Tag Archive | "Boston Red Sox"

St. Louis Cardinals should choose Jorge Rondon for final bullpen spot

Now that St. Louis Cardinals management has decided which pitcher it wants to begin the season in the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, its focus can shift to a similar dilemma that exists for the last spot in the bullpen.

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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced Sunday that Joe Kelly would begin the season in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, while rookie Carlos Martinez would move back to the either-inning setup relief role he had at the end of the 2013 season and postseason.

The Cardinals decided to reward Kelly’s experience rather than Martinez’s stellar spring training numbers. Kelly has a 6.28 earned-run average in four starts, while Martinez posted a 1.76 ERA in his four starts.

Despite those contradictory numbers, the Cardinals made a sound decision to go with Kelly instead of Martinez.

Kelly has the experience of two Major League Baseball seasons where he showed the organization he could be a consistent contributor, given his 3.08 career ERA.

Plus, Martinez proved to be a dynamic setup reliever during the 2013 playoffs when he had 11 strikeouts in 12.2 innings during a run that ended in Game 6 of the World Series in a loss to the Boston Red Sox.

However, the Cardinals should make the opposite decision when they determine which pitcher will receive the last open spot in the bullpen.

Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler and Scott McGregor are the three candidates, and the two losers will likely begin the season with the Triple A Memphis Redbirds.

Butler is the pitcher with the most major-league experience. He pitched in 16 games with the Cardinals in 2013 and had an ERA of 4.08, with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts, but the team sent him back to the minors after he pitched Aug. 7 and he did not make the postseason roster.

McGregor and Rondon have never appeared in a big-league game, but Rondon has been far superior in spring training. McGregor has allowed three runs in four innings of work with two walks and two strikeouts. Rondon has yet to allow an earned run in 8.1 innings, and he has three walks compared to seven strikeouts.

Each of those three pitchers is in competition to likely be the right-handed option for the Cardinals in the seventh inning of games in which they have a lead.

That is certainly an important role, and the Cardinals would have nearly as complete of a roster as they ever have if the winner of this three-way battle excels once the regular season begins.

Rondon would figure to be in the lead to win the spot because he has shown the most potential, even though Butler has the most experience.

Rondon throws harder than Butler, but he too has struggled with his command during his seven years in the minor leagues, as he has racked up 230 walks compared to 338 strikeouts and had 37 walks to 42 strikeouts in 2013 at Memphis.

Still, Butler’s potential appears to be limited if he can’t locate his pitches because he does not have the electric action on his pitches that several of the Cardinals top young pitchers do, and McGregor has not done much with his limited opportunities.

The Cardinals need a middle reliever who can consistently throw strikes more than anything, and they might not need the winner of this battle for long anyway.

They already have groundball-specialist Seth Maness penciled into a bullpen spot, and former closer Jason Motte is on schedule to return to the big-league team in late April or early May, and he could take the spot of Rondon, McGregor or Butler because he has the experience and the ability to consistently throw strikes.

Still, the team needs a reliever to fill in during the meantime because the Mitchell Boggs disaster of April 2013 showed how important a reliever is even in the first few weeks of the season.

The Cardinals have a dynamic duo to finish games with Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal, but they’ll need someone to carry leads the starter gives them and hand them off for the eighth and ninth innings.

As of now, Rondon looks to be the man for that job.

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“Drew” The Right Thing: Why Stephen Is Best For Cards

The rumor mill around the Cardinals search for an upgrade at shortstop has hit red alert levels of speculation. Yet while the names of nearly every player in the game at the position has crossed the lips of one person or another about what direction the team could go in, the easiest way to solve the problem will require some sacrifice—in the form of a contract to Stephen Drew.

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Drew is not the sexiest option on the table; those honors go to Troy Tulowitzki and Elvis Andrus. Likewise, he is not as potent of an offensive threat as Jed Lowrie or Jhonny Peralta, or even the pure fielding genius that Pete Kozma was. Over the past three years, the 30-year old has played for three different teams and never hit over .255 at any stop. What’s more, the 124 games he played in this past season in Boston, while hitting .253 with 13 home runs, 67 RBI and 112 hits were all high marks that he had not touched since 2010.

None of that sounds too great, does it? Not when there are numbers floating around like Tulowitzki’s five years of 24 or more home runs, or Andrus’ 40 steal summer are in the mix. Add in the fact that it is going to cost in the neighborhood of $13 or so million a season for his services (with negotiations overlooked by Scott Boras of all people), and a pursuit of Drew sounds like a full-fledged ride on the Crazy Train.

But stepping back from the surface level of it shows that the investment into Drew is perhaps the safest route of action for the team. For one, the cost of acquiring any of the numerous players that could be explored on the trade market is heart stopping strong. Teams are going to sift through the plethora of cost-controlled, Major League proven, sub-25 year old talent that the Cardinals have built the core of their team around. This is a group that includes Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly among others at the MLB level (it has been stated that Michael Wacha is not available under any circumstances), and could stretch into inquires around Oscar Tavares and Kolton Wong at the next level. A combination of any of those players is a tough pill to swallow, for any player and dents what allows the Cardinals to consistently compete at the level that they do: having high-talent, low cost returns throughout their middle market salary capabilities.

Despite the notion that he “has” to move some of them, especially considering what seems to be a logjam off starting pitchers; John Mozeliak has repeatedly stated that he is not keen on moving his young arsenal of talent. And there is good reason to see why he feels this way. The rotation is ever evolving and outside of Wainwright, there is no proven year in, year out presences in the mix yet. Basically, the time is now, but the picture is still developing and making a brash move while the incubation stage is not quite finished yet could be a leap of faith off the wrong cliff, even if the return is an elite talent at another spot.

So in the end, how do you remedy this situation, while still bringing in as much improvement at the club’s biggest need position still? Pay the price for Drew. Market value often gets tied to numbers, but it is almost always determined more by being in the right place, at the right age, at the right time. Drew is likely to command in the neighborhood of $52 million over the next four years, and quiet honestly is worth it. Yes, he’ll get more than he is worth, and will therefore become prone to inherit the crown of thorns that Matt Holliday has so expertly won in the court of public opinion over the past four years. But the simple truth of it is every deal can’t be one that the team wins. Meaning that cost for a plus shortstop is not going to be a fair one; it is a high demand position that can name its own price within reason. The good thing is that money isn’t an obstacle for the Cardinals, who cleared over $35 million dollars from its 2012 roster between the departures of Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Jake Westbrook, Edward Mujica and Carlos Beltran from its ranks.

And speaking of Beltran, it is his original purpose that a Drew acquisition most closely replicates. No, he will not hit 30 home runs or even be guaranteed to make two All-Star Games in as many years as Beltran did. Realistically, the team does not need that from its shortstop. But what he will be able to do is fill a major void in place that has to find an answer at, which is exactly what Beltran was acquired to do in December of 2011 on the heels of the Pujols departure. He came to town with a big dollar figure, and an injury prone reputation, but in return he gave the team everything it needed and erased what was a briefly a gaping hole.

That is what Drew represents, an instant replenishment that does not create a new one via acquiring his presence. Look past the numbers and see the truth; the smartest move does not always have to be the cheapest one, rather it should be the most comprehensively effective one.

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Cardinals Master Moment to Fight Another Day

Stopping the Boston momentum was the most important job the Cardinals had to do entering game two. And all things considered, there was no better man available to do the job than Michael Wacha. The rookie continued his sensational October run, but this time all the breaks did not fall to him, and finally the odds caught up.

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For the Cardinals, the early series stakes couldn’t be higher. Coming off a blowout where they lost in basically every facet of the game, against an energized club riding high on confidence and home crowd fuel, , there were not many factors on the Cardinal side—except for its young ace in the making.

Unlike the night before, when runs and miscues came in waves, game two was a much tighter affair. It was one defined by both an early pitching duel between the October veteran and the undeniable efforts of the rookie hurler

Throughout the team’s playoff run, Wacha’s flirtations with perfection have been the biggest story of the late year. Yet, while turning in sterling outings once after another, he has done so out of necessity, as the he has received only the necessities in regards to run support. Save for the two big inning outbreaks in game six of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals bats had mustered just three runs of support for him, while he embarked on a club-record tying 19 consecutive innings of scoreless frames. The law of averages said that was due to change, and it was done so in a very sudden fashion on Thursday night.

After masterfully working through the potent Red Sox lineup for five innings, Wacha left one of his now signature change ups a bit too high, and David Ortiz used it to build a new floor on his own personal October legend, hammering it over the Green Monster for a two-run homer that humanized Wacha for the first time this fall. While Wacha’s night ended after six innings, the Cardinals hung into fight for a few more decisive rounds, and showed the type of fight that is only bred from being cornered.

On the other side of the field, John Lackey portrayed the role of grizzled veteran perfectly. While he was not as awe-inspiring as Wacha appeared at times, matched him take for take on the mound, in a style that should have come as no surprise. Eleven years after his initial rise to prominence as a member of the Anaheim Angels, where he won the decisive seventh game of his first World Series, Lackey turned in an effort that proved worthy of his pedigree, albeit one that did not stand up as well as his previous effort did.

While the big moment was oft in the demand, it became the small ones that defined the game. In the wake of Ortiz’s gargantuan tide-changing home run, the Cardinals rallied behind a series of plays, as well as fate, falling in their favor. After getting Lackey out of the game after a walk to David Freese and a Jon Jay single, they continued to roll with the jabs before delivering their knock out punches.

A gutsy double steal call put pinch runner Pete Kozma and Jay into scoring position and after a walk-by-inches to Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter delivered a sacrifice fly to left field scored Kozma, but then an errant throw home advanced Jay to third. It was then that the game one and two tables turned and misfortune swapped dugouts. Pitcher Craig Breslow, in an attempt to cut down Jay, threw the ball over third base which scored Jay and let Descalso make it around to third. It was then, in a nearly on-demand fashion, that Carlos Beltran delivered in the big moment, putting the Cardinals up 4-2, and lining them up for a 1-1 series tie with three home games to come.

Supported by the equally timely pitching of another two rookies in Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, the game ultimately became the best possible win the club could ask for. Through a blend of all of the defining elements of their season: timely hits, overpowering rookie pitching and topped it off with gutsy execution, as well as a bit of the type of assistance they consistently supplied and buried themselves with the previous night.

It is the moment that reverbs the most in the playoffs; how a team both limits and capitalizes on them alike. While there is still much to be revealed regarding if they can enforce their will upon Boston to take and hold control of the series, a tough win on the road is always encouraging. Thursday was a both a proving ground evening for the club, in a fighter’s win.

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Cardinals Create Own Misfortune In Game One

In many regards, the Cardinals have been a max effort team throughout their playoff run. From a string of uncanny, timely pitching performances, to just the right hits to get by, they have found a seamless way to survive. However, on Wednesday night in Boston, those seams popped and the Cardinal chances quickly followed suit.

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There is not a postseason series that is devoid of “the moment”. Whether it be a critical defensive play, pitch placement or a hit find the right opening in the field, it is the turn of these plays that more often than not decides the turn of a series. Murphy’s Law was firmly rooted against the Cardinals in each and every one of these instances from onset of the Game One of the World Series, and they paid an instant price. Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester owned the corners in the top of the first inning, while Adam Wainwright uncharacteristically missed them. Boston made the best of the mini-slump from the Cardinal Ace, and the substandard Cardinal defense made sure they stuck.

The most notable play of the night will remain the first of this series of unfortunate events, where shortstop Pete Kozma’s moves without out the ball were executed more flawlessly than his ones with it. On a quick attempt at an inning-salvaging double play was initiated by Matt Carpenter, Kozma uncharacteristically missed the exchange at the base, a play that had its biggest impact to come after its completion. After the play was overturned by a rare umpire tribunal, it was made that even the runner coming into second was safe after Kozma never had control of the ball to record an out.

As such things always seem to unfold; this error was followed immediately by a definitive hit in the game by first baseman Mike Napoli in the next at-bat. He cleared the bases on a hanging Wainwright delivery and cleared the bases, putting the Red Sox ahead permanently.

Yet that moment was far from the only miscue of the day for the sloppy Cardinal defense. An inning that began with a miscue between Wainwright and Yadier Molina on a routine infield pop fly, it was Kozma’s second error in as many innings which blew things open yet again, which led the second time the bases were loaded in the young game. On the following play, Dustin Pedroia chopped a routine ball within range of both Kozma and David Freese at third, yet got past both and drove in the fourth run of the game, as well as kept the base loaded and the game alive.

Yet, it was the next at-bat that was the most ironic of the game, and could have the most resonating impact of the game. David Ortiz came within inches of his second grand slam of the postseason if not for a world-beating grab by Carlos Beltran at the right field fence. But in the course of making the grab, Beltran banged is open rib cage on the outfield wall, an outcome that forced him from the game at the close of the inning. While Beltran’s hospital returns were X-Rays and cat scans which showed no serious reasons for concern, in the same way that they benefitted from the injury to Hanley Ramirez in the NLCS, they could be forced to battle through for themselves now with a sore Beltran.

After this early string of misfortunes, the Cardinal momentum was sufficiently deadened. While they mounted a brief threat in the fifth inning, as well as broke up the team shutout bid in the ninth inning on a long Matt Holliday home run, their fate was long since decided, and largely by their own doing. The 8-1 loss gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the series, an edge that has resulted in a win in the last 24 World Series contest.

The Cardinals have been a team that has played at best when performing in concert, as Game Six of the National League Championship Series displayed. Yesterday’s game was a study in what happens when that same display happens in the contrary. Boston did the three things well that win baseball games on Wednesday: pitched well, played well at home and capitalized on mistakes. For the Cardinals to return to St. Louis tomorrow night with the series under control, they must do their part to assure there are fewer chances for the Sox to make good on the latter scenario.

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Could the Royals make the playoffs?

Perhaps it’s the Royals fan in me, but I’m waiting for the Kansas City Royals to go on another losing streak and fall out of the Wild Card race. Or totally collapse and not even finish at or above .500. Sure, the Royals are 77-69 as of September 12 and it’s almost certain they’ll finish above .500 for the first time since 2003. But if any baseball team can have an epic collapse, it’s the Kansas City Royals.

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Yet the Royals are playing well and winning games. In the last 44 games over 44 days, the Royals went 26-18. They have one of the best post All-Star Game records in baseball. After a seven game losing streak around three weeks ago, their season appeared to be over. Since then, they’ve gone 13-5. Last Friday the Tigers, arguably the best team in the American League, beat the Royals 16-2, handing them their worst loss of the season. If anything would sink this young Royals team, it was that game. But the Royals shrugged it off and won the next two games, then took two of three games against the Cleveland Indians. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Royals being 8.5 games back of Detroit and seven games back in the Wild Card, with little chance of making the playoffs. Now they’re seven games back of Detroit and only two games back of the final Wild Card playoff spot.

As a Royals fan, I’ve discovered this phenomenon called September scoreboard watching and checking the standings. I keep checking the baseball scores and MLB division and wild card standings on my ESPN Scorecenter app. I start rooting for teams like the Boston Red Sox to win their games against the Orioles, Rays and Yankees, the teams ahead of the Royals in the Wild Card race. Every time the Red Sox beat them and the Royals win, the chances of a Royals Wild Card spot improves. I root for the Chicago White Sox, a team I don’t really care for, to win their nine games between the Tigers and Indians. If the Royals win and the Tigers and Indians lose, the Royals have a chance to move up in the A. L. Central standings.

In a way, this Royals playoff run is surreal. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting the Royals to go on another losing streak or a team ahead of them in the Wild Card gets hot. There’s so much recent historical disappointment and losing, I expect things to go bad. Until the Royals make the playoffs, I’ll still be skeptical. But if the Royals go on a 14-2 winning tear similar to what the Colorado Rockies did late in 2007… well, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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Flopps: The 8 Bit Baseball Card

I am a sucker for this stuff, I admit.

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Craig Robinson is the author behind one of the best infographic style books I have ever read, Flip Flop Fly Ball.  Where the book left off, the website took over.

Craig continues his great work over at his site keeping track of what hat he wears everyday and all kinds of graphically represented statistical anomalies.  We’ve featured some of that work here on i70 before, bring you galleries of his Lego Baseball Players and his infographic on Albert Pujols.  Just last week we brought you other 8-bit baseball players from another site.

Today we bring you a sampling of Craig’s newest creation, Flopps.  The Flip Flop Fly Ball baseball cards dedicated to all things baseball.  Browse the images in the slideshow below and then head on over to the site to see the entire collection.  (Don’t miss the Steve Bartman card below)

Use the “next” and “previous” buttons below the slides to browse through all the images.

Albert Pujols

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Albert Pujols is one of the greatest hitters in recent memory. Perhaps he will forever be remembered as he is depicted here, in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

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The Royals are in the A.L. playoff hunt

Things are going well for the Kansas City Royals. In the last 10 games, they’re 8-2 and have a 58-53 record. Mike Moustakas is finally hitting. Closer Greg Holland won Major League Baseball’s Delivery Man of the Month for July. The Royals team ERA is 3.57, tied for first in the American League. The team is playing well lately and for the first time in a long time, the Royals are in the playoff hunt after being left for dead before the All-Star Break.

Royals Walk Off Win

But the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are playing well and winning too. When the Royals win, they win. If the Royals lose, the Indians lose (and lately the Tigers keep winning) and the Royals don’t gain on the Tigers and Indians.

As of Wednesday night, the Royals are fifth in the Wild Card race, five games back. Of the four teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay, Texas, Baltimore and Cleveland), the Royals only face the Indians for six games and Texas for three games. And the four teams ahead of them in the Wild Card are within 1.5 games of each other.

And if that’s not enough, in the next 11 days the Royals will play four games against the A.L. East leading Boston Red Sox and five games against the Tigers. In between those series, the Royals play the Miami Marlins, so there’s a chance to win more games if they don’t take the Marlins for granted.

The Royals haven’t played an above .500 team since July 25. Since then, the Royals are 10-2, which is good, but winning against below .500 teams should be expected. To be fair, the two teams above .500 the Royals played since the All-Star Break were the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, and the Royals went 5-2 against them. Since the All-Star Break, the Royals are the only team in the Major League that have won all their series.

The next 11 days will determine if the Royals are for real. If they hold their own with the Red Sox and Tigers (and gain on the Tigers in the standings), the Royals won’t play an above .500 team until they play the Tigers again on September 6. In fact, the Royals play the Tigers and Indians 17 more times, 11 of which are against the Tigers. It’s simple: if the Royals keep winning series, they have a chance to make the playoffs.

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Kelvin Herrera’s up and down season

Everything was trending up for Kelvin Herrera.

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It was April 16 and the flame-throwing right-hander already owned a win, two saves and two holds. He had struck out at least two batters in four of his first six appearances of the 2013 season and had yet to give up a run.

And all this was coming off the 2012 season in which he was one of baseball’s best setup men. Last season, Herrera pitched to a 4-3 record with a 2.35 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and struck out 77 in 84.1 innings.

Herrera entered the eighth inning of the game in Atlanta with the score tied at 2. He was ready to blow away the heart of the Braves’ lineup with his blazing fastball.

However, after recording the first out of the inning, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton caught up to Herrera’s heater for back-to-back home runs. After another out, Dan Uggla went deep for the third home run of the inning.

Herrera finished the day with 0.2 innings pitched, 3 hits (all home runs), 4 runs and 1 walk. To put things in perspective, Kelvin only allowed four home runs all of last year.

Just a blip on the radar screen, right? Every pitcher has a bad outing once in a while.

After a scoreless inning the next day against the Braves, Herrera had another stinker, this time against the Boston Red Sox. He entered the game in the eighth inning with a runner on base, two outs and the Royals leading 2-1. Following a walk to the first batter he faced, Herrera served up a home run to Daniel Nava and the Red Sox went on to win 4-3.

In 10 appearances after the April 20 game against Boston, Herrera gave up an earned run in five of them and served up four more home runs. His struggles with the long ball eventually led to his demotion to Triple-A Omaha on May 22.

He had doubled his home run total from 2012 and that was a serious problem in the eyes of Royals management. He needed to go down to the minors and work out the kinks.

“He got to the point by not having confidence in his fastball to where he was trying to overthrow it, so he needs to just smooth his mechanics a little bit and really just go down and have some success,” Manager Ned Yost told the media after Herrera’s demotion. “He’s very young, too, and a big part of our ‘pen, so we need to get him straightened out. Get a little bit of his swagger back and bring him back.”

Aaron Crow served as the eighth-inning reliever while Herrera was in the minors. He has struggled as well, with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 16.1 innings.

Crow had a meltdown of his own on May 29 against St. Louis, giving up 5 hits, 4 ER, and 1 HR in a 5-3 loss.

Meanwhile, at Omaha,  Herrera appeared in five games, logging 4.2 innings. He gave up 2 hits, 3 walks, and struck out six. Most importantly, no home runs and no earned runs.

The Royals saw what they needed to see from Herrera and recalled him from Triple-A on Tuesday.

Now that he is back, the Royals should give Herrera a shot to regain his setup role. On Wednesday, Ned Yost called on Herrera to pitch the eighth with a 4-1 lead over the Twins. He retired the side in order with one strikeout.

With Herrera’s success in the minors, as demonstrated by the numbers, he should have some of his swagger back. That could be a huge boost for the free-falling Royals.

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Triple Play: Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez

It was definitely a Happy Mother’s Day at our house. Hope it was at yours as well. This week, we’re looking back at the gems the Cardinals’ pitched against the Rockies this weekend, a marquee outfielder who can’t get going, and more. Here we go:

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Who’s Hot?

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

How do you pick which start was more impressive? I finally had to choose Miller’s since I’ve seen Adam Wainwright’s greatness before. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that the 22-year-old pitched the single best game by a rookie starter since Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece against the Astros in 1998. Miller struck out 13, walked NONE and allowed only a broken-bat base hit against the Rockies. Some of the strikeouts were absolutely jaw-dropping. Perfectly placed fastballs. Breaking balls that dropped right over the plate. You name it. Miller had it all working for him. He said after the game on MLB Network that it was the best game he had ever pitched. Among the many stats and charts I’ve seen over the weekend about the pure greatness of this start, this one really jumped out at me: in the past 10 years, how many starts have there been where the pitcher allowed one hit (or none), struck out at least 13 batters, while walking none? Three. That’s it.  Here they are:

  • 5/18/2004 – Randy Johnson, age 40, Arizona vs. Atlanta (perfect game)
  • 6/13/2012 – Matt Cain, age 27, SF vs. Houston (perfect game)
  • 5/10/2013 – Miller

The fact that the Big Unit pitched a perfect game at age 40 quite a feat as well, but a subject for another day. This is a damn impressive list. Miller is 22 and just scratching the surface of his abilities. If you own Miller on your fantasy team, here are a couple of other stats that will have you patting yourself on the back: he has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 51-to-11. That is dominating for any starter. Of course, it is important to remember that Miller has less than a dozen major-league starts under his belt and there is bound to be some adjustment as opposing teams become more familiar with him. It would be unrealistic to expect no regression. Then again, as he matures, he figures to get even better. So far, it appears that the #1 starter-like projections predicted for Miller are right on target. After Friday night, Rockies hitters are in position to argue that point.

Who’s Not?

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

When your most noteworthy accomplishment of the season is a post-game altercation with another player, you know you’re off to a bad start. Someone please alert Kemp that the 2013 season started over a month ago. Entering Sunday’s games, Kemp’s batting line looked like that of a fourth outfielder on a good team: 1 HR, 14 RBI, 5 SB, .268 average. Okay, the RBI total is a little better than that of a reserve, but that’s about it. He just can’t get on track. How much longer can fantasy owners keep saying, “it’s early – he’ll be fine”? Fantasy owners cannot be happy to see that he is on pace for 4 HRs and 71 runs scored. Kemp has driven in one measly run and stolen a single base since Cinco de Mayo. He might have had an 11-game hitting streak going, but those hits aren’t translating to other stats for fantasy owners (or the Dodgers). Since you likely paid big auction dollars or used a high draft pick on Kemp, you really have no realistic choice but to wait and hope that he gets going soon. Trading him now would be a pennies-on-the-dollar move.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .298/.365/.632, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 10 runs, 1 SB

Player B: .285/.379/.551, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 10 runs, 0 SB

Player A is the Angels’ Mike Trout. Player B is the Indians’ Mark Reynolds. Trout is being viewed by some baseball analysts as a bust, while Reynolds is being hailed as the best bargain free-agent signing of the year. Both are incorrect. Trout is on pace for 27 homers, 112 RBI, 22 steals and 100 runs scored. Reynolds is not going to hit 50 homers and drive in 150, as he is currently on pace to do. But it’s a mighty nice hot streak for the Sons of Geronimo and fantasy owners to enjoy. Anyone who considers Trout a bust, or who thinks Reynolds is going to maintain his current numbers, is an idiot. Let’s check back in a month.

Player A: 1-0, 3.85 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 22 Ks, 14 IP

Player B: 2-0, 2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 16 Ks, 11 2/3 IP

Player A is Yu Darvish of the Rangers. Player B is Ubaldo Jimenez of the Indians. I had to read those numbers three times to make sure I wasn’t mixing them up with, say, James Shields or another front-line AL starter. Jimenez has actually put together back-to-back quality starts for the Tribe. In fact, Jimenez out-pitched Justin Verlander on Saturday, his third straight win.  Results like that are more in line with what the Indians had in mind when they dealt two of their top pitching prospects to the Rockies for the former All-Star starter in  July 2011. Personally, I wouldn’t trust that Jimenez has made some sort of breakthrough, but his success and that of Scott Kazmir, Cleveland is on a roll the past couple weeks and is bearing down on Detroit for first in the AL Central. The Indians have plenty of hitting. If, by chance, Jimenez can continue pitching this effectively, the Indians will be a big step closer to being a genuine contender.

Random Thoughts

  • One final note on Shelby Miller: he has been quoted as saying that he has not shaken off a single pitch Yadier Molina has called for all season. Not only do you not run on Yadi, you don’t shake off Yadi, either.
  • Let’s not forget Jon Lester. He pitched a beauty of his own last Friday night against the Blue Jays. He allowed just one hit, a double by Maicer Izturis in the 6th inning. For the season, Lester is 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. It’s not a coincidence that he is pitching like an ace and the Red Sox are winning again.
  • Wainwright’s shutout of the Rockies on Saturday was no slouch, either. He didn’t strike out as many batters as Miller did Friday, but he had dazzling command of that 12-to-6 bender that gets hitters bailing out of the batter’s box, only to watch the ball drop right in the zone. When he gets that pitch going, he’s as fun to watch as any dominant ace.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: 4. That’s four batters that Wainwright has walked this season (in a National League-high 58 2/3 innings), compared with 55 strikeouts. That’s a 13.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is so far beyond ridiculously good that it’s, well, ridiculous.
  • On the other hand, there’s poor Philip Humber of the Astros. First he was banished to the bullpen by Houston. Then, after getting hammered out of the pen Saturday night, his stats sit thusly: 0-8, a ghastly 9.59 ERA, 2.02 WHIP, 43 ERA+. When you see that Humber has allowed 14 hits and nearly four walks per nine innings, it’s no wonder he has been charged with the loss in eight of his nine appearances this season. How did he ever pitch a perfect game?
  • I think enough has been said and written about how terrible Angel Hernandez as an umpire. On second thought, no, it hasn’t been enough – his continued employment in an embarrassment to baseball. Likewise with Bob Davidson. A scientific poll (read: not scientific at all) reveals that the overall quality of umpiring would double if just those two were pink-slipped.
  • As incompetent as Hernandez’s blown home run call was, it pales in comparison to the fiasco the following night with Astros manager Bo Porter just making up rules regarding pitching changes. Botching a call is nothing compared to not knowing the stinking rule book. My idea for an outside-the-box punishment for those umpires? Having to umpire a game while wearing dunce caps.
  • They could borrow them from the ESPN executives who think it’s a good idea to pay John Kruk a salary to talk about baseball on TV.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Cardinals/Brewers: Three thing to walk with

The Cardinals completed their most dominant weekend in recent years over the weekend, completing the rare four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. The potential of the team has never been in doubt, yet the reality of it had been. The team put that to rest for the moment, as the offense woke up in a major way, cranking out 48 hits across the series, while surrendering only 12 runs across the series. These runs surrendered actually came from the starting rotation mostly, as the bullpen, propelled by some new additions, became a strength for the team, holding the lead in a way that has been uncharacteristic far too often this season.

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All in all, the team leaves for the next stop on its current NL Central road spin, firmly ahead in the division and tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball. The current six-game win streak the club is on is its second longest in the last four seasons, and also gives them four more road wins than any team in the National League. Here are three of the major factors that have played into the series that was.

1. Heart of lineup wakes up: Many of the struggles of the offense getting started this year has come at the heart of it. Matt Holliday has hit at a rate much lower than his average career output, and Allen Craig was a cleanup hitter than couldn’t hit the ball over the fence…or do much else of anything unless there was already somebody in place. And quite often, Holliday’s issue spilled into Craig’s, and it was just as frustrating to get them started as watching somebody try to bite their own ear.

Well, the power source of the club got to their job over the weekend, and it was no coincidence at all that the team had its best production of the year thus far as well. Holliday stepped into his usual role as a hammer, rocking the Brewers to the tone of a .333 average, 5 RBI and two home runs, including a monstrous 460 foot shot on Friday. Cardinal left fielder also scored seven runs in 3 games, and Craig is the cause of several of those. Craig had a prolific series, driving in seven runs on eight hits, including a double, triple and his first home run of the season. Overall, he hit .470 for the series, and got his clutch-hitting stats up to 22 RBI and a .412 average with runners in scoring position.

2. Baby Birds Hatched: The two most shocking moves of the season were both the comings and goings from the bullpen. In mercifully moving the struggling Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski to Memphis to work out their issues, the club brought up two of its best minor league starters to boost the pen. Seth Maness and, more shockingly, Carlos Martinez came up and immediately showcased why they have the billing they brought with them.

Maness, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, made two appearances, and quickly earned his stripes. He induced a bases-loaded double play in the eighth inning in his second appearance to hold off the Brewers and set up the club’s third win of the series. Martinez made a stunning impact, showcasing the high-90’s fastball that made him a Top 25 prospect in all of baseball a year ago. Both showed that the potential of the much-hyped Cardinal system is living up to the eye test standard as well.

3. Thawing Out: After entering the series in the worst stretch of his career, David Freese joined the break out party as well. He had three multi-hit games to start the series, and looked much more comfortable than he had all season. It was an encouraging effort from the laboring Freese to come to life and beginning to bring the much needed balance to the lower half of the Cardinal lineup.

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