Tag Archive | "2b"

Prepare Yourselves Cardinal Fans

Albert Pujols should have a monster 2012 season for the Anaheim Angels. Is it a guarantee? No. Is it very likely? Yes. Overall, I have been very impressed with Cardinal Nation’s response to Pujols heading out west. On one end of the spectrum are the fans who say they are taking the logical approach and applaud Cardinal management for not offering a huge 10-year contract. On the other end, are the fans who burned his jersey and anxiously await their opportunity to find his statue unguarded. Both the “we don’t need him” and “I hate him” attitudes are different expression of the same feeling of rejection. But you’ve already read that article. Oblige me a few minutes to prepare you as to what you should see from Pujols in 2012, and what that means to the Cardinals and their fans.

First, a general observation…those who have followed Pujols over the last 11 seasons know that he always plays better when he feels he has something to prove. At 32,  he is at the tail-end of the prime of his career, but…he is still in his prime. Remember the 2008 season, when Pujols was the last standing member of the MV3 playing for St. Louis and the second best hitter in the lineup was Ryan Ludwick?

2008 Season

AB         R            H           2B       HR        RBI         BB        SO     SB       AVG         OBP       SLG         OPS

524       100      187       44       37          116        104     54      7         .357         .462      .653       1.114

Not shabby.

Remember Game 3 of the 2011 World Series? Pujols heard all the critics who said he had never done much of anything in his three World Series appearances. He proceeded to unleash 3 HRs, 5 hits, 4 Runs, and 6 RBIs.

You may be thinking, all that is well and good, but what about his three-year decline from 2009-2011? Yes, Pujols did experience a noticeable drop in HR, RBIs, walks, BA, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage over that three-year period. Even with the decline, he remained an elite hitter. And do not forget about the great second half numbers he posted last year.

After coming back from wrist surgery, Pujols posted the following stat line.

AB         R            H           2B       HR        RBI         BB        SO        SB       AVG         OBP       SLG         OPS

299       53         95          18       20          54            27       33       4         .318          .378     .579         .957

Again, the point of this article is not to prove to you that Pujols is a good hitter. The purpose is to prepare you for a huge year from Pujols in 2012. Here is the biggest reason why…each ball Pujols puts in play has a 5% better chance of being a hit at Angels Stadium than at Busch Stadium, and each fly ball has a 27% better chance of being a homerun. (I used the 2009-2011 ballpark tendencies chart from baseballhq.com for these numbers). Said another way, Angels Stadium produces the league-average number of hits and home runs for right-handed batters. Busch Stadium decreases right-handed batting average 5% and right-handed home runs 27% more than the average MLB park. Busch Stadium is a much more pitcher-friendly park than most people realize. Pujols hit 10 fly balls last season that were outs in Busch Stadium, that would have been home runs in LA.

Quick side note: Ballpark factor makes the offensive numbers the Cardinals put up in 2011 that much more impressive.

I hope I have proven my point that Pujols is on track for a big 2012 season. What does this mean to Cardinals fans?

First, on an emotional level, being able to come to terms with this fact. I am not one that wishes bad performance on Pujols because he left the team I cheer for.

Second, even as you watch Pujols put up big numbers, realize the Cardinals made a smart baseball decision for the long-term, and made smart decisions with the money freed up for 2012. Long-term it is easy to see how the Cardinals would have been severely handcuffed paying Pujols 22-25 million during his age 38-41 seasons, when production will most certainly substantially decline. But I want to focus on the 2012 season and why Cardinals fans should not be worried.

Pujols had a 5.1 WAR (wins above replacement) in 2011. When he signed elsewhere, the Cards re-signed Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran. Beltran certainly would not have happened with Pujols still on the team, and Furcal is unlikely. While Furcal only a 0.5 WAR during an injury-shortened 2011, he posted 4.2 and 3.5 the two seasons prior. Here are the WAR numbers for Theriot, Schumaker, and Descalso over the last two seasons (the three guys who would most likely have seen most of the playing time at SS).

Schumaker   0.6, -0.2    Theriot  .07, -0.1  Descalso  0.5, 0.4.

Tyler Greene has a lot of potential upside but has yet to produce at the major-league level.

If Furcal returns to career-average production, the Cardinals gain 3 to 4 WAR at shortstop by not re-signing Pujols.

Beltran posted a 4.7 WAR last season, just 0.4 below Pujols. Adam Wainwright put up 5.7 WAR in 2009 and 6.1 in 2010. I think you are starting to see my point. On paper, the Cardinals not matching the Angels offer to Pujols along with the return of Adam Wainwright, puts a better team on the field for 2012 than 2011. Throw in the fact that the team plays 92 of their 162 games against the bottom two divisions in baseball (AL and NL Central), and there is a lot to be optimistic about heading into spring training.

Cardinal fan, please remember these things when you watch Albert do what only he can do in another uniform for the first time.

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Patrolling Centerfield

The song Centerfield by John Fogerty is one those songs that always reminds me that baseball is near. It reminds me of the days my coach would send me out to center field. to experience the smell of the grass and the crack of the bat. All of my senses aroused by my surroundings on the field? These were some of the best times of my life. Now I countdown to Spring Training and Major League Baseball season. Spring Training is getting closer, only 40 days away. That leads us to our topic centerfield. I will take a look and provide a comparison of the centerfielders in the American League Central.

Oh, put me in, coach – I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, coach – I’m ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be centerfield.

Team Player Avg. OBP SLG OPS H 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Chi Alex Rios .227 .265 .348 .613 122 22 2 13 44 11
Cle Grady Sizemore .224 .285 .422 .706 60 21 1 10 32 0
Det Austin Jackson .249 .317 .374 .690 147 22 11 10 45 22
KC Lorenzo Cain .273 .304 .318 .623 6 1 0 0 1 0
Min Denard Span .264 .328 .359 .687 75 11 5 2 16 6

The projected center fielder this year for the White Sox will be Alex Rios. The once Toronto Blue Jay All Star, has not been the same player since joining the Sox. Rios provided solid offensive production in 2010 and if he can return to similar production he could a contributing force to an aging White Sox offense. Rios’ defense has never been great and is also declining as he ages. Will Rios become the All Star Chicago traded for and finally get the production they thought they were acquiring? I for one don’t think so.

Cleveland brought back the once great, but now so often injured Grady Sizemore. Grady was an outstanding center fielder early in his career. For the past 3 seasons, staying healthy has been a huge struggle for Grady. His numbers have declined significantly as Grady has battled back from all his injuries. We know the production Grady can provide to his team, but the real question is can he stay healthy.

Detroit’s Austin Jackson may be the best of the bunch. Jackson has only played two full major league seasons. Jackson’s numbers have not been anything special, but as major league careers go last year may have been Jackson’s sophomore slump. If Austin is able to raise his average he could be the best centerfielder in the Central. Jackson’s free swinging nature may impede his ability to consistently hit for average, but the potential is there.

The Royals will be starting Lorenzo Cain. Cain has a ton of potential, but he is still a relative unknown. He provided Milwaukee with solid offensive production in 2010, but that was only in 43 games. It will be hard to predict what Lorenzo will provide, but if you look at his numbers from AAA last season, you can see why the Royals acquired Lorenzo in the Greinke deal. For a more in depth look at Lorenzo please read my past article Loco for Lorenzo.

The Minnesota Twins will be starting Denard Span in centerfield. Span also battled the injury bug last season, only playing in 70 games. Span’s first two big league seasons were full of hope as he hit .294 and .311. The past two years he has hit .264. Span provides great speed and defense. Span’s inability to consistently hit left handed pitching is the biggest thing that holds him back. If he can improve on this facet of the game Minnesota will have a solid top of the order producer.

The center fielders of the American League Central have a ton of question marks. In my opinion this is how the centerfielders stack up.

  1. Austin Jackson
  2. Grady Sizemore
  3. Denard Span
  4. Lorenzo Cain
  5. Alex Rios

Austin Jackson may be young, but has made it through his sophomore slump. I can definitely see his offensive numbers getting better and he is a great defensive centerfielder. If Sizemore can stay healthy he could be the best in this list, but his health is a huge question mark. Span has been consistent and provides solid defense and offense. As a player, he just does nothing for me. Lorenzo Cain is a relative unknown. His minor league stats give us Royals fans hope, but as of right now that’s all it is. As for Rios, he has never been a great defender and his offensive numbers have been steadily declining. I look for more of the same from Rios.

Hopefully for the Royals, Cain will produce offensively as he did in AAA in 2010. His speed and defensive ability should be a huge benefit to the Royals pitching staff. For the first time in years, maybe decades the Royals defense up the middle will be a formidable force. Let me end with this,

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all – a moment in the sun;
(pop) it’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

The crack of the bat is getting close, can you feel it? Thanks again to John Fogerty for the use of his lyrics to Centerfield.

On a complete side note, I feel like I want to share my opinions on Tim Tebow’s performance Sunday afternoon.

Tebow Time

How can I not address Tim Tebow? There were times during the AFC Wildcard game where Tim Tebow was highly inaccurate, but Tebow leaves everything out on the field. Obviously, someone powerful must be on his side. He showed signs of the strong arm everyone knew he had. When he is accurate you saw what can happen on the first play of OT. The threat of the running game pulled both safeties up to the line of scrimmage. The corners were stuck on an island on the outside with the wide receivers. To the Broncos credit they trusted Tebow and ran a play action pass. Tebow then threw a strike right down the middle to Thomas in stride and he did the rest. Tebow always finds a way to win and it is absolutely baffling. If only the Royals could find a #1 starter similar to Tebow. No matter what happened he would fight and do anything it took to win the game. Chris Carpenter in last year’s playoffs is the best example I can think of. An athlete of this breed only comes along once in a lifetime. Love it or Hate it, hang on and enjoy the show.

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The Biggest Plays From A Crazy Opening Week

It was a wild and crazy opening week at Kauffman Stadium full of extra innings, lead changes, walk-offs, meltdowns and best of all, a 4-2 record for the Royals. Here is a look at some of the biggest plays from each game based on win probability added (WPA) (numbers all from the indispensable Fangraphs):

March 31 • Angels 4 Royals 2

The opener did not feature any of the dramatic swings that the next five contests did. The key moment of the game came when the Royals threatened to come back in the bottom of the eighth after Melky Cabrera, Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue walked the bases drunk with just one out. They were down 2-4 but had raised their win expectancy (WE) to 38%. Jeff Francoeur stepped to the plate but struck out, which dropped the Royals WE down to 23%. Alcides Escobar was up next with a chance to play hero, but flew out instead, and the Royals chances fell all the way down to 8%.

(WPA is a descriptive or “story” stat, meaning it describes what happened without necessarily reflecting a player’s true talent. Still, it is worth noting that Escobar had the worst WPA in the majors last season and has jumped out to the worst WPA for the Royals so far. Hopefully some timely hits will start falling in for him. The good news is he has looked outstanding with the glove.)

April 1 • Royals 2 Angels 1

The start of the four-game winning streak, and first of three walk-off wins on the week. Not surprisingly, Kila’s 9th inning bomb was the play of the game, boosting KC’s WE from 64% to a cool 100%.

April 2 • Royals 5 Angels 4

The Royals came-back came in the eighth inning this time with a couple of unlikely names doing the damage with the bat. With two outs and two on, the Royals were down 3-4, and had just a 31% WE. Light-hitting Matt Treanor knocked Billy Butler in with a single to tie it, and also-light-hitting Chris Getz gave the good guys the lead for good with a single of his own. KC’s WE shot all the way up to 86%.

April 3 • Royals 5 Angels 4

More late-innings madness, this time in both the ninth and 13th innings. Down by two in the bottom of the ninth, things were not looking good until suddenly the bases were loaded; Wilson Betemit had the biggest hit for the Royals all week (judged by WPA) when he doubled in two runs. Tying the game resulted in a mammoth 51% swing in WE in the Royals favor. The teams locked horns for four more innings before Treanor continued an amazing first week as a Royal with a walk-off ding dong. Even though it won the game, it had a smaller impact on WE (39%) than Betemit’s game-tying double.

April 5 • Royals 7 White Sox 6

How about another extra-inning, walk-off win? Once again it was the hit to tie the game that had the biggest effect on WE, rather than the walk-off hit itself. The tying runs came on a mammoth home-run from Bam Bam Butler, boosting the Royals WE from 20% to 56%. Cabrera’s single in the 12th wasn’t bad either, moving the WE from 70% to game over.

April 6 • White Sox 10 Royals 7

insaness

The magic ran out in another crazy game. It looked like the Royals were going to win in non-dramatic fashion for a change after jumping out to a 5-0 lead and handing a 6-3 lead to Joakim Soria in the ninth. Soria got two quick ground-outs, and the game was basically over. The Royals WE was 99.6%. The White Sox had flat-lined and were moving towards the light. Three singles and a walk later, the White Sox were within one run, but the Royals WE was still 83%. Next came the biggest WPA play of the week when Carlos Quentin doubled in the tying and go-ahead runs, swinging the WE 66% in the White Sox’s favor. It appeared the Royals might come back from the collapse when Ka’aihue doubled in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, moving the WE 42% back in KC’s favor. The Royals couldn’t score. Then in the 11th, the Royals got their WE all the way back up to 83%. In a repeat of opening day, Jeff Francoeur and Alcides Escobar squashed a rally with back-to-back outs. It was not to be this time, and the Sox finally finished the job in the 13th inning.

Top five plays by WPA during opening week:

-66%: April 6 • 9th • Carlos Quentin go-ahead 2B

+51%: April 3 • 9th • Wilson Betemit tying 2B

+42%: April 6 • 9th • Kila Ka’aihue tying 2B

+39%: April 3 • 13th • Matt Treanor walk-off HR

+36%: April 5 • 8th • Billy Butler tying HR

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Prove It Or Lose It

It’s undisputed now that the Royals currently have one of the best farm systems of all time, even according to Baseball America, which gave the Royals its highest prospect rating ever.

What does that mean for 2011? Nothing, really, except for this: many of the players we’ve come to know in recent years will probably be squeezed out beginning as soon as mid-season 2011, when some of those great prospects become major league-ready.

Here’s a look at some of those current players on the bubble, and what they must do to secure a spot beyond the All-Star Break:

Kyle Davies, RHP

Why he’s on the bubble: Davies has been the very model of a modern major league mediocre pitcher. For the past two years, his mediocrity on the Royals has been overshadowed by that of Brian Bannister. But Banny’s gone, and it’s time for Davies to go hard or go home. The best thing that could be said about Davies last season was that he didn’t miss a start. And that’s good – but it’s not gonna be good enough for the Kansas City Royals of the future.

What he must do to hang around: Double-digit victories and an ERA under 4.50. Anything less, and I think he’s gone.

Chris Getz, 2B

Chris Getz

Why he’s on the bubble:

Getz is much hailed for his glove. He is a terrific second baseman, and he would make a very nice defensive backup for any major league team. But he probably wouldn’t be a starter on any other team in the league. This is his best shot to prove himself.

What he must do to hang around: Hit, walk and run. Getz must prove he can be at least a serviceable bottom-of-the-order bat or, barring that, he must show he can get on base and make things happen on the basepaths. If not, the Royals won’t hesitate to cut him.

Kila Ka’aihue, 1B

Why he’s on the bubble: Two words: Eric Hosmer. The sensational prospect is knocking on the door, and as I’ve written before, Kila has one full season to prove he can be a major-league hitter. He not only has Hosmer to worry about, but also dark horse slugger Clint Robinson, who lit up AA pitching last season.

What he must do to hang around: Long balls. Ka’aihue was a major home-run threat in the minors, and he must provide that this season in Kansas City.

Melky Cabrera, CF

Melky Cabrera

Why he’s on the bubble:

This one is surprising, even to me. Melky was one of Dayton Moore’s prized offseason free agent acquisitions, and he’s pretty much a lock to be the starting center fielder. The biggest reason Melky is on the bubble is another offseason acquisition, Lorenzo Cain, the hidden gem from the Zack Greinke trade. Young speedster Jarrod Dyson is also proving himself as a capable center fielder, and he is already making waves early in Spring Training.

What he must do to hang around: Melky may very well be the leadoff hitter come Opening Day. He has to prove he’s capable of kicking off what will become an impressive Royals lineup.

Alex Gordon, LF

Why he’s on the bubble: No-brainer – Alex has received chance after chance, and 2011 is his very last one. He’ll be the starting left fielder, but if he continues playing like Alex Gordon the major leaguer, he’ll be gone sooner rather than later.

What he must do to hang around: Play like Alex Gordon the college star.

Vin Mazzaro and Sean O’Sullivan, RHPs

Why they’re on the bubble: O’Sullivan did not impress as a starter last season. Mazzaro is an unknown commodity and it seems like he has some promise, but with all the pitching prospects ready to break through, neither one of these guys will get a very long leash. At this point, both of them are here just to see if they can hold down the job.

What they must do to hang around: Prove that they can do more than hold down the job

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Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the associate editor of I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey14@yahoo.com.

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Cardinals Fantasy Report – Bring on Philly and the Cubs

The second half of the season is in full swing with the Cardinals hosting the Phillies for four games and on the road to take on the Cubs for three games over the weekend. This could be a very productive week for fantasy owners who are lucky enough to own any Cardinal. Looking at the matchups for the week, it is certain to be a good one.

Albert Pujols may only have a .308 average (BA) this season but his other numbers are very productive. He has a career .342 BA after the break and most likely will find his BA improving towards the .330 mark. As always, Pujols should be active in all formats. Matt Holliday is heating up even more and making fantasy owners smile right now. In July, Holliday is batting .320, 10 R’s, 3 2B’s, 5 HR’s, 15 RBI’s in 14 games. When facing the Phillies and Cubs, he has a career .308 BA, 15 HR’s, 48 RBI, in 70 games. Holliday is an elite outfielder and should be active in all formats. Colby Rasmus was back in the lineup against the Dodgers after having a hamstring issue. He has a .310 BA for so far in July and when facing the Phillies and Cubs he has a .353 BA this season. Rasmus is producing quite well and with the lineup around him, he should be active in most formats.

Adam Wainwright has a record of 14-5 with an ERA of 2.02. He is scheduled to pitch Thursday at home, where his ERA is down to 1.31. Wainwright has only allowed one earned run in his last 29 1/3 innings. He should be active in all formats with his elite fantasy status. Chris Carpenter, after going winless in his previous 3 starts, has finally put everything back together with the win in his last appearance. His record is now 10-3, 3.16 ERA, and has 114 strikeouts this season. Carpenter’s career ERA is not all that great against the Phillies but holds a 10-3 record and 2.73 ERA against the Cubs. He is scheduled for a two-start week and should be active in all formats. Jaime Garcia is scheduled to pitch against the Phillies on Wednesday. He is 8-4 with a 2.27 ERA for the season. Garcia is still a reliable starting pitcher but fantasy owners need to watch him over the next few starts. I would be concerned fatigue could start setting in since he has giving up 17 hits in his last two starts. He should be active in all formats as long as his ERA remains amongst league best. Ryan Franklin has been solid all season. His ERA is currently 3.50 and without the Colorado game where he allowed 6 runs, his ERA would be 2.02. He has not allowed a run since and should have many save opportunities this week. Keep him active in all formats.

Ryan Ludwick will miss out versus Philadelphia but could be active when the Cardinals are at Wrigley Field. Ludwick tears it up with a career .351 BA, 14 R’s, 8 2B’s, 6 HR’s, 25 RBI’s in 23 games at Wrigley. It is too bad he is on the DL with a strained left calf. There is a possibility he could be activated for the Chicago series, but he would be a risky start.

Fantasy Minor League Profile of the week:

Jon Jay is the Minor League Profile of the week. Even though he is not in the minor leagues right now, he would still qualify as a minor leaguer in most fantasy leagues. He was selected in the 2nd round (No. 74 overall) of the June 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Jay will not be an elite prospect but could be the type of prospect to give your team runs, doubles, stolen bases, and batting average. There is a log jam in the St, Louis outfield which will limit his playing time. So unless Jay is in the lineup full time, I recommend keeping him on your minor league roster.

AVE AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Minors .321 165 31 53 16 0 4 32 17 22 13 .394 .491
MLB .360 75 16 27 7 0 3 10 5 13 0 .387 .589

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