Tag Archive | "David Price"

Triple Play: Matt Garza, Ichiro, Jose Fernandez

In this week’s Triple Play, we look at some brilliant pitching performances, a future Hall of Famer nearing a major milestone, a recently traded pitcher acting like a fool and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

IchiroSuzuki

Who’s Hot?

Starting pitchers in both leagues

Have you noticed just how many ridiculously brilliant pitching performances there have been since the All-Star break? Jose Fernandez (more on him below). Francisco Liriano. Clayton Kershaw. David Price. Max Scherzer. Justin Masterson. Yu Darvish. I couldn’t narrow it down to a single “hottest” pitcher over the past week or two, so I’ll spotlight a handful of the best games, in no particular order:

  1. Price. In four starts since the All-Star break, Price has spun 32 1/3 innings in which he allowed 19 hits and seven earned runs, with 22 strikeouts and one (!!) walk. Opponents watched Price throw 73% of his pitches for strikes and they hit a measly .167 off him.
  2. Liriano. Has there been a better return-to-dominance story than Liriano this season? Once half of a devastating 1-2 punch (with Johan Santana) in Minnesota, Liriano has finally rediscovered his swagger after several years of injuries and struggles. In his past three starts, he has shut down the Nationals, Cardinals and Rockies while pitching at least seven innings each time (all won by the Pirates), and allowing a total of eight hits. While he needs to cut down on the walks (10 in those three starts), he has shown a knack for getting critical strikeouts and his changeup has been deadly.
  3. Kershaw. The Dodgers’ 25-year-old southpaw has been even better than he was in 2012, when he finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting. Since the break, he has started three times and allowed a total of three runs, while striking out 22 and walking none in 23 innings. Like with Miguel Cabrera’s hitting, I’m running out of superlatives to describe Kershaw’s pitching.
  4. Scherzer. Baseball writers (including me) and analysts who predicted a falloff from Scherzer are still waiting. He has been just as dominant in his three starts since the break as he was before. In those three, he tossed 21 2/3 innings of 0.83 ERA ball, with 18 punchouts and only three walks. Opponents are slugging an absurd .211 off Scherzer in those three games (all Tiger wins). Although Brian Kenny would be aghast Scherzer’s 16-1 record, fantasy owners certainly aren’t.
  5. Darvish. After getting knocked around by the Astros in his final start before the break, it is safe to say Darvish is back on track. To wit, he has allowed just one run in his past three starts versus the Yankees, Indians and Diamondbacks, while fanning almost 40% of the batters he faced in those three games. His seven-inning, 14-strikeout, no-walk steamrolling of Arizona was nothing short of brilliant.
  6. Masterson. Perhaps the most surprising name on this list, Masterson has transformed into the ace of an unexpectedly tough Indians rotation. He leads the AL with three shutouts, the most recent of which, was a 1-0 masterpiece in which he outpitched Darvish at home on July 27. Since the All-Star break, Masterson has limited his walks (four in three starts) while maintaining the strikeouts (23).

If you are a fan of dominant pitching (as I am), these two weeks since the All-Star break have been a joy to watch. It’s no wonder that teams rarely trade pitchers anymore unless they overpay drastically.

Who’s Not?

Matt Garza, Texas Rangers

Normally, this spot is reserved for a player who is struggling or not playing well. Saturday night, though, Garza displayed behavior so boorish, so idiotic, that he merits this spot for the week. Here’s the scenario: 1) Garza is a poor fielder; 2) normal third baseman Adrian Beltre was serving as the DH, and 3) second baseman Eric Sogard is a good bunter. This led to the A’s bunting four times, including Sogard’s perfectly executed suicide squeeze in the 7th inning that plated Oakland’s fourth run of the game. Solid strategy, right? Take advantage of another team’s weakness, especially when that team is a division rival trying to catch you. Garza barked at Sogard while walking off the field after the inning, but played it off after the game, saying he was asking if there were any good places to eat in Oakland. He added,”They showed me how they were going to play and how they were going to attack me, and that’s fine. Next time, I’ll be ready. That’s it.” It seemed to be done and over.

After the game, though, Garza went over the edge and started tweeting at Sogard and his wife, Kaycee:

GarzaRant

Where do you even start with this? Aside from being a sore loser and displaying repeated ignorance of basic grammar, you’re still left with the complete and utter disrespect of a player’s wife and of women in general. Man’s game? Some people can’t shut there [sic] women up? Seriously? I can understand being hyper-competitive and angry about a game, but how taking it to this level is pure misogynistic stupidity. And the half-hearted apology – “sorry I let my competitive edge out” – is laughable at best.

By the way, here’s what Kaycee Sogard tweeted that got the cement-headed Garza so riled up: “Get em on, get em over, get em in!” Some pretty controversial stuff there. To their credit, Sogard and his wife said they consider the whole matter a joke, which is a perfect response. Garza certainly made a laughingstock of himself Saturday night. He did issue a statement of apology yesterday, but it lacked sincerity and sounded like something his agent’s summer intern wrote for him. But, hey, I guess we should give him credit for not going with the “my Twitter was hacked” excuse. In any case, Garza wins the award for Neanderthal of the Week, and I dearly hope the A’s use the exact same tactics on him if they face off again this season.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .305/.361/.461, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 3 SB, 50 runs, 122 OPS+

Player B: .323/.367/.412, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, 28 runs, 112 OPS+

Player A is Jhonny Peralta. Player B is Jose Iglesias, who will likely be replacing Peralta as Detroit’s everyday shortstop this week. If all the Biogenesis reports are true, then Peralta is staring at a 50-game suspension that will take him out of the lineup until late September. Under those circumstances, the Tigers traded outfield prospect Avisail Garcia and others as part of a three-team deal that also saw Jake Peavy go from the White Sox to the Red Sox. Most importantly for Detroit, though, is a quality replacement for Peralta. Iglesias may not have the power Peralta offers, but he is a FAR superior defender and has not been nearly as overmatched at the plate as some feared before the season. With Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, the Tigers have enough offense to get by without Peralta’s bat. Thanks to the acquisition of Iglesias, their defense should actually improve, which will be to the benefit of their pitchers.

Player A: .440/.452/.700, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 runs

Player B: .255/.319/.558, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 runs

Player A is the Mariners’ Kendrys Morales since the All-Star break. Player B is Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs during that same time frame. Both players would have been perfect fits for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Morales could have taken over at first base, with Garrett Jones sliding back to right field. Schierholtz would have been a perfect platoon partner in right. Morales’ season totals of 17 homers, 63 RBI and 50 runs scored would rank 2nd for the Pirates, while Schierholtz’s ability to hammer right-handed pitching would have been an ideal fit for a team in need of that particular skill. Instead, though, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington failed to make any deals by the July 31 deadline. Any chance to acquire either player is likely gone. Although the Pirates took four of five in last week’s huge series against the Cardinals (and seized back first place in the process), fans are right to wonder if Huntington’s failure will come back to haunt the team before the end of the season.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. His most recent start, last Wednesday against the Pirates, saw Wainwright do something he hadn’t done all season: walk the first batter of the game. That would be his only walk allowed, as he went seven innings, surrendering four runs and whiffing six. For the season, Wainwright has walked just 19 hitters, versus 151 strikeouts (still an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio).
  • Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee are the next closest starters in terms of fewest walks allowed, with 19 and 22, respectively.
  • Ichiro Hit Tracker: the former Mariner and current Yankee outfielder is closing in on 4,000 hits in his brilliant career (including the 1,278 he tallied in Japan). Going into Monday’s games, he sits at 3,986. Only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose have reached the 4,000 summit.
  • At age 39, Ichiro doesn’t get on base as often as he once did, nor does he dazzle us with his speed or cannon arm, but at no point should it be lost on us that we have been witness to one of the greatest hitters of this generation. After a slow first two months to the season, he has hit a respectable .296/.333/.403, while ranking second on the team in stolen bases, third in runs scored and fourth in OPS+ and total bases.
  • Every once in a while, Ichiro can still turn back the clock to the pinnacle of his greatness in Seattle. On July 31, in a rare trip Yankees-Dodgers matchup in Los Angeles, he uncorked a laser from right field to nail Hanley Ramirez at home and keep it a one-run game (which New York would go on to lose 3-2). The day before that, he went 4-for-4 with an RBI in a 6-5 win over Tampa Bay.
  • At his current pace, Ichiro should notch hit #4,000 between Aug. 12-18. The Yanks host the Angels between the 12th-15th, then travel to Boston for a three-game set on Aug. 16. With the Yankees’ luck this year, it will happen in their archrival’s home field.
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to see as much coverage devoted to Ichiro reaching this milestone as has been wasted on Alex Rodriguez? I’m sure the Yankees would welcome it.
  • Jose Fernandez is Really Good, Vol. III: the Marlins’ phenom, who just turned 21 last week, became the first 20-year-old to have an ERA+ (which adjusts for park factors) of at least 150 since Dwight Gooden did it in 1985.
  • Incidentally, Gooden’s ERA+ in 1985 was an other-worldly, mind-blowing 229.
  • Jose Fernandez is Really Good, Vol. IV: Last week, Fernandez became the first hurler to fan at least 13 batters in consecutive starts since Randy Johnson in 2004, and the first rookie since Kerry Wood in 1998.
  • Jose Fernandez is Really Good, Vol. V: The last rookie to notch at least 10 strikeouts four times in his freshman season was Cole Hamels in 2006. Since his electric appearance in the All-Star Game, Fernandez has fanned 35 hitters in 23 innings, while allowing just 13 hits and three walks.
  • A few weeks ago, I predicted in this column that the Rookie of the Year Award was Yasiel Puig’s to lose. Fernandez is making me re-think that prediction, even with a possible innings shutdown looming in the next month.
  • The Dodgers have won 14 straight road games, the longest such streak since the 1984 Detroit Tigers. The NL record for consecutive road wins is 17, set by the 1916 New York Giants. Breaking that streak will be tough, though: Los Angeles next takes on the Cardinals in St. Louis.
  • If Hanley Ramirez and Puig are out with injuries, the task becomes even tougher.
  • News: Ron Washington became the all-time winningest manager in Rangers history Sunday. Views: The fact that Washington did that in just his 7th season on the job tells how just how bad the Rangers have been in their history until he took over.
  • All those who thought the Royals would have a better record than the Yankees on August 5, raise your hand.
  • Finally, it was 20 years ago yesterday that Robin Ventura decided to charge Nolan Ryan after taking a heater in the back. The still image of Ventura in a headlock as Ryan prepared to punch him in the face is legendary, but many people forget that Ventura managed to wiggle out of the headlock and appeared to be in the process of tackling Ryan as the swarm of players enveloped them. Still, the overriding lesson, to this day, is that you just don’t mess with Nolan Ryan.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Is a Trade Really Necessary?

ShelbyMiller

 

Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch wrote an article that confusingly argued the Cardinals should pick up another starter. He claimed the Cards are a balanced team with a defense that is “short on sizzle but corrals what it reaches” (whatever that means). He admits the Cardinals are more than likely to make the postseason due to their “offensive professionalism” (is that the same as just being good?) and a bullpen that will help them “solve close games”.

Weeding through the drivel and fat of the article, it seems Strauss is claiming the Cards are already basically a lock for the postseason, but need extra pitching to contend once they get to the “October stage”.

There’s major problems with that thinking and the article in general:

1) Which prospect would you trade for a starting pitcher?

Strauss points out The Cardinals should add pitching, but doesn’t put it on the line and name which prospect he would part with to get this pitcher. This sets up a conundrum as in order to get someone like David Price or Cliff Lee, you really can’t give up anything less than an Oscar Taveras or a Wacha. But it’d be insane to give either up for a half a year of anyone.

And if you are willing to give up less, you’ll receive a pitcher like Jason Marquis or Jason Vargas, who isn’t really any better than what they have now.

2) Are the Cardinals pitching really that bad?

Strauss tries to prove his point by looking at the Cardinals 51 quality starts being 7th in the NL for the year, as opposed to having the most quality starts at the end of May.

He points out that Miller hasn’t thrown at least 151 innings in a year (duh, he’s a rookie) and it’s causing an “erosion of his fastball command and overall efficiency.”

He points out that Lynn has a 5.36 ERA in his last 7 starts. Since June 1st, the team ERA has been 4.65 vs the NL average of 3.91.

Quality Starts, though better than win-loss record, don’t give a complete picture. Lynn does have an ERA of 5.36, but a FIP of 3.58. And though Strauss spreads Lynn’s misfourtunes out to two months, it’s really just July. In June, his ERA was 4.83. But in June, opponents average was only .223, versus .220 in May. Opponents wOBA was .297 compared to .277 in May. And along with a good FIP, it shows he was just getting unlucky.

Now in July, the numbers to kick up.  6.85 ERA, opponents avg .340, and opponents wOBA of .368. And this is all over the sample size of just 22.1 innings. When you look at his starts in July, it’s inflated by an outlier start on 7/13 vs The Cubs, where he went 4.1 innings and allowed 6 ER. If you excuse that start as an outlier, the rest of the month is similar to June.

Other Cardinals starters for the month of July: Wainwright – 3.41 ERA, 3.08 FIP. Westbrook – 2.66 ERA, 4.57 FIP. Kelly – 3.97 ERA, 5.25 FIP.

Now compare to pitchers rumored to be on the trade market for July (not Price or Lee, since losing Taveras isn’t an option). Eric Stults – 3.20 ERA, 3.44 FIP. Bud Norris – 7.13 ERA, 5.59 FIP. Jason Marquis – 4.30 ERA, 5.26 FIP.

Those options are either much worse or comparable to what we already have. And not worth losing a prospect for.

3) Strauss is also relying on the tired narrative that only pitchers with postseason experience, and not rookies, can excel in the postseason.

There is very little proof that rookies’ stats change at all from regular season to postseason or that they can’t handle it. Here are some examples of rookies who have excelled in the postseason ( I would like to point out Matt Moore wasn’t even a rookie yet when he did it)

Athletics Nation also tackled this subject, listing success of rookies in the postseason.

I want to zero in on a few of these rookies and compare their season stats to their Sept/Oct stats.

Madison Bumgarner (2010)

Season – ERA: 3.00, Opponents avg: .270, FIP: 3.66. WHIP: 1.31

Sep/Oct –ERA: 1.13, Opponents avg: .244, FIP: 2.92. WHIP: 1.09

Jeremy Hellickson (2011)

Season – ERA: 2.95, Opponents avg: .209, FIP: 4.44, WHIP: 1.15

Sep/Oct – ERA: 2.67, Opponents avg: .172, FIP: 5.34, WHIP: 1.07

Ivan Nova (2011)

Season – ERA: 3.70, Opponents avg.: .253, FIP: 4.01, WHIP: 1.33

Sep/Oct – ERA: 2.67, Opponents avg.: .254, FIP: 3.74, WHIP: 1.16.

All three of these players improved in the postseason of their rookie years. Maybe we should not only accept that Miller can start in Oct, but he should be expected to excel.

The truth is, there is no one on the market that The Cardinals can have who is any better than anyone we have now without giving up Taveras. A few of the pitchers are in minor slumps that happen in the season. There’s no need to panic and apply narratives about workloads or not being able to handle the pressure. As Mozeliak says in the Strauss article about Miller “I don’t think it’s just workload. I just think he needs to go back to what he was doing early on and regain that form. I don’t think it’s fatigue. I think that kid’s as strong as anybody out there. He understands this business. It’s not like he’s a first-year pro. My expectation for him is to have a strong second half.”

And postseason experience applied to rookies is a myth.

The Cardinals are 59-37 with a winning pct of .615. They are the best team in baseball. They are geared to really do some damage in the postseason and have a farm system that will help this sort of success be possible for years to come. There’s no need to mess with any of that. So the best option for the Cardinals is possibly the most boring option, and that’s to do nothing.

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I come to praise the Shields-Davis trade, not to bury it

If there’s a fan base pessimistic about everything, it’s the Kansas City Royals fan base. Not being in the playoffs since 1985 and not having a winning season since 2003 does that to you. And with all the other misfortunes the Royals experienced over the years, you can’t blame fans for being pessimistic.

Shields and Davis

So when the Royals traded top prospect Wil Myers, pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and infielder Patrick Leonard for Tampa Rays starters James Shields and Wade Davis, a lot of Royals fans, bloggers and pundits panned the trade. They claimed the Royals gave up too many prospects and traded potential long-term success for short-term gain. They believed the trade smacked of desperation, a cynical move by General Manager Dayton Moore to try to keep his job.

But what were the Royals supposed to do? Look, the Rays weren’t about to give up David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard. And I doubt adding someone like Eric Hosmer and/or Billy Butler to the deal would change things. The Rays aren’t rebuilding and they have no reason to give up Price and Hellickson. The Rays had room to give up Shields and Davis and still keep their strong, young, starting rotation.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed the Royals gave up Odorizzi. But Odorizzi projects as a number three or four starter, like Davis. And Davis has four years of Major League experience and is a free agent until 2016. If Davis works out as a starter, he could be the key success to the trade. And if he doesn’t fare well as a starter, he can go to the bullpen, where he succeeded with the Rays in 2012.

Making Montgomery a part of the trade made sense. This is the guy some thought would be a part of the Royals 2012 rotation. Instead, Montgomery ended up in AA Northwest Arkansas and struggled there. It’s likely he wouldn’t be with the Royals anytime soon and a change of scenery might do him some good.

The Royals only get two years of Shields, but if he pitches as expected, the Royals have an ace they haven’t had since Zack Greinke. If you’re into statistics, Baseball Reference says Greinke is statistically similar to Shields, who’s going to make $9MM in 2013. Greinke will make $19MM in 2013.

Heck, the Royals will pay Ervin Santana $12MM in 2013 and he’s projected as the number two or three starter. Looking at it that way, Shields is a bargain, even if the Royals pick up Shield’s $12MM 2014 option. If the Royals do well in 2013 and 2014, perhaps Shields signs a multi-year deal with the team. It could happen.

And think about what the Royals didn’t have to give up. Players like Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and pitching prospects Kyle Zimmer and Yornado Ventura. The Major League team is still intact and when Duffy and Paulino return, they will be a part of the starting rotation.

But what about Jeff Francoeur? Yes, he had a terrible 2012 and it might be a stretch if he crawls back to being league average next year. But even if Myers stayed with the Royals, it’s likely he wouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster. Despite what some think, the Royals needed front line starting pitching over a right fielder like Myers. And if worse comes to worst, there’s always David Lough or Jarrod Dyson, right? And by the time Francoeur leaves, there’s a chance Bubba Starling will take his place.

Sure, the Royals could have gone the free agent route and got a Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum or Ryan Dempster. But would the Royals sign them for $9MM a year like they got Shields? And honestly, Shields is a better pitcher than Sanchez, Marcum or Dempster. If anything, the Royals might have been better off trying to sign Sanchez, Marcum and Dempster over Santana or Guthrie.

It’s true losing prospects like Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard hurts, but remember, they’re prospects, not proven Major League commodities. Of course, Shields could blow out his elbow and Davis might be the second coming of Luke Hochevar. But baseball is a game of risk and the Royals aren’t going to win by playing it safe and relying solely on their prospects.

Remember all the bold moves the Detroit Tigers took last year? They made it to the World Series. Sure, it’s a long shot the Royals will be in the World Series next year, especially with the Tigers in the division. But the Royals have to make bold moves if they want to succeed.

And don’t forget this trade brings the Royals payroll up to $80MM. Love him or hate him, David Glass is spending money and Dayton Moore is making an effort to improve the team.

It won’t take long to see if this trade works out for the Royals. If it blows up, Moore will be gone and the team could be wandering in the baseball wilderness for several more years. But if it succeeds, it could be the start of a new era of winning baseball for the Kansas City Royals.

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Wil the Royals trade Myers away for starting pitching?

The Royals need another front of the rotation starter, even after acquiring Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. With a $70MM “soft” salary cap (which many argue is too low), the Royals say they’re willing to trade top outfield prospect Wil Myers for starting pitching. Names such as Tampa Bay’s James Shields and Boston’s Jon Lester have come up, but so far they’re nothing more than rumors. But is trading a top offensive prospect for starting pitching a good idea in the first place?

If it’s for Shields or Lester, no. Yes, they are good pitchers and better than anyone in the Royals rotation, including Santana and Guthrie. But they’re not worth Wil Myers trade value.

Both Shields and Lester will be free agents in 2014. If Myers stays with the Royals, he’ll likely be a free agent until 2019. Then there’s money. Shields will make $9MM in 2013 and has a $12MM team option. Lester will make $11.6MM in 2013 and has a $13MM team option. Myers will make much less.

Shields pitched 227.2 innings in 33 starts, had a 3.52 ERA with a 3.84 strikeout to walk ratio. Lester pitched 205.1 innings in 33 starts, had a 4.82 ERA with a 2.44 strikeout to walk ratio. Shields is 30 and Lester is 28, but between the two, Shields appears the one most likely to improve. Both pitchers are good and would be an asset to the Royals rotation, but not for Myers.

Now if the Tampa Rays are willing to deal David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, that might be a good trade. Price is a Super Two player, which makes him arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016. Hellickson is arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent in 2017.  Price made $4.35MM in 2012 and Hellickson made $489,500 in 2012, so they’re very affordable and would be under club control for at least a few years.

But I don’t see a trade like that happening. Price was a 20 game winner, pitching 211.0 innings over 31 starts with a 2.16 ERA and a 3.47 strikeout to walk ratio. And he was the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2012. Hellickson was no slouch, pitching 177.0 innings over 31 starts with a 3.10 ERA and a 2.10 strikeout to walk ratio. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Of the two, the Rays might trade Hellickson for Myers straight up, but to get Price the Royals would probably have to throw in another high level prospect like a Jake Odorizzi or Jason Adam. And the Rays aren’t rebuilding, so there’s no good reason for them to give up starting pitching for prospects.

If the Royals are so bent on trading for a starting pitcher, maybe they should consider Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Jeff Samardzija? To be honest, I didn’t know much about him either. But Samardzija was the ace of the Cubs, pitching 174.2 innings in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 3.21 strikeout to walk ratio. Sure, being the ace of the 61-101 Cubs isn’t that impressive. But Samardzija made $2.64MM in 2012, is arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016.

And the best thing is the Royals won’t have to trade Myers to get Samardzija (unless they’re very stupid, which is possible). The Royals could give the Cubs someone like Mike Montgomery or Cheslor Cuthbert for Samardzija and jettison or trade Luke Hochevar to pay Samardzija’s salary. The Royals still have money left to get a free agent pitcher like a Shaun Marcum or Anibal Sanchez. And Myers can take Jeff Francoeur‘s place in right field in 2013. Sounds like a good deal to me.

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