Baseball News Source http://baseballnewssource.com Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Royals’ Bats Explode to Force Game 7 http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/royals-bats-explode-to-force-game-7/30381/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/royals-bats-explode-to-force-game-7/30381/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:45:05 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30381 royalsAfter having dropped two consecutive games to the San Francisco Giants, the Kansas City Royals were facing elimination Tuesday night. Their offense responded by racking up 10 runs in a shutout victory. The series will continues as Game 7 takes place Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Seven of the Royals runs were plated in the second inning as Jake Peavy was knocked from the game. The big blow came from Lorenzo Cain who hit a two-out, bases loaded single off reliever Yusmeiro Petit that brought in two and expanded the Royals lead to 4-1. Eric Hosmer followed with a two-run double and Billy Butler ripped a double as well to close the scoring.

From there the Royals coasted to victory. Cain recorded two hits, including one of the Royals six doubles. He also walked twice. In the World Series he’s hitting .318/.423/.409. Overall in the postseason the Royals speedy outfielder has compiled a .339/.397/.429 batting line. Mike Moustakas had two hits as well including his first home run of the series. After looking lost at the plate for most of the postseason, catcher Salvador Perez is batting .381/.381/.571.

Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura wasn’t at his sharpest, but he managed to shut the Giants out for seven innings. Ventura issued five walks but the Giants could only manage three hits against him. His heater reached triple digits on several occasions and sit in the upper 90s throughout the game.

Veteran pitchers Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie will match up in Game 7. Guthrie worked five innings in Game 3, earning the win despite not striking out a batter. Hudson took the loss in that game, going 5.2 innings and surrendering three runs on four hits with two strikeouts and one walk.

The bullpens will likely factor heavily into this game. In Game 3 the Royals went to their pen after allowing Guthrie to work through the order twice. With ace relievers Kelvim Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland all rested after a blowout victory, expect manager Ned Yost to use a similar tack. That trio can be expected to get at least 12 outs, and possibly more. Brandon Finnegan or Danny Duffy could be used in early relief if Guthrie runs into trouble.

Similarly, the Giants should dip into their pen early. Madison Bumgarner could be available on two days rest. This would normally be his day to throw in between starts, so it’s possible Bruce Bochy could call on him for an inning or two. Petit should be available as well. Late-innings relievers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla have been used sparingly throughout the series. It’s all hands on deck, and both managers will be wise not to ask their starting pitchers to work through the opposing lineup more than twice.

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Giants’ Madison Bumgarner Continues Postseason Dominance http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/giants-madison-bumgarner-continues-postseason-dominance/30376/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/giants-madison-bumgarner-continues-postseason-dominance/30376/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:44:23 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30376 The San Francisco Giants prevailed 5-0 over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday night. Ace Madison Bumgarner twirled a four hit shutout. With the win the Giants take a 3-2 series edge as the competition heads back to Kansas City. For Bumgarner it was his fourth victory of this postseason.

The 25 year-old Bumgarner racked up eight strikeouts without walking a batter. He needed 117 pitches to finish the shutout. While he had thrown a career-high 256 innings going into the game, his fastball showed no signs of fatigue, sitting in the low to mid 90s. 41 of his 52 fastballs went for strikes, and he registered eight swings and misses.

Bumgarner’s cutter and curveball were working as well. Each pitch netted eight whiffs. Of the eight cutters the Royals put in play, just one went for a hit. It’s been a dominant postseason for Bumgarner. He’s thrown 47.2 innings in six starts, and allowed only seven runs. In that time he’s struck out 41 batters and walked only six.

The 25 year-old left-hander has already made 13 postseason appearances. His ERA is a remarkable 2.27, and his strikeout and walk rates are 22.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. In four World Series starts those numbers are even more impressive.

Bumgarner’s first World Series start came in 2010 as the 21 year-old fired eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers. In 2012 he had another scoreless outing against the Detroit Tigers, helping the Giants to another World Series title. He gave up his first October Classic run in game one against the Royals, though he earned the victory with seven strong innings. Sunday’s shutout lowered his ERA to 0.29. Over 31 innings he’s allowed just a lone run. At the same time, he has 27 strikeouts and just one walk.

The Giants are on the verge of winning their third World Series in five years. After dropping games two and three and falling behind early in game four, they appeared to be on the ropes. However, an explosion of offense against the weaker members of the Royals bullpen and strong relief from Yusmeiro Petit led them to an 11-4 victory. Bumgarner’s dominance put them within one game of taking home the title.

Bumgarner turned 25 not quite three months ago. He’s already made a name for himself with his superb postseason performances. The left-hander is one of the best pitchers in baseball and he’s signed through at least 2017 at an extremely team-friendly rate. The Giants couldn’t be happier with the results they’ve gotten. The Royals couldn’t be happier that they won’t see him start again. But, don’t rule out a possible game seven relief appearance.

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Giants’ Buster Posey Still Looking for his First Extra-base Hit http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/giants-buster-posey-still-looking-for-his-first-extra-base-hit/30372/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/giants-buster-posey-still-looking-for-his-first-extra-base-hit/30372/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:10:41 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30372 poseyHeading into a three-game stretch at home, the San Francisco Giants are tied at one game apiece with the Kansas City Royals. Giants catcher Buster Posey, the best player left in this postseason, has struggled to provide punch to the middle of the Giants order. 12 games into the postseason, Posey has yet to record his first extra-base hit.

Since winning the starting catcher job for the Giants in 2010, Posey has established himself as the best catcher in baseball, and one of the top handful of players overall. As a 23 year-old rookie he helped the Giants take home the World Series in 2010, hitting .300/.333/.450 against the Texas Rangers.

Two seasons later, Posey was at it again. He had a monster regular season, batting an impressive .336/.408/.549. Posey ripped 24 home runs en route to taking home the National League MVP award. The Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, and Posey hit his third home run of the postseason.

Posey had a hot first half in 2013, but ended the year with a whimper. After the All-Star break, he managed a mediocre .244/.333/.310 batting line with just two home runs and nine extra-base hits as the Giants finished 76-86. The first half of Posey’s 2014 season was less than spectacular. His .277/.333/.423 batting line was good for a catcher, but well below his lofty career standards.

However, the second half of the season saw Posey catch lightning in a bottle. He smashed the ball to the tune of a .354/.403/.575 line. His 181 wRC+ and 3.7 fWAR after the break were the best in baseball. While the Giants as a team posted a 35-31 record in the second half, Posey thrived.

This postseason has been underwhelming for Posey. He did enjoy a strong NLDS against the Washington Nationals, going 7-18. But, his overall 2014 playoff numbers are a pedestrian .288/.333/.288. 12 games into the playoffs, he’s still searching for his first extra-base hit. Only four times in his career has Posey gone longer than 12 games without an extra-base hit. Last season he endured a 15 game streak in August without recording an extra-base knock. He did the same thing in 2011.

From May 16 to June 3 of this year, Posey recorded a miserable .190/.191/.190 batting line. In his next 15 games he produced a .345/.355/.517 slash line. Overall Posey’s lack of power this postseason is more of an interesting anomaly than something that carries significant meaning going forward. He’s endured dry spells before, just like any other baseball player. His next three to five games could just as easily feature him lighting up Royals pitchers.

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Royals Salvador Perez Bouncing Back in the World Series http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/royals-salvador-perez-bouncing-back-in-the-world-series/30366/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/royals-salvador-perez-bouncing-back-in-the-world-series/30366/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 00:20:34 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30366 perezSalvador Perez helped propel the Kansas City Royals to victory over the San Francisco Giants Wednesday night. His two-run double off Hunter Strickland helped the Royals break open a 3-2 game. The next batter, Omar Infante, slammed a two-run home run, giving the Royals a 7-2 edge which would hold up.

Perez struggled mightily in the ALDS and ALCS. He had just one hit in the wild card game, but his line drive past a diving Josh Donaldson would give the Royals a walk-off victory. In 29 plate appearances between the ALDS and ALCS he reached base just four times, with three singles and one walk.

The Royals backstop has already accumulated more total bases in the World Series than he has in the rest of the postseason. In game one he accounted for the Royals only run, with a solo home run. His double in game two opened the floodgates in what ended up being a five run inning for Kansas City.

Just 24, Perez has been a workhorse behind the plate for the Royals. Including playoffs he’s appeared in 160 games this season, with all but four of them at the catcher position. Perez receives accolades for his defensive work, and he features a very strong arm. Pitch-framing numbers don’t love him, and it’s clear he’s not as adept in that area of the game as his World Series counterpart, Buster Posey.

Offensively Perez has dropped off somewhat from his first two seasons as the Royals starting catcher. During his injury-shortened 2012 season in which he played in just 76 games, he hit .301/.328/.471, good for a 126 wRC+. He struck out in just 8.9 percent of his plate appearances, and popped 11 home runs.

While his power output dropped last year Perez still produced above-average numbers offensively. He had a slash line of .292/.323/.433, for a 106 wRC+, sound numbers for a catcher. This year Perez has taken his free-swinging ways to a whole new level.

Since the All-Star break, Perez has swung at over 50 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. His 3.6 percent walk rate this season was the lowest of his career. While his 14 percent strikeout rate was still significantly lower than the major league average, it was the highest of the young catcher’s career. Overall he hit just .260/.289/.403, for a 92 wRC+. In the second half, he hit a miserable .229/.236/.360 with just three walks.

In the playoffs pitchers have been able to exploit Perez’ swing-happy ways by consistently pitching him outside of the strike zone. During the ALDS and ALCS he looked hopeless against sliders low and away. The Royals have to hope that his first two games are a sign that he’s made an adjustment.

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Kansas City Royals: James Shields Continues to Struggle http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/kansas-city-royals-james-shields-continues-to-struggle/30359/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/kansas-city-royals-james-shields-continues-to-struggle/30359/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 21:49:44 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30359 shiledsThe San Francisco Giants knocked off the Kansas City Royals in game one of the World Series, as Madison Bumgarner turned in another excellent postseason performance. Royals ace James Shields was not up to the task. Nicknamed “Big Game James” Shields has struggled in this postseason. This outing was his worst yet.

In four playoff outings this postseason, Shields has surrendered 15 earned runs in 19 innings. With the exception of a six inning start against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS in which he went six innings and allowed just two runs with six strikeouts, he’s pitched poorly.

Against the Giants Shields lasted three-plus innings. Of the 16 hitters he faced, he retired just eight of them, with only one strikeout. 10 of the batters he faced hit line drives. That’s been a theme for Shields, as he’s surrendered 28 hits this postseason, and three home runs. Over 40 percent of the contact he’s allowed has been a line drive.

His strikeout and walk rates of 17.7 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively, aren’t too far off his regular season rates of 19.2 percent and 4.7 percent. However, hitters have clobbered his pitches. Line drive rate isn’t terribly predictive, and for his career Shields has allowed an average rate of line drives, home runs per fly ball and hits per ball in play. Looking at things retrospectively Shields’ performance has been troubling, but it’s unreasonable to expect batters to hammer his pitches in the fashion they have been this October.

Considering that he’s thrown nearly 250 innings this season, it’s fair to ask whether Shields might be suffering from fatigue. Any fatigue isn’t surfacing in the form of reduced velocity, as Shields has held steady in the low 90s. Perhaps the extra wear on his arm is contributing to his command struggles. Or, it might be nothing more than the usual variation that occurs throughout a long season. In October everday ups and downs and magnified.

Earlier in the postseason Shields struggles were easier to glance over. The Royals scored 25 runs in his previous three outings, and the bullpen picked him up with dominant performances. When they score just one run, it’s difficult to overlook Shields struggles. When their ace goes missing, the flaws in the Royals starting rotation are much more evident.

Unless Shields is hiding an injury, he’s still the Royals best starting pitcher. Three poor starts in October shouldn’t change that. It’s easy to draw sweeping conclusions, but it’s more likely that Shields is having a temporary slump, and not an indication that he’s lost his ability to pitch. In the event of a game five, you can be sure Ned Yost will trot him out there. The Royals just have to hope that his command resurfaces.

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Alcides Escobar’s Reemergence Key for Royals http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/alcides-escobars-reemergence-key-for-royals/30354/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/alcides-escobars-reemergence-key-for-royals/30354/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 21:49:11 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30354 EscobarAfter earning a Wild Card berth, the Kansas City Royals have gone on a tear. They bested the Oakland Athletics in a dramatic comeback, and have proceeded to sweep the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles. The bullpen has been dominant, and Lorenzo Cain had a huge ALCS, recording eight hits and reaching base 10 times. However, the solid play of shortstop Alcides Escobar has been key to the Royals‘ success both in the regular season and the postseason.

A native of Venezuela, Escobar was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers as an international free agent in 2003. He made a brief showing in the big leagues as a September callup in 2008, and earned 134 plate appearances the following season. 2010 was Escobar’s first full year in the major leagues. Offensively he was a lightweight, hitting .235/.288/.326.

In the offseason, the Brewers sent him to the Royals along with Lorenzo Cain in the trade that netted them Zack Greinke. Escobar had a slightly better year in 2011. He blossomed offensively in 2012, hitting .293/.331/.390, for a respectable 97 wRC+. Escobar also swiped 35 bases in 40 attempts.

Last season the speedy shortstop’s offensive production plummeted to .234/.259/.300 for a miserable 49 wRC+. His glove and the Royals lack of alternative options kept him on the field for 158 games.

This year the Royals shortstop has put it together offensively and defensively. He’s essentially replicated his batting line from 2011, while playing stellar defense and stealing 31 bases in 6 attempts. Escobar has 34 doubles, which is a career-high, and his .285/.317/.377 line rounds out to a 94 wRC+. With his defensive contributions, he’s accumulated 3.5 fWAR, easily the best number of his career. Among American League shortstops, only Erick Aybar had more fWAR.

Against the A’s Escobar knocked two singles in four plate appearances, and also made two successful sacrifice bunts and stole a base. He didn’t do much with the bat against the Angels, netting just two singles and a double in 14 trips to the plate with five strikeouts. But, his excellent defense served to take away hits on more than one occasion.

Escobar shined against the Orioles, putting up a .278/.316/.500 slash line. His home run in the 3rd inning of Game One gave the Royals a 1-0 lead. It was a rare display of power for someone who hit just three home runs during the regular season and has never five home runs in a season.

Manager Ned Yost has been utilizing Escobar at the top of the Royals lineup. That approach has worked out for the Royals, though they would be better served to place a hitter with a higher on-base percentage in that spot. Teammates Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon have received a bigger share of the spotlight, but Escobar has been very important to the Royals success.

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Kansas City Royals: Lorenzo Cain’s Star Shining in ALCS http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/kansas-city-royals-lorenzo-cains-star-shining-in-alcs/30347/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/kansas-city-royals-lorenzo-cains-star-shining-in-alcs/30347/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:17:59 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30347 cainWith a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night, the Kansas City Royals have taken a 3-0 series lead on the Baltimore Orioles. Seven games into the postseason, the Royals have yet to lose a game. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain has emerged as a star this postseason.

A former 17th round draft pick out of Tallahassee Community College, Cain was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Zack Greinke trade in the 2010 offseason.

That trade, which cost the Royals Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt, also netted the Royals starting shortstop Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorizzi, who was a piece in the James Shields-Wade Davis trade. Cain spent most of the 2011 season at Triple-A, appearing in just six games for the big league club.

The speedy outfielder played in 61 games the next year, posting a respectable .266/.316/.419 batting line. More importantly, he flashed some of his phenomenal centerfield defense. Cain’s playing time increased to 115 games and 442 plate appearances in 2013. Though he managed to hit just .251/.310/.348, his sensational defense allowed him to produce 2.7 fWAR.

Cain has blossomed in 2014, his age-28 season. He’s put up career-highs in batting average and on-base percentage with a .301/.339/.412 line. Also, he’s swiped 28 bases while being caught just five times. Along with his excellent defensive play, he’s been worth 4.9 fWAR in only 502 plate appearances.

In his first taste of postseason play, Cain has impressed greatly. He collected two hits against the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card game including a double that brought home two runs. While he managed only two singles in three games against the Los Angeles Angels, he made several diving catches to save runs.

Cain has gone on a tear. Before being retired in his final two plate appearances on Tueday night, he had reached base 10 times in 12 trips to the plate. Overall he owns a .667/.714/.833 batting line in 14 ALCS plate appearances. In this postseason Cain has a .387/.412/.484 slash line.

The Royals have shocked the rest of baseball-watching America. They snuck into the playoffs via the Wild Card. During the regular season they hit the fewest home runs in the major leagues. Not a single player on the team hit 20 home runs, and just three reached double digits. Yet, after reaching the postseason for the first time since 1985, they are on the brink of hosting the World Series.

It’s been a fantastic postseason for the Royals. Lorenzo Cain’s exciting play has made him an emerging star this postseason. His speed and exciting outfield defense epitomize the Royals. He’s the easy favorite for the ALCS MVP should the Royals manage to close out the series.

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Andrew Freidman Will Leave Rays To Join Dodgers http://baseballnewssource.com/tampa-bay-rays/andrew-freidman-will-leave-rays-to-join-dodgers/30341/ http://baseballnewssource.com/tampa-bay-rays/andrew-freidman-will-leave-rays-to-join-dodgers/30341/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:03:46 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30341 andrew_friedmanTampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Freidman will leave the team to join the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new president of baseball operations. Speculation over the Dodgers pursing Freidman began shortly after the regular season ended.

Ned Colletti, who has been the Dodgers general manager since 2005, will remain with the club in a new role as senior advisor to the president and CEO of the Dodgers, Stan Kasten.

Friedman, in his role as president of baseball operations, will have the ability to hire a general manager.

In Los Angeles, where the Dodgers had the highest payroll in baseball last season and an ownership group that’s shown a willingness to spend since purchasing the team for $2.15 billion in 2012, Friedman will have no such financial pressures to manage.

Freidman had previously declined opportunities with the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros.

Matt Silverman will assume the responsibilities as the Rays President of Baseball Operations.

“I thank Andrew for all he has done for the Rays organization,” team owner Stuart Sternberg said in a news release. “We have enjoyed great success together, and that’s largely due to the deep and talented organization that Andrew has helped to assemble both on and off the field. While we will miss Andrew, we have prepared ourselves for this possibility, and I have great faith in Matt and Brian in their new roles.”

Said Friedman in the same release: “As I embark upon my next journey, I have only thanks and gratitude to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay region for a wonderful 10 years together. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so special and for the passion and support of this exceptional fan base.

“The Rays organization is loaded with talent from ownership to players and everyone between. We were able to create together an unbelievable culture that no doubt will continue, and I am absolutely confident that the successes we achieved will continue into the future.”

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St Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter’s Big October http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/st-louis-cardinals-matt-carpenters-big-october/30334/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/st-louis-cardinals-matt-carpenters-big-october/30334/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:36:10 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30334 carpenterThe St. Louis Cardinals downed the San Francisco Giants 5-4 Sunday night, knotting up the NLCS at one game apiece. Once again Matt Carpenter played a huge role in a Cardinals postseason victory. After hitting eight home runs in 158 regular season games, the Cardinals infielder has drilled four in six postseason matches.

Carpenter burst onto the scene in 2013, his first full season as a second baseman. He led the National League in hits, runs score and doubles. The former 13th round draft pick posted a gaudy .318/.392/.481 slash line and played solid defense. At the end of the year, he totaled 6.9 fWAR, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. After the season, the Cardinals rewarded him with a contract extension covering six years and $52 million.

This season Carpenter didn’t produce the same power numbers, but he led the NL in walks and managed a strong .272/.375/.375 batting line. Carpenter’s versatility allowed the Cardinals to let rookie Kolten Wong take over at second while he replaced David Freese at third.

Carpenter came up big for the Cardinals in the NLDS. He notched the big hit in the Cardinals game one rally against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, roping a bases-clearing double. The 28 year-old leadoff man also hit home runs in the first three games of that series. For that series he ripped the ball to the tune of a .375/.412/.1125 line, with three doubles and three home runs. After owning the second-lowest first-pitch swing rate during the regular season, he ambushed the Dodgers with two home runs and a double on first pitches.

In the NLCS, Carpenter was held to a lone single in the first game against the Giants as Madison Bumgarner and the Giants bullpen combined for a shutout. However, he hit another home run the next day, one of four on the night for the Cards, as they won in walk-off fashion.

After hitting just 102 home runs during the regular season, the fewest in the NL, the Cardinals have relied on the long ball this postseason. Matt Adams home run against Kershaw propelled them to a series-clinching win against the Dodgers. Wong drove home the winning runs the night before with a two run home run, and his walk-off blast Sunday night tied up the series.

This October hasn’t been short on the dramatic. The Cardinals are heading to San Francisco with the series tied. Matt Carpenter has fueled their offense from the leadoff spot.

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Chris Tillman, James Shields Match Up in Game 1 of ALCS http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/chris-tillman-james-shields-match-up-in-game-1-of-alcs/30329/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/chris-tillman-james-shields-match-up-in-game-1-of-alcs/30329/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 15:40:43 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30329 tillman-shieldsAfter two days off, baseball is returning Friday night with the first game of the ALCS. The Baltimore Orioles will send Chris Tillman to the mound while the Kansas City Royals will counter with James Shields. It’s a matchup of postseason unbeatens, as the Royals beat the Oakland Athletics in the wild card game before sweeping the top seeded Los Angeles Angels, while the O’s knocked off the Detroit Tigers in three straight.

Shields, who has been one of the steadiest starting pitchers in the American League since his first full season in 2007, struggled for much of 2014. In his first 21 starts, Shields allowed 69 runs in 136.1 innings, for an RA-9 over 4.50. Since July 23 Shields has been much stronger. He allowed only 26 runs over 13 starts, a stretch in which he’s thrown his changeup more often.

Perhaps that’s coincidental, as Shields’ strikeout rates were very similar over both periods. The moniker Big Game fits more because it rhymes with his first name than because of his postseason performance. In eight postseason starts Shields possesses a 4.96 ERA. He turned in a solid outing against the Angels, allowing two runs in six innings with six strikeouts.

While Shields is a workhorse who averaged nearly seven innings a start, Royals manager Ned Yost would be wise to get into his bullpen rather than stretch Shields out. Led by the trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, the Royals have an excellent bullpen.

Like Shields, Tillman has pitched much better later in the season. Over the season’s first half he authored a pedestrian 4.11 ERA with a woeful 4.74 xFIP. His strikeout and walk rates were just 14.3 percent and 9.3 percent. In the second half he’s pitched to a 2.33 ERA with strikeout and walk rates of 21.5 percent and 5.1 percent.

Overall, Tillman’s peripherals are less than spectacular, though he’s had a history of his ERA outperforming his strikeout, walks and ground ball rates. One thing that is important to note is that Tillman is nearly impossible to run on. Baserunners have stolen a total of two bags against Tillman in the last two seasons, while they’ve been caught 11 times. The Royals have run wild thus far in the playoffs, but they might have to put that aspect of the game on hold.

Still, that bit of information will probably receive far more than its share of airtime. Though the Royals led the major leagues in stolen bases, that created just 11.5 additional runs over the regular season.

Showalter will probably go to his bullpen early. Against the Tigers Tillman was lifted after five innings, despite the fact that he had allowed just five baserunners. Though he’s pitched very well in the second half, he’s far from an elite pitcher, and the Orioles have several good relievers. Expect the bullpens to do a lot of work in this series.

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Orioles Agree to Three-Year Extension with J.J. Hardy http://baseballnewssource.com/baltimore-orioles/orioles-agree-to-three-year-extension-with-j-j-hardy/30324/ http://baseballnewssource.com/baltimore-orioles/orioles-agree-to-three-year-extension-with-j-j-hardy/30324/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 02:37:05 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30324 JJ HardyThe Baltimore Orioles agreed to a three-year contract extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy worth $40 million. Hardy was set to become a free agent after the season. The Orioles are set to host the first game of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals Friday night.

The Orioles acquired Hardy in a trade with the Minnesota Twins that took place during the 2010 offseason. His first year with the Orioles was his best offensive season since 2008 when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Over the last three years, he’s earned a relatively modest $21 million, which has given the O’s plenty of surplus value. With his new deal, he’s set to double that total.

Hardy slammed a career-high 30 home runs in 2011, batting .269/.310/.491 with a 113 wRC+. He totaled 4.3 fWAR despite playing in only 129 games. Since then he’s been unable to recreate that level of offensive success, though his glove provides plenty of value.

Since 2012, Hardy owns a .255/.298/.399 slash line for an 89 wRC+. That puts him on par with shortstops such as Yunel Escobar and Everth Cabrera. Over the course of his career, Hardy has provided solid pop with a .161 isolated slugging percentage. With the exception of his big 2008 season with the Brewers, his on-base percentage has never been strong, sitting at .312 for his career.

This season Hardy has struggled to hit for power, posting just nine home runs and a .104 isolated slugging percentage. He didn’t hit his first home run until June though he drilled five in August alone. Hardy hit another home run against Detroit and managed a .300/.417/.600 batting line in three games.

While his offensive performance is held back by a lower OBP, Hardy ranks 7th among shortstops with 9.5 fWAR since 2012. He’s an exceptional defender. By Ultimate Zone Rating only Andrelton has better defensively over the past three seasons. Hardy has taken home the Gold Glove award in 2012 and 2013.

The Orioles are paying for Hardy’s glove. He’s likely to provide average offense for the shortstop position. Steamer projects a .253/.297/.392 line for the 2015 season with 17 home runs. That’s a little better than the average major league shortstop, but Hardy’s glove is the main reason for this money. It’s a contract that projects to fit right in at market value, and with the free agent crop of shortstops being particularly thin this offseason, Hardy might have commanded even more.

It’s been a charmed year for the Orioles. Going into the season they were afterthoughts in a division that featured perennial powerhouses in the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. However, they ran away with the division and then disposed of the Detroit Tigers in three games in the ALDS. For Hardy this season got even better.

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Kansas City Royals Speed, Defense Key to Success http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/kansas-city-royals-speed-defense-key-to-success/30319/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/kansas-city-royals-speed-defense-key-to-success/30319/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:42:13 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30319 DysonIt’s been quite a run for the Kansas City Royals. Just last week they were down four runs in the 8th inning in a wild card elimination game. By the end of the week, they had won that game and proceeded to sweep the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS. They’ll match up with the Baltimore Orioles Friday night in the ALCS, who swept the Detroit Tigers.

 Speed and defense has been key for the Royals, who hit just 95 home runs during the regular season, the fewest in the major leagues. Left fielder Alex Gordon clubbed 19 home runs to lead the team, and only two other players, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas, reached double digits.

The Royals led the major leagues with 153 stolen bases. Jarrod Dyson, who received just 290 plate appearances, led the team with 36. His steal of third in the 9th inning against the A’s allowed Nori Aoki to tie the game up with a sacrifice fly. Shortstop Alcides Escobar nabbed 31 bags, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain stole 28. September callup Terrance Gore is 3-3 in stolen base attempts as a pinch runner in the playoffs.

The potential impact of the Royals running game might be a little overstated after they’ve run wild in the playoffs. During the regular season they finished with just +1.1 base running runs, which ranked 12th in the major leagues. While the Orioles pitching staff and catchers Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph will have to pay attention to the Royals running game, the Royals speed has a bigger impact on defense.

Defensive metrics rated the Royals outfield as the best in baseball by a wide margin, and one of the best in recent history. Left fielder Gordon had a fantastic season. He showcases very good range and a very strong and accurate arm. After piling up 54 assists from 2011-13, teams have been less inclined to run on him.

In center field Cain has demonstrated his exceptional range in the playoffs. In a part-time role Dyson has graded out as one of the best defenders in baseball. Aoki is solid in right, and made two very good catches to keep the Royals alive in Game One against the Angels.

Up the middle the Royals have Salvador Perez who gunned down 30 percent of base runners and picked off seven. Escobar handles shortstop with aplomb.  The Royals excellent defense has helped their pitching staff post a 3.51 ERA despite having the 7th lowest strikeout rate during the regular season.

The Royals have combined below-average hitting with speed, great defense, decent starting pitching and a dominant bullpen. It’s an unconventional formula, but it’s got them to the championship series.

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Giants Squeeze by Nationals, Advance to NLCS http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/giants-squeeze-by-nationals-advance-to-nlcs/30314/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/giants-squeeze-by-nationals-advance-to-nlcs/30314/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:49:09 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30314 giantsThe San Francisco Giants ousted the Washington Nationals Tuesday night to advance to the NLCS. With the St. Louis Cardinals downing the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in the day, the Giants will face the Cardinals in the NLCS for the second time in three years. In their last matchup, which took place in 2012, the Giants prevailed on their way to a World Series title.

The Giants got strong pitching again. This time it was Ryan Vogelsong, who worked through 5.2 innings while allowing just one run on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts. The last batter he faced, Jayson Werth, almost drove the ball out of the ballpark, but Hunter Pence went back for a great catch. Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez was lifted in the 5th for a pinch hitter. He surrendered two runs in the second inning.

After retiring Brandon Belt on a popup, Brandon Crawford singled and Juan Perez reached on an error by Gonzalez. Vogelsong attempted to sacrifice, but the Nationals were unable to get an out, and the bases were loaded. Gonzalez issued a free pass to Gregor Blanco, which pushed home a run. Rookie second baseman Joe Panik grounded out, bringing home another run.

The Nats got on the scoreboard in the top of the 5th when Bryce Harper ripped a double to left, bringing home Ian Desmond who had singled. However, Harper was stranded at second. Their bullpen kept the Giants at bay, and in the 7th Harper turned around a 97 mile per hour fastball from Giants reliever Hunter Strickland and sent it over the fence in right, tying the game.

The score would not be tied for long, as Panik and Buster Posey hit one out singles in the bottom half of the inning. Hunter Pence worked a walk to load the bases, and Panik hustled home on a wild pitch. Rafael Soriano entered and managed to avoid further damage, but the Giants 3-2 lead would be too much to overcome. Harper drew a two-out walk in the 9th, but the Nats were unable to muster a rally.

The Giants pitching staff held the Nationals offense at bay throughout the series. In four games and 45 innings worth of baseball they allowed only nine runs. With the exception of Harper, who hit three home runs and slashed .294/.368/.882, the Nats bats were cold. Anthony Rendon notched seven hits in the series, but all were singles. Werth had only one hit as did Adam Laroche and Denard Span had two. None of those players registered an extra-base hit.

The Giants-Cardinals series features strong starting pitching and solid bullpens. Don’t expect a lot of scoring in the NLCS. But, if this October has taught baseball fans anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

 

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Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright will Square off in Game 1 http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/clayton-kershaw-adam-wainwright-will-square-off-in-game-1/30306/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/clayton-kershaw-adam-wainwright-will-square-off-in-game-1/30306/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:50:23 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30306 Dodgers Kershaw , no-hitterClayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright will face each other in Game One of the National League Division Series as the Los Angeles Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers ace led the National League and all of baseball with a 1.77 ERA, while Wainwright’s 2.38 mark ranked third in the NL.

The 26 year-old Kershaw captured his third consecutive ERA title, and will almost certainly win yet another Cy Young award. Despite battling arm soreness and missing his primary catcher, Yadier Molina for a good chunk of the season, the 33 year-old Wainwright posted the best ERA of his career.

Kershaw has been a dominant pitcher since his first full season in 2009. But, he’s taken his game to the next level this season. He missed six starts with a back injury yet still managed to lead the major leagues with 7.2 fWAR. His strikeout rate jumped more than six percentage points to an MLB-best 31.9 percent. At the same time he cut his walk rate to 4.1 percent and also boosted his ground ball rate to 51.8 percent.

Kershaw has always possessed a good fastball, and it averaged 93 miles per hour this year, a bit faster than the previous season. He’s well known for his curveball, and it’s one of the best in the game. This year he’s thrown his slider about 2.5 miles per hour harder, and the results have been devastating for hitters. Overall batters hit .150/.175/.238 against Kershaw’s slider, and they whiffed on the pitch 30 percent of the time.

Cardinals NewsWhile Wainwright did have the best ERA of his career, his strikeout and walk rate declined from the previous season. This year he fanned 19.9 percent of batters while walking 5.6 percent, compared to 22.9 percent and 3.7 percent the year prior. He suffered when Molina was on the disabled list as his pitch-calling and receiving abilities were missed. Also, the claims of arm fatigue are validated by a drop in average fastball velocity from 91.1 miles per hour to 90.2 miles per hour. After all, Wainwright threw nearly 280 innings between the regular season and postseason last year, and he’s thrown 227 more this season.

Though there are some indicators that Wainwright is tiring, he’s still an excellent pitcher. His fastball command is pinpoint, and he has a great 12-6 curveball. Between Kershaw and Wainwright expect to see a bevy of pretty breaking pitches. Wainwright will have his hands full with a very good Dodgers lineup that was red hot in September.

It’s game one of the NLDS, but at least on paper this might be the best pitching matchup of October.

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Orioles Use Eight Run Eighth to Pull Away from Tigers http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/orioles-use-eight-run-eighth-to-pull-away-from-tigers/30303/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/orioles-use-eight-run-eighth-to-pull-away-from-tigers/30303/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:47:52 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30303 cruzThe Baltimore Orioles downed the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards in the first game of the ALDS. A solid outing from Chris Tillman, four good innings from the bullpen, key home runs from Nelson Cruz and J.J. Hardy and a huge 8th inning led to a 12-3 victory.

Cruz started the scoring with a two run shot against Tigers starter Max Scherzer. Leadoff hitter Nick Markakis singled, and Alejandro de Aza was hit by a pitch. After Adam Jones bounced into a double play, Cruz blasted a first-pitch heater over the center field fence.

That lead wouldn’t last long for the Orioles, as Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back home runs to right field. In the bottom half of the inning, singles by Jonathan Schoop and Markakis brought home Ryan Flaherty, who reached on a walk.

The Orioles 3-2 lead remained stable until the bottom of the 7th when Hardy slammed a solo shot to lead off the inning. Tillman departed after five innings, having allowed the two home runs but only two other hits. He struck out six and walked one. Andrew Miller recorded five outs while notching three strikeouts. Darren O’Day allowed a solo home run to Miguel Cabrera, the fifth home run of the game, and the Tigers crept to within 4-3 going into the bottom of the 8th.

The O’s offense exploded in the bottom of the 8th. Markakis lined out, but De Aza doubled, chasing Scherzer. He worked 7.1 innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk. Joba Chamberlain pitched to two hitters, with Jones reaching on a fielding error and Cruz singling to center. Joakim Soria allowed a single to Steve Pearce, intentionally walked Hardy before giving up a single to Flaherty, an RBI groundout to Nick Hundley and a two-run double to Schoop. Phil Coke walked Markakis and allowed another double to De Aza before finally ending the inning on a groundout by Jones.

After the O’s outburst, a 4-3 game became a 12-3 blowout. Closer Zach Britton, who got the final out in the 8th, was lifted in favor of Tommy Hunter who finished the game.

Friday’s game, which begins at noon, will feature Justin Verlander against Wei-Yin Chen. 2014 has been a rough year for Verlander, but he’s revved up the velocity in his last couple of outings. The Tigers better hope he can carry them, because their bullpen has been dismal all season long. After Thursday’s game, they would prefer not to ask too much of their much-maligned relief corps.

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Royals Down A’s in Wild Card Thriller, Advance to Play Angels http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/royals-down-as-in-wild-card-thriller-advance-to-play-angels/30296/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/royals-down-as-in-wild-card-thriller-advance-to-play-angels/30296/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:37:50 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30296 royalsThe Kansas City Royals downed the Oakland Athletics in a thriller Tuesday night, and will advance to play the Los Angeles Angels in the Divisional Series. This 12 inning affair featured 28 hits, 17 runs, and two big comebacks by the Royals. Catcher Salvador Perez provided the biggest hit, a single to left that scored Christian Colon from second, giving Kansas City a walkoff victory.

With ace pitchers Jon Lester and James Shields taking the hill, conventional wisdom suggested this would be a low scoring game. However, the A’s struck early with a two run home run by designated hitter Brandon Moss. In the bottom of the first the Royals scored a run on two singles and a walk, but the inning ended when Eric Hosmer was caught stealing home in a failed early break play with Billy Butler at first.

KC would pick up two runs in the bottom of the third with three hits, including a double by Lorenzo Cain. That would hold up until the 6th inning. After starter James Shields allowed a single to Sam Fuld and a walk to Josh Donaldson, manager Ned Yost turned to Yordano Ventura, who had been in the starting rotation during the year and was working on one days rest. Moss turned around a 98 mile per hour fastball from Ventura and drove it out to center field to give the A’s a 5-3 lead.

Two batters later Kelvin Herrera entered the game, but the A’s would reap two more runs before the rally ended. Lester held down the Royals offense for the next two innings, and the game went to the bottom of the 8th with the A’s leading 7-3. The Royals exploded in the bottom of the 8th.

After two singles and a walk, Lester exited the game with a 7-4 lead, having worked 7.1 innings. Luke Gregerson allowed an RBI single to Billy Butler and a wild pitch Alex Gordon at the plate allowed another run to score. He struck out Perez and Omar Infante to stop the bleeding. But, the Royals had closed the gap to 7-6 thanks to three singles, two walks and four stolen bases.

Greg Holland worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the 9th, and the A’s turned to closer Sean Doolittle. Pinch hitter Josh Willingham started with a single, and Jarrod Dyson pinch ran. Alcides Escobar sacrificed him to second and Dyson proceeded to steal third, setting the stage for Nori Aoki to tie the game with a sacrifice fly.

The game remained tied at 7-7 until the top of the 12th when pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo drove home Josh Reddick with a single. In the bottom half of the inning, Eric Hosmer roped a one out triple, and Colon brought him home with an infield hit. Left-handed specialist Fernando Abad retired Gordon on a pop out. The A’s replaced him with Jason Hammel. Colon swiped second. Perez greeted Hammel with a single to left that got just past the dive of Donaldson, and the Royals walked off with their biggest win since 1985.

The end result couldn’t have been any better for Kansas City fans who have waited 29 years for October baseball. If this is any indication for the rest of the month, October should be riveting.

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Giants Ace Madison Bumgarner a Tall Task for Pirates Offense http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/giants-ace-madison-bumgarner-a-tall-task-for-pirates-offense/30290/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/giants-ace-madison-bumgarner-a-tall-task-for-pirates-offense/30290/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:31:14 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30290 bumgarnerThe San Francisco Giants will host the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night in the wild card round with the winner advancing to the NLDS to face the top-seeded Washington Nationals. Because they used top pitcher Gerrit Cole this weekend in an attempt to catch the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, the Pirates will send Edinson Volquez to the mound. Meanwhile, the Giants will trot out ace hurler Madison Bumgarner.

2014 has been another strong year for Bumgarner, who has been one of the top pitchers in baseball since the Giants plugged him into their rotation in 2010. The 25 year-old left-hander has thrown at least 200 innings and made at least 31 starts in each of the last four seasons. Over that span he ranks 15th in fWAR and 13th in ERA. His strikeout rate is an impressive 23.8 percent and he’s maintained a low 5.9 percent walk rate.

This year those numbers have been even better, as Bumgarner has fanned 25.1 percent of hitters while walking a career-low 4.9 percent. His fastball velocity has ticked up to 92.1 percent, and he’s improved his first-pitch strike rate to 66.7 percent. In the second half of the season, he walked only 11 hitters, while striking out 91.

The Pirates lineup is one of the best in baseball. Excluding pitchers, they had a .269/.340/.421 slash line, which rounds out to a 116 wRC+. That ties them with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the highest team mark in baseball. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen had another phenomenal season, posting a .314/.410/.542 batting line with 69 extra-base hits. Catcher Russell Martin reached base at a .402 clip, and super utility man Josh Harrison had a fantastic season, hitting .315/.347/.490. Starling Marte leads off with his 30 stolen bases and .356 on-base percentage. Neil Walker is also a threat, and Jordy Mercer has hit well after a terrible start to the season.

Against left-handed pitching, the Pirates numbers are a little less impressive. Their team slash line decreased to .270/.333/.388 which amounts to a 105 wRC+. However, four important right-handed hitters in Marte, Harrison, McCutchen and Martin, have the platoon advantage against Bumgarner, who has noticeably better numbers against same-handed batters.

Bumgarner presents a big challenge to this Pirates lineup. He might live in the shadow of his NL West counterpart, Clayton Kershaw, but he’s one of the top two or three left-handed pitchers in the National League. The Pirates offense is one of the toughest in baseball, but they will have their hands full against Bumgarner. If they can muster some support for Volquez, look for manager Clint Hurdle to hand the ball to the bullpen early.

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Big Game James Shields Set To Go in Wild Card Game for Royals http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/big-game-james-shields-set-to-go-in-wild-card-game-for-royals/30284/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/big-game-james-shields-set-to-go-in-wild-card-game-for-royals/30284/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:54:49 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30284 Royals NewsThe Kansas City Royals will appear in the postseason for the first time since 1985 when they host the Oakland Athletics Tuesday night in the Wild Card game. If the Royals win, they will play the Los Angeles Angels, who won a major league-best 98 games. A loss sends them home before October begins.

The Royals will trot out their ace, James Shields, who has acquired the moniker “Big Game James.” Shields has put in another workhorse season, making 34 starts and pitching 227 innings. He’s authored a 3.21 ERA, which is marred slightly by 14 unearned runs.

While his strikeout rate has dipped for the second consecutive year to 19.2 percent, his 4.7 percent walk rate is his lowest since the 2008 season.

Shields has pitched at least 200 innings and made at least 31 starts in every season since 2007. Even with that workload, his fastball velocity has been steady, and actually increased to a career-best 92.4 miles per hour this year.

Though he hasn’t missed as many bats with the Royals, he’s benefited from an exceptional defense. The Royals outfield features Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and Nori Aoki

Shields’ changeup has long been his go-to pitch, but for the first time, he used his cutter more frequently than the change. Perhaps he’s lost something on the changeup, and its swinging strike rate his dipped again to 16.3 percent. More likely the decreased usage is a result of an emphasis on throwing strikes. His zone rate on the cutter is 55 percent, compared to 34 percent on the changeup. Essentially Shields has managed to compensate for some of the lost strikeouts by walking fewer hitters.

In any case, the cutter and changeup give Shields two weapons against left-handed batters. For his career, he’s allowed a .248/.301/.403 line against left-handed batters. Right-handed hitters have actually fared better, with a .260/.308/.422 slash line. Those numbers have held up in the 2014 season. That may present a challenge for the A’s, who depend heavily on gaining the platoon advantage with their versatile lineup.

While Shields has averaged nearly seven innings per start this year, manager Ned Yost shouldn’t be afraid to turn to the bullpen. With Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, the Royals have the most formidable late-inning arms in baseball. In addition, left-handed reliever Brandon Finnegan, a 2014 draft pick who was added to the roster in September, has been dominant with the big league club.

This could be the last game Shields will pitch in a Royals uniform. He becomes a free agent after the season, and he’ll almost certainly command more money than Kansas City will be able to offer. Shields isn’t the prize that Max Scherzer or Jon Lester are, but he’s likely to get something in the arena of $100 million. The Royals are hoping that he has a few more games left with them before he leaves for more lucrative pastures.

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Jordan Zimmermann Fires No-Hitter in Washington Nationals Season Finale http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/jordan-zimmermann-fires-no-hitter-in-washington-nationals-season-finale/30280/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/jordan-zimmermann-fires-no-hitter-in-washington-nationals-season-finale/30280/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 20:28:44 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30280 ZimmermanThe Washington Nationals ended the regular season with a bang, as Jordan Zimmermann threw his first career no-hitter against the Miami Marlins. Zimmermann faced just one batter over the minimum, as he fanned 10 in a 1-0 victory. With the victory, the Nats close out the season with a 96-66 record, the best in the National League. It was the first no-hitter in the Nationals young history.

Zimmermann, who was dealing with shoulder soreness, was given a couple extra days rest before making his final start of the regular season. He retired the first 14 Marlins batters before issuing a full count walk to Justin Bour. From there he would put away the final 13 hitters, notching five strikeouts. The Nationals hurler needed only 104 pitches for his fourth career shutout.

Shortstop Ian Desmond hit a solo home run with one out in the second inning, giving Zimmermann all the support he would need. The Nationals would muster 11 hits, but were unable to push any more runs across the board. Bryce Harper continued his strong play with two hits, including a double. Even in the 9th inning, Zimmermann’s fastball was still humming in at 94-95 miles per hour.

The 28 year-old Zimmermann quietly posted the best season of his six year career. Over 32 starts he authored a 2.66 ERA with career-best strikeout and walk rates of 22.8 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. Zimmermann finished 11th in the majors in ERA and 10th in fWAR. Since 2011, the former Division III University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point product has been one of the top pitchers in the majors. The no-hitter puts a nice cap on what has been a fantastic season.

The Nationals will play a five game series with the winner of the NL wild card game, which will feature the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants. Despite some early season struggles, they will enjoy home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a rotation that features Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and either Tanner Roark or Gio Gonzalez, they will be very difficult to beat.

In addition, their lineup is very deep. Bryce Harper is finally healthy and rounding into form, Ryan Zimmerman is also back from the disabled list. While the Los Angeles Dodgers are also very strong, the Nationals are the favorite to advance to the World Series.

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Derek Jeter’s Impact on a Generation http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/derek-jeters-impact-on-a-generation/30273/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/derek-jeters-impact-on-a-generation/30273/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 21:51:31 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30273 Yankees NewsBeing born in New York and growing up in NJ, I never really had a choice to root for any team except the Yankees. My family has actively been attending games at Yankee Stadium for close to 80 years and I’ve followed Baseball since the very end of 1993, when my dad started watching games with me when I was a six-year-old.

It wasn’t until 1995 where a few things stuck out to me. I remember Don Mattingly being the first player I actively rooted for. I remember the first ever wild card race with the Yankees beating the Blue  Jays to clinch a spot and I remember the extent of the ALDS heartbreaking loss. Everyone was excited the Yankees made the playoffs, but everything before 1996 culminated with my Dad explaining to me the season doesn’t continue because Ken Griffey Jr. scored after I had gone to sleep.

In Spring of 1995, my family went on vacation to visit my Grandmother in Florida and we traveled to Ft. Lauderdale as a side trip to see the Yankees lose to the Mets in Spring Training. After the game I went to an area for autographs and was spurned by Tate Seefried. Upset, I approached a young looking player and asked for his instead. The man happily signed it and it wasn’t until we looked in a player’s guide we realized his name was Derek Jeter.

I was a fan.

And it would only intensity the following season.

Later that year I had attended my first real game in person. The Yankees beat the Orioles 3-0. It was August 7th, 1995. Someone named Mike Mussina, pitched for Baltimore and someone named Tony Fernandez was playing shortstop and went one for three with a run scored. This was the start of my engaged fan timeline.

What I remember most about Derek Jeter’s early years was he was a rebirth to the franchise. New York obviously had other guys like Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada who would emerge onto the scene but Jeter was a shortstop and was somehow more special. He replaced Tony Fernandez, who’s time was so quickly running short in New York, I vividly remember a fan next to me asking  out loud if Tony’s brother was in the stands because a fan had dropped a foul ball.

Naturally, I went to two more games in 1996. The first was May 14th, 1996 when Dwight Gooden threw a no-hitter cementing my status as a fan for life. The second was September 21st when that young shortstop I had forgotten about from the previous spring collected his first ever walk-off hit. The Yankees beat the Red Sox that day, 12-11 after trailing 11-7 and 7-1 earlier. Jeter was officially my favorite player.

He was our source of comfort throughout that season en route to the first championship I ever saw. Throughout the 90’s was somewhat of a Fairy tale for Yankees’ fans. It was the part of a movie where the action is great and the conflict hasn’t happened yet. Jeter emerged as a top player in the league and the Yankees became a dynasty.

As Jeter’s career grew, I grew with it. In eighth grade, I sat with my family, same seat every night, eating out of the same dish just in case, while Jeter hit his infamous World Series home run against the Mets. The Subway Series was serious business in central Jersey and I was glad I could continue attending middle school once it was over.

In 2001 I was a full-fledged teenager and still remember being in the basement of one of my crush’s and watching “The Flip” as if it was in slow  motion. When the ball was hit into the corner I knew the Yankees had no shot at keeping the game from being tied. Mussina started that game for New York and it was the best playoff game he ever pitched.

As that play developed I quickly thought in terms of being a first baseman, as it was the last season I played the sport myself. It should have been cut off, it should have been up the line, Jeremy Giambi should have slid. That play should have been anyting except what it was, which was a shortstop running like he was superimposed onto the screen, grabbing a bouncing baseball on the run, contorting his arms into a perfect flipping motion and executing what had to have been a work of perfection in order to get the job done.

I was silent and so was everybody else when that play happened. We simply didn’t know what to make of what had just happened.

After Jeter became “Mr. November”, my trips to the stadium started to become less and less frequent. We lost our connection to tickets and I was busy with school most of the time. I returned to the stadium, June 30th, 2004, to see the game where David Ortiz had a line drive go through his glove. The Yankees won that game, 4-2. The next day, Jeter dove head first into the stands.

The next season I saw the Yankees beat the Cubs on June 17th, 2005, a birthday gift to me.  The next day, Jeter hit his first and only Grand Slam, an early birthday gift for himself, as he celebrates his two days before I do.

Fast forward to 2009 and I was graduating from college. My dream was to see the Yankees win a World Series while I could celebrate on a campus in Connecticut. Instead, the Red Sox won in 2007 and the Yankees won mere months after I graduated. At the time, that championship felt like a coming of age. I was spoiled and too young to realize it when I was a little kid. I thought championships were something that happened when you rooted for the Yankees.

I imagine Jeter felt something similarly and when New York won in 2009, it was a relief. It was my “adult” championship and I appreciated it differently, including funding my own way to see the Yankees clinch Jeter’s final pennant up close when I watched the Yankees finish off the Angels in six games in person. It was the second loudest I ever heard the new stadium.

In 2011, I splurged for a partial season ticket package. I was working full-time and living in Stamford, a mere train ride away from the stadium. The Yankees won most of the games I attended but as it headed towards the second half of the season attending the games became more and more difficult and the weather hotter and hotter.

Jeter was hurt for part of the year and creeping in on 3,000 hits. One of the games on my season ticket package was against the Rays in mid-July, violating my policy of trying to avoid July games at all costs. Naturally, after  a rain out earlier in the week, I realized there was an outside chance Jeter would have a chance at his big hit that day. After no hits the night before, Jeter was at 2,998 and I knew I had to attend at all costs.

I have seen a no-hitter, a clinched pennant, walk-off hits, Yankees-Red Sox battles and much more in person. I have never experienced anything like I did that day. Jeter’s first hit made it feel like the stands might collapse. His second hit, a home run, and I thought the whole stadium might explode. It was pure joy with the swing of a bat. It was years of being a Yankees fan in the Jeter generation redeemed in a flash.

It was magic.

I would move to Florida before the end of the year, coming back once a season to watch the Yankees. When Jeter announced his retirement in Spring Training, I knew I couldn’t make a trip this season after switching jobs, supplanting myself in the middle of the “wedding circuit” and simply not having the time to do it.

So I said goodbye to Derek Jeter’s career and my childhood as a 27-year-old at Tropicana Field. Jeter reached base and the Yankees came back to win again. Many of us loudly saluted and quietly nodded in understanding as the 40-year-old walked off the field. Sitting in my home with a sleeping girlfriend for Jeter’s final home game I couldn’t help but reflect. I “met” him when I was eight-years-old, and it seemed like every time I witnessed something special, he was somehow involved.

You do not often see an athlete play for 20 years in the same market. You don’t often see someone sustain greatness for most of your life and rack up championships in the process.

For anyone under the age of 30, Derek Jeter is really all we know as Yankees’ fans. He is a timeline for our lives.

Truth be told as soon as Adam Jones homered in the ninth inning I knew how this had to play out. The frightening part is it actually happened. The Orioles, the team I first saw as an opponent, tied it with two outs in the ninth inning. Jeter responded by doing what I saw him do for the first time in his career, hitting a walk off single in his final at-bat at the stadium.

And there it was again.

A silent nod to the end of an era.

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Derek Jeter is Everything Keith Olbermann Should Want http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/derek-jeter-is-everything-keith-olbermann-should-want/30267/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/derek-jeter-is-everything-keith-olbermann-should-want/30267/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:32:34 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30267 jeterFor nearly seven minutes straight, America’s best version of an agenda-pushing, media shill threw caution into the wind by arguing about something he entirely made up right before opening his mouth.

In case you were busy doing…Anything else, Keith Olbermann has been back with ESPN and has his own show. He starts shows with opening monologues and used one on Tuesday night to absolutely blast someone who has been near and dear to the majority’s hearts for the past two decades.

Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat: Derek Jeter is not the best player of all time, and nobody ever claimed he was. Jorge Posada, Jeter’s best friend and teammate of over a decade said he considers him the best Yankee of all time, but it’s hardly a reliable or objective source, so using that as an argument would seem pretty foolish. Olbermann did it anyway.

Derek Jeter did announce his retirement at the very beginning of this season. He did receive gifts everywhere he went, he did get selected to an All-Star Game he didn’t deserve (and played a terrific game anyway) and he will likely stay retired unlike his former teammate and close friend, Andy Pettitte.

But this is what always cracks me up about that argument, what is Jeter supposed to do? He knew he was going to retire, was he supposed to not reveal it until it was “appropriate”? If so, when was that going to be? Some point to Lou Gehrig giving a speech for one game and that being that. But it was before national television, before social media, before ticket prices were outrageous, before traveling to see your favorite player was commonplace. If you’re making comparisons about player etiquette that are twice Jeter’s age, you’ve already lost your argument. You think Babe Ruth would have lasted in the majors if everything he allegedly did in his day was constantly out in the open? Mickey Mantle? Ty Cobb?

On one hand you could do it late in the year and rob 20 years’ worth of fans from being able to plan a time to say goodbye. On the other hand, you can be Derek Jeter. So let’s cross that off the list of things in his control, he made the right decision, he didn’t orchestrate the media frenzy which previously had followed Mariano Rivera as recently as last year and even players like Chipper Jones before that.

But the main problem with Olbermann’s rant is the intense irony clouding it. Jeter was too over the top? Too flashy? Too full of himself? What was that Olbermann rant which was on a show named after himself lasting three times as long as it needed to be? Why did Olbermann make those points now, in the final week of Jeter’s career instead of early in the year when it was evident all teams would celebrate him and you knew it would last a full season? Ratings?

The chance to play Devil’s Advocate and stand out from a crowd? Of course it was all of those things because Keith Olbermann is the worst. He’s a self absorbed, egomaniac who could learn a few lessons from Jeter off the field. But first let’s focus on it.

Olbermann pointed out quite a few players he considered better than Jeter, and quite a few “stats” to back it up. I’m going to choose to ignore all of Jeter’s accomplishments that can directly tie into his teams. You can argue his leadership played a role but we can’t quantify that so we’ll omit it. This means, none of his five World Series rings play a role, nor his runs scored (2nd in Yankees’ history) nor his Gold Gloves (which he didn’t deserve), nor his postseason cumulative stats.

Olbermann starts off implying Jeter was never the clear cut best player on his team or in the league and this is mostly true. He wasn’t a stolen base guy like Rickey Henderson, a slugger like Babe Ruth or a prolific run producer. He also batted second and played shortstop, two positions not directly responsible for any of those things. Also, why did he have to be elite at any one thing?

Can’t he be among the best in most things and that still make him elite? Can’t being starter worthy, leading some categories at times, averaging 151 games a year until he was 38 and being sixth in something 18,000 players have attempted and not done as well, be elite?

Then Olbermann continues: Jeter wasn’t a leader even for longevity among other players who played around the same amount of games, again, for some reason, sighting: HR, RBI, SB etc. Olbermann is too smart and has watched too much baseball to be this stupid.

Yankees News

Let’s focus on some stats more directly tied to Jeter’s career.

Hits: 1st
Singles: 1st
Doubles: 1st
Runs: 2nd
Walks: 4th
RBIs: 6th
Home Runs: 9th
Total Bases: 3rd
Batting Avg: 8th
Stolen Bases: 1st

Those are Jeter’s numbers compared to other Yankees. Olbermann found a way to make Jeter the 11th best Yankee and based it on WAR, a stat still being debated even by those who helped create it and make it mainstream.

If you noticed, it was the only stat Olbermann used when comparing Jeter to other Yankees’ players.

When you’re top 10 in every major category, it’s part because you stayed relevant for 20 years and part because you were pretty good. Like for instance, nobody helped Jeter deliver the most singles, doubles and stolen bases as a Yankee. The most prolific franchise of all-time and Jeter is top 10 in 10 of the most important categories and we’re criticizing this?

Hits: 1st
Runs: 1st
Doubles: 4th
Home Runs: 3rd
Total Bases: 3rd
RBIs: 6th
Walks: 5th
Batting Avg: 6th
On-Base %: 7th
Slugging %: 11th
OPS %: 5th

That’s Jeter compared to any other SS in MLB history ever. This is what happens when we compare him to his position and actually evaluate statistics effectively. Is it OK to compare him to all time greats now?

Where Jeter ranks amongst all Yankee Shortstops:
Hits:1st
Runs: 1st
Singles: 1st
Doubles: 1st
Triples: 1st
Home Runs: 1st
Total Bases: 1st
RBIs: 1st
Walks: 1st
Stolen Bases: 1st
Batting Avg: 1st
On-Base %: 1st
Slugging %: 1st
OPS %: 1st

These are Jeter’s numbers against any other Yankees’ Shortstops. Is it OK to proclaim him kind of important to the franchise now?

Here’s some more stats per Jayson Stark:

“Jeter is the only player in major-league baseball history with at least 3,000 hits, 350 stolen bases, 250 homers and 1,300 RBI”.

Olbermann found a way to make SB, HR and RBI look like a disadvantage to Jeter, but he forgot to add them all together as one player. He also conveniently ignored hits, which if nothing else, makes Jeter an automatic first ballot Hall of Famer, which automatically makes him elite. Jeter is sixth in total hits. Sixth. Out of well over 18,000 players. You don’t luck your way into over 3,400 hits.

“Jeter and Hank Aaron are the only two players in MLB history with 16-or-more seasons of at least 150 hits, 20 doubles and 10 homers.”

Jeter isn’t special?

How about this stat:

“In 158 postseason games (roughly one season) Jeter has 200 hits, 18 stolen bases, 32 doubles, five triples and 20 homers”.

I would say that’s a pretty nice sample size to imply Jeter rises to the occasion on the sport’s biggest stage against the hardest competition.

So the final verdict is this: Derek Jeter played very well for 20 years and when you add those two things together you get a player we may never see again. Derek Jeter stayed healthy, he played elite baseball in the regular and postseason and he did it all with one team, which happens to be the biggest market in the sport.

Olbermann should learn to be more like Jeter. Maybe then he won’t be fired every five seconds from every major market and excel in nothing. Even when Olbermann is at the top of his game he learns how to sabotage his talents. Instead of worrying about what the media and fans are doing or feeling in regards to Jeter, Olbermann can focus on why everyone is reacting this way. Maybe then he can fix his own career and personal relationships one day.

Until then, he should just learn how to keep his mouth shut and enjoy watching history in a sport which glorifies it more than any other.

Derek Jeter is Baseball.

 

 

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Minnesota Twins Phil Hughes’ Record-Setting Season http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/minnesota-twins-phil-hughes-record-setting-season/30257/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/minnesota-twins-phil-hughes-record-setting-season/30257/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 21:10:59 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30257 hughes2014 has been another rough year for the Minnesota Twins, who will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Still, there were some bright spots. Brian Dozier emerged as a solid all-around player, Trevor Plouffe had a nice season, and Danny Santana hit .319/.355/.477 in 97 games at the shortstop position. But, the most impressive year of all was had by Phil Hughes, who the Twins signed to a three year deal this offseason.

Prior to signing with the Twins, Hughes had a seven year tenure with the Yankees. He was a very highly hyped prospect, topping out at No. 2 on Baseball Prospectus Top 100 list before the 2007 season. He reached the big leagues that year and had a no-hit bid in just his second major league outing before an injury cut him short. Unfortunately, 2008 was a disappointing year for Hughes who pitched to a 6.62 ERA in just eight starts.

Overall, Hughes owned an ugly 4.53 ERA in seven seasons and 780.2 innings with the Yankees. He made a solid contribution out of the pen in 2009, and had a strong first half of the season as a starter the next year, but his 2013 season saw him post a 5.19 ERA.

In Yankee Stadium Hughes was undone by his flyball tendencies. His ground ball rate of 33.5 percent with the Yankees was one of the lowest in the major leagues. If there was a glimmer of hope, it was that his road ERA was more than a run lower than his home ERA.

The Twins took a plunge in the offseason and signed the big right-hander to a three year deal worth $24 million. In his first season, Hughes has richly rewarded the Twins front office for their faith in him. Over 32 starts he’s thrown 209.2 innings and mustered 6.1 fWAR, the third best mark in MLB. Most impressively, he’s issued only 16 walks for a 1.9 percent rate, while fanning 186 hitters. That comes out to an 11.6 K/BB ratio, which is the best mark in major league history.

Hughes has simply gotten more aggressive. With spacious Target Field hosting half of his outings, his HR/FB ratio has dipped down to 6.2 percent. After allowing 59 home runs in 2012-13, Hughes has surrendered just 16 this season. While he’s always thrown a high rate of strikes, this year his zone rate is up to 61.1, which is a full four percentage points higher than the next closest pitcher, Bartolo Colon.

He’s throwing the same number of fastballs as in previous seasons, but he’s reverted to his cutter, which he had avoided in 2012-13. Though Hughes is missing bats at the same rate, the increase in strikes has allowed him to raise his strikeout rate from 18.9 percent to 21.8 percent. A change of scenery has done Phil Hughes a world of good. This hasn’t been a good year for the Twins, but the Hughes signing is looking like a very good move already. One year after the Yankees relegated him to the bullpen, he’s authored the best K/BB ratio in baseball history.

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Little Jose Altuve’s Big Season for Houston Astros http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/little-jose-altuves-big-season-for-houston-astros/30249/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/little-jose-altuves-big-season-for-houston-astros/30249/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 01:13:35 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30249 AltuveIt’s been a season of controversy for the Houston Astros. They showed some real promise in June, with rookie right fielder George Springer making a big splash, and pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh posting ace-like numbers. However, shortly after Sports Illustrated declared them the “2017 World Series champs“, things began to unravel. Top prospect Carlos Correa was lost for the season with a broken ankle, and they failed to sign the top pick Brady Aiken, in what turned out to be a messy dispute.

In the midst of these issues, second baseman Jose Altuve is having a fantastic season. The undersized Altuve is leading the major leagues in batting average at .343 and hits with 221. He’s also stolen the most bases in the American League. It’s been a phenomenal season for Altuve, who is a fan favorite.

Altuve broke onto the scene in 2012 with a big first half. He posted a .303/.344/.438 slash line, and was named to the All-Star team for his efforts. The second half wasn’t as kind to Altuve, as his average dropped to .274, and his slugging percentage decreased to .351. Despite his All-Star status, he accumulated just 1.5 fWAR over the course of the year, due to poor defensive ratings at second base.

His numbers dropped in 2013. Altuve hit a respectable .283, but his on-base percentage fell from .340 to .316, and his slugging percentage fell from .399 to .363. While he stole 35 bases, he was also caught 13 times.

This season has been a career year for Altuve in every category. He’s ripped 46 doubles, and his .113 isolated slugging percentage is higher than players such as David Wright, J.J. Hardy and Billy Butler. While Altuve has always had a knack for putting the bat on the ball, he’s trimmed his strikeout rate all the way down to 7.7 percent, which is nearly five points lower than the previous year. Only Victor Martinez has a lower strikeout rate.

Furthermore, Altuve has 54 stolen bases in 63 attempts. His +6.7 base running runs is one of the top marks in the major leagues. Altuve’s defensive ratings are still subpar, but his offensive production has more than made up for his deficiencies on the other side of the ball. Overall he’s produced +5 fWAR, which puts him among the top 20 position players in baseball.

Altuve is under contract for the next three seasons for a total of $10.5 million, with team options for $6 million and $6.5 million for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. That’s a huge bargain, even if he performs closer to his 2012-13 levels. The second baseman is just 24 years of age. If the Astros young players develop as the organization hopes, Altuve will be a crucial piece on a contending team.

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Detroit Tigers Victor Martinez’ Fantastic Season http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/detroit-tigers-victor-martinez-fantastic-season/30244/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/detroit-tigers-victor-martinez-fantastic-season/30244/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:13:17 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30244 "MLB:The Detroit Tigers have endured several bumps in the road during the 2014 season. Nevertheless, they have a one game lead on the Kansas City Royals with six games remaining, and are virtually assured of at least a wild card berth. Designated hitter Victor Martinez has been a rock in the middle of their lineup. After an unimpressive 2013 season, Martinez has turned in one of the top offensive seasons of 2014.

Martinez was signed to a four year deal worth $50 million in the 2010 offseason. His power numbers took a hit in his first year in Detroit, and he hit only 12 home runs. However, he helped to compensate by hitting .330 with a .380 on-base percentage. But, in offseason training he would tear his ACL and miss the entire 2012 season.

While Martinez maintained his usual low strikeout rate when he returned in 2013, his power numbers continued to decline, as his isolated slugging percentage fell from .141 to .129. Overall he managed a .301 batting average, but his .355 on-base percentage and .430 slugging percentage were rather pedestrian for a designated hitter. Martinez appeared to be in serious decline.

This season the 35 year-old has experienced an impressive resurgence. He’s tied for 9th in the major leagues with 31 home runs, which represents a new career high. At the same time, he’s set a career low with a 6.5 percent strikeout rate. Martinez and Jose Bautista are the only players that have walked more times than they have struck out.

His .407 on-base percentage is tied with Bautista for the best mark in the major leagues. Only Jose Altuve has a higher batting average than Martinez’ .336 mark, and only Mike Trout and Jose Abreu have a higher slugging percentage than his career-best .566.

All in all V-Mart has been a huge offensive force for the Tigers. His 166 wRC+ is tied with Abreu for second behind Trout’s 170 wRC+. In the month of September he’s been absolutely phenomenal. Martinez is batting .397 with a .476 on-base percentage and .644 slugging percentage. Over 84 plate appearances he’s struck out only once. His swinging strike rate is a minuscule 1.9 percent in the month of September.

With teammate Miguel Cabrera also producing excellent numbers in September, the Tigers offense has been ferocious. This team doesn’t have a ton of depth in their lineup, and the bullpen has been a mess, but with top end offensive talent in Cabrera and Martinez as well as a surprising J.D. Martinez, they have scored the third most runs in baseball.

Much has been made of Justin Verlander‘s decline, but with Max Scherzer, David Price and Rick Porcello along with Anibal Sanchez coming out of the bullpen, this is a team that should fare well in October even if Verlander doesn’t bring his best stuff. If they can avoid the wild card game by holding off the Royals, the Tigers will be the team to beat in the American League.

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Washington Nationals Lineup Makes Them Favorites in the NL http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/washington-nationals-lineup-makes-them-favorites-in-the-nl/30239/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/washington-nationals-lineup-makes-them-favorites-in-the-nl/30239/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:02:41 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30239 RendonDespite some injury-fueled early season struggles, the Washington Nationals are sitting pretty. With a 91-64 record, they own the best record in the NL, and will rest their starters as they head into the postseason, where they will await the winner of the wild card game, which will likely feature the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Nationals rotation has received a lot of attention, and it features four starters who are having strong seasons in Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark as well as an established veteran in Gio Gonzalez. However, the strength of this team has been their position players.

At first glance, the Nationals cumulative batting line of .252/.319/.393 seems unimpressive. But, much of that can be attributed to the lackluster contributions of injury replacements. While Ryan Zimmerman recovered from injury, 350 plate appearances went to Danny Espinosa, who hit a woeful .219/.283/.356. Jose Lobaton appeared in 64 games, most of them while starting catcher Wilson Ramos was recovering from a hand injury. Kevin Frandsen and Nate McLouth saw nearly 400 plate appearances between them when Bryce Harper was out.

With a lineup that is back to full strength, the Nationals are very formidable. Centerfielder Denard Span is having a fantastic season at the top of the order. He’s reached base at a .352 clip, and has added 31 stolen bases. With his 9.9 percent strikeout rate, he’s a very tough out. Second year player Anthony Rendon is also having a terrific year. The Rice product is batting .286/.347/.471.

Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman compose the middle of the order. Werth is doing his best to make the mega contract he signed back in 2011 sane. He’s been the Nats top offensive threat, and owns a .389 on-base percentage that ranks third in the NL. Desmond has overcome some early season struggles, and is second on the team with 23 home runs. Zimmerman has been hampered with injuries but he remains a solid hitter. Though he has only five home runs to his credit, his .288/.350/.470 slash line is solid, and he’s hammered 19 doubles in only 54 games.

Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos round out the Nats lineup. LaRoche leads the team with 25 home runs, and thanks to a 14.1 percent walk rate that is the second highest mark in the NL, he has a .359 on-base percentage. In the first half Harper struggled with injuries and was unproductive when he did manage to stay on the field. Lately he’s producing numbers that are more in line with his career marks. Since he returned from the disabled list, he owns a .285/.350/.458 batting line. Ramos has dealt with injuries of his own, but he’s managed to accumulate a .271/.305/.411 batting line that is above-average for a catcher.

In addition, the Nationals have Asdrubal Cabrera on the bench, who they acquired from the Cleveland Indians. Cabrera has an above-average career batting line, and has helped to fill in when Zimmerman missed time. He provides needed depth and a veteran bat off the bench. Overall this is a very deep lineup. Besides their good numbers at the plate, they’ve been better than anyone else on the basepaths with +13.3 base running runs and have flashed good team defense. They will be a difficult opponent in October.

 

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Boston Red Sox Youth Movement – Largely Disappointing http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/boston-red-sox-youth-movement-largely-disappointing/30234/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/boston-red-sox-youth-movement-largely-disappointing/30234/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:23:08 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30234 BogaertsA year ago the Boston Red Sox had the oldest roster in the major leagues. That season ended with them winning the World Series. Then, they allowed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to depart in free agency, Stephen Drew went unsigned until June and Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed with the Miami Marlins. Youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley won starting jobs out of spring training. After a host of trade deadline activity, the Sox dealt away pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront and replaced them with an array of young arms. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was released and Christian Vazquez was summoned from Triple-A to take his place.

The 2014 season hasn’t been kind to the Sox, who have never been more than one game over .500, and that occurred on May 14. How has the youth movement fared?

Bogaerts, who entered the season as the No. 2 ranked prospect in baseball, hasn’t quite lived up to the almost impossibly high expectations Sox fans had. He got off on the right foot in the first month of the season, hitting .287/.387/.378, and followed that up with a red-hot May where he produced a slash line of .327/.407/.490.

However, the next three months were not so kind to the 21 year-old, as he batted just .161 over the months of June, July and August with a woeful .206 on-base percentage and only five home runs. September has been far more encouraging, as Bogaerts has ripped the ball to the tune of a .338 batting average with four home runs. Overall his numbers are rather pedestrian, but it’s important to remember that most players his age are in the low minors. Other than a 20 and 21 year-old Alex Rodriguez, there hasn’t been a shortstop that has starred this early in their career.

Bradley Jr., while displaying excellent defense, has looked overmatched at the plate. Among players with at least 400 plate appearances, his .203 batting average is fourth worst, and his .272 slugging percentage is more than 20 points lower than the next worst mark. Despite his excellent defense, it’s hard to imagine him factoring into the Sox long-term plans.

Catcher Christian Vazquez has displayed a big-time arm, and he’s caught 12 of a potential 26 base stealers. He does an excellent job in other aspects of the game including receiving and blocking pitches, and is likely already one of the game’s best defensive backstops. But, he’s struggled mightily with big league pitching, hitting just .217 with a .278 on-base percentage and no home runs. His defensive prowess will give him an extended look, but his future might be as a backup.

Utility player Brock Holt plugged several holes for the Red Sox and performed at a very high level. After hitting .327 in the first half, his performance has predictably slowed down. Going forward he’s more of a super sub than a Ben Zobrist type who stars at several positions.

Mookie Betts has given Sox fans something to get excited about. After tearing up minor league pitching, the undersized 21 year-old has more than held his own at the major league level. Through 43 games he’s hitting an impressive .283/.363/.428. Betts has a good batting eye, strong contact skills and more power than his frame (listed generously at 5’9 and 155 pounds) would suggest. Furthermore, he can play second base and all three outfield spots. If the Sox make a run at Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, expect Betts to serve as the centerpiece to any deal. If they decide to retain him, he’s a promising young player that could have a big impact for years to come.

The Red Sox stable of young pitchers has been underwhelming. Rubby de la Rosa has been serviceable, but he lacks a third pitch to back up his hard fastball and changeup. Between the trio of Brandon Workman, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, none has managed an ERA below 5.17. Workman has made only 15 starts, and Webster and Ranaudo have just 15 starts between the two of them, but it appears the Sox will be active in trying to acquire starting pitching this offseason. Joe Kelly, a 26 year-old hard-throwing right-hander obtained from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Lackey deal, has struggled with his control. Edwin Escobar, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in the Peavy trade, has drawn good reviews for his work in the minor leagues.

While the Red Sox youth movement has been largely disappointing, there have been some bright spots, most noticeably the play of Mookie Betts. Expect the Sox to be very active this offseason. Swinging a trade for Stanton and signing a big name pitcher or two is not out of the question. With a couple savvy moves and returning talent in David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Yoenis Cespedes, 2015 could be another turnaround year for the Sox.

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Have Billy Beane’s Trades Hurt the Oakland Athletics? http://baseballnewssource.com/oakland-athletics/have-billy-beanes-trades-hurt-the-oakland-athletics/30229/ http://baseballnewssource.com/oakland-athletics/have-billy-beanes-trades-hurt-the-oakland-athletics/30229/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 23:50:32 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30229 lester_gomes_cespedesThe Oakland Athletics headed into July with the best record in baseball, and sizeable division lead. They made the first big deal of the trade season, sending 2013 first-round draft pick Billy McKinney and consensus top 10 prospect Addison Russell along with Dan Straily and a player to be named later to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Next, they swung a big deadline deal with the Boston Red Sox, trading power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for a few months of Jon Lester.

Even into the beginning of August, the A’s were rolling. On August 9 they owned a 72-44 record, and a four game lead in the American League West. Since then things have gone sour. The A’s have gone 11-24, and while they still own a two-game lead in the wild card race, their World Series odds have dropped to eight percent.

A’s hitters have struggled mightily since the Cespedes trade. Over the last 30 days, they own a miserable .224/.293/.332 batting line. They have scored just 92 runs in that stretch. That’s a far cry from what they were producing earlier in the year. In the first half of the season, they had a .251/.328/.400 slash line and had scored 466 runs, the second-highest total in baseball.

While the Cespedes trade and the A’s offensive declined have followed roughly the same timeline, it’s foolish to suggest that one caused the other. Sure, the A’s have been hurt by the loss of Cespdes, who was their best right-handed power threat. However, he’s hardly tearing it up with Boston. Though his overall offensive production was solid, it was hardly better than the average A’s hitter.

Lester has been excellent for the A’s, and has provided a much-needed boost to a tiring pitching staff. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, and the A’s won’t have the cash to resign him. Cespedes on the other hand, has an additional year of team control. With his $10.5 million salary for 2015, the A’s would likely have shopped him this offseason in any case.

Surrendering Russell, who is one of the best prospects in baseball for Samardzija, who is under team control through 2015 and Hammel, who has pitched terribly, is looking like a poor deal at this point. Samardzija was among the NL leaders in ERA with the Cubs, and he’s performed admirably with the A’s. But, he’ll command a sizable chunk of the A’s payroll with his 2015 arbitration salary, and will be a free agent after the year. Meanwhile, the Cubs have six years of cost-controlled performance from Russell, who tore up Double-A pitching as a 20 year-old. The A’s paid a high price for the Shark, and they may regret it.

The A’s recent collapse has made Billy Beane’s trades look significantly worse then when he made them. He paid dearly to acquire Samardzija and Hammel, and dealing away the popular and exciting Cespedes hasn’t won him any fans. This collapse can’t be pinned solely on his shoulders, but if Russell blossoms into a star for the Cubs, A’s fans won’t be happy.

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Jake Arrieta Emerges as an Ace for Chicago Cubs http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/jake-arrieta-emerges-as-an-ace-for-chicago-cubs/30224/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/jake-arrieta-emerges-as-an-ace-for-chicago-cubs/30224/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:15:31 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30224 cubs-arietaJake Arrieta dominated the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night. The Chicago Cubs hurler threw his first career shutout, surrendering just one hit and one walk while fanning 13 hitters. It was the best performance in what has been an excellent season for the 28 year-old right-hander.

Arrieta broke into the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. In parts of four seasons with the O’s, he authored an ugly 5.46 ERA in 358 innings. He did show some promise in 2012, as he displayed a 22.0 percent strikeout rate and 3.65 xFIP despite a 6.20 ERA. However, after five ugly starts in 2013, in which he allowed 19 runs and walked 17 hitters in just 23.2 innings, the Orioles sent him to the Cubs along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

He made nine starts with the Cubs in 2013, and was mediocre. Though his 3.66 ERA was solid, he had a pedestrian 17.4 percent strikeout rate and his walk rate of 11.3 percent was one of the higher marks in the majors. 2014 has been a different story. While he hasn’t thrown enough innings to qualify, his adjusted ERA is 11th best among hurlers that have thrown at least 140 innings, and his adjusted FIP is second best. Only Clayton Kershaw has been better on a per-inning basis.

Overall Arrieta has an enviable 26.7 percent strikeout rate to go with a solid 6.8 percent walk rate. He’s got a sparkling 2.65 ERA and an even better 2.30 FIP. While he didn’t pitch in a major league game until May 3rd, he has been consistently good since then.

Arrieta started grabbing everyone’s attention with a three start stretch from June 18 to June 30. First of all, he dominated the Miami Marlins, fanning 11 hitters in seven innings of one run ball, issuing just one walk. He followed that up with a strong performance against the Reds, notching nine punchouts in seven innings, while allowing two runs. Then, he faced off against the Boston Red Sox, and came within four outs of getting a no-hitter, adding in ten strikeouts.

Arrieta has emerged as a legitimate ace. His ZiPS and Steamer projections are on par with those for Oakland Athletics hurler Jeff Samardzija, who the Cubs traded away. The big right-hander has relied heavily on a cutter/slider. After throwing it on just 15 percent of his pitches last year, he’s nearly doubled his usage to 29 percent this year. It’s whiff rate is a strong 14.7 percent. That’s not too big a jump from prior seasons, but by throwing it more often, Arrieta has effectively complemented his mid 90s fastball. On a per pitch basis, it’s been one of the best breaking pitches in baseball.

The Cubs have found that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. They’ve scooped up pitchers such as Feldman, Arrieta and Jason Hammel for pennies on the dollar. They flipped Feldman and Hammel in trades, and Arrieta has emerged as an ace. With a host of talented young position players, this team could be very dangerous in 2015.

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Do the Oakland Athletics Have Enough Pitching? http://baseballnewssource.com/oakland-athletics/do-the-oakland-athletics-have-enough-pitching/30218/ http://baseballnewssource.com/oakland-athletics/do-the-oakland-athletics-have-enough-pitching/30218/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 03:33:56 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30218 lesterThe Oakland Athletics got off to a very strong start, and on August 9 they had a four game lead on the Anaheim Angels. Their 72-44 record was the best in baseball, and after acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs, they had recently traded for ace pitcher Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox. From that point, the A’s have a woeful 11-22 record. While they are all but assured of a playoff spot, it’s a wild card berth they are looking at, rather than home field advantage all the way through.

Despite all the pitching the A’s have acquired, there are some big questions about their rotation. Lester has been as good as advertised. In nine starts he’s authored a 2.30 ERA with strikeout and walk rates of 22.7 percent and 5.6 percent. He’s one of the top starters in the American League.

Samardzija has also been very good, and while his ERA hasn’t been spectacular, his park-adjusted xFIP is actually better than Lester’s. He’s attacking the zone more than ever before, and has a minuscule 3.4 percent walk rate over 13 starts with the A’s. With a big ballpark, he’s pounding the zone with confidence.

However, the A’s have some issues beyond those two pitchers. Sonny Gray appears to be tiring. After striking out over 20 percent of hitters in the first four months of the season, his K-rates have dipped to 17.1 percent and 16.3 percent in August and September. The 24 year-old has seen his fastball velocity decline in that time. He’s already thrown more innings than last season, and may be running on fumes.

Oakland A'NewsLikewise, teammate Scott Kazmir has seen his second half strikeout rate drop seven percentage points to 16.4 percent. In the same time, his walk rate has climbed from 5.9 percent to 8.8 percent. His fastball velocity is also dropping. Kazmir hasn’t thrown more than 152 innings since 2007, so there’s understandably some concern at this point. Right now he’s at 173.2 innings, and is making his 30th start for the first time in seven years.

Hammel, who was excellent with the Cubs, has imploded with the A’s. He’s authored an ugly 4.76 ERA in 11 starts, with an even worse 5.76 FIP. Right now it looks like the A’s bought very high on half a season of a pitcher that has a career ERA- of 108 in over 1100 innings. The right-hander is unlikely to have a spot in the A’s postseason rotation, meaning they will have to rely on the tiring Gray or Kazmir.

Of course, the A’s may not be so fortunate to have to deal with the issue of who makes their postseason rotation. They won’t catch the Angels, and as a result will have to focus on holding off the Kansas City Royals or the Seattle Mariners for the top wild card spot. They might have some magic left, but their position is much weaker than it was just five weeks ago.

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Ian Kinsler Proving to be Key Acquisition for Detroit Tigers http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/ian-kinsler-proving-to-be-key-acquisition-for-detroit-tigers/30213/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/ian-kinsler-proving-to-be-key-acquisition-for-detroit-tigers/30213/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 23:16:03 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30213 kinslerThe Detroit Tigers currently enjoy a 1.5 game lead on the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central. With just 13 games remaining, the Tigers odds of winning the division sit at 75 percent, and they are virtually assured of a playoff spot. Though they endured an extended rough patch, this team should be dangerous in the playoffs.

The Tigers have plenty of star power. Their pitching staff features Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball they have the slugging Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who is having a fantastic year. However, the contributions of second baseman Ian Kinsler cannot be overlooked.

Kinsler was acquired from the Texas Rangers this offseason in exchange for Prince Fielder and his bloated salary. He was coming off two consecutive seasons of decent, but less than stellar production. While Kinsler’s offensive production hasn’t rebounded to its 2010-11 levels, he’s having a very good year. His 4.8 fWAR leads the Tigers, though it’s just fractions ahead of Cabrera.

Kinsler is batting .278/.311/.418. That comes out to a 102 wRC+ which is average overall. It’s significantly better than second basemen as a whole, who are batting .251/.309/.364. He’s no slouch with the bat, and his 11.4 percent strikeout rate makes him a tough out, but his contributions are more subtle.

The Tigers second baseman has long held a reputation as an excellent baserunner, and this season is no different. He only has 15 steals in 18 attempts, but he’s phenomenal at taking the extra base. His +9.2 base running runs is just a shade behind Ben Revere, and ahead of speedsters such as Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton.

Furthermore, he plays very good second base defense. Per Ultimate Zone Rating, only Dustin Pedroia has been a better fielding second baseman. While the Tigers are still a below-average defensive team, Kinsler has helped them improve significantly.

While Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski has been deservedly criticized for not doing enough to upgrade the bullpen and getting a mediocre return for Robbie Ray, the trade for Ian Kinsler was a great move. In one move the Tigers helped to address their deficiencies in defense and baserunning. Meanwhile, Fielder suffered a major neck injury after only 42 games.

On a team with three Cy Young winners and two MVP winners, Kinsler might not be getting the attention he deserves. But, he’s been just as important to the Tigers success as any of the big ticket names on this team. Despite all of their struggles, the Tigers have the second-best world series odds of any team in baseball, behind only the Washington Nationals. Kinsler won’t appear on any MVP ballots, but he’s very important to this team.

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Jordan Zimmermann Having Career Year in Loaded Nats Rotation http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/jordan-zimmermann-having-career-year-in-loaded-nats-rotation/30208/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/jordan-zimmermann-having-career-year-in-loaded-nats-rotation/30208/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:16:41 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30208 ZimmermanThe Washington Nationals starting pitchers have had a remarkable year. Their 14.5 fWAR leads the National League. Stephen Strasburg is among the league leaders in strikeout rate, Tanner Roark has a sub 3.00 ERA, Doug Fister has accumulated 3.5 RA-9 WAR despite missing a large chunk of the season, and Gio Gonzalez has a strikeout rate just shy of 25 percent. However, the best performance has come from Jordan Zimmermann.

The 28 year-old Zimmermann broke into the major leagues in 2009. But, he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, and he missed the remainder of that season and most of 2010. He returned to full strength in 2011, and from 2011-13, he authored a 3.12 ERA with 10.2 fWAR. Zimmermann relied on a strikeout rate that was in line with the major league average and a 4.9 percent walk rate that was one of the lowest in MLB.

This season Zimmermann has managed to cut his usually low walk rate to a miniscule 3.8 percent. At the same time, he’s boosted his strikeout rate to 22.6 percent, which is a solid four percentage points higher than the previous year. As a consequence, he’s dropped his ERA to 2.93, and his xFIP to a career low 3.07, which is nearly half a run lower than his previous best. His 4.3 fWAR is a career-high, and he ranks 11th in the major leagues in that category.

Zimmermann has made two significant changes. First of all, he is throwing his fastball more often. At 69.5 percent, only five qualified starting pitchers utilize their heater more frequently than Zimmermann. With an average velocity of 94 miles per hour, only ten pitchers have a harder fastball. He’s getting more whiffs with the pitch. It’s missing bats at an 8.3 percent clip as compared to 6.2 percent, and he’s also getting more infield pop flies.

Also, Zimmermann is throwing his slider harder. Zimmermann’s slider has long been his best secondary pitch, and he usually throws it around 86 miles per hour. This year he has bumped that velocity up to 87.5 miles per hour and as a result he’s getting more swings and misses. Batters have a whiff rate of 18.5 percent on Zimmermann’s slider, as compared to 16.3 percent the prior year and 13.9 percent in 2012. In addition, they are chasing the pitch nearly half the time when it’s located out of the strike zone, a big jump from past seasons.

Thanks to the fastball and the slider, Zimmermann’s overall whiff rate has increased from 8.7 percent to 10.2 percent. Interestingly enough, while his first-pitch strike rate and walk rate have improved, his zone rate is down. He’s been able to get ahead of hitters and then use his slider to expand the zone. Jordan Zimmermann has been a very good pitcher for the last three seasons, but the increase in whiffs has helped turn him into an ace.

 

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AL Cy Young Candidates: Chicago White Sox Chris Sale http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/al-cy-young-candidates-chris-sale/30201/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/al-cy-young-candidates-chris-sale/30201/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 20:13:20 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30201 salePitchers have dominated in 2014. The average ERA for a major league starting pitcher is just 3.86, and strikeout rates are just a shade under 20 percent. A host of pitchers are having excellent seasons, including Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Jon Lester. One pitcher that might be getting overlooked in the American League Cy Young conversation is Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.

Sale was dominant in his first four starts of the season, allowing only seven runs in 27.1 innings, with 29 strikeouts. However, he suffered an elbow injury, and missed more than five weeks of the season. He came back with a vengeance, racking up 10 strikeouts while allowing just one hit in six shutout innings in his first start since getting off the disabled list.

Since then Sale hasn’t missed a beat. While he’s notched about 50 fewer innings than Hernandez and Kluber, he’s accumulated 5.4 fWAR, which is only a few tenths behind those two hurlers. His 30.3 percent strikeout rate leads the American League, as does his 24.9 percent K-BB rate.

Opposing hitters are managing a woeful .197 batting average against Sale. The White Sox left-hander has a 1.99 ERA which is the lowest in the AL. After factoring his hitter-friendly home park, US Cellular Field into the equation, his ERA is on par with that posted by Clayton Kershaw.

Sale has always possessed a good fastball, and this year his average velocity is up to 94 miles per hour. From his low arm slot, his sweeping slider is nearly unhittable for left-handed batters. Righties struggle with the pitch as well. Overall the slider has a 14 percent swinging strike rate, and when hitters offer at sliders outside the zone they’re coming up empty on 55 percent of their swings.

However, the changeup has perhaps become Sale’s favorite secondary pitch. He’s effectively traded sliders for changeups. Last year he threw his slider 29 percent of the time, and his changeup 19 percent of the time. This year those rates have been reversed.  The changeup has a swinging strike rate of 20.5 percent, a solid increase from the previous year. Hitters are offering at 45 percent of the changeups Sale throws outside of the strike zone, and they’re whiffing on half of those swings.

All those extra whiffs means that Sale’s swinging strike rate is up to 13 percent, from 10.8 percent in 2013. By throwing more changeups, he’s giving his arm a better chance at staying healthy, and he’s been more effective to boot. While Sale hasn’t received the same acclaim that Kershaw has, his season has been nearly as impressive. King Felix has been a tough act to follow, and Kluber and Lester are also deserving of the Cy Young award. But, Sale has put together a resume that is at least as impressive.

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Jose Bautista Keeping Blue Jays in Wild Card Race http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/jose-bautista-trying-to-keep-blue-jays-afloat-in-wild-card-race/30194/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/jose-bautista-trying-to-keep-blue-jays-afloat-in-wild-card-race/30194/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30194 bautistaThe Toronto Blue Jays got off to a hot start in the 2014 season. One June 6 they owned a 38-24 record and enjoyed a six game lead in the American League East. As late as July 2 they were in sole possession of first place. However, things have unraveled from there.

The Baltimore Orioles have all but clinched the division, while the Jays are clinging on to slim hopes in the Wild Card race. At 76-69, they are 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card berth.

One player that has helped the Jays stay in the race is right-fielder Jose Bautista. The 33 year-old has stayed mostly healthy for the first time since 2011, and is having a fantastic season. He’s posting a .286/.398/.529 slash line that comes out to a 156 wRC+, which ranks 6th in the major leagues. Along with Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, he’s one of two players that has walked more than he’s struck out.

Bautista burst onto the scene in 2010, mashing 54 home runs for the Jays and posting a .617 slugging percentage. Previously he had hit just 59 home runs in parts of six largely mediocre seasons. He followed up his remarkable 2011 season with an even better 2011 year in which he hit 43 home runs while walking in an astounding 20.9 percent of his plate appearances. His .447 on-base percentage led baseball.

While on the field, Bautista was a productive offensive player in 2012 and 2013. However, his wRC+ marks of 137 and 133 were not on the same level as his 2010-11 performances. Injuries hampered him and he missed over 100 games in that span.

Bautista isn’t quite the same hitter now as he was in 2010-11. While he still brings a lot of power to the table, his .243 isolated slugging percentage doesn’t jump off the page like his .300+ marks. But, he’s compensated by bringing his strikeout rate down to 14.5 percent in a time when league strikeout rates are hovering around 20 percent. His contact and plate discipline skills are exceptional, particularly for someone that swings with the ferocity that he does.

In nine September games, Bautista has mashed the ball to the tune of a .324/.390/.622 slash line with three home runs. The Blue Jays have not made the postseason since 1992. Along with Edwin Encarnacion, he’s formed a very formidable duo in the middle of the Jays lineup. With 3.5 games to make up and only 17 games remaining, they are a long shot. Bautista is doing all he can to get them there.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Offense Is Carrying Them Towards the Playoffs http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/pittsburgh-pirates-offense-is-carrying-them-towards-the-playoffs/30191/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/pittsburgh-pirates-offense-is-carrying-them-towards-the-playoffs/30191/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 21:46:29 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30191 McCutchenAfter enduring a difficult start to the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fought their way back into the second Wild Card spot. At 75-68, they have a 1.5 game lead on the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers for the last playoff berth. A big reason for their success has been their offensive prowess.

In terms of runs scored, the Pirates rank ninth in the major leagues, and third in the National League. by wRC+, a park-adjusted batting metric, the Pirates 107 mark is third-best in the major leagues. However, the fact that they carry a near-automatic out in their lineup puts them at a significant disadvantage relative to the two teams ahead of them, the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers. If the inquiry is limited to position players, the Pirates have a team wRC+ of 115, which is three points higher than the Angels mark.

Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen is having another sensational year at the plate. He leads the Pirates in the traditional categories of home runs, runs, and runs batted in, and his 163 wRC+ is the best mark on the team and the top mark in the NL. A huge surprise has been the outstanding play of utility man Josh Harrison.

After three years of part-time play in which he topped out at a .290 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage, Harrison has been one of the most productive hitters in baseball. In 124 games he owns a slash line of .315/.348/.513. He’s drilled 53 extra-base hits and stolen 17 bags while playing outfield, second base and third base.

Catcher Russell Martin is also having a great year. While injuries have limited Martin to 96 games, he’s managed to accumulate 4.6 fWAR. He owns a .287/.408/.409 batting line and is playing his usual strong defense. Second baseman Neil Walker is also having a career year. Walker has ripped 19 home runs and possesses a .278/.349/.465 batting line.

Starling Marte is reprising his strong 2013 season with a .279/.348/.438 slash line. He’s also contributed a team-leading 25 stolen bases. Even retread Travis Snider is having a good year at the plate with a .255/.324/.411 line that rounds out to a 109 wRC+. With rookie outfielder Gregory Polanco not progressing as quickly as the Pirates have hoped, Snider has been a valuable piece in the outfield. Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez have low batting averages, but they represent the 7th and 8th Pirates batters with a wRC+ of over 100.

The Pirates pitching staff has struggled in a big way. Closer Mark Melancon leads the team with 1.6 fWAR. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton are all a shade over +1 fWAR. No other pitcher has reached that mark, and arms such as the departed Wandy Rodriguez, Jason Grilli and Ernesto Frieri have all contributed negative value.

Despite the struggles of their pitching staff and injuries to key players such as McCutchen and Martin, the Pirates are in strong shape to make the playoffs. This is a very deep lineup that also possesses star power. It should give opposing pitching staffs fits.

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Buster Posey Riding Extended Hot Streak for Giants http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/buster-posey-riding-extended-hot-streak-for-giants/30185/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/buster-posey-riding-extended-hot-streak-for-giants/30185/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 22:03:45 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30185 poseyThe San Francisco Giants have a three game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first Wild Card spot. With 19 games remaining, their playoff odds sit at a cool 94 percent. Buster Posey has been instrumental in helping to lead the Giants to October.

Posey started off the season slowly. On June 13, the 27 year-old catcher and first baseman was hitting a rather pedestrian .267/.329/.401. Those are decent numbers to be sure, but far below his career standards. Considering that he posted a .244/.333/.310 line in the second half of 2013, fans and analysts alike were concerned.

Posey has allayed their fears over his last 70 games. In that span he owns a remarkable .342/.390/.565 slash line. He’s popped 34 extra-base hits, including 12 home runs. After displaying a lack of power in 2013’s second half that continued through the first 2.5 months of the 2014 season, Posey has posted the second-best full season isolated slugging percentage of his career.

In the last 30 days, Posey has been even hotter. He’s batting .382/.407/.686 for a 211 wRC+. He’s hit seven of his home runs and owns baseball’s highest wRC+. Also, his 2.0 fWAR leads baseball. If there was any doubt t

All in all, Posey has produced a .300/.362/.492 batting line with 20 home runs. That comes out to a 143 wRC+, which is a better mark than any other catcher this season. He’s totaled 5.2 fWAR, and that doesn’t include pitch-framing, an aspect of the game in which Posey excels. According to StatCorner, he’s been worth 13.3 runs above average in that department, which is the 7th most in baseball.

Posey is bringing back shades of his fantastic 2012 campaign with this extended hot streak. In that season he .336/.408/.549 for a 164 wRC+ and 7.7 fWAR. Given that he’s been a bona fide star since 2010, when he helped lead the Giants to the World Series title, it’s easy to forget that Posey is only 27.

In the 2012-13 offseason, the Giants wisely locked up Posey nine year deal worth $167 million. For a stretch it might have looked like the Giants had made a poor investment. However, that’s all it was, a stretch. Posey is demonstrating once again that he is one of the best handful of players in the National League. He’s an outstanding defensive catcher who is also one of the top hitters in baseball.

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AL Cy Young Candidates: Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/al-cy-young-candidates-cleveland-indians-corey-kluber/30179/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/al-cy-young-candidates-cleveland-indians-corey-kluber/30179/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 16:00:22 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30179 Indians KluberCleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber turned in a dominant performance Saturday night, hurling a complete game against the Chicago White SoxKluber registered eight strikeouts without issuing a walk, and allowed one unearned run on five hits. It was the latest in a string of dominant performance for Kluber, who has posted a 1.49 ERA in the second half, with a 28.6 percent strikeout rate.

While Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has seemed to have a death grip on the Cy Young award, Kluber is a legitimate challenger. Hernandez has struggled as of late, and with Saturday’s performance, Kluber now has 5.7 fWAR, which leads AL pitchers. Of course, that’s not the end of the story, and Hernandez’ ERA is nearly three-tenths of a run lower.

Cleveland’s big right-hander is having a fantastic season. However, this shouldn’t be totally unexpected. The 28 year-old showcased some very impressive stuff in 24 starts in 2013. While his 3.85 ERA didn’t stand out, he had excellent strikeout and walk rates of 224. percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. This year, Kluber has improved on those numbers.

This season Kluber has increased his strikeout rate to 27.0 percent, while maintaining a low walk rate of 5.6 percent. He’s also boosted his ground ball rate to 48.9 percent. His park-adjusted xFIP of 72 is tied with David Price for the second-best mark in the AL, and is just four points behind Hernandez.

Last year home runs and hits on balls in play were Kluber’s achilles heel. Slightly over 12 percent of the fly balls Kluber allowed left the yard, and opponents hit .329 on balls in play. Pitchers generally have less control over these aspects of the game than strikeout, walk and ground ball rates. This year, only eight percent of fly balls have left the yard against Kluber, and opponents are hitting .307 on balls in play.

2014 has been a phenomenal season for Kluber, who has relied heavily on his slider. The pitch has quickly become one of the best offerings in the major leagues. It’s had almost equal effectiveness against left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Along with his curveball and changeup, which he uses seldomly, Kluber has three offerings with a swinging strike rate of at least 19 percent.

The Indians found a diamond in the rough in Kluber, who was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 4th round back in 2007. They acquired him in 2010 as part of a three-team trade in which they gave up veteran Jake Westbrook, who would have one more solid big league season before retiring this year.

With the Indians Kluber has blossomed into a legitimate ace. Hernandez is still the favorite for the AL Cy Young award, but Corey Kluber is just as deserving. The last few starts for each could be the difference. Either way, it’s been a great year for the right-hander who didn’t even make the All-Star team.

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Josh Donaldson Solid AL MVP Candidiate http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/josh-donaldson-solid-al-mvp-candidiate/30175/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/josh-donaldson-solid-al-mvp-candidiate/30175/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 16:16:15 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30175 donaldsonThe Oakland A’s have hit a bit of a rough patch after dominating the American League West for most of the season. At six games behind the Los Angeles Angels, their sights appear to be set on the first Wild Card spot. While it’s faltered as of late, their deep roster has given opposing pitchers fits for most of the season.

The A’s feature several solid players, and one bona fide superstar in Josh Donaldson. A former catcher, Donaldson made a name for himself with a sensational 2013 season. In his first full season in the big leagues, the A’s third baseman put together a .301/.384/.499 slash line. He totaled 7.7 fWAR, which was the most in the American League besides Mike Trout. Miguel Cabrera took home the MVP award, but Donaldson had a solid claim as the better all-around player.

After surprising everyone in 2013, Donaldson is back at it again this year. His slash line isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s a very good .253/.343/.461 nonetheless, which comes out to a 130 wRC+. Already this year he’s hit 26 home runs, which is two more than the previous year. As usual, he’s playing fantastic defense at third base. All told, he has 5.6 fWAR, which is the third highest total in the American League.

Despite being one of the best players in baseball over the last two years, Donaldson doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have great traditional numbers. His .253 batting average doesn’t jump off the page. The slash line is solid on paper, but considering that he plays half of his games in the pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum, it’s that much better.

Because he’s sold out for power by hitting more fly balls, his average is down, but he’s been a very potent hitter regardless. Donaldson’s on-base percentage is strong due to a solid 11.0 percent walk rate. In addition, much of his value is tied up in his defense, which doesn’t get the same attention offensive prowess does.

The 28 year-old Donaldson is the A’s best player. Their roster features a lot of moving parts, as the A’s have relied on maximizing the platoon advantage. However, Donaldson finds himself in the lineup every day. Like the majority of the A’s roster, he was acquired via trade. After moving out from behind the plate, his offensive game has taken off. He’s attained star billing a little later in his career, but it’s time that the rest of baseball recognizes just how good Josh Donaldson is.

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Kyle Seager Having a Career Year for Seattle Mariners http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/kyle-seager-having-a-career-year-for-seattle-mariners/30167/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/kyle-seager-having-a-career-year-for-seattle-mariners/30167/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 20:31:54 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30167 Seattle MarinersAt 76-63, the Seattle Mariners entered play Friday just a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers for the second Wild Card spot. If they can squeeze in, this would be their first playoff appearance since 2001, when they won 114 games. Most of the attention has surrounded Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, and both players are having excellent years. Hernandez is the front runner for the AL Cy Young award, and after a somewhat slow start, Cano is playing up to the 10 year, $240 million contract he signed this offseason.

However, third baseman Kyle Seager is also having a noteworthy season. The 26 year-old has already tied his career high in home runs, and currently owns career-best marks in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His 5.4 fWAR ranks sixth in the major leagues, and places him in a virtual tie with Cano.

Seager was a third-round pick by the Mariners out of UNC Chapel Hill back in 2009. He made short work of minor league pitching, and spent 53 games in the big leagues in 2011, hitting a respectable .258/.312/.379. The following season he established himself as a solid regular. His average and on-base percentage remained virtually unchanged, but he popped 20 home runs, boosting his slugging percentage to .423 and his wRC+ to 108. Combine the improved offensive numbers with strong third base defense, and the durability to appear in 155 games, and he produced 3.6 fWAR.

Seager had an almost identical season in 2012. Once again he was very durable, missing only two games. His batting average and slugging percentage were nearly the same, but he improved his walk rate to 9.8 percent, which lifted his on-base percentage to .338. Defensive metrics gave him slightly below average grades at third, and his fWAR was the same at 3.6.

This season Seager has taken off. After an early season slump that saw him hitting a woeful .156/.280/.219 in the Mariners first 20 games, he’s hit .296/.354/.517 over their last 116 contests. Overall he owns a .278/.345/.477 slash line. His defensive numbers are fantastic, and only Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics has a higher UZR.

Though Safeco Field isn’t known as a hitters’ park, Seager has thrived at home. In home games he owns a .324/.390/.575 batting line for an eye-popping 175 wRC+. As a team, the Mariners have fared far better on the road, with a 40-27 record, compared to 36-36 on the road, but Seager has been the exception. It’s hard to say how much predictive value that has going forward, but it’s interesting to note, particularly considering that the M’s will likely travel if they should reach the one-game playoff.

It’s been an exciting season for the Mariner’s who struggled to a 10-14 record in April and again to an 11-14 record in July. Much of their starting rotation has missed significant time with injuries, and they’ve given large chunks of playing time to marginal outfielders such as Endy Chavez, James Jones, Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero. Nevertheless, Seager, along with Hernandez and Cano have been the mainstays of this team. Right now they’re at coin-flip odds of making the playoffs, which is more than could be hoped for in April.

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Michael Wacha Returns to Rotation for Cardinals http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/michael-wacha-returns-to-rotation-for-cardinals/30165/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/michael-wacha-returns-to-rotation-for-cardinals/30165/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:42:43 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30165 top ProspectsAfter missing nearly three months with a shoulder injury, Michael Wacha returned to the St. Louis Cardinals rotation on Thursday night. He was limited to three innings, over which he allowed one run on three hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Rookie pitcher Marco Gonzales three 2.1 innings in relief of Wacha, helping to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. With the victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals increased their lead in the NL Central to four games.

Losing Wacha was a big blow for the Cardinals. The 23 year-old right-hander had picked up where he left off last postseason. Last October Wacha burst onto the scene, allowing just nine runs in five postseason starts with 33 strikeout and 12 walks. He won four of those starts. Wacha was named MVP for his performance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a series in which he hurled 13.2 shutout innings with 13 strikeouts and two walks.

Before landing on the disabled list, Wacha had made 15 starts. Over 90.1 innings, he had authored a 2.79 ERA with strikeout and walk rates of 22.6 percent and 7.0 percent, respectively. Opposing hitters had managed a meager .222/.286/.317 batting line against the big right-hander. In addition to his low to mid 90s heat and devastating changeup, Wacha was mixing in a much improved curveball, with positive results.

The return of Wacha is key for the Cardinals, whose starting rotation ranks just 18th in baseball in fWAR with 8.7. Ace Adam Wainwright has a nice 2.69 ERA, but his strikeout rate has dropped by more than three percentage points to 19.7 percent. As a consequence, his park-adjusted xFIP has risen to 94. Lance Lynn is having a very good year, but beyond that, the Cards rotation has been in flux.

Shelby Miller has been a disaster, and his 4.79 FIP is the 3rd highest among qualified starting pitchers. Jaime Garcia impressed for seven starts before his shoulder issues flared up again. Carlos Martinez has electric stuff, but no weapons with which to go after left-handed hittes. Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales are not yet ready for starting duty. Joe Kelly was traded away, and John Lackey represents an upgrade. The newly acquired Justin Masterson was disastrous and is now in the bullpen. Overall, the Cardinals have used 11 different starting pitchers.

The Cardinals won’t rush Wacha. He threw just 35 pitches in his only rehab appearance, and they limited him to three innings Thursday night. They will attempt to build his pitch count over his remaining three regular season scheduled starts. If he’s fully healthy they will be in prime shape to head into October with a rotation that features Wainwright, Wacha, Lynn and Lackey. That’s a daunting task for opposing hitters.

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Koji Uehara May Get Shut Down by Red Sox http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/koji-uehara-may-get-shut-down-by-red-sox/30160/ http://baseballnewssource.com/mlb/koji-uehara-may-get-shut-down-by-red-sox/30160/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:49:37 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30160 Red Sox RumorsBoston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara gave up two home runs in the ninth inning last night to allow the New York Yankees a come-from-behind win, and has allowed 10 runs  in his last 4 2/3 innings of work.  Coupled with the fact that Uehara  is 39 years old, the team may just decide to shut him down for the rest of the season, or at the very minimum limit his appearances over the last three weeks of the season.

 Red Sox manager John Farrell would not make an announcement before talking to his All-Star closer,  but did leave the door open to that possibility, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.

Anytime you give up a lead in the fashion that we did, those are tough games to take.We’€™d given Koji eight days off, got him an inning of work the other night and still the lack of finish of his split is what allowed a couple pitches to the middle of the plate for a couple home runs,” Farrell told reporters.

and added “From viewing it and even talking to Koji, it’€™s the finish, whether it’€™s the intensity behind the delivery of the pitch’€¦ on occasion he showed it, the first one had good depth to it on the swing and miss, but the consistency to it, which he’€™s been so good with, that’€™s lacking.

“How the team uses Uehara going forward will be a situation where I’€™ll talk with Koji first, what our plan will be, whether that’€™s extended rest, whether that’€™s the potential of shutting him down, that, we just walked off the field and out of respect to Koji, respect for what he’€™s done for us after two outstanding years, we’€™re not in position to announce that right now.”

Uehara  as pitched 61 1/3 innings this year, with an ERA of  2.64 and has blown five saves in 31 opportunities this year.

With the team securely and last-place in the American League East with a 61-79 record,  there doesn’t seem to be much reason to keep running the veteran right-hander out there.

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Towers was hired on Sept. 22, 2010, with the D-backs mired in last place for a second consecutive season. Josh Byrnes had been dismissed as GM on July 1, and Towers replaced interim GM Jerry Dipoto. There was no word on the future of  Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson.

2011 was the most successful  season under Towers’ watch when the team won 94 games and the National League West.  however since then the team is finished 500 in each of the past two seasons. This year the team has been devastated by injuries losing number one starter Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery before the season began. Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo, and AJ Pollock were also lost to injuries.

The Diamondbacks traded away many starting pitchers over the past two seasons, including right-handers Ian Kennedy, Trevor Bauer and Jarrod Parker and left-hander Tyler Skaggs.  Unfortunately, the players Arizona and received in return have not lived up to expectations perhaps forcing the team to make a change

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NL MVP Candidates: Andrew McCutchen http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/nl-mvp-candidates-andrew-mccutchen/30153/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/nl-mvp-candidates-andrew-mccutchen/30153/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:57:11 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30153 McCutchenLast season, Andrew McCutchen led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first playoff appearance in 21 years. The Pirates centerfielder produced a .317/.404/.508 batting line, drilled 21 home runs, stole 27 bases, and played excellent defense. Overall he totaled 8.3 fWAR, the most in the National League. Only Mike Trout had more. For his efforts, McCutchen was named the NL’s Most Valuable Player.

Despite missing time with a rib injury, McCutchen is having another great year. Through the first two months of the season he hit just four home runs. In May he went homerless. However, he enjoyed a spectacular month of June, hitting .343/.410/.686 with 20 extra-base hits and eight home runs. His ISO is currently a career-high .229, and with 58 extra-base hits, he could surpass his total of 66 in 2012.

All in all the 27 year-old is hitting .303/.396/.530 for a 160 wRC+. Offensively his numbers are a slight improvement on 2013. Only Jose Abreu and Mike Trout can claim a higher wRC+. Even though his defensive ratings are down from last year and he’s missed 13 games with an injury, he’s among the NL leaders in fWAR with 5.1.

The Pirates are 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot with 23 games remaining. They’re scrapping hard for the last playoff spot. McCutchen isn’t at full strength after suffering a rib injury, but he’s in the lineup nevertheless. While he was on the disabled list, the Pirates went 5-8. Over the remainder of the Bucs season he’ll play an important role in deciding their playoff fates.

Their pitching staff is dead last in baseball in fWAR. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano missed significant time with injuries, and Wandy Rodriguez was an absolute disaster. They’ve utilized Brandon Cumpton, Vance Worley and Jeff Locke as fill-ins. Last year’s closer, Jason Grilli, was a disaster before losing his job to Mark Melancon and being traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Along with Melancon, Tony Watson has helped to carry the Pirates bullpen.

Top prospect Gregory Polanco has been underwhelming and Pedro Alvarez has been below replacement-level. However, as a whole their offense has been stellar. McCutchen has carried this team, and Josh Harrison and Russell Martin are having phenomenal seasons.

It took a major surge just to put the Pirates in the playoff picture. McCutchen has played a huge role in getting them to this point. A strong performance down the stretch combined with a Pirates playoff appearance could put him in prime position for what should be a very crowded NL MVP race.

There are plenty of good candidates, as Giancarlo Stanton is having a phenomenal season, Jonathan Lucroy has combined excellent catcher defense with prime offense, and Clayton Kershaw is having a season for the ages. With so many strong seasons, the last few weeks of the season could separate McCutchen from the rest of the pack.

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AL MVP Candidates: Mike Trout Leads Deep Angels Lineup http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/al-mvp-candidates-mike-trout-leads-deep-angels-lineup/30148/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/al-mvp-candidates-mike-trout-leads-deep-angels-lineup/30148/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:59:04 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30148 Angels News

Photo By Keith Allison

Following a four game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels own a commanding 4.5 game lead in the American League West with 26 games to play. A season-ending injury to ace pitcher Garrett Richards has not slowed the Angels down. While the Angels are lacking in pitching depth, their lineup is stacked from top to bottom. A familiar face, Mike Trout, has been the star of the show for Los Angeles.

After posting consecutive seasons of at least +10 fWAR in his age-20 and 21 seasons, Trout is having another phenomenal year. The Angels slugger is producing a batting line of .290/.374/.560 for a 165 wRC+. He won’t reach +10 fWAR this season, but at 6.5 fWAR, he’s leading all of baseball, and should finish in the vicinity of +8 fWAR.

Trout has altered his game in his third full season. He’s striking out more frequently and stealing fewer bases while hitting more home runs. His strikeout rate has increased from 19.0 percent in 2013 to 25.1 percent this season. At the same time, his walk rate is down from 15.4 percent to 11.5 percent. Meanwhile, he’s stolen 13 bases after nabbing 82 in the past two seasons. Defensively, his ratings in the outfield are not at the elite levels they were the previous two seasons.

However, Trout has accumulated 72 extra-base hits, including 31 home runs. Only four hitters have hit more home runs, and Trout’s .270 ISO is more than 30 points higher than the previous two years. He still has great speed, though he doesn’t belong in the conversation for fastest player in baseball. But, he’s matured into one of the game’s premier power hitters.

Besides Trout, the Angels have a plethora of solid hitters. While he’s not producing at peak levels, Albert Pujols is turning in a solid season with a .276/.332/.469 slash line and 24 home runs. Josh Hamilton missed a significant chunk of the season with a wrist injury, but he’s hit well when on the field.

Chris Iannetta has been an offensive powerhouse behind the plate, with a .265/.380/.431 batting line, and Kole Calhoun is making a name for himself in his first full season. Further down the line are middle infielders Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, both of whom have been above-average at the plate. Colin Cowgill has chipped in nicely, as has C.J. Cron. All together, the Angels hitters have a .260/.324/.405 batting line, which ties them with the Detroit Tigers for a major-league best 110 wRC+.

After a disappointing 2013 season, the Angels own the best record in baseball. Barring a collapse, they’ll avoid the Wild Card game and host the divisional series. Spectacular as it has been, 2014 hasn’t been Trout’s best season, but it should be the year he wins the American League Most Valuable Player award.

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American League Cy Young Candidates: Jon Lester http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/american-league-cy-young-candidates-jon-lester/30141/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/american-league-cy-young-candidates-jon-lester/30141/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:23:38 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30141 lesterJon Lester couldn’t have asked for a better year heading into free agency. The 30 year-old workhorse enjoyed a phenomenal 2013 postseason, as he helped lead the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title. Despite Lester expressing his desire to stay in Boston long-term, the Red Sox were not able to come to terms with the left-hander on a contract extension. Thanks to his performance this season, he’ll earn far more in free agency.

In 21 starts with the Red Sox, Lester posted a shiny 2.52 ERA, which was almost three-quarters of a run lower than his previous best mark, set in 2008. His strikeout rate jumped to a gaudy 25.7 percent, and he trimmed his walk rate to a stingy 5.5 percent, easily the lowest rate of his career. However, the Red Sox suffered through extended slumps from several players and poor performances from young players Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, which put them well out of playoff contention.

As a consequence, the Sox sent Lester to the Oakland Athletics at the July 31 trade deadline in a deal that saw them receive slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Since joining the A’s, Lester has quickly established himself as the ace of the staff. In five starts with Oakland, he has a 2.60 ERA, with strikeout and walk rates of 23.5 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.

Overall Lester has produced career-best marks in several categories. Felix Hernandez is the front-runner for the American League CY Young award, but Lester has put himself within striking distance. Among AL pitchers he ranks third in fWAR with 5.5, behind Hernandez at 6.2 and Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber, who has accumulated 5.8 fWAR. His adjusted ERA is the fourth in the AL.

With six starts remaining, there’s an opportunity for Lester to surpass Hernandez and Kluber or the other candidates who could throw their names in the mix such as Chris Sale. Only once in history has the CY Young award been handed out to a pitcher that was traded midseason. That distinction belongs to Rick Sutcliffe, who began the year with the Indians before being swapped to the Chicago Cubs. C.C. Sabathia finished 5th in the NL CY Young voting in 2008 despite making only 17 starts for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Unlike either of those players, Lester has spent the entire season in the American League. A’s General Manager Billy Beane is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to get the A’s to the World Series for the first time during his tenure. Lester has certainly lived up to his billing after the A’s dealt away their top outfielder to acquire him. He’s set to receive a huge payday this offseason. The Red Sox may very well regret their inability to sign him to an extension after he led them to the World Series.

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Adam Jones Leads Baltimore Orioles Towards October http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/adam-jones-leads-baltimore-orioles-towards-october/30133/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/adam-jones-leads-baltimore-orioles-towards-october/30133/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:59:24 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30133 jones2014 wasn’t supposed to be the Baltimore Orioles year. The Boston Red Sox were coming off a year in which they won the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays returned a very strong roster, and the New York Yankees went on a spending spree over the offseason. However, the Rays suffered an early season collapse and the Red Sox quickly fell apart and subsequently made a series of trades at the deadline. Meanwhile the Yankees infield has been predictably unproductive and they were dealt a major blow as ace Masahiro Tanaka was lost to an elbow injury.

130 games into the season, the Orioles are owners of a 75-55 record and enjoy a 7.0 game lead in the American League East. Only the Washington Nationals, with a 7.5 game lead, have better odds of winning their division. It’s been a team effort for the Orioles, who lost catcher Matt Wieters early in the year and recently saw third baseman Manny Machado suffer another knee injury, which will likely sideline him for the remainder of the season.

The biggest contributor for the Orioles has been centerfielder Adam Jones. He’s already surpassed his previous career high with 4.5 fWAR. The 29 year-old veteran has posted a .288/.316/.477 slash line for a 119 wRC+. Despite a 2.8 percent walk rate that is the second lowest in the major leagues, his wRC+ is the second-best mark of his career.

As usual, Jones has been very durable. After playing in 162 games in 2012 and 160 games last year, he’s played in every game in 2014. His power numbers are solid, with 24 home runs and 25 doubles, he owns a .190 isolated slugging percentage. Though his stolen base numbers are down from the past couple of seasons, his overall base running value has remained steady.

While Jones’ defense has often been the subject of controversy, advanced metrics have given him positive grades this year. Despite winning three Gold Gloves, both UZR and DRS have rated him as below average in each season from 2009-13.  This season he’s coming out as above-average in both systems.

Jones has been a remarkably consistent player for the O’s. He’s been worth at least +4 fWAR in each of the last three seasons. Though he rarely draws walks, his power production makes him a solid offensive player.  Thanks to improved defensive ratings, he likely end up with at least +5 fWAR this season.

The Orioles have overcome injuries to Wieters and Machado and very substandard performance from Chris Davis. Jones and J.J. Hardy along with surprise contributions from Steve Pearce and recently, Caleb Joseph have helped them out to a commanding division lead. Much of their success has come from great performances in the clutch, which is a shaky foundation.

This isn’t a team with the offensive depth of the Los Angeles Angels or the Oakland A’s, but they should coast to the AL East title and the Divisional Series. Jones doesn’t have the resume of Mike Trout or Felix Hernandez, but he will likely receive consideration for the AL MVP.

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Alex Gordon Leading Surging Royals in Hunt for October http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/alex-gordon-leading-surging-royals-in-hunt-for-october/30127/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/alex-gordon-leading-surging-royals-in-hunt-for-october/30127/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:09:40 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30127 gordonThe Kansas City Royals last playoff appearance occurred in 1985, when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. That gives them the longest active playoff drought among the four major American sports. As of Tuesday, they are owners of a 72-58 record, which gives them a 1.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. Their playoff odds sit at 63 percent, with the division race being a coin flip between them and Detroit.

The Royals have been helped by a phenomenal defense. They have the fewest home runs, the fewest walks, and the fewest strikeouts of any team in the major leagues. As a whole, their offense isn’t very threatening. However, left fielder Alex Gordon has been rock-solid. The former No.2 overall pick is having one of the best seasons of any player in the major leagues.

Gordon was drafted out of the University of Nebraska in 2005, and made his major league debut two years later. Baseball Prospectus’ No. 1 overall prospect had an underwhelming rookie year, hitting .247/.314/.411. The first four seasons of his major league career were less than inspiring. With a .244/.328/.405 line over more than 1600 plate appearances, the bust label was being applied to Gordon, and not without justification.

The 30 year-old outfielder broke out in a big way in 2011. He compiled 6.6 fWAR and his batting line of .303/.376/.502 was good for a 140 wRC+. Since 2011, Gordon ranks fourth among all big league outfielders in fWAR with 21.4. Over that time frame, he’s produced a .286/.357/.457 slash line for a 124 wRC+. In addition, he plays excellent defense in left field where he’s led the AL in outfield assists for three consecutive seasons. He has three Gold Gloves to his name and appears to be well on his way to a fourth in 2014.

Gordon’s offensive numbers are strong, and his .281/.355/.447 line and 126 wRC+ fall right in line with his production from recent years. However, his defensive value has been off the charts. While defensive metrics have always rated Gordon’s as one of the game’s best defenders, his numbers this season stand out. Among all outfielders, only Juan Lagares of the New York Mets has a higher UZR, and among corner outfielders, Jason Heyward has a marginally higher UZR.

As a result, Gordon has 5.6 fWAR, which puts him behind Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout by just the slimmest of margins. Because Gordon has neither the reputation or the offensive numbers of these two stars, this has led to considerable controversy. While defensive metrics aren’t quite as reliable as offensive ones over the course of one season, regressing Gordon’s numbers still places him among the ten best position players in baseball. It’s unlikely that he will get serious MVP consideration, but Gordon is having a phenomenal year nonetheless.

After 28 years of missing out on October, the Royals are in the driver’s seat with just 32 games remaining. The prowess of Alex Gordon, both at the plate and in the field has helped lead them to this point. He doesn’t have the traditional numbers of an MVP candidate, but he’s been just as valuable.

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Rick Porcello Is Helping to Stabilize a Detroit Tigers Rotation in Flux http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/rick-porcello-is-helping-to-stabilize-a-detroit-tigers-rotation-in-flux/30116/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/rick-porcello-is-helping-to-stabilize-a-detroit-tigers-rotation-in-flux/30116/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:55:14 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30116 porcelloThanks to a post All-Star break skid and a surge by the Kansas City Royals, the Detroit Tigers playoff odds are in jeopardy. Their rotation is missing Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander only just returned from the disabled list. As a consequence, rookies Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer have been thrust into starting duty. One rotation member who has helped keep the Tigers‘ heads above water is Rick Porcello.

Despite being in the midst of his 6th big league season, Porcello is just 25 years of age. Prior to this season, his lowest ERA was 3.96, which came in his rookie year. For several years, he’s posted solid peripheral numbers, but high HR/FB ratios and in-play batting averages combined with low strand rates conspired to inflate his ERA.

Last season represented a breakthrough for Porcello. Though his 4.32 ERA was nothing to write home about, he boosted his strikeout rate to 19.3 percent, and jump of more than five percentage points from the 2012 season. His walk rate remained a low 5.7 percent, and his ground ball rate was a typically high 55.3 percent.

This year Porcello has trimmed his walk rate to an even lower 4.9 percent. He hasn’t kept all of the gains in his strikeout rate, but at 15.2 percent, it would be the second highest mark of his career. The most significant changes have been in his HR/FB ratio which has dropped to 8.8 percent from 14.1 percent in 2013, and his opponents in-play batting average, which has dipped to .276.

All told, Porcello has a 3.10 ERA, which is more than a run lower than his career 4.28 mark. He’s hurled three shutouts, including a three-hit gem against the Tampa Bay Rays which came in his last time out. Those are the first three shutouts of his career. Only Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins has three shutouts.

The Tigers will have an interesting decision to make with Porcello, who is entering his fourth and final time through arbitration this offseason. It appears that ace Max Scherzer will depart via free agency after the Tigers failed to negotiate an extension with the right-hander. Locking up David Price long-term is an expensive proposition, and there is still three years remaining on Sanchez’ five year, $90 million deal. Most likely the Tigers will have to choose between Porcello, who will be less expensive, and Price who has a much longer track record of major league success.

The Tigers are in the midst of a heated battled for the American League Central, and Porcello is playing a big role. He’s putting himself in line for a big arbitration payout this offseason. If the Tigers don’t manage to sign him to an extension, he will be in high demand next offseason.

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MVP Candidates: Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/mvp-candidates-miami-marlins-giancarlo-stanton/30114/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/mvp-candidates-miami-marlins-giancarlo-stanton/30114/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:50:53 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30114 stantonDespite losing pitching phenom Jose Fernandez to season-ending elbow surgery, the Miami Marlins are still hanging around the fringes of the National League Wild Card hunt. At 64-65, they are just four games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second Wild Card berth. While their .465 rest-of-season projected winning percentage doesn’t inspire much hope, this season has been much more successful than most baseball analysts predicted.

A big reason for why the Marlins are still in the hunt is the performance of Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins 24 year-old slugger is having a career year. He’s currently leading NL position players in fWAR with 5.5, and his 32 home runs trail only Jose Abreu and Nelson Cruz, both of whom play in favorable hitters parks. Overall, Stanton is hitting .299/.405/.562 for a 163 wRC+.

Those marks are a big improvement on last season, which was a disappointment by Stanton’s lofty standards. He played in just 116 games, and hit .249/.365/.480 for a 135 wRC+ that was his lowest mark since his debut season in 2010. He totaled only 2.3 fWAR in 2013 after tallying 5.6 fWAR in 123 games in 2012.

Stanton is a unique player. As his career 28 percent strikeout rate suggests, there’s a lot of swing and miss in his game, and this season is no different. He’s striking out in 26.1 percent of his plate appearances. However, Stanton is also drawing walks at a career-high 14.8 percent rate. In addition, his .263 isolated slugging percentage is the 5th best mark in baseball. When Stanton does make contact, he punishes the baseball. Besides his numerous tape-measure home runs, he owns a .369 in-play batting average.

Furthermore, Stanton has improved his outfield defense relative to 2013. Defensive metrics don’t love Stanton, but he is earning significantly better grades than last season, where he was a liability in right field thanks to a hamstring injury that limited his mobility.

All in all, Stanton is one of the game’s most feared hitters. He’s a special talent, and is just 24 years of age with two years of team control remaining. If the Marlins do decide to place him on the market this offseason, he should command a massive return. Potential suitors need not apply unless they have a wealth of prospect talent and the resources to sign Stanton to a long-term deal.

It’s rare that the MVP award goes to a player on a team that doesn’t reach the playoffs, but Stanton could make a serious push even if the Marlins aren’t around in October. Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are having fantastic seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even with a recent injury, reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen is third in the NL in fWAR.

Don’t count out Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez, who are carrying the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central. But, Stanton is a dark horse MVP candidate. If the Marlins do snag a Wild Card spot, all bets are off.

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Chris Archer Stepping up for the Tampa Bay Rays http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/chris-archer-stepping-up-for-the-tamp-bay-rays/30102/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/chris-archer-stepping-up-for-the-tamp-bay-rays/30102/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:28:46 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30102 "<strongIt’s been something of a lost season for the Tampa Bay Rays. They got off to a terrible start, and at one point owned the worst record in baseball. A mid-season tear gave them a distant shot at playoff contention, but they went on a skid just prior to the trade deadline and sent ace pitcher David Price to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal. In a season where they were expected to content for the American League East title and possibly the pennant, the Rays will struggle to finish at .500.

However, there have been bright spots to this season, and third-year pitcher Chris Archer is one of them. Archer, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza deal, has always had excellent stuff, but routinely struggled with his control in the minor leagues. He received cup of coffee with the Rays in 2012, and made 23 starts for the big league club in 2013.

Over those 23 starts, Archer acquitted himself well, posting strikeout and walk rates of 19.2 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively. His peripherals weren’t as impressive as his 3.22 ERA, but they were solid nonetheless. With a fastball that averaged 95 miles per hour and a wipeout slider, Archer dominated right-handed batters, holding them to a .174/.237/.218 batting line. In the offseason, the Rays locked him up with a $25.5 million deal for six years with two team options.

Archer has rewarded the Rays confidence in him with a strong 2014 campaign. He ranks 18th among qualified starters with 3.2 fWAR, which sandwiches him between Hisashi Iwakuma and Cole Hamels. While his walk rate has risen to 9.3 percent, Archer has offset that by striking out 22.1 percent of hitters. The 25 year-old right-hander has also managed to limit the long ball.

In 150.1 innings, he’s surrendered just six home runs, after allowing 15 home runs in 128.2 innings the year prior. That’s been a big factor in dropping his FIP by nearly a full run from 4.07 to 3.08. Looking forward it’s almost sure that his 4.9% HR/FB ratio will rise, but the increase in strikeouts and the big bump in infield fly balls will help him keep the ball in the park.

Archer is a two-pitch guy, as he throws his changeup only about one in every 20 pitches. However, with a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and a devastating slider, those two pitches are enough to make him a solid starter. There’s no replacing Price, but with Archer locked up for the long term, and Alex Cobb establishing himself as a premier starter when healthy, the Rays won’t be lacking for pitching.

2014 has been a frustrating season for the Rays and their fans. Injuries and slumps derailed the first half of their season, and the subsequent surge was too little, too late. But, with Archer progressing as expected, and new young talent in Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin, the Rays are in shape to be contenders in 2015.

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Jhonny Peralta is Having a Career Year for the Cardinals http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/jhonny-peralta-is-having-a-career-year-for-the-cardinals/30096/ http://baseballnewssource.com/analysis/jhonny-peralta-is-having-a-career-year-for-the-cardinals/30096/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:44:40 +0000 http://baseballnewssource.com/?p=30096 peraltaThanks to a recent surge, the St. Louis Cardinals are in position for the first wild card spot. They sit in second place in the National League Central, 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Though the team has the fewest home runs in the NL, shortstop Jhonny Peralta has supplied power to the Cards lineup.

Peralta had an excellent year for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. He hit .303/.358/.457 for a 123 wRC+ with 3.6 fWAR. However, his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal earned him a 50 game suspension, and he appeared in just 107 games. When he returned for the playoffs, rookie Jose Iglesias played shortstop, and Peralta saw time in left field.

The Tigers declined to make Peralta a qualifying offer, and most analysts predicted he would received something in the range of two years and $15-20 million. Some teams considered him for an outfield spot, thinking the 32 year-old shortstop would not be able to handle the position. But, the Cardinals swooped in and signed Peralta to a four year deal worth $52 million, with the intention of having him replace the punchless Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso.

Peralta has been a godsend for the Cardinals. Last season their shortstops combined to produce a .226/.282/.314 batting line and -0.4 fWAR. This year Peralta has produced a .266/.340/.453 line for a 124 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR. With the exception of Troy Tulowitzki, who is undergoing season-ending hip surgery, there isn’t a shortstop that has been more valuable than Peralta.

This season Peralta has trimmed his strikeout rate to 17.3 percent while also drawing walks at a 9.2 percent clip. Busch Stadium isn’t a hitters’ paradise, but Peralta has hit very well at home. His .187 ISO is his best mark since the 2008 season, and he leads the Cards with 16 home runs. In August, Peralta is hitting .349/.397/.540, which has helped the Cardinals to a 10-7 record. With Yadier Molina out and Matt Holliday struggling to hit for power, his offensive contributions have been vital for the Cardinals.

Besides producing solid offensive numbers, Peralta is an underrated defender. With his stocky frame, he doesn’t look the part of a shortstop. Before he was traded to the Tigers, the Cleveland Indians had moved Peralta off shortstop to third base. He transitioned back to the middle of the field with the Tigers, and defensive metrics have consistently graded him as one of the premier fielders in baseball.

While defensive metrics don’t have the same type of reliability as offensive or pitching metrics, there’s a four year sample indicating that Peralta is an excellent fielder. His range is better than his physique might suggest, and he has very good hands.

The Cardinals decision to commit four years and $52 million to a player coming off a 50-game PED suspension was widely panned. To this point it’s worked very well, and their front office deserves credit for making the move.

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