008.

Feliz split time between Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League Western (A) and Frisco RoughRiders played in the Texas League South (AA). Feliz had a combined 10-6 record with a 2.69 ERA in 27 starts and 127.1 innings pitched. He gave up 38 earned runs 89 hits, with 153 strikes and 51 walks for a WHIP of 1.10. So he has the stuff to be a closer at least at the mid level minors and we know that he can dominate hitters at the major league levels for at least an inning or two. My question is can this "flip-flopping" between closer and starter work with Feliz. I can't help to think of the situation with Joba Chamberlain and to a certain degree Phil Hughes of the New York Yankees. It can be said that Chamberlain was severely damaged, especially in his psyche with the constant changing of his duties within the Yankees rotation. Hughes seems to have adapted better to returning to the rotation after spending a dominant turn as the Yankees' 8th inning option in 2009.

Time will truly tell if this move by the Rangers works. They seem to be serious about the move this season as opposed to the move last Spring training. If it works, then Feliz can be a feasible compliment to Holland and Harrison in the rotation (if C.J. Wilson departs via free agency). If it doesn't work, then Feliz should move back to the closing role with Joe Nathan as the 8th inning role. To me, that's a more attractive option given that I still believe that he should remain the closer, a position that we know he can successful in. We'll see how it plays out.

FH

For Further Reading

- Click Here to access Neftali Feliz's career Major League career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to access Neftali Feliz's career Minor League career statistics from Baseball Cube.com
- Click Here to access Jason Kim's article Texas Rangers: Why Converting Neftali Feliz into a Starter Won't Be Pretty from BleacherReport.com dated February 26, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Papelbon to the Phillies

When Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said that the Phillies were going to be active this off-season, it didn't take him long to make a splash. It was announced today that the Phillies signed former Boston Red Sox closer Johnathan Papelbon to a 4-year $50-Million dollar contract with a vestibg option for a fifth year. In doing so, the Phillies shore up a big hole in their bullpen since former closer Brad Lidge and reliever Ryan Madson are both free agents. 

What do the Phillies get? They get a 30-year old closer who since coming up for the Red Sox in 2005 complied a 23-19 record with a 2.33 ERA in 429.1 innings pitched. Papelbon struck out 509, walked 115 and gave up 322 hits for a WHIP of 1.018. He recorded 219 saves in the ultra competitive American League East and under the scrutiny of some of the most demanding Baseball fans in the league.  Pitching under pressure is something that Papelbon was used to on a daily basis. A pressure that will not subside by playing in Philadelphia. The Phillies rotation has some strong bookends with their vaunted starting rotation and now Papelbon to shut games down.

Considering that Papelbon had expressed his desire to test the free-agent market numerous times, I believe that it's no surprise that he jumped at the offer made by the Phillies. So where does this leave Boston?   

I think (and personally believe) that the Red Sox can adequately replace Papelbon either from within or through free-agency. They have hard throwing Daniel Bard who would be the logical choice to close. They also have Bobby Jenks who can get some saves if he comes back from injury. On the free-agent front, there's a plethora of potential closets such as Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell. Joe Nathan, Jonathan Broxton the aforementioned Ryan Madson. 

So don't fret too much Red Sox nation, there's hope that the hole left by Papelbon's departure will be filled soon by new GM Ben Cherington.

FH

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Robinson Cano in Taiwan=Rockstar

I was watching the live feed of the MLB All-Stars vs. the Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) National Team on Justin.tv (The MLB Network will replay the game at 9pm) and I have to say that the Taiwanese have really taken to Robinson Cano. You could see a multitude of signs in the stands about Cano everytime the camera panned around. He really has become a fan favorite of the Taiwanese. Cano has been very visible during his short stay in the country while attending a children's hospital, doing media appearances and sightseeing with his teammates. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Jack Curry of the YES Network has described some of the treatment Cano has received while in Taiwan on his twitter page. Here are some of the tweets by Curry:

Cano wore a T-Shirt emblazoned with Taiwanese flag, which made the fans chanted his name louder. He got rock star treatment and loved it.

Wild scene with Robinson Cano at a night market in Taiwan. 200 people chanted "Ca-no, Ca-no" & followed him around streets, stopping traffic

When Robinson Cano has stood in the on deck circle 2nite, its been akin 2 George Clooney being on the red carpet for a movie premiere


Curry also describes the rock star atmosphere surrounding Cano in his blogpost Cano, like Bieber, becoming a world celebrity.

What I didn't know was that Robinson Cano's father Jose Cano played professional baseball in the Uni-President Lions (1992-94) and the Wei Chuan Dragons (1998-99) in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) and with Jose accompanying his son on this trip, old memories will resurface while new ones are made.

Keep rocking like the rock star that we in New York City already know you are.

FH

For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Jack Curry's blogpost Cano, like Bieber, becoming a world celebrity from the YES Network website dated October 30, 2011
- Click Here to Access Doug Miller's article Hardball in Taiwan a family affair for Canos from the MLB website dated October 31, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What a Whirlwind Ride

I have to say that bar-tending has really made it hard from me to blog. Where I would have been jotting down ideas on slow nights prior to tending bar, now I find that my writing has been stunted. Hence why I posts here have been few and far between. So for that I apologize.

Anyhow, what a whirlwind ride for the 2011 World Series Champions the St. Louis Cardinals. Who, including myself, would have made that statement on the day that it was announced that Adam Wrainwright would be sidelined for the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. From the distractions due to Albert Pujols' contract situation to the potential of Tony La Russa not returning as manager (more on that in a bit) the Cardinals' improbable run to the title was every bit a Hollywood story. 

There's even a villain in the form of Nyjer Morgan who while twirling his imaginary mustache under his alter ego of Tony Plush proclaimed to the world that "Alberta" and the Cardinals would be watching the Brewers in the playoffs from the comforts of their houses. Well true believers, this may have been the proverbial straw to break the camel's back. To quote the immortal Popeye the Sailor Man: I've had all I can stand, I can't stands no more!. Indeed.

On August 25th the Cardinals were a whopping 10.5 games back of the Wild Card race. By the time September rolled around, the Cardinals engine was ignited and the team stormed to an 18-8 record winning series after series against such teams as Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Atlanta who they overtook for the Wild Card on the last day of the season leaving the Atlanta Braves dazed and confused. In doing so, what did the NL Wild Card Champs get for their accomplishment? The Cardinals were rewarded with a hefty prize of meeting the (some believed) uncrowned and eventual champions of Baseball: The 5x consecutive NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies and their vaunted offense and lethal pitching. Lo and behold (as I predicted), the Phillies succumbed to the momentum gaining Clydesdales known as the Cardinals in a five games. In doing so, it set up for the opportunity for payback in the form of a pairing between division rivals Brewers and Cardinals in the type of "high noon" duel seen in the old Wild West days. 

As with professional sports, the one that makes the bold bulletin board statement usually ends up eating them and this time was no exception. The Cardinals lead by "The Big Chill" David Freese and "El Hombre" Albert Pujols put the Brew-Crew on ice, celebrating with some ice cold Buds at Miller Park as they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in six games to advance against the offensive  juggernaut of the American League: The defending American League Champion Texas Rangers. 

The lawmen from Arlington believed that they sufficiently learned from losing to those Giants from the Bay Area in last season's Fall Classic but little did they know that these plucky little red-birds were up to the challenge. Trading blows for blows, the Cardinals stared into the massive chasm of defeat and took a dive into the darkness, taking the Rangers with them snatching a well deserved victory. The Rangers were left even more astonished than during last year's  World Series. In doing so the National League's royalty has added another title to it's now 11 World Series titles and 18 National League pennants. 

With their victory came the end of the  season and many unanswered questions for the Cardinals. Will Pujols resign. If so, will Freese become the man behind Pujols? Will Wainright return as dominant as he was in 2009 and 2010? Will Berkman be back in Cardinal Red? And the most important one after Pujols: Who will manage the Cardinals next season. 

Yes, future Hall of Famer manager Tony La Russa announced his retirement from managing.  La Russa, won 2,728 regular-season games, including 1,408 with the Cardinals to finish third in all-time wins behind Connie Mack and John McGraw to ride off victorious into sunset of the approaching cold winter that is the Baseball offseason. Well, its colder for the rest of us, since the St. Louis faithful will be kept warm with the memories of 2011.

FH

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Baseball Is A Beautiful Game

Only in a game like Baseball can the two most offensively charges teams and #1 seeds in both leagues get shutdown and eliminated in the first round. 

It just goes to show you that no matter how many people pick the favored teams, the games still have to e played and decided on the baseball diamond. With that the Phillies and the Yankees will be watching the Brewers vs. Cardinals and Rangers vs. Tigers with the rest of us...from home.

This wacky season has just gotten wackier. And for the record, even though I have substantial egg on my face for the two series I predicted wrong (Yanks and Rays winning their respective series in 4) and one I got partially right (Brewers in 4) I predicted the most improbable series right on the head: Cardinals over the Phillies in 5.

Wacky indeed.

FH

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Ode to the New York Yankees as a Yankees Fan

Normally I would try to write something like this about the team that I have rooted for my whole life: The New York Yankees. But there are times that the words are captured by others and presented in a way that I have to say "WOW!". This happened tonight and I decided to quote my friend Petros. This is what he had to say about the Yankees upon their loss to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS:

So the Yankees lose. I'm content. I've watched uhhemm...a few World Series wins, a few events in the history of baseball that were provided by Yankee players and teams, and I've had many disappointments, but in the end like I said before, I'm content. As for the other teams that I can root for well....I've had few reasons to change or even jump the bandwagon, even after 34 years of following baseball as a Yankee fan, and even fathom liking another team especially the crappy Mets or even the BlowSox

The funny thing is now we are all looking towards free agency, what'll happen with Cashman, will Girardi even be here, and what's gonna happen (time to go) Posada. We're in the period of closure from our past Championships and now look forward to a change of guard, a new identity, and a new Yankees team to root for in the future. Which probably include more Championships than any other team's accumulated championships in their franchise history..Just saying


I couldn't have said it any better myself. That's how we Yankees fans should look at this loss. No offense to the fans of the team about to mention but we could be Mariners fans who never have had a World Series appearance let alone a win. Or we can be Padres fans who never won a series or even a Cubs fan who hasn't smelled a World Series since 1945 or a World Series win since 1908. Instead of complaining about the negative and about how the team lost, we should appreciate that we have a team that gives up hope year in and year out.

Instead of placing blame and being negative about any particular player or players, I'll just be freezing waiting for Spring Training 2012. Here's to objective observation of the rest of the MLB playoffs.

FH

2011 Award Predictions Part 1

Here are my predictions for the 2011 End of Year awards

AL manager of the year

A week or two ago I told my buddy Jake that I believed that the award would come down to Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers and Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers. Well folks, as we all know things have changed in the MLB landscape. With their torrid run during the month of September, (9-games back on September 3rd) the Tampa Bay Rays caught the Boston Red Sox and won the AL Wild Card slot in dramatic fashion. That alone would be enough but the Rays were decimated at the beginning of the season through free-agency losses and trades and still were able to reach the post-season through savvy signings and faith in their farm system. Without going on any further, your 2011 American League Manager of the Year will be Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays. 

NL Manager of the Year

In almost similar fashion to the AL, the Wild card, the race came down to the last day of the season with the team who was down almost double digits in the standings winning the last playoff slot. The St. Louis Cardinals, led by future Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa, came storming back from 8.5 games to catch and pass the Atlanta Braves. 

Unlike the AL Manager of the Year race, I don't think the Wild Card manager will win. Two rookie managers led their teams to division titles but one did so following a 2010 campaign where his team went 65-97, did not do much in the off-season and was not expected to do much this season. In leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 94-68 record and a National League West Division Title, I believe that the 2011 National League Manager of the Year award will go to Kirk Gibson. In doing so Gibson would become the 3rd player to win MVP and Manager of the Year (Frank Robinson and Joe Torre) (February 20, 2011 - Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

AL Rookie of the Year
Early indicators showed that Seattle's rookie starting pitcher Michael Pineda would be a favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year. His early season production reflected the faith of the prognosticators but the season can be long, production can fall and others step into focus. 

This is the case with New York Yankees rookie starter Ivan Nova. After a brief stint in the majors in 2010, Nova was seen as being a potential candidate for the fifth starter in the rotation even being sent down before the All-Star break. By seasons end, Nova emerged as a viable number two starter. Nova finished the season with a strong 16-4 record with 3.70 ERA in 28 games and 165.1 innings pitched and 167 hits with 98 strikeouts and 57 walks with a WHIP of 1.331. His performance had earned him a start for the Yankees in Game Two of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. But I believe that won't be enough to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. I believe that the award will go to a player who has been deemed to be the future of a franchise in dire need of a superstar franchise player and who had indeed lived up to the hype in his rookie season. I believe that the AL Rookie of the Year Award will go to Kansas City Royals first-baseman Eric Hosmer. 

Hosmer was called up on May 5, 2011 and never looked back. In 128 games, Hosmer hit .293 with 153 hits (27 2B/3 3B/19 HR) and 78 RBIs and 66 runs scored. Hosmer's OPS was .799 (.334 OBP/.465 SLG) and struck out 82 times with 39 walks and 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Whether or not he continues to live to the hype remains to be seen but for his rookie year he has.

NL Rookie of the Year
This was deemed to be a year of pitching dominance in the National League. The defending champion San Francisco Giants had their vaunted starting pitching, Milwaukee made moves to improve their front five and let me knot forget the Murderers Row of starters in Philadelphia. When the early magazine and article photos on the Phillies rotation came out, the starting five would be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. Little did people in Baseball know that a rookie would crack their rotation and fit right into the number four slot in the rotation. Vance Worley 11-3 record with 3.01 ERA in 25 games and 131.2 innings pitched and 116 hits with 119 strikeouts and 46 walks with a WHIP of 1.230. But like Ivan Nova, I don't believe that it will be enough to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. My Prediction for the award is Craig Kimbrell of the Atlanta Braves.

Kimbrel posted a 4-3 record with a 2.10 ERA in 79 games and 77 innings pitched with 48 hits, 129 strikeouts and 32 walks for a WHIP of 1.039. Kimbrel set the major league record for the longest streak of scoreless games (38 appearances). Though he seemed to stumble near the end of the season, I believe he will still win the National League Rookie of the Year.

AL Comeback Player of the Year

Though the New York Yankees have two viable candidates in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, I believe the award will go to Kansas City Royals outfielder Melky Cabrera.

Cabrera hit .305 with 201 hits (44 2B/5 3B/18 HR) and 87 RBIs and 102 runs scored. Cabrera's OPS was .809 (.339 OBP/.470 SLG) and struck out 94 times with 35 walks and 20 stolen bases in 30 attempts.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

I can admit when I'm wrong. During the offseason I wrote the following about one particular signing the St. Louis Cardinals made: 

The outfield trio will be without Jim Edmonds who chose to retire. What I find puzzling, is that Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak chose the plodding Lance Berkman to replace Edmonds. Berkman showed nothing while with the Yankees down the stretch last season. He played first for the Houston Astros since he didn't have the range to play in the outfield and he's going to play one of the corners for the Cardinals. Unbelievable. Colby Rasmus is going to have to take his vitamins daily to have the energy to cover the range that Berkman can't cover. Not to mention that Berkman is no longer the hitter he was during his heyday with the Astros. Maybe returning to the NL will be good for him. It better for the sake of the Redbirds.

Well, Lance "You're a Bum" (inside joke folks) Berkman lost weight, got into shape and was a NL MVP candidate at the All-Star break. Berkman stepped up his game when Albert Pujols went down with injury and has been a big reason why his team is tied with the #1 seed Philadelphia Philles in the NLDS.

Berkman hit .301 with 147 hits (23 2B/2 3B/31 HR) and 94 RBIs and 90 runs scored. Berkman's OPS was .959 (.412 OBP/.547 SLG) and struck out 93 times with 92 walks.

Ok folks, that's it for now. Next prediction post will be the AL and NL Cy Young Award.

FH

Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 ALDS NLDS Predictions

The first pitch of the 2011 MLB Playoff season will be thrown in roughly three hours when Texas Rangers left-hander takes the mound in Texas against the AL Wild Card winner Tampa Bay Rays. In anticipation of today's games, I've decided to make my predictions for the first round of the playoffs. Here goes.

#2 Texas Rangers vs. #4 Tampa Bay Rays
In a rematch from last year's first round match-up, the Rangers have home field advantage when the meet the Tampa Bay Rays. Holding a slight lead in the season series against the Rays (5-4) the Rangers just might be the most balanced team in the AL. But I have a problem going against the hot team. The Rays crawled back from a nine game deficit in the Wild Card race and did so by winning the playoff slot in dramatic fashion with a walk-off by franchise player Evan Longoria. I believe the Rays will ride the wave of euphoria to a first round defeat of the Rangers.

My Pick: Rays over Rangers in Five

#1 New York Yankees vs. #3 Detroit Tigers

In a season where the New York Yankees were picked to finish second and even third in the AL East, the Bombers continued to prove those naysayers wrong all season long rolling along to win the AL East and lead the AL with the best regular season record. They face a Detroit Tigers team who is led by Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander and MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera among others. The Tigers hold a slight lead in the season series (4-3) against the Yankees and the spotlight is shining specifically in the marque pitching duel of C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. I think the Yankees have the offense that can make Verlander work. There really isn't an easy out in their lineup and I think that will be the deciding factor in who wins the series. I believe there is too much being made about the Yankees rotation issues. I mean, all the playoff teams have pitching issues with the exception of the Philadelphia Phillies.

My Pick: Yankees over Tigers in Four

#1 Philadephia Phillies vs. #4 St. Louis Cardinals

I'm going to go on a major ledge here but I think if anyone in the NL can beat the Phillies at this point in time it is the St. Louis Cardinals. Why? well, like the Rays they are super hot. Pujols, Carpenter and company should thank Mr. Tony Plush of the Milwaukee Brewers for lighting a fire under them. Since that series with the Brewers, the Cardinals are 16-6 and have been playing some of the best baseball in the league and the Phillies have the privilege of playing them in the first round. the season series is firmly in the favor of the Cardinals (6-3). And the Phillies? What can I say. They have an astounding offense, the best pitching in the league and a very capable manager. So I must be nuts with what I have to say next. Right? Even I have doubts in my prediction but what the heck. Never let it be said that I don't like climbing on the ledge for the fun of it.

My Pick: Cardinals over Phillies in Five

#2 Milwaukee Brewers vs. #4 Arizona Diamondbacks

The Brewers come into this series with high hopes after setting a franchise record in wins with 96 wins. This team is offensively stacked and is led by MVP candidates Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. On the pitching side, their rotation in solid. On the other side Arizona is led by Cy Young candidate and 21-game winner Ian Kennedy. They have shown that they can compete with the Brewers having an edge in the season series (4-3). I have to be honest, aside from Juston Upton, I really don't know much about the Arizona Diamondbacks offense. Maybe that's what Arizona has counted on all season while they won game after game on their way to the NL West title. That said, I have a hard time seeing the Brewers losing in the first round.

My Pick: Brewers over Diamondbacks in Four

So there it goes. Lets see if next week I'll have egg on my face or a big smile.

FH

How My 2011 League Predictions Turned Out

Since this is the time of year of making predictions for the Post-season, I've decided to throw my proverbial two cents into the mix. Before I do so, I wanted to look back at my pre-season predictions to see how accurate I was in my picks.

Here is how my standings looked like on March 27th, 2011:

AL East
New York
Boston
Tampa Bay
Toronto
Baltimore

AL Central
Chicago
Minnesota
Detroit
Cleveland
Kansas City

AL West
Oakland
Texas
Anaheim
Seattle

NL East
Philadelphia
Atlanta
Florida
New York
Washington

NL Central
Milwaukee
Cincinnati
St. Louis
Chicago
Houston
Pittsburgh

NL West
San Francisco
Los Angeles
Colorado
San Diego
Arizona

AL Wild Card: Boston
NL Wild Card: Atlanta


Well now, those darn Braves and Red Sox made a real mess of my Wild Card predictions. Enough has been said on that point since Wednesday night.

In the AL East, I was on point until the last day of the season. As we all know Tampa Bay stormed back from the brink to catch the Red Sox. The rest of the AL East showed why that division is the toughest in Baseball. With the exception of Baltimore, the division was made up of teams with .500 records and better.

On the other hand the AL Central was a big disappointment. I picked the teams all wrong. I would have never thought the Twins to be in last place. It really was a rough season all round for the AL Central since the Detroit Tigers was the only division team to finish at .500 or better.

I also made a mess of my AL West predictions. The only team I picked to finish correctly was the Seattle Mariners and that really wasn't much of a stretch. So much for the new and improved Oakland A's.

Over in the Senior Circuit, I was 3-for-5 in my divisional predictions with the Marlins and the Nationals trading places in the standings. The Nationals finished one game under .500 in a season where they made major moves in the offseason and it looks as if they are going to try and do so again this offseason. The future is bright in Washington. The same can be said in Miami since the Marlins will be getting a new home, a new name and a new manager. The sound bytes coming from the NL East should improve immediately with the arrival of Ozzie Guillen in Little Havana.

The NL Central picks started with Milwaukee and that's all I got right. Cincinnati regressed, St. Louis overcame, Pittsburgh surprised, Chicago was well Chicago and Houston just plain sucked. Enough said.

Over in the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks proved the majority of people wrong by going 94-68 and winning the NL West. I wish I could say that I picked them but I picked them to finish dead last in the division with the 2010 World Series Champions winning the division. The order that I picked the rest of the teams was accurate just not in correct slots in the standings.

In total I went 7-for-30 with my pre-season predictions. Let's hope I have better luck with my ALDS and NLDS predictions.

FH

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jose Reyes Batting Title Controversy

With the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets playing an early afternoon match-up in Flushing today to end the season, controversy emerged after the first at-bat of the game. Jose Reyes led the game with a lead-off bunt single and was replaced by Justin Turner. Speculation ran rampant with people wondering did Reyes take himself out or did manager Terry Collins take him out with the intention to protect his lead in the batting race. With his 1-for-1 day, Reyes increased his lead average by .003 points to .337. This left the next batter in the race, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun with a .334 batting average and needing a 3-for-4 night to catch Reyes. As of right now Braun has gone 0-for-4 and it would seem as if Jose Reyes would be the 2011 National League Batting Champion and the only batting champion in the history of the New York Mets. But my question is this: Was the move the right one?

As we now know, it was Jose Reyes' choice to be taken out of the game after his only at-bat. Reyes was quoted by Adam Rubin of ESPN New York as stating the following:

"I said, 'If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game,'" Reyes said. "And I did that. If I went 0-for-1, maybe I'm still in the game until I get a hit. ... I wanted to stay in the game, but (Mets fans) have to understand, too, what's going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title. I do that for the team, for the fans too, because they've been supporting me all the way through. I've (had) throughout my career a lot of ups and downs here with a lot of injuries. One thing I do all the time is give 100 percent on the field."

When asked what he thought about the move, Braun took what I seemed to believe was a very diplomatic route:

"I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and ultimately he left the door open for me," Braun told MLB.com. "I know it's not impossible. I've gotten three hits in a game plenty of times. It's still attainable, still a possibility. If he had stayed in the game and gotten multiple hits, it would not have been a possibility at all. I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and I'm not really here to judge him."

It would seem as fate is not without a sense of irony. It would seem as if Reyes tried to protect his lead on a day when back in 1941 Hall of Famer Ted Williams could have taken a similar route to protect his batting lead. In Williams' case, he was batting .3999955 going into a season ending doubleheader. Had he decided not to play, he would have ended the season at .400 with his average rounded up to the highest number. Instead of taking that route, Williams validated his season and his place in history by hitting a combined 6-for-8 ending his season at .406 and being the last man to ever lead the league with a .400+ batting average. Sure Reyes wasn't going for .400, Maybe we fans would always like to see players taking actions that are for the good of the game rather than the good of their individual numbers. Like my friend Keith said, the Mets were not playing for anything important so why shouldn't Reyes go for his own individual achievement. Reyes is the one who will have to answer the questions and from what I've read in the Rubin piece, Reyes isn't concerned with his decision.

In the end, Reyes' actions in protecting his lead aren't unprecedented. ESPN blogger David Schoenfield his blogpost Jose Reyes leaves game to protect title describes six different occasions where players have have pulled themselves out of a game to preserve their batting title lead. It is an interesting read, I highly recommended it.

Reyes becomes the first New York Met player to win the National League batting title. What might be more important for the Mets is whether or not Reyes will be wearing the blue pinstripes next season or if he will be taking his dynamic mode of play somewhere else. Only time will tell.

FH

For Further Reading

- Click Here to access Jimmy Hascup's article Mets' Jose Reyes Asked To Leave Game After Single To Protect NL Batting Title Lead from NewYork.SBNation.com dated September 28, 2011
- Click Here to access Adam Rubin's artice Jose Reyes: My choice to leave after hit from ESPN New York dated September 28, 2011
- Click Here to access David Schoenfield's article Jose Reyes leaves game to protect title from his blogpost the Sweetspot which is on ESPN.com dated September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2011 Wild Card Races Super Hot

The Wild Card races are super heated with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays being tied for the AL Wild Card while the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals are tied for the NL Wild Card. In an unprecedented manner, we may see TWO one game playoffs to decide who makes it into the Postseason and who goes home. I guess if we see a tie to end the season, it would be a prelude of what might end up happening with the proposed extra Wild Card team in each league possibly starting next season.

There have been three occasions where there has been a tie for the Wild Card at seasons end. All three have occurred in the National League.

- In 1998, the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants were tied with a 90-73 record. The Cubs would defeat the Giants by a score of 5-3 to face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

- In the next season, the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds were tied with a 97-66 record. The Mets would defeat the Reds 5-0 on a two-hit complete game shutout by Al Leiter to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

- In 2007, the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres tied with a 90-73 record. The Rockies defeated the Padres in a thrilling 13-inning game by a score of 9-8 with the Rockies scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the 13th to win the game after the Padres took a two run lead in the top of the 13th. The red-hot Rockies would defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS before losing to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

MLB has announced the schedule for the potential tie-breaker match-ups if the Wild Card participants remain tied after tomorrow's games. The Tampa Bay Rays would host the Boston Red Sox at 4:07pm and the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Atlanta Braves at 8:07pm. The home team was determined by the head-to-head wins and losses, The Rays decisively led the season series against the Red Sox 12-6 while the Cardinals led the season series against the Braves 5-1.

The amazing part of this historic scenario is that both the Red Sox and Braves squandered decisive Wild Card leads heading into September. The Rays trailed Boston by nine games while the Braves has a 8.5-game lead on September 1st. The ending to the 2011 season is shaping up quite nicely. Here's to hoping for those two tie-breaker games on Thursday.

FH

PS: Thanks goes to Melvin Nivar for planting the seed for this post. Once he mentioned I should write it, I couldn't help myself.

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Year End Ballot

As part of our requirements for membership in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance(BBA), we have to make our selection for the alliance's year end predictions. The five awards are as so:

- Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
- Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
- Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
- Walter Johnson Award (Top Starter)
- Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)


So without further ado, here are my predictions for the awards: 

1. Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay Rays)
Kirk Gibson (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Ron Roenicke (Milwaukee Brewers)

2. Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals)
Ivan Nova (New York Yankees)

3. Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
Jose Valverde (Detroit Tigers)
Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)

4. Walter Johnson Award (Top Starter)
Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)
Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Ian Kennedy (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies)
C.C. Sabathia (New York Yankees)

5. Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)
Adrian Gonzalez (Boston Red Sox)
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)
Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees)
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)
Michael Young (Texas Rangers)
Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers)
Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies)
Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)

In my next post, I'll elaborate further on my predictions for the end of the year award based on league.

FH

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yu Darvish or Haven't They Learned Their Lesson Yet

I've been thinking about this one for a while and I wanted to elaborate on what the title mean. First off, in case you don't know, Yu Darvish is currently the best starting pitcher in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). The 25-year old pitcher for the Nippon Ham Fighters is currently one of the heavily scouted players by MLB teams in Japan. Why? Well, according to Jason Coskrey and Kaz Nagatsuka in their MLB scouts doing due diligence on Fighters' Darvish from the Japan Times dated September 5, 2011:

In his seventh year as a professional, Darvish is 91-36 with a 2.04 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. So far this season, Darvish is 16-4 with a 1.54 ERA. Through 21 starts, he has 206 strikeouts, marking his fourth season with at least 200.

So on paper Darvish seems to be a jewel of a find for any MLB team that would be open to post for him. A quick and concise explanation on how the posting process works can be found here at the page Posting System on BaseballReference.com. This is where things can get complicated. First off, Darvish is not a free agent at the end of the year. In the NPB the rules concerning how free agency is attained are stricter than how free agency is attained for players in MLB. According to Ryan Webber in his article Japanese Free Agency from Sportsagentblog.com dated November 13, 2009:

Starting in 2009, there are two classes of free agents: international and domestic. Domestic free agents can only sign with other NPB teams while international free agents are free to try their luck overseas as well as sign domestically...In order to qualify as an international free agent, players must play nine seasons in the NPB. To qualify as a domestic free agent, players drafted before 2007 must wait eight seasons. Players drafted after 2007 are only required to wait seven seasons before being declared domestic free agents. This is a much longer period than in MLB.

Also, in contrast to MLB regulations, players must be on the team’s top roster for 145 days in order for it to count as a “year” for free agency purposes. Time spent injured or in the minors does not count. Therefore, it can take much longer than eight or nine years for a player to be eligible for free agency in Japan.


So in Darvish's case he can become a domestic free agent during next season and an international free agent during the 2014 season. It is believed that Darvish will asked to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters. If approved by Nippon Ham and the league then there will be a mad dash on MLB teams to try and put together the highest posting fee and hope their's gets picked. There are at least 10 teams scouting Darvish among them being the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Herein lies the meaning of the second part of the title to this post.

I was telling a couple of friends of mine who are Yankees fans of the Yankees' attempts to scout Darvish and after a couple of perplexing looks from them, they both almost voiced the same statement in unison: Haven't they learned their lesson yet? In case you don't know, the Yankees have been burned when it comes to Japanese pitching in the form of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa. Theoretically you can say that every MLB team has been burned by Japanese starting pitching not living up to their expectations though Daisuke Matsuzaka did put up a 33-15 record with a 3.72 ERA in 61 games (61 starts) with 355 stikeouts and 155 walks his first two seasons with the Red Sox before injuries and ineffectiveness have limited him to a 16-15 record with a 5.03 in 45 games (44 starts) with 213 strikeouts and 127 walks. Perhaps if the Red Sox hadn't shelled out a whopping $51,111,111.11 posting fee on top of a six-year, $52 million dollar contract the ineffectiveness would be felt less by the Red Sox Nation. Position players such as Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and to a certain degree Akinori Iwamura lived up to the expectations. No Japanese starting pitcher since Hideo Nomo has been able to meet up to the same kind of expectatios. But back to Darvish.

In the Coskrey and Nagatsuka article, they say that MLB scouts view Darvish favorably when compared to current MLB starters. How can a team looking to stay competitive such as the Yankees and the Red Sox who play in Baseball's most competitive division ignore a potential ace such as Darvish. As with any player who is scouted, it can be a crap shoot. Look at Jose Bautista, who could have predicted two years ago that he'd be such a dominant player. On the flip side, look at Jason Heyward who had an impressive rookie season and is struggling this season. The scouting is never guaranteed to bring success. Teams just have to sometimes take a chance on a player and hope for the best which is what teams hope to do with Yu Darvish. This whole thing can be made moot if Darvish does not ask to be posted or if he does ask to be posted and the team decides not to. Until then we'll just have to wait and see.

*** Photo Credit goes to the Japanese Baseball Card Blog Page

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Yu Darvish's career statistics from the NPB website

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hey Scoop we got all brothers out here

September 1 in Major League Baseball is known as the day when the rosters are expanded to accommodate the minor leaguers that have earned a brief promotion to the major leagues. But on September 1, 1971 in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania something happened in a major league baseball game that had never happened before. 

Pirates manager Danny Murtagh had prepared the lineup that he planned to field against the Philadelphia Phillies as he would have done for any other game for the exception of one little detail. Before I go into the little detail, here is the lineup:

Rennie Stennett (2B)
Gene Clines (CF)
Roberto Clemente (RF)
Willie Stargell (LF)
Manny Sanguillen (C)
Dave Cash (3B)
Al Oliver (1B)
Jackie Hernandez (SS)
Dock Ellis (P)


What was different about this lineup from any other lineup that Murtagh  (or any other manager in Major League baseball up to that point) had ever written up was that this lineup was the first starting lineup that was made up of players of color. Considering  that they color line was broken only 24 years prior by Jackie Robinson in 1947, it was an amazing and historic event.

Was there a reason past just winning the game for Murtagh's decision? It's hard to say. Murtagh had been quoted as such when asked about the lineup for the article "Pirates Starters All Black" which was printed in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:

"When it comes to making out the lineup, I'm color blind and my athletes know it. They don't know it because I told them, but they know it because they are familiar with the way I operate."

The Pirates roster was a cosmopolitan blend of 14 whites, six African-Americans and seven Latinos. According to Bruce Markensen's article Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup:

In 1971 the Pirates represented baseball’s most heavily integrated team, with black and Latino players accounting for nearly fifty percent of the club’s roster.  The Pirates also featured one of baseball’s most harmonious teams, with friendships and gatherings often crossing racial lines

The reason for the team being called the "All-Black team" rather than let's say the "All-Black/Latino Team" (as I chose to do so) is that at the time there wasn't much in the way of distinguishing African American and Latino players past the color of their skin which always seemed to upset Roberto Clemente. Clemente always stressed that he was Puerto Rican and should be regarded as a Latino because of it rather than the color of skin. So what happened in the game?

In front of just 11,278 fans, the Pirates defeated the Phillies by a score of 10-7. History and continued progress was made that day.

FH

For Further Reading:
There are two excellent articles that cover the subject of the Pittsburgh pirates starting lineups of September 1, 1971

- Click Here to access Bruce Markensen's article Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup from baseballguru.com

- Click Here to access Charlie Vascellaro's article Bucs broke ground with first all-minority lineup dated September 1, 2011 from MLB.com 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

C.C. Sabathia, Ron Guidry, Cy Young and 18 Strikeouts

My son and I attended last night’s Yankees-Mariners game and were treated to a gem of a game. C.C. Sabathia continued on his march to another dominating season. In between a few rain delays, Sabathia utterly dominated the Mariners. Sabathia took a perfect game into the 7th inning fanning 14 Mariners while allowing only 1-hit and 3-walks leading the Yankees to a 4-1 victory. This loss was the 17th straight defeat for the Mariners tying the 1926 Boston Red Sox, 1962 Mets, and 1977 Atlanta Braves with 17 losses in a row. This leaves the Mariners four losses short of the American League record of 21 straight losses currently held by the 1988 Baltimore Orioles and six losses shy of the Major League record 23 straight losses held by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies. But I digress, back to Sabathia and the Yankees.

With his victory last night, Sabathia is 15-5 with a 2.56 ERA with 3 complete games and 1 shutout in 23 games started. Sabathia has struck out 156 while walking only 45 and allowing 143 hits for a WHIP of 1.15. It’s a shame that Sabathia will probably be overlooked for Cy Young consideration once again. Many of the voters have the misconception that since Sabathia pitches for the Yankees he’s expected to win. As if winning games day in and day out playing on the Yankees is a given. Sure, Sabathia (and every other Yankees starter) is given one of the best lineups in baseball batting behind him but he still has to go out and do the job which in the last three seasons with the Yankees he’s done so at the tune of a 55-20 record. Not to say that the other Cy Young candidates such as Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver aren’t deserving of consideration, but it just seems that Sabathia doesn’t get the accolades he deserves when it comes to Cy Young voting while he plays on the Yankees. We’ll see how it plays out at the end of the season.

In total, three Yankees pitchers (Sabathia, Robertson and Rivera) struck out a total of 18 Mariners tying the franchise record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game. This performance tied the achievement of another Yankees ace. The franchise record was set in 1978 against the California Angels. On June 17, 1978 Ron Guidry struck out 18 California Angels leaving him one strikeout behind the then Major League record of 19 strikeouts which was then held by five players (Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Hugh Daily and Charlie Sweeney). The current record is 20 strikeouts in a 9-inning game and his held by Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens (who achieved the feat twice). During a tumultuous 1978 season for the New York Yankees, Guidry was the constant bright spot for the team. Guidry led the league with a 25-3 record with a 1.78 ERA in 273.2 innings pitched with 16 complete games and 9 shutouts in 35 games. He struck out 248 while walking 72 and allowing 187 hits for a WHIP of 0.946. Guidry was a dominating constant in a season where the Yankees overcame the distractions of internal squabbling and managerial turmoil.

The Yankees had three different managers that season (Billy Martin, Dick Howser and Bob Lemon) and were 14.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox in July. By the end of the season, the Yankees were able to tie the Boston Red Sox for first place forcing a one game playoff in Boston which was capped by Bucky Dent’s 3-run homerun for a 5-4 victory and the AL East title. The Yankees would defeat their league nemesis the Kansas City Royals in four games in the AL Championship Series and would defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the 75th World Series. For his part, Guidry would win the AL Cy Young Award unanimously with all 28 first place votes.

Fast forwarding to today from 1978, can C.C. Sabathia continue his dominating season and possibly join Ron Guidry as Yankees pitchers to win the Cy Young? We’ll have to wait until after October to find that out. Until then, I’ll just have to keep watching the big guy game in and game out. On a separate little side note, is there anyone out there that still thinks that the Yankees overpaid for Sabathia?

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here for C.C. Sabathia's career statistics from Baseball-Reference.com
- Click Here for Ron Guidry's career statistics from Baseball-Reference.com
- Click Here to access the List of Major League Baseball pitchers with 18 strikeouts or more in one game from Wikipedia.com
- Click Here to access the five longest losing streaks in MLB during the last 50 years from the article Daily list: Long baseball losing streaks dated July 25, 2011 from the Detroit Free Press website

Friday, July 22, 2011

Alfonso Soriano and How the Mighty Have Fallen

In March of 2010 I wrote a post on my Latinoball blog site called ¿Que Le Paso a Alfonso Soriano?. In this post, I reference an article that I had read from the Washington Post, which basically said that the Chicago Cubs did not get what they paid for in Soriano. Here the Cubs are left with four years on his contract at the sum of $18 million per year until 2014. With Soriano currently batting .249 with 14HR and 41 RBI with 76 strikeouts and only 16 walks it seems that the Cubs are willing to eat a significant part of Soriano’s contract in order to move him.

Mike Axisa of MLBTradeRumors.com states in his article Cubs Willing To Eat High Percentage Of Soriano's Deal that based on sources the Cubs would be:

"willing to absorb a high percentage" of the money left on his deal if the right trade offer came along. There is more than $60M left on his eight-year, $136MM contract.

Soriano also has a full no-trade clause that unbeknown to him was included in his contract. In an interview with Chicago Sun-Times reporter Gordon Wittenmyer Soriano had the following to say about waiving his no-trade clause:

"If it was a contender, yes," Soriano said of waiving the no-trade. "Of course, I want to win. I want to win here. But if not here, then somewhere else. . . .First of all, I don’t want to leave here. I want to stay here because we’ve got to win it. But if they want to trade me, I think the team they would want to trade me to would be a contender that I could help."

If the last few seasons are an indication, the Chicago Cubs will not be winning anything anytime soon. Discarding players like Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano and rebuilding the team around players such as Starlin Castro might be the way to go.

It seems that at the age of 35, (yes Yankees fans, it has been 10 seasons since Soriano almost won the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a homerun against Curt Schilling in the 6th inning of Game 7) that Soriano’s best days might be behind him. A future in the AL as a potential DH and occasional outfield replacement might be his best bet.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here for Alfonso Soriano's career statistics from Baseball-Reference.com

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pumpsie Green and July 21, 1959

It was on today's date in 1959 that the Boston Red Sox brought up a switch hitting infield utility player of the name of Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green. Why is the promotion of a switch hitting utility player during 1959 something of importance? With the promotion of Green to the Major Leagues, all 16 teams of Major League Baseball had now been integrated. Starting with the signing of Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 28, 1945 (and his becoming the first black player to cross the color barrier on April 15, 1947) it took twelve years for all 16 teams to have at least one black player. Now I say black rather than African American since if you look at the list of the first players to integrate the 16 teams, not all of them were African American:

Brooklyn Dodgers – Jackie Robinson (1947)
Cleveland Indians – Larry Doby (1947)
St. Louis Browns – Hank Thompson (1947)
New York Giants – Hank Thompson (1949)
Boston Braves – Sam Jethroe (1950)
Chicago White Sox – Minnie Minoso (1951)
Philadelphia Athletics – Bob Trice (1953)
Chicago Cubs – Ernie Banks (1953)
Pittsburgh Pirates – Curt Roberts (1954)
St. Louis Cardinals – Tom Alston (1954)
Cincinnati Reds – Nino Escalera (1954)
Washington Senators – Carlos Paula (1954)
New York Yankees – Elston Howard (1955)
Philadelphia Phillies – John Kennedy (1957)
Detroit Tigers – Ozzie Virgil (1958)
Boston Red Sox – Pumpsie Green (1959)


Four of them were from Latin America (If you want to know more about these players, you can click here: Black Latino Pioneers from my Latinoball blog page). Back to Green.

Green's first appearance came as a pinch runner against the Chicago White Sox on July 21, 2011. His role would normally be that of a defensive infield replacement and pinch runner for the four years (1959-1962) he played with the Red Sox. Green would play his last season with the New York Mets in 1963.

Green's best season was in 1961 when in 88 games he batted .260 with 57 hits (12 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR) and 27 RBI in 219 at-bats. Green walked 42 times while striking out 32 times and stealing 4 out of 6 bases. 

The promotion of Green in 1959 casts a negative light on the Red Sox not due to Green himself, but that it took so long for the team to integrate. This could have been avoided on two earlier occasions if the airs of racial intolerance had not permeated the Boston Red Sox. The first time was in April of 1945 when under pressure of the removal of their Sunday day permit allowing the team to play Baseball by local City Councilor Isadore Muchnick, the Red Sox held a tryout for three African American players. One was Marvin Williams. The second was Sam Jethroe, and the third was Jackie Robinson.

The other occasion was in 1949 when Red Sox scouts refuse to waste their time waiting for rain to stop falling so they could scout a young black player named Willie Mays. The thought of Willie Mays and Ted Williams patrolling the same outfield is mind boggling. So instead of Boston being the first team to integrate their racial stubbornness caused them to be the last team to integrate. And the rest is history.

For a more in depth look at the racial climate in Boston in relation to the Red Sox I recommend that you check out Howard Bryant's book called Shut Out: A History of Race and Baseball in Boston

In a weird twist of fate for Pumpsie Green, following a series of losses to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Green and fellow teammate Gene Conley got off of the team bus while sitting in a traffic jam in the Bronx. They went to a bar to use the restroom and after a few drinks, they exited the bar and noticed the bus was gone. Green rejoined the team the next day. Conley went missing for a total three days spending his time at Toots Shor and at the Waldorf Astoria He would be spotted at Idlewild Airport (now known as JFK International Airport) trying to board a flight for Israel without any passports or luggage of any kind. Why? That question has never been answered.

FH

For Further Reading
- Click Here for Pumpsie Green's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here for the article The Boston Red Sox and Racism dated October 11, 2002 from the NPR.org website
- Click Here to access the article Red Sox Give Jackie Robinson Tryout at Fenway Park in 1945, Two Years Before He Breaks MLB Color Barrier dated June 26, 2011 from NESN.com
- Click Here to access Dan Shaughnessy's article Conley's stories fit to print dated December 15, 2004 from the Boston Globe website

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yogi Berra 414 in 7555

There were a couple of old school baseball fans hanging out at the bar during the Boston Red Sox/Tampa Bay Rays marathon on ESPN last night. I’m not sure how they got into this conversation but I found it too good to ignore. The gentlemen were talking general baseball, reminiscing on the players they watched when they were kids. One of the men said he was 56 years old so for argument sake, he was a kid living in New York City during the 1960’s. After throwing around a bunch of names like Stargell, Clemente, Mantle and Williams they landed on the name of Yogi Berra.

The discussion was based around how many rings Yogi won during his major league career. One man said he had 10, the other said he had 15. The men deferred to me to be the mediator and researcher of the statistics and I was able to do so with my trusty iTouch. In total, Berra had won 13 rings during his time in the Major Leagues. He won 10 as a player and 3 as a coach. Satisfied with the answer I gave them, they moved on to another Yogi Berra statistic that I really couldn’t ignore.

The discussion changed to the fact that one of the men had heard that Yogi Berra had struck out a total of 414 times in his entire career. One of the men had said that he heard it being discussed on some telecast and the announcer who mentioned it said that he saw the statistic and though it was “a misprint”. Again, the men defer to me to be the voice of reason in their discussion and off I go to research whether or not Yogi Berra in fact only had 414 strikeouts for his career.

After checking out the Baseball Statistics app on my iTouch, lo and behold Yogi Berra did indeed have only 414 strikeouts. WOW!!!! To better flesh out how impressive this was I decided to look at all of his stats. Berra played for a total of 19 seasons (1948-1963, 1965) in which he had a career batting average of .285. In 7555 at-bats, Berra had 2150 hits (321 2B, 49 3B, 358 HR) with 1430 RBI. He had a career .830 OPS (.348OBP/.482 SLG) with 704 Walks and the aforementioned 414 strikeouts. That averages out to roughly 22 strikeouts per season. Per season! Now I know this is not a fair comparison but look at Mark Reynolds of the Baltimore Orioles. Reynolds has led the league the last three seasons in strikeouts with combined 638 strikeouts. But has the mentality of making contact changed that much from then to now?

I decided to compare Berra to other Hall of Fame catchers from within the years that he played ad found something interesting. The players I looked at were Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and Gabby Hartnett. All three players were phenomenal players from behind the plate.



Mickey Cochrane played for 13 seasons (1925-1937) and he compiled a .320 batting average with 1652 hits (333 2B, 64 3B, 119 HR) and 832 RBI in 5169 at-bats. His OPS was .897 (.419 OBP/.478 SLG) with 857 Walks, and 217 strikeouts. His highest of 26 strikeouts came in 1934 and his lowest of 8 came in 1929.

Bill Dickey played for 17 seasons (1928-1943, 1946) and he compiled a .313 batting average with 1969 hits (343 2B, 72 3B, 202 HR) and 1209 RBI in 6300 at-bats. His OPS was .868 (.382 OBP/.486 SLG) with 678 Walks and 289 strikeouts. His highest of 39 strikeouts came in 1939 and his lowest of 11 came in 1935.

Gabby Hartnett played for 20 seasons (1922-1941) and he compiled a .297 batting average with 1912 hits (396 2B, 64 3B, 236 HR) and 1179 RBI in 6432 at-bats. His OPS was .859 (.370 OBP/.489 SLG) with 703 Walks and 697 strikeouts. His highest of 77 strikeouts came in 1925 and his lowest of 19 came in 1937.

Why was it that these players strikeout to at-bat ratios was so miniscule compared to today’s players. Was it better plate discipline? Consider that Berra averaged 22 strikeouts per season with his highest being in 1959 with 38 strikeouts and his lowest being in 1950 with 12. Adding to that is the fact that during the what is known as New York City’s Golden Era of Baseball (1949-1957), Berra placed in the top ten of MVP voting seven times winning the AL MVP award three times and this is on a team with players like Mickey Mantle. Truly amazing.

Is there a simple explanation past that players like Berra, Cochrane, Dickey and Hartnett were extraordinary players and truly Hall of Famers? What do you think. Any sabermetricians want to add to this is? Let me know.

FH

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Derek Jeter Joins the 3000 Hit Club

Yesterday I had the pleasure to watch (on TV, not in person) Yankees' Captain Derek Jeter notch his 3000th hit with a homer against Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price. In doing so, Jeter became the 28th member of the exclusive 3000 hit club. He finished his day with a career 5 for 5 day with a homerun and a double with a stolen base. He drove in the winning run with his final hit of the day. To celebrate Jeter's achievement, I wanted to post some interesting points:

- 28th member of the 3000 hit club
- First Yankee to hit all 3000 with the team. EVER!!!
- Second player to hit a homer for his 3000th hit (Wade Boggs in 1999)
- Second player to get five hits the day he hit his 3000th hit (Craig Biggio in 2007)
- 15th Player to hit first 3000 with the same franchise (Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Musial, Anson, Yastrzemski, Mays, Ripken, Brett, Yount, Gwynn, Biggio, Kaline, Clemente)
- 10th Player to play for only one team for their career in the 3000 hit club (Brett (Royals), Roberto Clemente (Pirates), Tony Gwynn (Padres), Al Kaline (Tigers), Stan Musial (Cardinals), Cal Ripken (Orioles), Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) and Yount (Brewers))
- 18th player to do so with a .300+ career batting average (.313)
- 5th player to play with the Yankees to be in the 3000 hit club (Waner, Winfield, Boggs, Henderson)
- 14th Right handed hitter (12 left-handers, 2 switch hitters)
- 4th youngest to get 3000th hit at 37 years and 13 days of age (Cobb at 34 years 244 days, Aaron at 36 years 101 days, Yount 36 years 359 days)


Here are some of Derek Jeter's hits milestones:
1st hit 05/30/1995 against Seattle
1000th hit 09/25/2000 against Detroit
2000th hit 05/26/2006 against Kansas City
2722nd hit 09/11/2009 against Baltimore (Top of Yankees Hit list passing Lou Gehrig)
3000th hit 07/09/2011 against Tampa Bay


I can wax poetically on Jeter's achievement but I'll just let the statistics above speak for themselves. Oh, I just have one last thing to say about Derek Jeter: Hall of Famer.

FH

*** Keep in mind that of the 28 players who are in the 3000 hit club, 25 of them have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Biggio becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2012, Jeter obviously is still active and the proverbial black sheep of the 3000 hit club is Rafael Palmiero whose Hall of Fame status is jeopardized by his failure of a steriod test in 2005.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2011 MLB All-Star Game Starters Predictions

The MLB All-Star game is on the horizon and I've decided to make my predictions for the starters. Unlike those who stuff the ballot boxes at the stadium and mass email their favorite choices for the starters, mine is being done objectively and in many cases against team lines. I've always have had an issue with the fans voting entirely for the starters. I know, before you take me to task by stating that the game is for the fans, often the starters are elected because they are popular picks or their teams mount an aggressive campaign to get them voted in. The starters should start on the merit of their performances and not because of who they are. Ok then, I'll get off of my soapbox now. Here are my predictions:

American League:
 C Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (Boston Red Sox)
2B Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)
3B Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers)
SS Asdrubal Cabrera (Cleveland Indians)
OF Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)
OF Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston Red Sox)
DH David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
 P Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)

National League:
 C Brian McCann (Atlanta Braves)
1B Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds)
2B Richie Weeks (Milwaukee Brewers)
3B Placido Polanco (Philadelphia Phillies)
SS Jose Reyes (New York Mets)
OF Lance Berkman (St. Louis Cardinals)
OF Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)
OF Hunter Pence (Houston Astros) 
 P Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies)

Well, there goes. Agree? Disagree?

FH

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jeter, Reyes and the future of Shortstop in NYC

I awoke to see the following comments on my Facebook News Feed written by my friend Eric. The article that Eric is referring to is As Yankees face inevitable change from Derek Jeter at shortstop, time to make way for Jose Reyes by Tim Smith of the New York Daily News. Here is what Eric said:

If this kind of thought of trading for big name players at every position were around in the 90's there would have been no Jeter,Andy, Jorge , Bernie or Mariano. The writer is stuck in the Steinbrenner 80's

Now in defense of Jose Reyes, with the exception of the trade for Rickey Henderson in 1984, the Steinbrenner regime of the 1980's never, ever traded for a player of Jose Reyes' caliber. Guys like Jesse Barfield, Roy Smalley and Ken Phelps (I still shudder when I think of that trade) were more like the kind of players that Steinbrenner traded young talent such as Doug Drabek, Al Leiter and Jay Buhner to acquire. You can roll up all the position players that I mentioned and you still don't equal Jose Reyes.

Reyes is a franchise Shortstop as how Derek Jeter was seen earlier in his career. Now both are different types of players but the meaning to each others' organizations cannot be simply quantified. I found it amazing that Jeter's trip to the disabled list for a calf strain was his first stint on the DL since 2003. Sure, many writers and fans alike like to point out Jeter's diminishing skills, he is a consistent presence in the field and at bat for the Yankees. But is Reyes the person to take pick up the mantle from Jeter?

Do I think the Yankees need to look at the future of the Shortstop position. Absolutely. Granted Jeter is signed for the next three seasons, can he be productive in the field in the next two? I think the Yankees have a player currently on the bench that can step right in and that is Eduardo Nuñez. Based on his minor league statistics, Nuñez is a contact hitter with speed and a very good glove and will turn 24 today. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has stated that while Jeter is on the DL, Nuñez is his starter. So we'll get to see what Nuñez brings to the table. So given that, where does that leave Jose Reyes.

Reyes is in an enviable position. As I stated earlier, he's currently a franchise player in a position that is devoid of franchise players throughout the league. With the exception of Jimmy Rollins of the Philadephia Phillies, Troy Tulowitski of the Colorado Rockies, Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers and Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs are there any other Shortstops that you can think of as being franchise players? Add to the mix that Jose Reyes is ONLY 28, tearing up the league and playing on a team that is currently in financial straits. I believe the only course of action for the New York Mets is to trade Jose Reyes (as well as Carlos Beltran and possibly Francisco Rodriguez) for top prospects to replenish the system.

Consider that the top three prospects for the Mets as per Baseball America are 21-year old pitcher Jennry Mejia, 19-year old shortstop Wilmer Flores and outfielder 20 year old Cesar Puello. Mejia is slated to have Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow and will be lost for a year or more. Flores is currently batting .259 and Puello is batting .230 at Class A+ Florida State League. These players are young and have a long way to go before they reach the majors. Keep in mind that the last Mets' prospect to live up to his potential was Jose Reyes.

The move to trade Reyes would come difficult for the Mets. Reyes is beloved by the Mets faithful and is a dynamic player when healthy. I personally believe that he is a better player than Carl Crawford who Mets owner Fred Wilpon stated that Reyes would not garner the same kind of contract that Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox (7-year $142 million dollars). Consider that from 2005-2008, Reyes averaged 153 games played with a .287 batting average, 195 hits, 14 homeruns, 32 doubles, 17 triples, 66 RBI, 113 runs scored and 64 stolen bases. Aside from two injury filled seasons (2009-2010), Reyes is back to form with a league leading .346 batting average, a league leading 97 hits, 3 homers, 19 doubles and a league leading 11 triples, 27 RBI, 49 Runs scored and 22 stolen bases. So if Reyes is traded, are the Yankees the best fit.

The Yankees have a plethora of minor league talent in the form of catchers Jesus Montero and Austin Romine and pitchers Manny Banelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and current major leaguers Hector Noesi and Ivan Nova. Ideally, the Yankees should continue the approach that GM Brian Cashman has taken and continue to develop the talent, keeping the system stocked and working from within. As alluring as a trade for Reyes would be, I think the Yankees are better off passing on Reyes and continue to groom Nuñez as Jeter's heir apparent. Where I think Reyes should be traded is San Francisco. AT&T park's wide open spaces (Left field: 335 feet, Left-center: 364 feet, Center field: 404 feet, Right-center: 420 feet, Right field: 307 feet) plays into Jose Reyes' strengths and I believe that his energy would help to ease the pain of the loss of Buster Posey. I know that Giants Shortstop prospect Brandon Crawford has played well since his call-up a few weeks ago but a player like Jose Reyes might be able to swing the balance of power in the NL West back in the favor of the World Champions. Another West Coast destination for Reyes might be Anaheim.

Whether or not new Mets minority owner David Einhorn can make a splash by resigning Jose Reyes past this season remains to be seen. I think the Mets are in a win-win situation when it comes to Reyes. Keep him and retain one of the best players in the game today. Trade him and make tremendous strides in rebuilding the team. Only time will tell what will happen.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here for Jose Reyes' career statistics from BaseballReference.com
- Click Here for Derek Jeter's career statistics from BaseballReference.com

- Click Here for Eduardo Nunez's career minor league statistics from TheBaseballCube.com
- Click Here to access the ranking of the Top Ten Prospects in the New York Mets organization by Baseball America
- Click Here to access Tim Smith's article As Yankees face inevitable change from Derek Jeter at shortstop, time to make way for Jose Reyes dated June 15, 2011 from NYDailyNews.com