Tag Archive | "Josh Beckett"

An in-depth look at the National League Wild Card

(Editor’s note: All stats used in this piece are as of Monday, 8/27)

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This past offseason, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig expanded the playoff system. Two wild card berths were added, one to each league. A single elimination game would be played to determine the Wild Card winner. The current standings are like this:

Atlanta 73-55 (home field advantage for playoff)

San Francisco 71-57* (lead NL West by 1 game over LA Dodgers)

St. Louis 70-57

LA Dodgers 69-59* (1.5 back of STL, 1 game back of San Francisco in NL West)

Pittsburgh 68-59 (2 back of STL)

Arizona 64-64 (6.5 back of STL)

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It’s safe to say that Arizona is likely out of playoff contention, barring anything dramatic and unusual. The Wild Card will be a five-team race, and an exciting one at that. We’ll begin the preview with our own St. Louis Cardinals.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals took 2 of 3 from Cincinnati this past weekend, and gained a game in the NL Central. Still, the Reds hold a 6 game lead in the Central and should be able to maintain that lead through the rest of the regular season. If St. Louis can maintain their offensive production, they should have an advantage at maintaining a spot for Game 163. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals’ rotation will play out, with Joe Kelly pitching in Lance Lynn‘s rotation spot for the time being. September’s expanded rosters may help the Cardinals in their quest.

The Cards have the toughest remaining schedule of any Wild Card contender. They have five series against teams with records above the .500 mark, three of which are against division leading teams (two against Washington, one against Cincinnati).

Cardinals fans will likely remain nervous from now until playoff time, and have good reason to be that way. Everything will have to be clicking for the Redbirds. They cannot afford to give many games away. It can be done, but they have a tough hill to climb to get there.

Remaining games vs WC teams: at PIT (Aug 28 & 29) at LA (Sept 13-16)

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers, in pursuit of the playoffs, may have just become the biggest threat to the Redbirds” Wild Card hopes.

A nine-player trade took place between the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox on Saturday. Boston sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to LA, while the Sox received James Loney and four prospects. For the Red Sox, the trade was a salary dump and concession for the 2012 season. For LA, the trade showed that the Dodgers are serious about the playoffs, and the near future, under their new ownership. The trade could turn out to be much like the Cardinals trading Colby Rasmus to Toronto last season, and we all know how that turned out for St. Louis.

The Cardinals, Nationals and Reds are the only non-division opponents that the Dodgers face in the rest of the regular season. Washington and Cincinnati have the upper hand in their respective divisions (4 1/2 and 6 games respectively). Of the Wild Card contenders, Los Angeles may be the toughest opposition St. Louis has for the next month and a half. The Dodgers’ dangerous pitching and newly-revamped offense, combined with the easy schedule, should strike fear in their opponents and give LA an edge in the race.

Remaining games vs WC teams: at SF (Sept 7-9), vs STL (Sept 13-16), vs SF (Oct 1-3)

San Francisco Giants

Tim Lincecum has been a huge disappointment in the otherwise stellar season so far for San Fran. The PED-suspension of Melky Cabrera will certainly hurt the Giants’ chances at an NL West title. Despite these events, the Giants have been able to hold a slight division lead on the Dodgers. The only non-division opponents remaining on the schedule for the Giants are the Astros and Cubs. The NL West is pretty much a two-team race between the Dodgers and Giants. The advantage, at least on paper, goes to LA because of the trade boost. The battle for the West (and subsequent Wild Card spot) should go down to the final days of the regular season, but don’t be surprised if LA runs away to a division title before then.

Remaining games vs WC teams: vs LAD (Sept 7-9), at LAD (Oct 1-3)

Pittsburgh Pirates

Other than St. Louis, the Pirates have just three series left with teams that have winning records (two with Cincinnati, one with Atlanta – one Reds series and the Braves series at home). The Pirates are much better at home than on the road (38-25/30-34). Pittsburgh’s contention will depend on their pitching, which has been a major plus for them in 2012. Led by James McDonald and AJ Burnett, the Bucs’ rotation has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Barring a late season collapse or injuries, Pittsburgh should remain in the three-team race for Wild Card spot number two.

Remaining games vs WC teams: vs STL (Aug 28 & 29), vs ATL (Oct 1-3)

Atlanta Braves (current leader of first Wild Card spot, 2.5 games ahead of Cardinals for position)

The Braves have a big strength of schedule in the remainder of the regular season.  Thanks to a weak NL East, Atlanta faces only two opponents with winning records, Washington and Pittsburgh. It would take a Braves slump and Cardinals surge for St. Louis to take the number one spot and home field for Game 163. It happened in 2011, but given the schedule and sure-thing Braves pitching staff, don’t expect history to repeat itself. Atlanta should be hosting Game 163 in October. The only question they should have is who they will be facing on that day.

Remaining games vs WC teams: at PIT (Oct 1-3)

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The 2012 Wild Card race will be exciting to watch. It won’t quite have the excitement of the 2011 Wild Card, but the first year with the new system won’t disappoint. Expect some good baseball in the season’s last month and a half!

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Verlander Unanimous Selection For Walter Johnson Award

You can debate whether Justin Verlander should be win the “best player in the league” award. There was no debate on if he’d win the “best pitcher” version.

The Detroit Tiger ace was an unanimous selection for the Walter Johnson Award, given out by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Verlander was the top name on all 21 ballots, easily outdistancing Los Angeles of Anaheim starter Jered Weaver. Weaver was a distant second, 80 points behind Verlander. New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia came in third.

On the National League side, results were a little bit closer. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw beat out Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay 137-112. Kershaw received 15 first place nods, while Halladay garnered eight. Halladay’s teammate, Cliff Lee, finished in the show position.

The complete voting results are as follows (first place votes in parenthesis):

American League
Justin Verlander, Detroit (21) 147
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles of Anaheim 67
CC Sabathia, New York 58
James Shields, Tampa Bay 40
Dan Haren, Los Angeles of Anaheim 20
CJ Wilson, Texas 9
Josh Beckett, Boston 6
Ricky Romero, Toronto 5
Felix Hernandez, Seattle 2
Doug Fister, Detroit 1
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland 1
David Price, Tampa Bay 1

National League
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (15) 137
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia (8) 112
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia 69
Ian Kennedy, Arizona 38
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia 9
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco 7
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco 7
Matt Cain, San Francisco 3
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta 3
Dillon Gee, New York 2
Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco 2
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati 1
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta 1

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major league teams as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As of this writing, the organization consists of 316 blogs spanning all 30 major league squads as well as general baseball writing.

The BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into “chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same league or split between the two leagues.

Chapters generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot. Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their votes.

Notably, though the Alliance’s awards come out well before their official counterparts, the BBA selections have matched those of the Baseball Writers of America in all but two instances in the past two years. This, of course, does not include the Goose Gossage Award that is exclusive to the BBA.

Ballots are posted on the respective blogs and for this award, were tabulated on a 7-4-3-2-1 point scale for first through fith place. In the interest of transparency, links are given below for the ballots. Chapter affiliation is in parenthesis. Those chapters that decided on the group method are noted with an asterisk.

American League
Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)
Baltimore Sports and Life (Baltimore)
Boston Red Thoughts (Boston)*
Camden Crazies (Baltimore)
Contract Year (Oakland)*
Detroit Tigers Scorecard Blog (Detroit)
500 Level Fan (Toronto)
The Flagrant Fan (General)
Infield Fly (Toronto)
Lady At The Bat (New York)
Misc. Baseball (History)
North Dakota Twins Fan (Minnesota)
Old English D (Detroit)
The Rays Rant (Tampa Bay)
Seattle Mariners Musings (Seattle)
Seedlings To Stars (Other)
The Tribe Daily (Cleveland)*
Twins Trivia (Minnesota)

National League
Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)
Appy Astros (Houston)
Bernie’s Crew (Milwaukee)*
Blog Red Machine (Cincinnati)
Cincinnati Reds Blog (Cincinnati)
C70 At The Bat (St. Louis)
Dugger Sports (Philadelphia)
The Eddie Kranepool Society (New York)
The Flagrant Fan (General)
Misc. Baseball (History)
North Side Notch (Pittsburgh)
Padres Trail (San Diego)
Phils Baseball (Philadelphia)
Pitchers Hit Eighth (St. Louis)
Prose and Ivy (Chicago)*
Raise The Jolly Roger (Pittsburgh)
Rockies Woman (Colorado)
22 Gigantes (San Francisco)
Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)

Prior Winners:

2010: Felix Hernadez, Seattle; Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
2009: Zack Greinke, Kansas City; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
The official website of the BBA is located atbaseballbloggersalliance.wordpress.com. The BBA can be found on Twitter by the handle @baseballblogs and by the hashmark #bbba. For more information, contact Daniel Shoptaw at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

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Contest: Tickets To The K

The K

Our friends at Sports Vacation Guys have made it their business to help people find their ultimate trip built around their love of sports. It is a unique idea that allows them to build your ultimate vacation and make sure you see the game you want, in the city you want, and help you see some of the sites that the area is most famous for.

The inspiration for Sports Vacation Guys was an annual trip known as The Bachelor Stadium Tour (BST). The BST takes a group of friends and builds an exciting weekend filled with baseball and big cities. This year, over Labor Day Weekend, the pals will embark to Kansas City for two games at Kauffman Stadium to see the Royals take on the Cleveland Indians. From there, they will hop a plane and head to Target Field to see the Minnesota Twins take on the Chicago White Sox in a Labor Day doubleheader.

The Sports Vacation Guys want to share the first stop of their trip with you, Royals fans. So, let us know in the comments below what your ultimate sports vacation would be. The best submission (chosen by myself and a representative from Sports Vacation Guys) will receive two tickets to the September 4th game between the Royals and Indians with The BST.

Just to get you started, here is what some of our favorite baseball people around the internet said when we asked them to do the same.

Dennis Lawson – Pitchers Hit Eighth

If I had the opportunity to take an ultimate baseball weekend trip, my destination would be New York City. I’d go for a double dip – day game at Citi Field and a night game at Yankee Stadium. Since it’s the “ultimate” trip, the scheduling would work out perfectly, so I’d get to see Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals clobber RA Dickey and the Mets in the afternoon. That should leave me with enough time to grab some New York style pizza and get to the Stadium to catch CC Sabathia and the Yankees take on Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. Naturally, the only way for that marathon to end would be with “Enter Sandman” blaring as Mariano Rivera enters in the bottom of the 9th to close it out. With all that baseball in one day, I’d have plenty of time the rest of the weekend to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Times Square.

Drew Sarver – My Pinstripes

My ultimate baseball trip would involve a Midwest visit to Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. Starting with a day series in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. And of course one game watching from the rooftop across the street. Then on to Detroit’s Comerica Park to watch Justin Verlander toe the rubber for the Tigers, and finally back east to Cleveland’s Progressive Field to watch the Indians take on the New York Yankees. A side trip would include a trip to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Daniel Shoptaw – United Cardinal Bloggers, C70 At The Bat

Well, typically, it’d be in St. Louis. Do some shopping, see the Arch, Grant’s Farm, things like that with the family. Outside of that, I don’t know. Washington would be great with all the monuments, etc. Though if you are just talking baseball, spending some time in the Iowa cornfield diamond would be right up there.

Jason Turbow – The Baseball Codes

I’d ordinarily be tempted to say a trip to Wrigley Field, preceded by a Friday taping of Oprah. Now that she’s closed up shop, I’ll go with Boston. Fenway provides the most wondrous ballpark experience I’ve encountered, and a weekend in Beantown would allow me to walk the Freedom Trail and head to the Public Garden for a photographic recreation of “Make Way for Ducklings,” the Robert McCloskey classic I read to my kids at least once a week. (I will be taking pictures because my children will have stayed home. With this in mind, a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery might be in order, as well.)

Hilda Chester – Fan of the site

The perks of getting to see my team play the Braves in Atlanta not only allow me to see Turner Field, but I will also get to check out the Georgia Aquarium and take in the history of the south by visiting places like Martin Luther King Jr Historical Site. Most importantly- getting to ATL allows me to try the good ol’ Southern cooking first hand.

Shai Kushner – Baseball Digest

While I’m still not totally sold on west coast baseball …

I would love to take a trip along the west coast and catch as many games as I could from Seattle to San Diego, picking up some family along the way to come along for the ride.

I’ve been to Dodgers Stadium as well as Angels Stadium of Anaheim Stadium South of Los Angeles Stadium, but haven’t checked out the other new ballparks in that time zone.

Of course the drive along the coast would be almost as much of a highlight, even if it’s a little out of the way.

Michael Lynch – Seamheads

I’d love to go back to Fenway Park to watch my beloved Red Sox for the first time since 2004. I’m originally from Brookline, MA and visiting the places I used to hang out and the historical landmarks in Boston would be amazing. I’d also get to spend time with my mother and stepdad, which would make it that much better.

Rob Rains – St. Louis Sports Page
My ultimate trip that revolves around baseball would be to pack my family into an RV and go to as many ballparks as we could in one summer. We took a “Halls of Fame” trip where we went to as many Halls of Fame as we could between St. Louis and Cooperstown and you’d be surprised how many there are if you take side trips.

Jamie Shoemaker – Through The Fence Baseball

An ultimate weekend trip would be centered around the Atlanta Braves. I’ve been to the stadium twice, including a sellout against the Yankees in which the Braves won 5-2. The weekend would start off by visiting the CNN center where the Atlanta Braves clubhouse store is. They frequently have autograph signings and in my perfect weekend, Bobby Cox and the greats would be there signing autographs. This would ultimately include John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Andres Gallaraga, etc. just to name a few. During the game, Chipper Jones would win the game with a landmark grand slam that landed into my hands. I would then meet Chipper and the rest of the braves to return the ball to Larry. In the end (hopefully after receiving all the memorabilia for returning the ball) I would have a room full of Atlanta Braves signed gear and a poster of Chipper Jones and I.

To top it off, there would be a concert afterwards, in which my favorite band, Shinedown performs with Halestorm opening. Yeah, that might have been a reach, but it’s the ultimate weekend!

Michael Engel – Kings Of Kauffman

I’ve always been interested in the early history of America. If I had the opportunity to run off for a weekend, I can think of no better place to visit (that isn’t Kauffman Stadium of course) than Boston.

Naturally, Fenway Park is the baseball stop. There are few iconic locations in professional sports anymore, but Fenway may be the most recognizable ballpark in the game today.

Along with that, there’s the city of Boston itself with all the historic landmarks, the quirky street layouts, and a few dozen breweries (or thereabouts). I’m not a fan of the Red Sox in any way, but as a baseball fan, it would be tough to turn down a chance to see the Green Monster – and the rest of the city is a nice bonus, too.

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A Royal Hope

A famous Missourian once said, “There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation – veneer isn’t worth anything.” The Royals management and coaches must believe the philosophy this quote contains to be true because they have stuck to their guns this season. They have stayed committed to having a young team that has vast potential and has shown only the early signs of blossoming into a contending team this season. However, this week they did a few things that some teams have been trying to do for a while.

Billy Butler

The Royals started out last weekend by taking two out of three from the Devil Rays, and then moved on to Boston where they split the four game set with the AL East leading Red Sox. The Red Sox series included a thrilling close game that handed Josh Beckett his first loss in nearly a month. The Royals are in Cleveland for this weekend before coming back home to host the Orioles and the Tigers.

On Friday night, the bats continued to stay hot. Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon each hit a homer while Billy Butler (who homered in his third consecutive game) hit two. Jeff Francis was equally impressive as the offense was, and pitched eight scoreless innings before being relieved by Blake Wood in the ninth.

The Royals have not shown a lot of power this year on consistent level, but this team is not built like Yankees or Rangers who count on the long ball. However, the Royals are very capable of extra base hits. They are third in the American League in doubles and second in triples. They continue to pace the A.L. in stolen bases while still maintaining a top five standing in team batting average out the entire MLB. They are near the bottom of the list when it comes to the amount of times they strike out, which means they are still putting the ball in play.

The defense continues to play solid behind the pitching with a MLB leading in range factor and second in double plays turned (the Texas Rangers being the only team with more). Moustakas and Hosmer are solidifying themselves on the field, which solidifies the entire infield now. They also are starting to come around offensively as well.

The pitching had another roller coaster week. They pitched well enough to win five out of the last seven but looked downright horrible in those two losses. They are taking their lumps and are improving but it’s like flipping a coin every night if you’re Ned Yost. “Which version of my staff is going to show up tonight?”

Another quote by the same famous Missourian from the beginning of the article,

“Where there is no vision there is no hope.” George Washington Carver

The trade deadline is this Sunday and it looks like the Royals GM stood true to his word and kept his team intact. There is still time left but he intends to keep moving forward with his plan. He sees the hope that the coaches and the fans see in this team. When he was hired, he started rebuilding the Royals’ farm system with quality draft picks and trades, he had a vision and now it is coming to fruition. There is hope in Kansas City again. Hope that this young team has been feeding on all season.

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Crow Logs Yet Another All-Star DNP

Well, make it six out of 10.

Sorry, Aaron Crow. Hope you enjoyed that free plane ride to Arizona.

Royals fans and your friends from Topeka are all proud of you. But I guess we shouldn’t have gotten our hopes up that you would actually play in this year’s All-Star Game.

After all, six of the last 10 Royals to be named to the All-Star Game have failed to leave the bench.

American League manager Ron Washington did about as well as he could to utilize his full compliment of pitchers. No pitcher went more than a single inning. But when the AL didn’t have to pitch the ninth, Crow was left without need of a shower.

Three other pitchers who were available on the AL bench did not play – Detroit’s Jose Valverde, Toronto’s Ricky Romero and Boston’s Josh Beckett. Beckett complained of discomfort when he warmed up, or he would have played.

For another year we’ll assume there was no malice behind the decision to keep Crow on the bench. No need to suspect a plot to discriminate against the Royals is afoot.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

But still, this is getting old.

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