Tag Archive | "New York Yankees"

The Royals get knocked out of the Wild Card chase

It was fun while it lasted, but the Kansas City Royals playoff hopes came to an end with Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Once again, the Royals offense went into a slump, not scoring a run since the 12th inning of Monday night’s 6-5 win.

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The last few weeks, the Royals were one of five contenders vying for a Wild Card spot. They caught and passed the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, but they couldn’t gain ground on the Tampa Rays, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.

But the Royals didn’t give up. After they lost last Saturday’s game against the Rangers, they bounced back the next day with Justin Maxwell’s ninth inning grand slam off of former Royal All-Star Joakim Soria, giving the Royals a 4-0 victory. Then a four hour, 12 inning win the next day against the Mariners kept the Royals slim playoff hopes alive. But Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Mariners and an Indians walk-off home run win by Jason Giambi a few hours earlier hurt their playoff chances. Then Wednesday night’s loss and wins by Cleveland, Tampa and Texas put an end to the Royals playoff hopes.

It’s disappointing the Royals didn’t make the playoffs. But for the first time in almost a generation, the Royals looked like a credible Major League Baseball team. Finishing with a record above .500 for the first time since 2003 and being in the Wild Card hunt, the Royals gave hope to a long-suffering fan base that the team has turned a corner.

But there’s room for improvement. The offense is still weak and despite having five of six winning months, May’s dismal 8-20 record put the Royals in a hole they couldn’t get out of. With last month’s seven game losing streak and their recent critical losses to the Detroit Tigers and the Indians, the Royals doomed their chances of making the playoffs. Look at it this way: if the Royals went .500 in May with a 14-14 record, they would have an 89-69 record and be tied with the Rays in the Wild Card standings.

With an 83-75 record, the Royals have four games left against the Chicago White Sox. They need to win the series and finish with their best record since 1993, when they went 84-78. Their offseason focus will be improving the offense and rebuilding their starting rotation around James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie. They also need to maintain their good defense and bullpen.

Will this happen? With the Royals, it’s hard to say. In the past they’ve shown promise and then crashed and burned. If any team can mess it up, it’s the Royals. But they’re a better team than they were a couple of years ago. They were on their way to another losing season, but after the All-Star break they turned it around and for a while they made themselves into Wild Card contenders. They bounced back from many games and situations that would have doomed them in years past. The Royals have a ways to go, but their experience playing through the highs and the lows of 2013 should help them contend in 2014.

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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:

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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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Ichiro Reaches Musial Numbers

The New York Yankees’ outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, reaches an amazing plateau last night.

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With a single to left field, Ichiro had his 4,000th hit of his professional career.  That’s a number that has only been accomplished in Major League Baseball by two individuals, Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.  The problem is, Ichiro did not reach that level in the big leagues.

The 4,000 hits of Ichiro’s professional career span his time in Japan as well as his time in Major League Baseball.  When you combine his 2,722 hits in his MLB career with his 1,278 hits in Japan, Ichiro has reached that mystical 4,000 hit mark.  When you look at it that way, and The Hall Of Very Good did just that here, Ichiro is not the third man to reach that number.  He’s the seventh.

There are some names of importance and some names that beg the question “Who?”, but most importantly to Cardinal fans, there’s a name of historical proportions.

Stan “The Man” Musial had 4,001 hits in his professional career.

That’s a career that started with three minor league seasons as a pitcher before moving to the outfield.  It’s a career that saw an entire season lost while he served his country proudly in World War II.

One of the game’s greatest hitters, and the Cardinals’ greatest ever, achieved 4,001 hits in his career while spending four seasons not hitting.

It is hard to say what Musial would have achieved with those four seasons back.  Even harder to predict what he would have done in today’s environment.  None of this is to say that Ichiro is anything less than a Hall Of Fame outfielder.  Maybe it’s to say just how good he has been.

With his next hit, Ichiro will tie Stan Musial for number of hits in a professional career.

That is the epitome of elite company.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.
You can find his work on Yahoo!, InsideSTL, and here on i70.
Talk baseball with him on Twitter @poisonwilliam

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Biogenesis: Is ACES To Blame?

By now baseball fans are very familiar with the word “Biogenesis” and the subsequent suspensions being handed down to players as a result of their involvement with the company.  A shocking similarity is starting to form when looking at the players being suspended and the agency that has represented them.

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As of this morning, MLBTradeRumors is sharing reports from various sources claiming twelve players have accepted suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball for their involvement with Biogenesis.

The list currently: Nelson Cruz – Texas Rangers, Jhonny Peralta – Detroit Tigers, Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres, Antonio Bastardo – Philadelphia Phillies, Jordany Valdespin – New York Mets, Sergio Escalona – Houston Astros, Francisco Cervelli – New York Yankees, Jesus Montero – Seattle Mariners, Cesar Puello – New York Mets (Minor Leaguer), Fautino De Los Santos – San Diego Padres (Minor Leaguer), Fernando Martinez – Houston Astros, Jordan Norberto – Oakland Athletics

Nelson Cruz announced this morning that he had changed agencies from ACES to Wasserman Media Group, a move that is not uncommon and normally does not raise any flags.

However, that agency – ACES – has been popping up a lot lately.

They were the agency that represented, and were accused of assisting in a cover-up for, Melky Cabrera.  They are also connected to Gio Gonzalez, who has been linked to Biogenesis but not named in the suspension list as of yet.  Add to those two names Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Fautino De Los Santos, Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Cesar Puello and you’ve got a staggering number of clients being accused of using performance enhancing drugs.

What does all of this mean?  It may not mean anything at all.  ACES is a large agency with a fairly large amount of clients (107 baseball players are listed in MLBTR’s Agency Database as represented by ACES).  Maybe it suggests that the clients were brought together by a common event.  Maybe it suggests that someone at ACES has planted the seed that Biogenesis could help their clients.

Either way, I would guess that Major League Baseball may further investigate the agency before all the smoke clears.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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Triple Play All-Star Edition: Robinson Cano, Jim Leyland, Bruce Bochy

Welcome to the All-Star edition of the Triple Play. This time around, we take a look at my ultimate All-Star team, the most ridiculous decision any manager has made or will make all season, my suggestion for All-Star Game rosters, and more. Off we go:

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Who’s Hot?

Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

We discussed Cano in last week’s Triple Play (mainly as a basis of comparison for Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis). Well, Cano has had himself a pretty nice week, folks. In the past seven games, he smashed four home runs, knocked in 11 runs, scored seven, and batted .400/.484/.960. This week-long hot streak comes after batting just .250 with no extra-base hits during a nine-game homestand. Of course, I’m sure Cano is thrilled with the timing of these home runs what with him being the captain of the AL’s home-run derby team and all. (Just kidding, folks. We know no one besides Chris Berman cares about the home run derby these days.) For the season, Cano is on pace for a career-high in home runs (38) and close to matching career bests in RBI and runs scored. Talk about opportune timing – Cano is due to be a free agent after the 2013 season. He is no closer to a new contract with the Yankees, but it obviously isn’t affecting his play on the field. It’s difficult to believe New York would let him get away, but like fantasy owners, the Yankees will have to pay top dollar to keep him around. Apropos of nothing, wouldn’t you like to hear the negotiations between Brian Cashman and Jay-Z (Cano’s new agent)? I wonder if Cashman would tell either man to shut the (bleep) up. My hunch on that is no.

Who’s Not?

Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers manager

I’m not going to sugarcoat this one: Leyland’s decision to choose five middle relievers to fill the final spot on the AL All-Star team is an indefensible load of bunk. I mean, seriously? This is what fans get to vote on?  Tanner Scheppers? Joaquin Benoit? Steve Delabar? David Robertson? Koji Uehara? They’re all quality pitchers, having fine seasons. But All-Stars? Puh-leeze. If it weren’t officially on MLB’s website, I would have thought it was some sort of ESPN prank. You know, it’s about this time every year that so many media people climb atop their soapboxes and blather on about how the fans botch the voting every year. Well, consider this year Exhibit A against letting the manager choose the final five players to nominate for the online vote. Where is Evan Longoria (17 HR, 49 RBI, 53 runs)? Or how about Howard Kendrick (11 HR, 40 RBI, .315 avg.)?  Josh Donaldson (15 HR, 57 RBI, .316 avg.) has been outstanding this season, as has Carlos Santana (11 HR, 40 RBI) and Jacoby Ellsbury (majors-leading 36 steals). I don’t know what in the world Leyland is thinking. If he needs one more pitcher to fill out his roster, it should have been Grant Balfour. Unless, of course, Leyland decided he couldn’t use the only closer in the AL not to blow a save up to this point in the season. Then again, after seeing his team’s closer situation, this year, maybe it’s understandable that he doesn’t know an All-Star reliever when he sees one. I’m still shaking my head. How is this even– oh, never mind. On to other things….

Playing the Name Game

Here is my Ultimate All-Star Team:

  • C – Yadier Molina, St. Louis. NL’s best defensive catcher is also leading the league with a .346 average and has already been worth 3.6 wins above replacement (WAR). Keep all your Buster Posey talk to yourselves. He can’t carry Yadi’s jock when it comes to defense. Molina may not win the NL MVP (although he should), but he is the most indispensable player in baseball right now.
  • 1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona. He has 21 homers, an NL-leading 73 RBI, 56 runs scored and even eight steals. All without the lineup support enjoyed by Joey Votto. And at 25, he’s just going to get better.
  • 2B – Jason Kipnis, Cleveland. As discussed above, Cano is a great player. Dustin Pedroia is consistent and productive, even if the power in his bat has vanished. Kipnis (13 HR) brings the power Pedroia used to have, and adds the speed element to his game (19 SB). A 25-30 season is well within reach.
  • SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado.  Jean Segura, Ian Desmond and J.J. Hardy are all having terrific seasons, but Tulo (when healthy, of course) is, hands down, the best shortstop in baseball. Before being injured, he had cracked 16 home runs, with 51 RBI and 41 runs scored to go with his .346/.413/.635 batting line.
  • 3B – This was the toughest choice. Look at all the studs who play third: David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre. Then there’s Josh Donaldson and just-turned-21 Manny Machado. Every one of them has a case for why they should be included in this list. I have become a HUGE fan of Machado, who will most likely convert back to shortstop eventually. Ultimately, though, it has to be Cabrera. He’s the best hitter in baseball, period. As we reach the All-Star break, he is batting .368 with 28 long balls, 90 RBI and 67 runs scored.
  • LF – Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado. Rockies fans know that CarGo has been battling nagging injuries (leg, back, finger) all season long; otherwise, his numbers would be even better than they are. Those numbers: 24 HR, 63 RBI, 15 SB, 66 runs, .303/.369/.621. Just think what he would be doing if he were completely healthy. Mercy.
  • CF – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Going into 2013, how many times did you hear “Oh, Trout will never repeat his 2012 numbers” or “he’s due for a regression”? Well, let’s take a look at what he’s done this year: 14 HR, 56 RBI, 20 SB, 59 runs, .315/.391/.547. He’s on pace to approach the 30 round trippers he bashed last year, drive in 22 more runs than last year, score 120 runs (just shy of the 129 he scored in 2012), and steal 40 bases (49 in 2012). Oh, and remember that Trout hit more homers and drove in more runs in the 2nd half of the season last year. If that qualifies as a “regression,” then sign me up. I’ll take that any day.
  • RF – Chris Davis, Baltimore. As we hit the All-Star break, Davis has 33 homers and 85 RBI. At the end of the 2012 season, Davis tallied 33 homers and 85 RBI. Well, that’s clearly an omen, am I right? What? Oh, sorry, folks. I thought I was writing for Fox Sports for a second there. Let’s get back on track. Davis is currently on pace for 61 home runs, which would tie Roger Maris’ mark in 1961. I keep thinking that Davis can’t continue this pace all season, but he has. At what point do we stop questioning it and just realize that Davis has blossomed into a superlative hitter?
  • SP – Adam Wainwright, St. Louis. Another tough call, but if you’ve been reading this column all season, it shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise. Wainwright has walked just 13 batters all season (lowest total among starters), while fanning 117, an MLB-best 9-to-1 K/BB ratio. He has turned in 15 quality starts in 18 attempts, with a 2.35 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. You can make convincing arguments for Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, but I remain steadfast in my choice.
  • RP – Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh. Here’s a story for you: journeyman reliever, pretty good at what he does, but never a star or “the guy”; at age 36, he gets his first big shot at being a closer for a team that hasn’t had a winning season in 21 years. If Disney were in charge of the script, you just know the guy would soar and lead his team to the playoffs, right? Well, guess what? Jason Grilli is living that dream right now. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in the NL. Grilli has saved an NL-high 28 games. In saving those games, Grilli has whiffed 60 batters in 37 2/3 innings, which equates to an insane 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Yes, please. I’ll have what he’s having.

Random Thoughts

  • Over the weekend, I was watching a Little League game where the two hitters almost batted out of order. Then I watched the highlights Saturday and watched in utter disbelief as the San Francisco Giants actually pulled off the dubious feat against the Dodgers. I’m still waiting for a defensible explanation as to how a major league manager – which Bruce Bochy allegedly is – allows such a basic lapse in game management. Giants fans love to defend their manager (and it is somewhat justified, as he has been the manager for two championship teams), but there simply is no excuse for such blatant idiocy. If I were a Giants fan (and thankfully, I’m not), I would be demanding Bochy’s immediate resignation for incompetence.
  • The fact that the Giants beat the Dodgers in that game just makes it worse. It would have been much more poetic if the Dodgers had won the game by that one run the Giants lost as a result of the blunder.
  • Sorry, but I don’t understand all the outrage over Yasiel Puig possibly making the All-Star Game. There certainly was no hubbub over Mike Trout making the team in 2012, when he started the season in the minors.
  • If Puig makes the team, he has a far greater chance to impact the game than the five middle relievers on the AL ballot.
  • Let me be the latest writer to whole-heartedly endorse the idea that all teams do not need to be represented at the All-Star Game. In fact, if home-field advantage for the World Series is at stake, all teams SHOULD NOT be represented. If your team is in the playoff hunt, do you want Travis Wood or Jason Castro possibly determining your team’s fate? Of course not. Get the best players, regardless of team. Because, you know, THIS TIME IT COUNTS. Or something. Whatever.
  • Besides, why should the Marlins, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Twins, White Sox, Mets and Mariners – all teams 10 or more games below .500 – be rewarded for their ineptitude with an All-Star?
  • You may have noticed that I did not include Matt Harvey in my starting pitcher options above. That would violate my idea that those eight terrible teams should not have a player on the All-Star team.
  • Same goes for Wright, Castro, Wood, Carlos Gomez, Chris Sale, Jose Fernandez, Glen Perkins, Jesse Crain, Felix Hernandez, and Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • Speaking of Iwakuma, it sure would be interesting to see what he could do with a decent supporting cast around him. Very underrated, effective pitcher (103-to-18 K/BB ratio, 12 quality starts).
  • Speaking of underrated, how about Shin-Soo Choo’s All-Star snub? Reds fans are so worked up over Jay Bruce’s exclusion that they can’t seem to remember what a fine season their leadoff man is having (12 HR, 57 runs scored, .419 OBP).
  • What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The Rockies have lost six of seven and can’t pitch. The Giants, in addition to their lineup bumbling, were no-hit by Homer Bailey and have lost five straight series. But they’re both ahead of the sinking Padres, who have lost nine straight games to drop into last place. Looks like the division is becoming the NL Worst again. The Dodgers are the flavor of the week right now, particularly after the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco.
  • Meanwhile, the AL East has four teams with a better record than the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, and only Toronto is below .500 at 43-45. Each division will have fascinating races in these final three months, but for entirely different reasons.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Westbrook To Make Rehab Start

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Springfield, MO – The St. Louis Cardinals have announced that Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook will make a rehab start for the Springfield Cardinals this Tuesday, June 4.

The Cardinals host the Arkansas Travelers at 7:09pm on Tuesday. Click below to get your tickets right now.

Westbrook, 35, got off to a great start to the 2013 campaign with St. Louis, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.62 ERA through six starts early this year. His finest outing came on April 10 when he dealt a complete game shutout against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out three and scattering only five hits in the dominant performance. Westbrook had limited opponents to one run or fewer in all but two starts this season, prior to being placed on the disabled list on May 12.

The 14-year Major League veteran has compiled a 100-96 record with a 4.24 ERA throughout his career, and helped the Cardinals win the 2011 World Championship with two scoreless relief innings in the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

Originally from Athens, GA, Westbrook was selected by the Colorado Rockies with the 21st overall pick in the 1st round of the 1996 Draft. He made his Major League debut on June 17, 2000 with the New York Yankees, before spending the next 10 years with the Cleveland Indians. Westbrook was acquired by the Cardinals in a three-team trade with the Indians and San Diego Padres on July 31, 2010.

Click here to get your tickets to see Jake Westbrook at Hammons Field this Tuesday!

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Triple Play: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, CC Sabathia

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This week, we are discussing Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout (but not arguing about which one is better), CC Sabathia, D-backs rookie sensation Patrick Corbin and more. Off we go:

MiguelCabrera

Who’s Hot?

Is there anyone else we can put here besides Miguel Cabrera? We should just rename this section after Miggy. When Albert Pujols was at his best, Cabrera’s brilliance was a little underrated. No longer. The Tigers’ third baseman is in a class by himself as the most feared hitter in baseball. Entering Monday’s game against Pittsburgh (in which he went hitless and struck out three times), Cabrera had gone hitless twice in his previous 34 games. In the past week, Cabrera smashed another three home runs, drove in 10, scored seven runs and hit .364/.481/.818. He’s on pace for 47 home runs, 192 RBI (which would break Hack Wilson’s all-time record of 190), 138 runs scored, and a .384 batting average. Two months into the season, Cabrera leads all of baseball with a 3.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) rating. In fact, Cabrera is on track to improve in all fantasy categories except steals, where he is a non-factor anyway. Some analysts are already asking whether Cabrera can repeat as the Triple Crown winner, even though two-thirds of the season remains. That’s a topic for another day. For now, all Tigers fans and fantasy owners can do is marvel at the greatness. The torch has been passed. Pujols used to be the game’s greatest hitter. Now it’s Miguel Cabrera’s turn.

Who’s Not?

Lately, CC Sabathia is about as cold as it gets. He has had a history of starting a season slowly, but usually as Memorial Day hits, he eases into a groove. Not this month. Sabathia is winless in his past five starts, and he hasn’t been fooling opposing hitters at all. He has allowed 79 hits in 72 2/3 innings, including 11 home runs. Sabathia told MLB.com that he was hurting the team after his May 26th start against Tampa Bay. Looking closer, he’s right: his ERA and WHIP ratios would be the worst he has posted since 2004, while his H/9 and HR/9 ratios are the worst of his career. But it’s not all bad news. He continues to average over six innings per start, which has him still on pace for 200 strikeouts and 13 wins. But for fantasy owners to see a fair return on their investment, he needs to improve on the ERA and WHIP categories. You really have to ride out this slump, though. Trading Sabathia now would be selling low and you will have a Grade A case of seller’s remorse if he follows his career path and pitches better as the weather gets warmer. If he is still pitching this inconsistently at the All-Star break, it truly will be time to worry.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .385/.460/.677, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 41 runs, 1 SB
Player B: .302/.379/.564, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 39 runs, 12 SB

Player A is Miguel Cabrera. Player B is Mike Trout, who should not be forgotten when discussing players who are red hot. Entering Memorial Day, this is “all” Trout had done this month: eight home runs, four doubles, three triples, while driving in 20 runs, scoring 24 and stealing eight bases. Is it a coincidence that the Angels have won eight straight? I think not. Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Torii Hunter might make most of the cash, but Trout is the player that makes the Angels go. In his transcendent 2012 season, Trout hit 30 home runs and stole 49 bases. He is currently on pace to hit 32 bombs with 38 steals. The biggest difference is that Trout is on pace to drive in 33 more runs than 2012, which would actually make him a more valuable player for fantasy owners. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had a fascinating note about Trout in his most recent column: at age 21, Trout has gotten a hit on 35% of curveballs at which he has swung, making him the best curveball hitter in the game. Tons of young hitters can punish fastballs and remain mystified for years by Uncle Charlie. Yet, in his second season, Trout has leaped that hurdle. Think about what he’ll be able to do by, say, age 25.

Player A: 3-5, 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 71 strikeouts
Player B: 8-0, 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 56 strikeouts

Player A is Stephen Strasburg. Player B is Diamondbacks’ starter Patrick Corbin. Obviously, Strasburg has pitched very well for Washington, but fantasy owners have been disappointed because the wins haven’t been there (thanks to poor run support and defensive lapses) and they used a high-draft pick or big auction dollars on the Nationals’ ace. Corbin, on the other hand, probably wasn’t drafted in your league unless it is a deep NL-only league. At 23, he is a year younger than Strasburg. He also has been the ace of Arizona’s staff so far in 2013. The secret to his success isn’t difficult: he has allowed only three home runs so far, and opponents are hitting .206 off him. He was particularly impressive on May 20, spinning a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Rockies at Coors Field. He whiffed 10 Rockies that night, and they looked like a Double-A squad flailing away at Randy Johnson in his prime. He is not an overpowering pitcher, so he will not be able to sustain this level of dominance. Hey, just being realistic here. But the kid can flat-out deal. If you did take a flier on him late in your draft, or snapped him up off the waiver wire, then congratulations; your pitching staff is probably doing pretty well. The big question now is: do you keep him and bank on him to continue to be as good as Strasburg, or do you sell high to fill another hole on your team?

Random Thoughts

• Just when you think the Rockies might be turning a corner, they suffer a loss like Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park-home-run this past Saturday. The Rockies have a long history of letting painful losses like this affect them for days and it may be happening again: they dropped the finale of the series against the Giants on Sunday, then lost to the woeful Astros Monday night.
Carlos Gonzalez is doing all he can to prevent a tailspin, though. In the past two weeks, CarGo has tallied 6 homers, 13 RBI, 4 steals, 14 runs scored and a .333/.411/.784 batting line.
• Speaking of tailspins, remember that day – April 26, to be exact – when Yuniesky Betancourt batted cleanup while on a hot hitting streak? Yeah, no one else does either. In news that is sure to be reassuring to baseball fans everywhere (except maybe those who are stuck with Yuni on their fantasy teams), Betancourt has returned to his normal terrible self, wet-noodling his way to a .178 average in May.
• Brewers fans had to know going into 2013 that this would be a rebuilding season, but they couldn’t have expected them to be THIS bad. Without that nine-game winning streak, they would be in Astros/Marlins territory.
Cliff Lee 2012, meet Cole Hamels 2013. Cole, Cliff. You two have a lot in common.
• Just when the Yankees were welcoming Curtis Granderson back into the lineup, he gets injured again and they are forced to recall Brennan Boesch from Triple-A. In related news, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman had to return his Mercedes to the dealership for additional repairs and received a Dodge Neon as a loaner vehicle.
• Wainwright Walk Watch: the Cardinals’ ace pitched 37 innings before walking his first batter and he has walked fewer batters than any other starter in major league baseball. Going into this week (in which he will start twice), he has a 69-6 K-to-BB ratio (11.50), which is far and away the best of any starter in either league.
• At the rate they’re losing starters to injury, the Cardinals may start wanting him to start 3-4 times a week. Rookie John Gast is the latest to visit the trainer’s office. They don’t want to rush prized pitching prospect Michael Wacha, but they may not have a choice.
• At this rate, the Rangers will be printing playoff tickets at the All-Star break. Starter Colby Lewis is on a rehab assignment,
• From the “Apropos of nothing, but still interesting” file: Joe Mauer has broken up three no-hitters in the 9th inning in his career. Could somebody ask Jack Morris if that is considered “hitting to the score?”
• Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, a sincere thank-you to our men and women who serve our country in the armed forces or as first responders. Freedom is not free and we are able to devote our time and passion for baseball as a result of their actions and sacrifice. I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Royals Weekly Rundown

After a strong start to 2013, the Kansas City Royals ended last week losing a three in a row to the injury plagued New York Yankees.  The Royals finished the week losing six of seven and find themselves two games behind the first place Indians with a record of 18-16.

In the first edition of Royals Weekend Rundown, let’s recap the week that was shall we?

Spring Training 2009 vs texas

Best of the Week:  Alex Gordon

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer deserve some credit for getting the monkey off their backs and belting their first home runs of the season (Moustakas hit three this week).  This still doesn’t top Gordon’s monstrous week in which he slugged three homers, scored five runs, drove in eight, and hit .393.

Ned Yost made perhaps his best move as Royals skipper by moving Gordon to the three-hole to generate more run production.  Right now he’s hitting .400 with a 1.108 OPS in that spot.

While the production is over a small sample size, its a testament to Gordon’s growth as a ballplayer and the Royal’s patience the last few years.  Look at the numbers from the two halves of his career to date:

2007-2010:  .244 Avg. / 45 HR / 161 RBI / .320 OBP / .404 SLG

2011-2013:  .301 Avg. / 43 HR / 187 RBI / .365 OBP / .482 SLG

Gordon has gone from the brink of receiving the dreaded “bust” and demotion to making a name for himself as a cornerstone player for the club.  If he keeps this up for another two months, I would be shocked if he isn’t selected to his first All Star team.

Worst of the Week:  Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar

One could argue that this should go to the entire Royals offense except for the aforementioned Alex Gordon.  The team hit an abysmal .233 this week averaging around four runs per game.

While Escobar and Butler don’t deserve all the blame, they stand out because they hit first and fourth in the order respectively and hit a combined .105 (6-for-57) this week.  No need to worry, I expect both will bounce back soon in the next couple weeks against weaker pitching.

The Road Ahead:  Go West Young Men…

Monday night marks the first of a 10-game road West Coast road trip starting in Anaheim against the soul-searching Angels.  The Halos begin the series with a record of 14-23 and have at least found some rhythm on offense.  However, their pitching staff is still a mess.  Kansas City will face Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, and Barry Enright who are a combined 1-10 and could help the Royals heat up.  After the three game stint in Anaheim, the Royals head to Oakland for a three game set with the A’s.

Probable Pitchers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Monday at 9:05 CT:  Luis Mendoza (0-2, 6.38 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (0-6, 5.66 ERA)

Tuesday at 9:05 CT:  Jeremy Guthrie (5-0, 2.28 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (1-3, 4.26 ERA)

Wednesday at 9:05 CT:  Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA) vs. Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37 ERA)

Follow Adam Rozwadowski on Twitter @adam_roz

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The month of May could decide the Kansas City Royals 2013 season

After a good April and keeping up with A.L. Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals are 3-3 so far this May. But for the rest of the month, they have a tough schedule. They have a game against the Baltimore Orioles, then they play the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, the Angels again, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Texas Rangers. Except for the lowly Astros and struggling Angels, the other teams are above .500 and possible playoff contenders.

May 2013

Despite this month’s 3-3 record, there’s reasons for concern. So far this month, the Royals have six errors, with four of them committed in their two losses against the Orioles. The usually strong Royals bullpen lost a 2-1 decision to the White Sox Monday night and Luke Hochevar‘s errant pickoff throw to first in Tuesday night’s game against the Orioles led to a 4-3 loss. And in four of the six games played this month, the Royals offense scored three or less runs.

But it’s not all bad. It took until May 8 and 30 games into the season for the Royals to lose three games in a row. Last year, they lost three games in a row by April 14, eight games into the 2012 season. The starting rotation is pitching well, especially Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar are playing well. If Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland cut down their walks and settle into their roles, the defense quits making errors and the offense scores more runs, the Royals could get through May with a .500 or above record. Or they could implode and have losing record. Either way, we’ll know by June 1.

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Team USA Optimistic About WBC

When the marriage between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball (the national governing body for the sport) took place in 1999, a New Jersey native and former college soccer player named Paul Seiler was second in command of the USAB operation, behind long-time MLB executive Dan O’Brien Sr.

Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda discuss strategy

Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda discuss strategy

Seiler and O’Brien worked together to introduce the two organizations to one another, and help the MLB executives that were chosen to guide USA Baseball through the player selection process for the first-ever professional Team USA, that would represent the country at the 1999 Pan Am Games. That event would serve as the qualifying event for the 2000 Olympics.

One year later, after Team USA had successfully qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney, O’Brien stepped down, and the USAB Board of Directors gave the job of CEO to Seiler, on an interim basis. They wanted to see his leadership ability, as the 2000 Olympic Team was being put together.

With the help of current New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson, former New York Yankees GM Bob Watson, Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda and a host of many other talented individuals throughout various MLB club front offices, Seiler guided the organization to their finest moment – a gold medal victory at the 2000 Olympic Games.

He has been the Chief Operating Officer ever since – now going on 13 years – and yet he still is looking for that next crowning achievement in the organization’s history.

“What that group of players in 2000 did for USA Baseball as an organization, was give us that world championship that we could hang our hat on,” said Seiler.  “In the history of Olympic baseball, it would have been a shame had the United States not won a Gold Medal at least once.  With our victory in 2000, we can always say that we climbed to the top of the mountain and got it done, that we were the very best baseball team in the world for one moment in time.” (as quoted in the book Miracle on Grass).

Seiler is fully aware of how difficult it can be to get back to the top of the international baseball mountain. In the 12 professional level major international baseball events that have taken place since 2000 – all of which USA Baseball and MLB collaborated on the roster selection process – Team USA has won exactly……….twice.

Although they have had success getting deep into the events and having chances to win, it just hasn’t happened often enough. They were able to win the low-profile, IBAF World Cup in back-to-back attempts in 2007 & 2009, beating Cuba both times. But three losses in gold medal games, and three other third place finishes (including the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 WBC), have added up to it being over 12 years now, since Team USA has won it all on the biggest stage, with the spotlight on the game.

Here are the results of the 14 professional USA Baseball teams that have taken the field.

1999 Pan Am Games 2nd place Silver Medal
2000 Olympic Games 1st place Gold Medal
2001 World Cup 2nd place Silver Medal
2003 Olympic Qualifier Lost in Qtrfinals
2006 World Baseball Classic Lost in 2nd Round
2006 Olympic Qualifier Qualified for 2008 Olympics
2007 Pan Am Games 2nd Place Silver Medal
2008 Olympic Games 3rd place Bronze Medal
2009 World Baseball Classic 3rd Place
2010 Pan Am Qualifier 3rd Place Bronze Medal
2011 Pan Am Games 2nd Place Silver Medal

Seiler saw first-hand the unique brand of motivational speak that the legendary Lasorda used on a group of unheralded minor-league players at the time. But finding the right blend of talent on the field, personalities in the locker room, and a coaching staff that can drum up the same level of success as Lasorda did, with a roster full of proven, veteran big-leaguers, has proven to be much more daunting than he would have originally thought.

For obvious reasons, Seiler is hoping that his manager this time around – Joe Torre here at the 2013 World Baseball Classic – can find that magic in a bottle, and carry the Red, White and Blue to a championship in San Francisco. As MLB.com writer Barry Bloom suggested in his column on Sunday, Lasorda’s Olympic gold has set an example for Torre, and that a WBC triumph for Team USA would get USA Baseball back to the top of the mountain, where Seiler knows they belong.

David Fanucchi is the author of “Miracle on Grass” – How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA Baseball history. He was the official Team USA Press Officer for both the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team and the 2006 USA World Baseball Classic Team. More information about Fanucchi and Miracle on Grass can be found on his website at www.davidfanucchi.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @miracleongrass.

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