Tag Archive | "Homers"

St. Louis Cardinals have MVP candidates, probably not MVP winner

The St. Louis Cardinals have had several players jump toward the front of the National League Most Valuable Player discussion throughout the season, but none of them are likely to win the award once the season is complete.

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Catcher Yadier Molina started the season on an incredible tear. He led the National League in batting average for much of the first half, peaking at .367 on June 18. He also has played his typically fantastic brand of defense and will likely win his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award.

However, Molina’s right knee started to give him trouble at the end of July while the Cardinals were in the middle of their season-worst seven-game losing streak. Molina sat on the disabled list for the minimum 15 days and has continued to be a very valuable player for the Cardinals, but his batting average is now back down to .316, just one point better than his 2012 batting average when he finished fourth in the MVP voting.

Because defense is nearly always undervalued in the MVP vote, Molina probably will not win his first MVP award this season.

First baseman Allen Craig has his batting average at .315 and was near the league lead with 97 runs batted in through the beginning of September. He also has a league-leading .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, but he has hit just 13 homeruns and has not played since he hurt his right foot Sept. 4.

No player has hit fewer than 15 homeruns and won the National League MVP award since former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee received the honor in 1985 with just 10 homers.

That precedent could also hurt the Cardinals third MVP candidate, Matt Carpenter, who has been incredibly consistent throughout the season and has started to draw attention as a possible recipient of postseason awards, but he has just 10 homeruns.

Of course, homeruns are not an important part of Carpenter’s game.

Carpenter leads the National League in runs scored (121), hits (193) and doubles (53). He is also third in the league in extra base hits, third in batting average, tied for fourth in singles and eighth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a sabremetric that incorporates data to spit out a number that says how many more wins a player adds to his team than an average major leaguer.

Unfortunately for Carpenter and the rest of the Cardinals MVP candidates, the man who will most likely win the award is first in WAR and has numbers across the board jus slightly better than the Cardinals players. Plus, he has a potentially wonderful storyline that will almost certainly help his chances.

The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will probably be the National League MVP if the Pirates don’t lose nearly all of their remaining games and fall from a playoff spot.

McCutchen has a better batting average (.323), more homeruns (20), more RBIs (82) and more stolen bases (27) than any of the Cardinals’ candidates.

And McCutchen is the leader of a team that has clinched its first winning season in 20 years and is on the verge of its first postseason appearance in that same time frame. Like it or not, some of the MVP voters will take that into consideration.

The Cardinals players can’t beat McCutchen with their numbers, and they cannot beat the story of his season in Pittsburgh.

But that’s how the MVP vote has gone for Cardinals players for a generation now. Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa won the 1998 MVP even though Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire set the single-season homerun record at 70 because the Cubs made the playoffs while the Cardinals finished third in the NL Central.

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds’ assault on the Major League Baseball record books overshadowed the great seasons Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had in 2004, and Bonds kept Pujols from winning the MVP in 2002 and 2003, as well.

The Cardinals have been blessed with players who have had seasons that rival the best in the game for much of the past 15 years, but sometimes a perennially good team with multiple players who have great seasons can keep any one of them from winning the ultimate individual award.

Of course, not many Cardinals fans or players would probably care if they get the chance to celebrate their third World Series championship in seven years in about six weeks.

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Triple Play: Coco Crisp, Derek Jeter, Bartolo Colon

In this week’s edition of the Triple Play, we look at an unlikely power hitter, the Captain’s lost season, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

DerekJeter

Who’s Hot?

Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics

Crisp has suddenly transformed from a slap-hitting, base-stealing leadoff man into a slugger. In the past three weeks, Crisp has belted eight home runs, driven in 14 and scored 19 runs. For the season, he has a career-high 18 homers, 54 RBI, 17 steals and 77 runs scored. His previous career high was 16, back in 2005 with Cleveland. Since starting this power binge on August 21 against Seattle, Crisp has batted a scorching .344/.386/.813, with a 1.198 OPS. While fantasy owners no doubt miss the stolen bases (he’s on pace for his lowest total since 2009), they have to be enjoying the unexpected power just as much as the A’s. The power could dry up at any time, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Who’s Not?

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

If anyone would like a mulligan on the 2013 season, it has to be Jeter. After fracturing his ankle in the ALCS against Detroit, he finally made his season debut July 11. He went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI, fueling hopes that he could help turn the Yankees’ season around. However, he left that game with a strained quad muscle and missed another 17 days. He returned again July 28 and played just four games before being injured again. This time, he was out until August 26. He made it through 12 games before having to depart yet again, this time in the 6th inning of Saturday’s game against Boston. His season stat line is .190/.288/.254, with one lone home run, seven RBI, and eight runs scored. The combination of Eduardo Nunez, Luis Cruz and Reid Brignac has not exactly filled the gap, production-wise. At age 39, there has been talk of just shutting Jeter down for the season, but that would be surprising. The Captain will likely try to return to the lineup before season’s end. One thing is certain: with the Yankees scrapping for a wild-card spot in the brutal AL East, his presence has been missed greatly.

Playing the Name Game

Name this pitcher: after being credited with a win yesterday, this pitcher became the first pitcher in American League history to win at least 15 games with four different teams. When he first came up in the 1990s, he was a power pitcher, but has never consistently been a strikeout artist. In 2000, he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings, but has never again approached that level. Over the years, he has compensated for his diminishing strikeout rate with excellent control. In 2002, he was traded for a package of players that would go on to include three All-Stars. The next year, he was dealt again and became a free agent at the end of the season. He would go on to win a Cy Young Award for his next team, with which he spent four seasons. The A’s are his fourth different team since 2008. Know who it is yet?

After his Cy Young season, this pitcher endured four injury-plagued seasons before rebounding to make 26 starts in 2011. Those starts were inconsistent (4.00 ERA, 21 home runs allowed in 164 1/3 innings), so that team cut him loose. The end of the line appeared close. He signed with his current team in 2012, partially to serve as a mentor to a stable of young pitchers. Then, at age 39, he rediscovered the control that served him so well during his career peak. He became a vital starter to a team surprisingly in contention for its division. Then in August 2012, he was suspended for 50 gamed for a positive drug test. Although his team went on to win its division, he did not pitch again. You must have it by now, yes?

This year has been this right-hander’s best season since winning the Cy Young while with the Angels in 2005. He leads the AL with three complete-game shutouts and was his team’s lone representative at the All-Star Game. Yes, it’s Oakland’s Bartolo Colon. He won at least 15 games twice while with Cleveland (1999, 2000), once with the White Sox (2003), twice with the Angels (2004, 2005) and now this year with the A’s. If nothing else, he can say he has had a long, interesting career in baseball.

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. Saturday night, at home against the Pirates, Wainwright righted the ship, pitching seven innings of shutout baseball. The Cardinals’ 2-0 victory lifted them past Pittsburgh, back into first place in the heated NL Central. Wainwright allowed two hits and two walks, while fanning eight. For the season, he has walked 31 batters in an NL-leading 213 2/3 innings with 195 strikeouts. That’s good for a 6.3-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is still tops in the major leagues. He also leads the league in wins, complete games and walks per 9 IP (1.3). His next start should be Thursday at home against Milwaukee, against whom Wainwright tossed his first complete-game shutout of the season back in April.
  • If the Orioles end up missing one of the wild-card spots by one game, they’re going to look back on Sunday’s game as the one that cost them. Chris Dickerson, a 31-year-old journeyman outfielder who has never had more than 255 at-bats in a season, entered the game in the 9th inning as a pinch runner. He fell for a fake by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who made it appear that a ball hit by Brian Roberts was in play. In fact, it had been a foul pop-up near first base and Dickerson was easily doubled off to end the game. Ouch.
  • Another problem for the Orioles has been Chris Davis’ untimely slump. Since the calendar rolled over to September, Davis has hit just .222/.370/.670 in seven games with only one home run. Baltimore can ill afford to have him slump down the stretch.
  • The Indians also might have a September 8 loss to lament at the end of the season. Three weeks after dumping Daisuke “The Human Rain Delay” Matsuzaka, Cleveland could only muster three hits and one run against him. Had to be especially sweet for Dice-K, having been in the minors all season until the Mets picked him up. Ouch again.
  • They still have nine games remaining against the Kansas City Royals, who have won 11 of their past 15 games and continue to play meaningful September games.
  • Kansas City fans are understandably confused and have reportedly contacted fans in other cities to learn how they should handle the situation.
  • Texas seems to have adapted fairly well to using their team speed and relying less on outslugging opponents. In 47 games in the second half of the season, the Rangers have stolen 59 bases, which is how many they stole in the 95 games leading to the All-Star break. Now, about that pitching staff…..
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (who leads the majors with 52 steals) has a compression fracture in his right foot. He hopes to return before the playoffs, but given the way the Red Sox are hammering the ball, they are well-positioned to weather his absence.
  • Furthering that point, over the past two weeks, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks have combined for 15 homers, 40 RBI, five stolen bases and 39 runs scored for the Red Sox.
  • That had to be a discouraging weekend for the Yankees, losing three straight games in which they scored at least eight runs. With the lineup they’re using these days, scoring four or five runs is fairly impressive. Now, about that pitching staff….
  • Considering that baseball nicknames nowadays generally consistent of shortening a player’s name (i.e. CarGo, Tulo, Miggy, Astro-Cab), what is Atlanta’s Joey Terdoslavich’s nickname?
  • Billy Hamilton might be the fastest player I’ve ever seen in baseball. He has stolen four bases – including two(!) off Yadier Molina – and scored three runs since being recalled from the minors. Number of plate appearances: zero. Games he has helped decide with his speed: three – and counting.
  • The Reds have morphed into a team nobody wants to face. The lineup contains three of the more dangerous bats in the NL (Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce), plus Brandon Phillips. Mat Latos and Homer Bailey have formed a potent top of the rotation, while Aroldis Chapman may be the most intimidating closer in the NL; he regularly hit 100 mph versus the Cardinals last week, with at least one fastball clocked at 103.
  • Although, as Cubs and Giants fans will tell you, never underestimate Dusty Baker’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His suicide squeeze in extra innings last week against St. Louis was classic Baker mismanagement.
  • Speaking of the Giants, Hunter Pence needs one more home run to become the first Giants player with a 20 homer/20 steal season since Barry Bonds in 1998. That’s about the best thing we can say about San Francisco baseball this year.
  • Raise your hand if you can name the team for which J.B. Shuck, Kole Calhoun, Andrew Romine and Buddy Boshers play. Without looking them up, I mean.
  • Yeah, I couldn’t either.
  • Rumor has it that Joe Morgan was unhappy about his new statue at Great American Ballpark. Something about statues being made better back when he played the game or something….
  • Finally, congratulations to Jason Giambi on becoming the 245th player in major league history to reach the 2,000 hit mark. At age 42, the sun is setting on his playing career. He seems like a sure bet to become a manager sometime within the next five years.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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St. Louis Cardinals can survive without Allen Craig until playoffs

After a season filled with injuries to the pitching staff, now the St. Louis Cardinals will have to deal with an injury to one of their starting fielders, who also happened to be one of their most important hitters.

AllenCraigHurt

First baseman and occasional right fielder Allen Craig suffered a sprained left foot Wednesday in Cincinnati during a game against the Reds that the Cardinals eventually won 5-4 in 16 innings.

Craig went back to St. Louis for further examination Thursday and at least found out he did not have any broken bones in his foot. That probably gives him a chance to return before the end of the season, which is significant.

The Cardinals can likely survive through the rest of September without Craig even though he leads the team with 97 runs batted in and is tied with second baseman Matt Carpenter for the second-best batting average on the team at .315, behind catcher Yadier Molina’s .322 average.

In the worst case scenario, the Cardinals offense would fall flat without Craig’s contributions, specifically his incredible .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, and the team would lose the division title to the Reds or Pittsburgh Pirates and have to play in the one-game Wild Card round for the second consecutive year.

However, the Cardinals do have a solid backup for Craig. Matt Adams has been the Cardinals best hitter off of the bench this season, he has a .269 average with 11 homeruns and 38 RBIs in just 212 at-bats, which is about half of an everyday player. Plus, fans have clamored for Adams to get more playing time through much of the season.

Well, here’s his chance.

He certainly made an impressive first impression Wednesday with homers in the 14th and 16th innings to help the Cardinals win, but becoming a consistent hitter in the middle of the lineup will be vital for Adams now that he will be the starting first baseman for the foreseeable future while Craig’s foot heals.

The Cardinals also have 13 consecutive games against teams with losing records after they finish a three-game series with the Pirates during this upcoming weekend, so they will likely face less-than-dominant pitching that could allow the Cardinals to win even when the offense is not clicking on all cylinders.

But the Cardinals will be in an entirely different scenario come the playoffs in October. Those games are often dominated by good pitchers, and timely hits determine the outcome.

Craig is perhaps the best timely hitter in Major League Baseball, and the Cardinals would sorely miss his bat in the lineup during the playoffs.

The team got good news Thursday when Craig’s X-Rays and MRI came back negative, but it should not push its luck and force him back onto the field during the regular season unless he truly is fully healed.

If Craig can’t play the rest of the regular season, fine. It would certainly be nice to have his production in the lineup during the final weeks of the race for the National League Central Division title, but that will not determine whether or not the Cardinals are considered champions at the end of the year.

The most important title is settled in late October, and that is when Craig will be the most valuable

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The Kansas City Royals Did Not Lose The Trade

The Kansas City Royals trounced the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. We got to watch Wil Myers play. Which brings up the one thing that will always be associated with Myers to baseball fans and especially KC baseball fans. The trade.

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The common wisdom about the James Shields for Wil Myers trade was that The Royals were making a huge mistake. Without any of the players yet to have played for their new teams, it was deemed a failure for Kansas City. It was also immediately speculated that the only reason Dayton Moore even made the trade was to save his job by throwing away the future to squeak out a .500 season.

Here is a Yahoo Sports article that came out immediately after the trade that heralded it as a failure for The Royals. Now I also cringed when the trade was made. More for what Myers could be plus I had to watch Jeff Francoeur start another season (without realizing at the time the blessing of his release was in the future). I remember before the trade saying that if they were to do it, Matt Moore better be in the package. But as we all know now he wasn’t. It was James Shields with Wade Davis thrown in.

So now as we’re over three-fourths of the way through the season, with only a little over a month  left, I wanted to look at what has transpired and what is possible for the rest of the season. While looking over the evidence it occurred to me, so far this trade hasn’t been that bad for the Royals. I want to use the doom and gloom of the Yahoo article to compare to what has happened and to come to this conclusion:

It may turn out to be a good trade for the Royals for these reasons:

Wil Myers is not Mike Trout (yet)

Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers with 140 strikeouts in 591 plate appearances at Class AA and AAA. He’s a blue chip prospect who turns 22 on Monday. Myers might turn into Ryan Braun. He also might turn into Josh Willingham, which would be OK for the Rays. Or he possibly could flame out like Joe Charboneau. If he’s like Braun, Royals fans will rue his loss for 20 years. And then into eternity after he retires.  – Yahoo

And yes that is all true. All of those different random things could happen, but none of it has happened yet. Including this year, Myers first full year in baseball. Can you imagine the pain we would have felt if he did what Trout or even Harper did last year? Of course rookie years mean nothing, as even Ken Griffey Jr had a rough rookie year. But at least he has not torn the league apart yet like those guys have. This year he is hitting .302/.356/.472 with 9 homeruns. Many players on The Royals are trumping that.

Not only is he not better than Trout or Harper, he’s barely better than Lough

Francoeur was the obvious replacement player for Myers. But since baseball is a beautiful game, David Lough has stepped up and surprised everyone in right field. With Myers’ aforementioned slash, he has a WAR of 2.o. Lough, comparably, has a WAR of 1.8 regardless of his weaker slash of .287/.307/.408. How is he doing it? With phenomenal defense. Those paying closer attention to the stats will see that with a strong final month of the season, Lough could steal the Rookie of the Year award away from Myers. How good will that feel to KC?

Plus, with Lough being a rookie, who’s to say he can’t continue to improve and put up a career comparable to Myers?

The Underrated James Shields

Shields has pitched 14 complete games, has six shutouts and has 448 strikeouts over the past two seasons. That’s all great, but his career 3.89 ERA is barely above-average in quality, and he’s logged 1,454 2/3 innings, which is a little concerning. He’s not as good as David Price, and he probably won’t be as good as Matt Moore going forward. The Royals are getting the Rays’ third-best pitcher.  –Yahoo

I don’t care his record is 8-8. I don’t care his ERA is a respectable 3.22. I don’t care his WHIP is a respectable 1.27. What I care about is he is an innings machine and has done this over 181 innings. Which is why his WAR is 2.9. I don’t get why this is hard for people like the author of the Yahoo article to understand. It’s like when you do cardio at the gym. You can get your heart rate up to 160 for 10 minutes. That’s good and all, but if you can sustain a lesser 140 heart rate for 40 minutes, you are getting a better workout. His WAR in 2012 was 3.9. 2011 was 4.5.

Shields is the 140 heart rate for 40 minutes pitcher. And yes, he is an ace.

Shields May Re-Sign

Though he is due $9 million in 2013 and a $12 million team option in ’14 — very reasonable — Shields will be a free agent after that and the Royals are a small-market team, if you hadn’t heard. If they are to make use of his skills and what he represents, they’ll have to make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They have not done so since 1985. Kansas City has finished with one winning record this millennium, in 2003.  –Yahoo

The Yahoo article contradicts itself. It warns to be careful of decline from Shields because of the amount of innings under his belt, but claims he is entitled to a large contract in spite of his innings count. Regardless, I consider Shields to be about the same level as Gil Meche when he signed with KC. Shields seems to be happy in KC and has made comments about resigning.

So on the surface, The Royals get him for 2 years. But this can be like McGwire trade for The Cards. Where it was for a few months, but turned into the rest of his career. Don’t take the Shields-for-two-years talk as gospel. He could easily be a Royal in 2015. Especially if they keep winning.

The Royals need a .500 season

Everything about that sentence kills me. It’s not the way I look at the game. You either win or you don’t. You either make the playoffs or not. But since The Royals haven’t been .500 in ten years and haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, this may be the exception to the rule (along with The Pirates).

The Royals are a black hole of signing players. It’s been widely reported that they are one of the teams players just don’t want to go to. A big reason is their history of losing. A .500 season, as this year may bring, would be good for both the fans and the future. And may be worth bringing Shields in alone.

Davis is not as bad as everyone says.  Odorizzi, on the other hand…

But funnily enough, you just hear people complain about Davis. Yes Davis is just okay. 6-10 with a 5.67 era. But the amount of innings he’s thrown is impressive. His FIP is much lower though. Opponents BABIP is ridiculously high against him to the point where it should be taken with a grain of salt as an outlier. And his WAR is still 1.5.

Odorizzi however, for The Rays, has an era of 6.00, a WHIP of 1.44 and has generally been crushed. Yet the media just talks about Davis.

The Royals Need To Win Games, Not The Trade

Even if Myers takes off, Lough regresses and Shields leave The Royals, it doesn’t matter if the The Royals can end over .500 and do something next year. Kansas City needs a shot at the playoffs. The Royals need a World Series. Myers could be the next Ted Williams. The Royals could have let the next Williams go. But keep in mind, Ted Williams never won a World Series. But with Shields and the talent shown in the second half by The Royals, it could all be worth it next year.

Because prospects come and go, but flags fly forever. And the trade being a failure for The Royals is still just wild speculation.

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Triple Play: Jayson Werth, Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro

In our latest installment of the Triple Play, we look at an outfielder who’s been worth every penny the past few weeks, a new Yankee who has made himself at home (again) and more, including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch and the Ichiro Hit Tracker. Let’s dive in:

JaysonWerth

Who’s Hot?

Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals

The 2013 season has mostly been a season gone wrong for the Nationals, but you can’t say that outfielder Jayson Werth hasn’t been pulling his weight – and then some. He has hit safely in 10 consecutive games and racked up 10 multi-hit games so far this month. He is hitting a scorching .500/.574/.692 (26-for-52) with an OPS of 1.266 and two homers, four doubles, 10 RBI, and three steals in 15 August games. Actually, the Werewolf has been raking since July, when he posted a batting line of .367/.450/.622 with seven home runs, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored. He has posted an OPS of .850 or better each month since returning from the disabled list in early June. For the season, Werth has compiled a slash line of .334/.407/.531, along with 17 HR, 53 RBI, 7 stolen bases and 61 runs scored. Despite his performance, Washington has been unable to gain any ground on the division-leading Atlanta Braves, as the Nationals have tumbled to 15½ games behind Atlanta and are scuffling to reach .500.

Who’s Not?

Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics

Colon, one of the best pitchers in the AL for most of the season, has hit a rough patch this month. It started out well enough, with him not facing any additional discipline due to his involvement in the Biogenesis issue. But his fortunes changed against Cincinnati on August 7, where he was knocked around for seven hits, three walks and five runs in 2 2/3 innings. It marked his shortest outing of the season and dropped the A’s into a first-place tie with Texas. His most recent start, against Houston on August 13, wasn’t much better, as the offensively-challenged Astros touched him up for seven hits and five runs in just four innings. Colon’s month got even worse this past Friday, though, as he injured his groin during a flat-ground workout session and was placed on the 15-day DL Saturday. A’s manager Bob Melvin tried to look on the bright side, saying that the time off might be good for the 40-year-old Colon. The A’s (and fantasy owners) certainly hope so, because losing Colon would be a blow for the collective hopes of each.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .254/.287/.467, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 10 SB, 103 OPS+

Player B: .329/.361/.658, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 3 SB, 173 OPS+

Player A is Alfonso Soriano while with the Cubs this season. Player B is Soriano after being traded to the New York Yankees. It’s clear that being dealt back to where he started his career – and a team trying to reach the postseason – has energized him. The Yankees were seeking production from a right-handed hitter; Soriano has delivered an excellent month’s worth in three weeks. During a four-game stretch last week, he tied a major-league record with 18 RBI in four games. While he obviously won’t continue to put up these video-game numbers, he is showing plenty of life remains in his bat.

Name that player

This pitcher has been the picture of durability in his career, starting at least 30 games each of the past eight years. In seven of those, he threw at least 200 innings and tallied no fewer than 12 wins. In 2009, he led his league in WHIP (1.003) and K/BB ratio (5.87-to-1). He has never finished higher than fifth in Cy Young balloting. Need more info?

This pitcher has been traded multiple times, often with some big names going the other way in the deal. He has bounced back and forth between leagues and had equal amounts of success in both. He made his first trip to the disabled list in 2012, but still made 30 starts. After not being re-signed by his previous team, he signed a one-year deal with a new team. This signing was somewhat of a surprise because most analysts thought they already had a fine pitching staff.

How about now? Know who it is?

This pitcher is in the midst of a career-worst season; he leads the league in home runs allowed and has the worst WHIP since his rookie season in 2003. Although he has pitched much better recently, it is probably too little, too late for his team. Did I mention some of the players for whom he was traded? They include Mark Mulder and Carlos Gonzalez. Finally, he recently cleared waivers, meaning he can be traded to any team in need of a starter. Got him yet? Sure you do: it’s Dan Haren.

Haren was pounded for six runs in his initial start of the season – including four home runs – and things hadn’t improved much until the past month. In his first 18 starts, opponents battered him to the tune of a .297 average and 5.79 ERA. However, starting with his July 27 start versus the New York Mets, Haren has been more like his old self, tossing four consecutive quality starts and a sparkling 1.29 ERA. Opposing batters have hit just .158 off him in those games (and only one solo home run). Haren has had a history of wearing down after the All-Star break, but in 2013, he appears to be improving instead of declining. Then again, after the first half of his season, it HAD to get better.

Given his recent success, it is somewhat surprising that he cleared waivers. His contract isn’t exorbitant – he’s owed somewhere around $2-3 million for the remainder of the season. There are teams in the playoff hunt who could use another solid starter (Baltimore, Cleveland, Arizona, Texas, St. Louis). If one of those teams is willing to take on the balance of the salary, one would think they could bolster their rotation without sacrificing a top prospect. Just something to ponder with the August 31 trade deadline less than two weeks away.

Random Thoughts

  • Ichiro Hit Tracker: Future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, at age 39, is closing in on 4,000 hits in his professional career (including the 1,278 he tallied playing in Japan). Last week was a slow week for Ichiro, as he only batted .167 (4 for 24) with a walk, including a two-hit night Sunday against Boston. He sits at 3,997 hits with the Yankees hosting Toronto for four games starting Monday, followed by three-game visits to Tampa Bay and Baltimore. In a perfect world, Ichiro would be facing his old team (Seattle) as he notched hit number 4,000. Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t face the Mariners again this season.
  • 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. Wainwright started twice in the past week. In the first game, he lasted seven innings, but walked a season-high three batters and allowed two solo home runs in a no-decision against the Pirates (a game St. Louis eventually won 4-3). Sunday at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Wainwright turned in one of his most dominant outings of the season, spinning seven innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. This season, Wainwright has walked just 25 hitters and still tops the majors with a 6.92-to-1 K/BB ratio and leads the NL with an average of 1.1 walks per nine innings. His next start comes this Friday when the Cardinals host the Braves.
  • While Pittsburgh fans have embraced the 2013 Pirates (witness the sellout crowd on national TV Saturday), many fans still fear another epic collapse like the past two seasons. Who can blame them? It has been 21 years since the Pirates last finished above .500, let alone reached the postseason. One day after being humiliated by the Diamondbacks at home 15-5, the Pirates lost a 16-inning marathon 4-2, trimming their division lead over the Cardinals to one game. However, this team has a different feel than the 2011-12 versions. We’ll find out if this is truly the case as the Pittsburgh heads west to face the Padres and Giants. This is a perfect opportunity for the Pirates to right the ship and stay in first place.
  • Speaking of teams that have not qualified for the postseason in a generation, the Kansas City Royals may be starting to cool off following that 17-3 run from July 23-August 12. After taking three of four from Boston, the Royals dropped two of three to Miami and three of five to division-leading Detroit. They remain well out of the playoff picture, but the fact that they are even discussing October baseball in Kansas City is progess, no?
  • Don’t look now, but Ubaldo Jimenez has quietly put together a respectable season for Cleveland (9-7, 4.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 123 Ks). While he clearly is not the ace the Indians thought they were getting when they dealt away top prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, it’s become clear that the Tribe got the better end of the deal. White was traded to Houston and hurt his arm, while Pomeranz has won only four games total with the Rockies and has spent most of 2013 in Triple-A. Jimenez still walks too many batters (less than a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio) and his prone to unraveling in tough situations, but he has become a serviceable starter for a Cleveland team on the fringe of the wild-card race.
  • So, Ryan Braun plans to “distance himself” from Alex Rodriguez in an effort to improve his own public image. Yeah, good luck with that, fella.
  • Thanks to Miguel Tejada for getting suspended for 105 games for testing positive for a banned substance for the third time. Because we haven’t had enough performance-enhancing drug news in baseball this month.
  • Random Statistic Guaranteed to Enrage Brian Kenny: After winning Sunday to push his record to 18-1, Detroit’s Max Scherzer became the fifth pitcher in baseball history to win 18 of his first 19 decisions in a season. The others are Roger Clemens (2001), Roy Face (1959), Don Newcombe (1955), and Rube Marquard (1912).
  • Good thing the Phillies fired Charlie Manuel a few days ago, or else they never would have been able to take advantage of Hanley Ramirez’s errors Sunday and rally for the win. Clearly, that was all due to the managerial change.
  • News: With the bases loaded against the Cardinals on Saturday, the Cubs’ Starlin Castro caught a fly ball in shallow left field and then sort of stood there. Meanwhile, it was only the second out of the inning and the Cards’ Jon Jay took advantage of Castro’s brainlock to race home to score. By the time Castro realized what was happening, Jay was halfway to the plate. Cubs manager Dale Sveum was not amused by this latest knucklehead move by his shortstop and yanked him from the game. Views: After the game, to his credit, Castro stood at his locker and owned his latest blunder, apologized and offered no excuses. Still, how much more can Sveum be expected to take? I envision him eventually having the same kind of meltdown that Tom Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan had that classic scene in A League of Their Own where Evelyn keeps missing the cut-off man.
  • This past Saturday, August 17, marked the 40-year anniversary of Willie Mays’ final home run – No. 660 – in his career. There are many players I wish I could have seen play in person; Mays is in the top five.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Pull Together, NL East

We all know that the Braves have been hot this season. And by hot… I mean insanely hot. It is hard to ignore the intensity they have right now. No matter what team they are up against, they are all in it until the very last out. But what about the rest of the NL East?

One-Ball

If you just glance at this division you would see the Braves completely dominating, and then all the other teams left looking weak and helpless in a path of destruction. But if you take away the magnificence of the Braves this year, the rest of that division is actually not as pathetic as Atlanta is making them look. It is only comparatively, do they seem that no one knows what they are doing.

The Nationals, on paper, should be a brilliant team. They have Bryce Harper, one of the most promising young All-Stars, who has blasted 17 home runs and is on his way to completing another productive season. Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman, have done their fair share at the plate. And outfielder, Jayson Werth, is contributing with an average of .334. Their pitching has not been quite as dominating as it was last year with the starting rotation not as consistent. But again, if you take away the Braves, the Nationals really have not been much of a let down this year. They are just engrossed in a raging fight against seemingly one of the greatest teams in baseball at the moment. That is what a team wants, right? To go against the best of the best? But I am sure they would like to be winning.

The Phillies and the Nationals are close competitors. The teams average out to be somewhat similar in overall strength. Outfielder, Domonic Brown, is pulling in some wicked numbers right now with 27 homers already this season, and knocking in 78 RBIs. And the rest of the team as a whole seems fairly consistent.

The Mets granted David Wright the honor of being the Face of the Mets this season. As difficult as it is to live up to a title like that, Wright is handling it with class and precision. He has raked in 54 RBIs with an average of .309, all while winning the hearts of the fans over with those pearly whites. His teammate outfielder, Marlon Byrd does not get quite the recognition as Wright does, but he has knocked in even more runs this season, and blasted even more long balls. And the All-Star Matt Harvey with the potential for a Cy Young award, brightens up the Mets’ pitching future. They have always been a quieter team, but are certainly able to make some noise… especially if Atlanta cools off.

And the Marlins? They could use a little help. The monstrous Braves have made them look even smaller, although, they have had their good moments this year. A semi-average team with some sparks here and there, the Marlins have some work to do if they want to make any kind of dent in this division and leave the season with some pride.

Atlanta is charging full speed at the head of the NL East leaving the rest of the division in their dust, and not one of these teams are even close to winning the wild card. If the rest of the division wants a shot at the playoffs, or maybe even just a chance to hold their heads up a little higher, they are going to have to do something to stop Atlanta. They will have to work together to slowly tear down the confidence of the first place Braves.

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Cubs Continue Moving and Shaking

One of the most intriguing teams over the next few weeks will be the Chicago Cubs. It will not necessarily be for wins and losses out on the field, but what they may or may not do in the front office. The team better have unlimited phone minutes as the Cubs may lead the league in trades this year and bolstering several teams around the league along the way.

AlfonsoSoriano

The Cubs have already made several trades this year, and the latest involved ace starter Matt Garza being moved to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, the Cubs will receive five prospects. They will receive third baseman Mike Olt who was one of the highest ranked prospects in all of baseball last season. In addition, they will receive pitchers C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, and two players to be named later.

The deal fits the pattern of the North Side philosophy which is moving contracts, getting young talent, and building a farm system for the future. Daily in Chicago, the question is who will be next? Could it be Alfonso Soriano or Kevin Gregg? Stay tuned. The 2015 lineup card is shaping up nicely.

In other organizational news, the Cubs and number two overall pick Kris Bryant agreed to a $6,708,400 bonus deal. That’s the largest bonus in the 2013 draft and the biggest in the two years under the new draft rules.

Baseball America’s 2013 College Player of the Year, Bryant led NCAA Division I with 31 homers, more than 223 of the 296 teams at that level this season and more than any player has hit since college bats were toned down three years ago. He also topped Division I in runs (80), walks (66), total bases (187) and slugging (.820) while batting .329 and setting a San Diego University career record with 54 homers.

Finally, a tip of the cap goes to the Kane County Cougars, Class-A farm team of the Chicago Cubs, who welcomed their 10 millionth fan recently. According to Minor League Baseball, the Cougars are the first Class-A team in Minor League Baseball history to reach 10 million fans. The Cougars are also the 6th-quickest Minor League Baseball franchise to reach the historic mark. Well done Cougars!

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Second half story lines for the Royals

The Royals needed the All-Star break to refresh and regroup after losing five straight games. Kansas City now has a record of 43-49 and sits eight games behind the first place Tigers. The second half of the season should offer up many story lines for the Royals. Here are a few worth highlighting:

Eric Hosmer Savior

Can Eric Hosmer continue his hot hitting?
After a very slow start, especially in the power department, Hosmer has turned around his season in a big way. Over the past month, Hosmer is swinging a hot bat. He is hitting .317 with 7 home runs, 16 RBI and 16 runs. The 7 home runs are significant because Hosmer didn’t hit his second homer until June 13. The Royals are currently a below average offensive team (24th in runs scored and 29th in home runs) and they will count on Hosmer to provide a resurgence in the second half.

Will Billy Butler rediscover his power stroke?
Butler had a breakout year in 2012, clubbing a career-high 29 homers and driving in 107 runs. The big DH has only 8 home runs and 49 RBI before the All-Star break and his batting average is down to .271. Butler has three seasons with a batting average over .300 and is a .297 lifetime hitter, so his average should see a boost in the second half. But the question is whether his power will return or if 2012 was just an anomaly. Before last season Butler was known as more of a doubles hitter than a home run masher. His previous high in home runs was 21 in 2009. As mentioned previously, the Royals are second to last overall in home runs. If they want to move up in this category, their clean up hitter will need to pick up his pace.

Will Danny Duffy join the starting rotation?
Duffy is currently rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in June of 2012. On Wednesday, Duffy fanned 13 batters in 5.1 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Duffy is clearly talented enough to earn back a spot in the rotation, and there is an opportunity with Bruce Chen now in the fifth spot. The question is really whether Duffy will make a complete comeback from the surgery and become the promising pitcher he was before the operation.

Is Wade Davis better off in the bullpen?
It’s no secret that Davis has struggled as a starting pitcher this year. After coming over from Tampa Bay in the off-season, the Royals had high expectations for the right-hander. So far he has disappointed. His ERA is approaching 6.00 and he is 4-8 in the first half. Davis had a career year with Tampa Bay in his 2012 role as a reliever. He appeared in 54 games, all in relief, and pitched to a 2.43 ERA and posted a career-high 11.1 K/9. He clearly has the skills to be effective pitching out of the bullpen. If the Royals want to make the move, it could be a major shot in the arm for what is already a very good bullpen.

Will anyone emerge at second base?
The Royals just optioned Johnny Giavotella to Triple-A Omaha after what was basically a 10-game audition. Giavotella was not impressive in his limited time with the Royals, posting a line of .210/.289/.265. The choices now at second base include Elliot Johnson, Chris Getz and Miguel Tejada. Johnson has flashed good speed this season, with 12 stolen bases in the first half. He stole 18 last year in limited action with the Rays. His batting average is not good (.210), however, so he will need to improve in that regard. Getz isn’t hitting much better at .214 for the year. Tejada has only started seven games at second base this year, but is the best hitter of the three, sporting a .278 batting average. Three of his last six starts have come at second base though, so he might be settling in as the top option.

Will the group of Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and David Lough be enough in the outfield?
Alex Gordon is locked in to the job in left field, but the other two outfield spots are going to be split between Cain, Dyson and Lough. With Jeff Francoeur no longer on the roster, this outfield trio will be counted on in the second half. Cain is an intriguing source of speed with some power, while Dyson is an even better source of speed with virtually no power. Lough is more of a pure hitter with some speed and power. One, or even two, of these three will need to have a strong second half if the Royals want to be competitive this year.

Will the Royals be buyers or sellers?
The Royals should be active at the deadline one way or the other. If they can hold their ground or move up in the standings, they could become buyers. Because they were so aggressive in the off-season, it may be tough to sell assets at the break. There are plenty of players that could fetch good returns, but the Royals saw themselves as contenders after a busy off-season and might be reluctant to give up on the season. The schedule leading up to the July 31 trade deadline includes a three game set with the Tigers, four home games against the Orioles, three road games against the White Sox and two road games against the Twins. The first seven games will be tough and could be key in determining the Royals’ course of action. One option if they do become sellers would be to target a big return for current closer Greg Holland. Holland could return the Royals a package of top-tier prospects and they have depth in the back-end of the bullpen with Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera. If things go well after the break, the Royals could look for an upgrade at second base (there have been some Chase Utley rumors) or to add another arm for the starting rotation.

Can the Royals make a move in the AL Central?
The Royals have a big opportunity to quickly make up some ground in the division. They open the second half with a three games series with the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. If they want to contend in the Central, the Royals will have to catch up to the Indians as well, who currently sit 1.5 games behind the Tigers. In order to climb the standings over two very good teams, the Royals will need to make some savvy moves (whether buying or selling). They will also need many of the previously mentioned story lines to end up in their favor. It should be an exciting second half of the season and the Royals will play a role in deciding the outcome of the AL Central. Whether it is as a contender or as a spoiler remains to be determined.

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The state of the Royals offense

If you are a fan of the long ball, the Kansas City Royals may not be the team for you.

billy 595

Kansas City has 54 home runs as a team this year. This puts them second to last in the MLB, in front of only the Marlins. The Royals are the only team in baseball that doesn’t have a player with 10 or more home runs. Eric Hosmer leads the team with nine homers, including five home runs in the teams’ last eight games. Alex Gordon is second on the team with eight home runs.

The Royals have only four players with five or more round-trippers. Billy Butler has six and Mike Moustakas has five. As a point of reference, the Orioles lead the league in homers and have eight players with five or more and four players with 10 or more.

Last year Butler led the team with 29 homers and Moustakas added 20, but both are well off the pace they set in 2012.

Not only does Kansas City struggle to hit home runs, but they also don’t walk and thus they are in the bottom half of the league in runs scored.

With 210 walks on the season, the Royals rank 26th in the majors. Kansas City is 21st in the league with 334 runs scored. They are also in the bottom half of the league in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS.

The strengths of the Royals’ offense are hitting for average and being aggressive in the running game. As a team, Kansas City is hitting .260 on the year and is 4th in the majors with 60 stolen bases.

For the offense to get better, they must get more runners on base, especially via the walk. With more base runners, the Royals can attack on the base paths and have more chances to hit with runners in scoring position.

George Brett, the new Royals hitting coach, needs to stress the importance of drawing walks and having a patient approach. Kansas City has plenty of good hitters, even if hitting home runs is not their strength. With more walks the team should see a spike in runs scored and will give the Royals’ pitchers the run support they’ve been lacking.

The sixth inning of Thursday’s game against the Indians was a good example of the power of drawing a walk. Hosmer and Butler drew back-to-back free passes off of Ubaldo Jimenez and after Moustakas reached on an error, Lorenzo Cain launched a grand slam. It was nice that Cain came up with the big hit, but it was all set up by the lead-off walks.

The Royals took advantage of eight walks in the game and hit three home runs in a 10-7 victory over Cleveland.

More of the same would be nice for Royals fans.

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Triple Play: Jay Bruce, Dan Haren, Pittsburgh Pirates

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we look at a Red-hot outfielder, a National disaster of a starter, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

JayBruce

Who’s Hot?

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

Sorry for the pun up above. But take a look at that the Reds’ right fielder has done over the past two weeks and you’ll understand: a .322/.349/.796 slash line, eight home runs, 14 RBI, and 10 runs scored. What’s more, Bruce had a stretch where seven straight hits sailed out of the park. Red hot, indeed. For the season, he has 18 homers (tied for 4th in the NL) and 54 RBI (5th). The 26-year-old is on track to belt 38 homers, knock in 115 and score 95 runs, which would all represent career highs. Isn’t amazing what happens when Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are on base in front of you regularly? Each season of his career, Bruce’s home run total has gone up, and that’s on pace to continue in 2013. The .279 average and lack of stolen bases prevent Bruce from approaching Carlos Gonzalez-territory in the fantasy baseball world, but you won’t find a Reds fan complaining right now. With Ryan Ludwick’s injury, the team needed Bruce to step up and he has responded in a big way.

Who’s Not?

Dan Haren, Washington Nationals

How far has Haren fallen? While with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, Haren started 34 games and led the American League with a 5.82 K-to-BB ratio while winning 16 games. In 2013, Haren has started 16 games for the Nats and leads the NL in hits allowed (105), earned runs allowed (56) and homers allowed (19). What exactly has happened? Haren has offered no excuses for his ghastly performance, but after his most recent start Saturday, manager Davey Johnson said that his big righty has been dealing with stiffness in his pitching shoulder. Washington GM Mike Rizzo confirmed as much Sunday, saying a trip to the disabled list is imminent. Whether a shoulder injury actually exists is anyone’s guess, but the DL trip should serve as a welcome break to fantasy owners and Nationals fans alike.

Playing the Name Game

Name this team: .239/.306/.384, 283 runs scored, 72 HR, 50 SB, 3.20 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 61 HR allowed, 591 strikeouts.

This team ranks 11th in the National League in most batting statistics, but they are tops in ERA, fewest hits allowed and third in home runs allowed. As this team continues to rise and improve in a virtually unnoticed way, I am reminded of the old American Express commercial from the original Major League movie: “Hi, do you know us? We’re a professional baseball team. But, since we haven’t won a pennant in over (20) years, nobody recognizes us, even in our own hometown.”

Right now, their top starter is on the disabled list, their best position player hasn’t really gotten going yet and their most prolific slugger is hitting below .240. Recognize this team yet? They play in one of the most beautiful parks in all of baseball, where their fans are desperate for a winning season, which last happened when their pre-steroid slugger still played there. Got it now? Yes, it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, who sit one game back of St. Louis in the NL Central.

The team hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, when Barry Bonds was last seen noodle-arming a throw home that failed to retire the slow-footed Sid Bream in Game 7 of the NLCS. It’s been a long dry spell for Pirates fans. The past two seasons, Pittsburgh flirted with first place in July, only to falter badly down the stretch. This current Pirates team is a fascinating bunch. Their ace, A.J. Burnett, is out with a torn calf muscle in his right leg, but was leading the NL in strikeouts before the injury. Andrew McCutchen, their All-Star center fielder, is currently hitting .288/.357/.453 with only eight homers – a far cry from the 18 he bashed in the first half of 2012. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is red hot right now (three homers, seven RBI over the weekend against the Angels), but struggles mightily to make consistent contact. When he does, though, the results are mighty impressive. Despite a .234/.301/.498 batting line, he leads the team in home runs and RBI. If the 26-year-old Alvarez could drag his average up to the .275 range, he would be a threat to launch 50 home runs a season.

The keys to the Pirates’ success this season have been huge contributions from unexpected players. Left fielder Starling Marte leads the team with 22 stolen bases. Rookie lefty Jeff Locke is 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and the lowest H/9 ratio among the team’s starters. Veteran Francisco Liriano has been every bit as good, going 6-3 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and the lowest HR/9 ratio in the rotation. Closer Jason Grilli has been among the best in all of baseball, saving 26 games with an eye-popping 15 strikeouts per nine innings. Best of all, prized rookie Gerrit Cole has been worthy of the hype, averaging over six innings in each of his three starts (all wins) while walking just one batter. Set-up man Mark Melancon (acquired in the Joel Hanrahan deal with Boston) has been every bit as dominant, sporting a 0.99 ERA/0.88 WHIP.

What should be frightening for the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals (and the rest of the NL) is that lineup anchors McCutchen and Neil Walker have yet to get going offensively compared to 2012. McCutchen is just too good to keep hitting below .300. Walker isn’t the same kind of force, but he’s much better than he has shown. With Burnett, his injury may prove a blessing in disguise; if he can return from the calf injury rested, it may prevent the fatigue that slowed him down the stretch in 2012. The 2013 Pirates are 16 games above .500, largely on the strength of their starting pitching and dominant bullpen. If they can combine improved hitting with that pitching, they will not fade the same way they have the past two seasons – and the rest of the National League had better beware.

Incidentally, the Pirates and Cardinals still have 14 games against one another this season. It is shaping up to be an exciting season in Pittsburgh.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 consecutive innings before issuing his first walk of the season. All season long, we are keeping track of how few free passes are handed out by the Cardinals’ ace. Sunday night, he walked one batter (while striking out six) in a 2-1 loss to Texas. That gives him 10 walks on the season (versus 106 strikeouts), leaving him with a better than 10-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is still the best in the NL (as is his 0.8 BB/9 ratio). Sunday’s game was a struggle, though, as Wainwright went to a 3-ball count several times against the Rangers. He has now dropped two straight decisions, leaving him with a 10-5/2.31/ 1.01 pitching line for the season. He will look to bounce back at Oakland this Saturday.
  • Considering how the Rangers had been scuffling coming into the series in St. Louis (their first trip back since the 2011 World Series), their sweep was particularly impressive. Still, I don’t think that Texas truly considers it “revenge.” It’s a little like losing a winning Powerball ticket and having to replace it with a lottery scratcher. Nice, but just not quite the same.
  • Wil Myers’ stats after one week: .280/.440/.720, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 runs. Yasiel Puig really set the bar too high for everyone else.
  • In related news, Jeff Francoeur is still playing right field in Kansas City, where he sports a rally-killing .143 batting average this month.
  • The Angels get a rare quality start from Joe Blanton (7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 6 K), only to watch the bullpen allow seven runs in the final two innings. It’s been That Kind of Season for baseball in Los Angeles.
  • Speaking of which, Matt Kemp with 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his first rehab game with Triple-A Albuquerque. Yikes.
  • I have read twice in the past week that Toronto might trade Josh Johnson at the trade deadline. This makes no sense at all. The Blue Jays have won 11 straight and are on the verge of getting Jose Reyes back into their lineup. With no clear front-runner in the AL East (sorry, not buying Boston yet), why would they deal away one of their top starters? Oh, right. It’s coming up on the Silly Season – you know, that time of year when baseball writers start throwing as much stuff against the wall as they can think of, just to see if any of it sticks.
  • During their 11-game streak, the Blue Jays have swept three consecutive series for the first time in 15 years.
  • With each stellar start, I’m becoming more convinced that Matt Harvey should start for the NL at the All-Star Game at Citi Field. It might be the biggest highlight of the Mets’ season.
  • In the AL, Max Scherzer is looking like the guy. First time in Tigers’ history that a starter has gone 11-0 to start the season. Detroit has had some pretty darn good pitchers in its history. Think the Diamondbacks might like a do-over on that trade?
  • The Rockies have made some smart moves recently, namely jettisoning Jon Garland/Jeff Francis from the rotation in favor of Tyler Chatwood/Roy Oswalt, and dumping all-around liability Eric Young Jr. Here’s another they should make post haste: 1) promote Drew Pomeranz into the rotation and move Juan Nicasio to the bullpen, where he could serve as a late-inning weapon. Pomeranz is 8-1 with a 1.35 WHIP down at Triple-A Colorado Springs, with 96 punchouts in 85 innings and only 33 walks. He appears to be ready for his second try at the majors. Beyond closer Rex Brothers, Colorado’s bullpen is a mess. They desperately miss Rafael Betancourt (although he hopes to return within a week), and ballyhooed off-season acquisition Wilton Lopez has been abominable since day one. Nicasio and Brothers could form a strong bridge to Betancourt and allow the Rockies to avoid falling further behind in the NL West.
  • I’m still shaking my head at the Mariners’ box score from Sunday – Jeremy Bonderman and Oliver Perez both pitching well. Is this 2013 or 2006?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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