Tag Archive | "Michael Cuddyer"

Chicago at the All-Star Game

The 84th edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is in the books. For Chicago baseball fans, going into the game the bar for expectations were low. When the rosters were released, the two Chicago teams had a combined three representatives. For the White Sox they were pitchers Chris Sale and injured reliever Jesse Crain. For the Cubs it was pitcher Travis Wood.

ChrisSale

With Wood pitching Sunday night for the Cubs in the final game of the first half and Crain currently injured, the introductions likely would be the highlight of the night for Chicago. But then, enter lefty Chris Sale from the bullpen. Sale entered the game as a relief pitcher after the starter of the game Max Scherzer only pitched one inning. Sale then pitched the second and third innings facing six batters and retiring all six.

In the second, he retired David Wright on a groundout to third, struck out Carlos Gonzalez on an impressive slider, and got Yadier Molina on a fly out. Then in the third, struck out Troy Tulowitzki, got Michael Cuddyer on a weak ground out, and finally got Home Run derby runner up Bryce Harper on a line out.

They were an impressive two innings of work for Sale. With little to look forward to, he represented the city well. At the break, Sale is fifth in the American League in ERA and Strike outs. On the flip side is record is just 6-8 on the season. That is the result of little run support and a bad team supporting him.

Tuesday night was an excellent showcase for Chris. As the game progresses, the American League ended up shutting out the National League 3-0 with the National League only putting together three hits for the game. The winning pitcher was Sale. Come October, because of the victory, the American League will have home field advantage for the World Series. As it stands right now, that may have even less action from Chicago teams then the All-Star game featured.

For a few innings, Chicago baseball impressed. A tip of the cap goes to Chris Sale as he is one of the best young arms around the league. Sale is a former first round pick back in 2010 by the White Sox out of the college Florida Gulf Coast. Tuesday night was a nice victory and resume builder for the lefty from Lakeland Florida. Here is to the second half of the season building off of the mid summer classic.

 

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Triple Play: Michael Cuddyer, Jeff Francoeur, Lance Berkman

This week’s Triple Play finds us at the half-way point of the season. As the All-Star break comes into view, we look at a record-setting Rockies outfielder, the end of an error in Kansas City, our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch, and more. Off we go:

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Who’s Hot?

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies

At first glance, it looks like Cuddyer picked a perfect time to go on an extended hot streak. With shortstop and team leader Troy Tulowitzki injured and not expected back until mid-to-late July, Cuddyer has set a Rockies franchise record for longest hitting streak (27 games). During that time, he has put up a .344/.370/.563 batting line, with five home runs, 14 RBI, and 15 runs scored. If you look a little closer, though, you see that Cuddyer has been hitting well all season:

  • April – .313/383/.563, .946 OPS
  • May – .396/.441/.660, 1.101 OPS
  • June – .352/.381/.593, .975

For the season, Cuddyer has mashed 14 home runs, 48 RBI, scored 38 runs and even swiped six bases. After injuries contributed to a disappointing 2012, Rockies fans are seeing why the team was willing to sign Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million dollar deal before the 2012 season. He hasn’t just been a Coors Field hitter, either; he has more extra-base hits and RBI in road games. With the Rockies’ historical propensity to struggle on the road, that has been a godsend for the team. Cuddyer’s history (lifetime .275/.344/.462 hitter) suggests that he will not continue this pace, but given how the Rockies have scuffled without Tulo (6-10 while on the DL), they have to be thrilled with what Cuddyer has given them this season. If you own him in your fantasy league, it might be time to consider selling high; his value will never be higher.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals

Royals fans rejoice! Your team has finally seen the light. You will no longer have to suffer through watching Jeff Francouer bumble his way through another terrible at-bat, as he was designated for assignment Saturday. Maybe it was the batting average (.209). Maybe it was the complete and utter lack of production since May 1 (2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 runs). Whatever the case, Frenchy’s time in Kansas City is over. Royals fans can look forward to watching David Lough and Jarrod Dyson share duties in right field for the remainder of the season (barring a trade, of course). For the season, Francoeur has tallied just 3 homers and 13 RBI in 182 at-bats over 58 games. As June went on, the Royals began to play Lough more and more while Francoeur found himself on the bench. Once the fleet-footed Dyson was activated from the DL, the choice became clear: the team would be far better served by giving extended playing time to the 27-year-old Lough and 28-year-old Dyson instead of the 29-year-old Francoeur. Seeing that Frenchy is only 29 made me do a double take. Doesn’t it seem like he has been around for about about 15 years? Maybe that’s just how it feels to watch him flail away helplessly at the plate night after night.

In any case, it has become clear that he does not belong in the major leagues. Naturally, the New York media immediately speculated that the Mets may be interested in bringing Francoeur back. Considering that the Mets’ outfield Saturday consisted of Eric Young Jr, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Marlon Byrd (and their signing of Rick Ankiel already this season), one can never be sure.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 31 HR, 80 RBI, 60 runs, .329/.408/.724, 201 OPS+

Player B: 25 HR, 82 RBI, 64 runs, .373/.463/.676, 202 OPS+

Player A is Chris Davis. Like a certain commercial character, Davis just keeps going and going and…..well, you get the idea. After belting two more home runs in Saturday’s win over the Yankees, Davis became the first player in baseball history to belt at least 30 home runs and 25 doubles by the end of June (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). In addition to 50 doubles, he is on pace for 60 homers, 158 RBI, 118 runs scored and a .333 batting average. As it is, Davis has already met or exceeded many of the SEASON projections analysts forecasted for him. If things continue this way, the Davis/Tommy Hunter-for-Koji Uehara trade is going to go down as one of the greatest in Orioles history.

Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera (Player B) has been so ridiculously good for so long now that we take it for granted. Going into Sunday’s games, Cabrera led the American League in the following categories: hits (118), runs scored, RBI, walks (48), on-base percentage, OPS (1.139), and park-adjusted OPS+. He is on pace for a 49-166-129-.374 batting line this season, which would actually surpass his Triple Crown-winning season in 2012. Watching these two players slug it out for the rest of the season is going to be great fun.

Player A: .324/.428/.351, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB, 9 runs

Player B: .466/.578/.889, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB, 11 runs

Player A is the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, generally considered the best second baseman in the American League (particularly in fantasy baseball). Player B is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis. Over the past two weeks, nobody in baseball – not Chris Davis, not Miguel Cabrera, not Pedro Alvarez, not Michael Cuddyer – has been hotter than the Tribe’s 26-year-old middle sacker. Cano is on pace for a 30 HR-100 RBI-10 SB-90 run season, which is elite territory in fantasy baseball for second baseman. Kipnis is on pace for 25-105-39-90, which would better Cano in every category except home runs. Considering the dearth of speed in fantasy baseball these days, the extra steals give Kipnis a bump in value over Cano. At 26, Kipnis figures to only get better. As a fan of Kipnis going into the 2012 season, I’m calling it now: by the end of 2013, he will end the season as the top-rated fantasy second baseman in the American League. That’s not a knock on Cano, who remains the top power-hitting second baseman in either league. But a player who can offer 25-homer/40-steal potential is worth top dollar – and Kipnis is that guy.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter. Since then, he has continued to be the stingiest starting pitcher in baseball when it comes to issuing free passes. As such, we are tracking his total for the 2013 season. Saturday night, Wainwright rebounded from a couple of tough starts to handcuff the Oakland A’s in a 7-1 victory. The Cardinals’ ace fanned eight batters, allowed five hits and walked a pair while improving his record to 11-5. For the season, Wainwright has punched out 114 batters while walking just 12; that 9.5 ratio is still tops in the National League, although it has dropped from the double-digit ratio it had been throughout the season. In the American League, only Bartolo Colon has a similar walk total (13), but Colon has struck out barely half the hitters as Wainwright. The American League leader in K/BB ratio is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, at 5.94. That measure tells you just how in control Wainwright has been this season.
  • Scheduled pitchers for St. Louis against the Angels this week are Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Wainwright. Wainwright vs. Pujols will be some must-see TV on Thursday. Get your popcorn ready.
  • Pittsburgh is the first team in 2013 to win 50 games, marking the first time that has happened since 1960. You might recall that the season ended pretty happily for the Pirates and their fans that year.
  • Speaking of the Pirates, here’s an idea: trade for Cliff Lee. The Phillies aren’t going anywhere this season and need to rebuild. Pittsburgh has a deep farm system and a real chance to play October baseball for the first time in 21 years. Lee would represent a huge financial commitment for the Pirates ($25 million per season through 2015) and would probably require the Pirates to surrender two or three of their best prospects. Yes, that is an exorbitant price. But it’s been 21 years. An entire generation of Pittsburgh fans has no idea what it is like for the local baseball team to be good. Acquiring Lee to anchor the rotation would send a message that there will be no collapse like 2011-12.
  • Incidentally, for those of you wondering why Dustin Pedroia wasn’t included in the Kipnis/Cano note above about the best second basemen in the AL, it’s very simple: you all get back to me when he has more home runs than Brian Dozier and we’ll talk. The laser show has gotten pretty lame.
  • There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground in a Derek Holland start. It’s either the penthouse or the outhouse. You either get the complete-game, two-hit shutout version like the Yankees saw last Thursday night, or you’re stuck with the version that allowed a combined 20 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings and eight runs earlier this month versus the Blue Jays and Indians. I’m sure Ron Washington wishes he knew which one he would get every fifth day.
  • All the Alex Rodriguez drama has overshadowed the Yankees’ tailspin. Since June 1, when New York was one game back in the AL East, they are 11-16 and have lost five in a row. They find themselves two games away from the division basement. Is that where they will be when Derek Jeter returns to the field?
  • The Giants are in trouble as well. After being swept by Colorado, the defending world champions have sunk to fourth in the NL West, only one game ahead of last-place Los Angeles. Guess who is headed to the bay for a weekend series?
  • Sunday’s win over the Rockies notwithstanding, the Giants’ offense has been putrid since losing outfielder Angel Pagan to injury. Buster Posey can’t carry the team by himself.
  • In related news, Francoeur’s agent already has called Giants’ GM Brian Sabean (NOTE: I have no more evidence of this than any other baseball writer).
  • Despite not playing since May 26, Bryce Harper ranks 2nd on the Nationals in home runs, 4th in RBI, and 5th in runs scored. No wonder Washington is 14th in the NL in hitting. Safe to say he’ll be welcomed back this week with open arms.
  • Lance Berkman Is A National Treasure, Volume 58: the Big Puma evidently slipped and fell down the stairs of the Rangers’ charter plane after returning home from New York last week, making for a sore knee and some missed games. A reporter asked Berkman if it was just a freak accident. “No,” Berkman replied, “Premeditated.”  How great is that?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Breaking Good

Everyone expects improvement from the 2012 Kansas City Royals, but just how much improvement to expect is a point of debate. Will 4-5 players make “the leap” at the same time vaulting the Royals into 90+ win territory? Will this season be a springboard to 2013, around 81 wins and a lot of incremental individual improvement? While much of the answer may lie in the Royals clubhouse, I think a good portion may also be determined in Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago. The unbalanced schedule means that the Royals will play 72 of their 162 games against the Central Division. Just how good (or bad) the division is may have as much to do with how successful the 2012 Royals are as anything.

Another way to say this is, the Royals need some help in 2012 to contend…and thankfully they are already starting to get it. What, you say? We’re still a month away from Spring Training, how can the Royals already be getting help? Let’s take a look at the off season news from the AL Central:

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox did not really contend last year and may have actually gotten worse heading into 2012. The Twins lost Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Jason Kubel to free agency and their additions were not impressive. Justin Morneau is still recovering from concussion issues while Joe Mauer is supposed to be completely recovered from his tired legs. The White Sox, on the other hand, seem to be trying to rebuild while maintaining a $100 million dollar payroll thanks to anchors of contracts still owed to the likes of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. They lost Ozzie Guillen and traded away Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos, and Jason Frasor for young pitching. My honest appraisal is, if the Royals make even the slightest of progress, these two teams should not be much of a concern.

That brings us to the Cleveland Indians, the team thought to be on the same path as the Royals, if not a step or two ahead. It is easy to forget how dominant the Indians were early last season after their collapse. Their biggest acquisition? It could be Derek Lowe if he turns back the clock, or Kevin Slowey…and that’s about it. The lack of acquisitions are not even the biggest problem for the Tribe, it is the question marks surrounding Fausto Carmona right now. The 28 year old opening day starter is actually 31, and facing charges in the Dominican Republic for lying about his identity. No one has any idea how serious this is, but there is no way it is a positive for the Indians.

It would be pretty easy to argue that the three teams above have no bearing on the Royals division chances. The Tigers are the favorite and it is not really close. They have the best pitcher in the division (baseball?), Justin Verlander, and arguably the best hitter in Miguel Cabrera. Thankfully for the Royals, the Tigers have added virtually nothing to last year’s squad and just this month lost DH Victor Martinez to an ACL injury that could sideline him for 2012. Sure, there are options available for the Tigers to replace Martinez, but none of them come without question marks. Losing Martinez also hurts Cabrera, who needs the protection in the lineup.

All this being said, it is still on the Royals to go out and win the division. The AL Central has been a weak division for some time and just as the Royals seem to be poised to improve, the rest of the division is regressing. Does that mean it is a prime opportunity to add a started like Roy Oswalt? Only time will tell.

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Waiting On…Something.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason remains—to this point— defined more by subtraction than addition, at least when talking about the big names. Perhaps they are simply waiting for players’ markets to continue to develop. But in the meantime, are they missing out on what could be key contributors?

JCRomero

There still is a lot of time left before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. The Cards did decide to bring back shortstop Rafael Furcal, adding him on a two-year deal that will hopefully bring stability to the position in the short-term. They also signed lefty J.C. Romero this week, solidifying that side of the bullpen.

Nick Punto will not be returning to the Cardinals for 2012; he signed with the Boston Red Sox this week. “The Shredder” made an impact on the 2011 team, and not just in the laundry room. Punto is definitely a positive personality in the clubhouse, and a defensive beast on the field. With the re-signing of Skip Schumaker and the emergence of Daniel Descalso, Punto would have again been a bench player in St. Louis. But that’s also the role he will likely play in Boston. So why was he not brought back? This may be a bigger loss than the Cards realize. It’s tough to understate the value of a 5th or 6th infielder, but a positive clubhouse presence coupled with veteran leadership is never unwelcome on a major league roster. Punto will be missed.

This likely means the Cardinals are looking more to the outfield for roster additions. Carlos Beltran remains an interesting possibility, but as players like Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer get snatched up the price will only go higher for a hitter like Beltran. He will turn 35 not long after the 2012 season starts, and has been making about $19 million per year for a while now. What will he be looking for? Five years? $15 million, or more? If the Cardinals had a problem paying Albert Pujols for 10 years, they certainly shouldn’t seriously consider paying Beltran for five.

According to reports from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the team may also have an interest in upgrading the rotation and Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook are still in play. These are all intriguing possibilities; meanwhile, the number of viable players is starting to dwindle. Are the Cardinals going to make a “big splash?”

Signing Pujols would have been the biggest deal—in more ways than one—in franchise history for the Cards. But he’s gone now. So is a different big deal necessary, or even desirable? The Cards do get Adam Wainwright back at some point in 2012, presumably early in the season. Allen Craig may be down for a while as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, but does the team want to block him by adding a long-term solution in right field? Sure, there can always be mixing and matching in the outfield. But adding another long-term veteran when capable young players are beating down the door certainly doesn’t seem like the best idea in the world.

But that’s not to say the Cards are without needs for 2012. Can Wainwright really be effective, especially early in the season? How will Jon Jay’s numbers play out as the everyday center fielder? Who will fill in while Craig is recovering, and where will that player go once Craig rejoins the big club in St. Louis? Do the Cards have enough pitching? Who is the backup catcher? How is the organizational depth in case the injury bug hits the team? These are not easy questions to answer, but they need to be addressed regardless.

The Cardinals have a good team returning for 2012, but they need more. The Brewers, Reds, and Cubs are salivating no that Pujols is gone. His productivity will be impossible to replace, but several really good acquisitions can certainly help. If this team has any designs on being the first repeat World Series Champion since the 99-00 season, they are going to have to be over-the-top good.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and at Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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Royals Gallimaufry II

• With the release of the 2012 Royals schedule, the only thing that jumps out at me is a visit from the Brewers of Milwaukee June 12–14. I very much hope Zack Greinke will not pitch in the series. It would only bring up unpleasantness from the past and mean spirit from some Royals fans.

Bruce Chen is a magician. I had one of those perfect nights at the park this Tuesday, where the weather could not be better and the good guys make the Twins look silly. Chen was the main reason, plowing through the Twins for eight innings with his off-speed, arm-slot varying slop. His game score of 85 was the best of the year for the Royals. He continues to outshine his unimpressive defense-independent stats for a second straight year, and while the saber-nerd in me knows he is probably due to regress, I can not help but believe in some of the cliches. That Chen just “knows how to pitch.” I would be glad to see him back in Royal blue again next year to see if he can extend the magic show.

• Before the game on Tuesday, Twins player Michael Cuddyer took some fantastic photos around Kauffman Stadium that you can see here.

• In my previous gallimaufry, I proposed a few metrics that could be used to come up with a new pitcher’s record and showed how each Royals starter was faring by classifying starts as a “win” for a quality start, positive win probability added or game score of 51+. Here are those updated records (through the 13th):

The team-wide average of the three records (64-85) is just one game different than the team’s actual record (63-84). For me, the quality start and game score records of 66-83 are too kind to what has been a very bad staff. The win probability added record of 59-90 sounds just right.

• For whatever it is worth, Alcides Escobar has gained the MLB lead in shortstop UZR with a current rating of 9.5 runs above average. Factor in offense though, and he only comes out at 17th of 22 qualified shortstops in fWAR. He is on the short list of the worst hitters in the league: His 68 wRC+ is fourth worst among qualified hitters and his -5 win probability added is by far the worst.

• While the 2011 season has been another lost cause in the standings, I am dreading the season’s end. In years past, it can feel merciful, but this year it feels like the real Royals are just taking shape. Ever since Sal Perez debuted on August 10, the lineup of the future is suddenly here in the present, and man are they talented and fun to watch. 2012 could very well be bogged down by starting pitching woes again, but the position players make me feel opening day can not get here soon enough.

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The Royals in the Draft: KC Struck Out in the Late 90s

The Royals were often referred to as “the model for expansion teams” during their first decade of existence. But during the later part of the 1990s they could serve as the model for how not to build a franchise.

Just about the time the team started losing traction on the big league level, it also started a series of whiffs with its first round draft choices. The team was accused of drafting players of lesser talent, particularly collegiate pitchers, to avoid large signing bonuses.

Whatever they were doing, it wasn’t working.

The culmination of the futility seemed to be 2001, when KC tapped two phenomenal high school talents with their first two picks – players who barely saw the field as professionals. Colt Griffin and Roscoe Crosby cost the team a fortune and epitomized the Royals’ futility of the era.

That devastating swing and miss capped a six-year era of utter failure with high draft picks. By 2002, the talent-less big league team had absolutely nothing in the farm system to build upon.

Here is a five-year rundown of first round picks by the Royals from 1996 to 2000 and who they could have had instead (you might want to look away, rather than consider the players the Royals passed on):

1996 – Dee Brown #14

Brown hung around the club for nine years, making frequent trips between KC and Omaha. He hit just .233 with 14 homers when far more than was expected. Compared to the list of first-rounders that followed, however, Brown looks like an all-star.

The Royals could have drafted Eric Milton, Jake Westbrook or Gil Meche instead of Brown.

1997 – Dan Reichert #7

Drafted from Pacific University, Reichert worked as a starter and out of the bullpen during four seasons in KC, finishing with a 21-25 record and an ERA of 5.55.

Instead of Reichert, the Royals could have drafted Michael Cuddyer, Jon Garland, Lance Berkman or Jason Werth.

1998 – Jeff Austin #4, Matt Burch #30, Chris George #31 (supplemental)

Taken from Stanford University, Austin pitched in just 31 games as a Royal during 2001 and 2002, all in relief.

Burch was even worse. Drafted from Virginia Commonwealth, he never reached the big leagues, and the Royals gave up on him in 2003.

George was drafted out of high school. He made it to the bigs by age 21, but couldn’t take advantage of the many opportunities given to him. From 2001 to 2004 he posted a record of 14-20, almost entirely as a starter, with an ERA of 6.48.

Rather than Austin, the Royals could have taken J.D. Drew, Austin Kerns, Carlos Pena, Brad Lidge or C.C. Sabathia. Instead of Burch or George, they could have drafted Adam Dunn or Brandon Inge.

1999 – Kyle Snyder #7, Mike MacDougal #25, Jay Gehrke #32 (supplemental) Jimmy Gobble #43 (supplemental)

Snyder pitched in college for North Carolina. He didn’t reach the big leagues until age 25, where he went 2-9 over parts of three seasons with the Royals. Snyder did get a second shot with the Red Sox and actually contributed to their bullpen in their World Series run of 2007.

MacDougal, a Wake Forest product, was star-crossed from day one. His success was derailed by freakish incidents. He was drilled in the head by a stray bat in 2001. Then a mysterious sickness in 2004 caused him to lose a ton of weight and the heat off his fastball. He tore up the league for the first half of 2003 and was named an All-Star. But he’s bounced around the minors ever since the Royals gave up on him in 2006.

The Pepperdine product Gehrke never made it above A-ball in three seasons.

Gobble was a high school draftee that pitched very well in the minors. He made it to the big club by age 21 and was a starter in 2003 when the Royals posted a winning season. He pitched primarily out of the bullpen during his six seasons in KC, with mild success.

Instead of Snyder, the Royals could have had Barry Zito or Ben Sheets. Instead of the other three first rounders, the team could have chosen three of the following: Chris Duncan, Brian Roberts, Carl Crawford, Ryan Ludwick, or John Lackey.

2000 – Mike Stodolka #4

Stodolka’s is a sad story. Drafted out of high school, he struggled with arm issues for six seasons. Finally, at 24 he converted to first base. He hit well in three minor league seasons, but was trapped behind the logjam of Ryan Shealy, Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue in the minors from 2006 to 2008.

The Royals could have drafted Chase Utley or Adam Wainright instead of Stodolka.

While it would appear the Royals were doing something (everything?) wrong during this five year period, it’s unfortunate that the Royals have traditionally done little with high draft picks. Even in their best years, most of the players they were drafting didn’t contribute to the success. (Hugh Walker – 1988, Tony Bridges – 1986, Dave Leeper – 1981, Frank Wills – 1980, Ben Grzybek – 1976. Do those names ring a bell with anyone?)

The results of these drafts serve as a cautionary tale in 2011. Nearly every player mentioned above was ranked among the top prospects by scouting services while in the Royals system.

Before we start sizing Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas for World Series rings, we better recognize what it takes to build a champion. The Royals weren’t the only team drafting busts during that five-year period. There are no guarantees that the current crop of Royals farm hands, currently rated #1 by those same scouting services, won’t be washouts, flops and injury casualties as well.

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