Tag Archive | "Offensive Numbers"

How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 2)

AllStarGame

 

 

In part one, I analyzed First Base and Second Base to figure out how egregious it would be to vote for the Cardinal or Royal player at that position over the current leader in votes. This time I analyze Shortstop and Third Base. It breaks my heart that Moustakas is so far out of contention, both by votes and statistically. I didn’t expect him to be Miggy, but it’s becoming sad how hard the adjustments to the big leagues are coming for him. Saying all that, I still have some faith in him.

Freese is also struggling at third. His slugging is so low and is slowly going from a St Louis hero to the player they groan about when the fans see him in the lineup.

Shortstop

Royals: Alcides Escobar .247/.273/.333. WAR: 0.7

Escobar is great on the bases and of course on defense. So his paltry offensive numbers are masked some in his overall performance. I also think his offense isn’t quite as bad as is being indicated this year. Last year his obs was .333 (though his wOBA was a less impressive .265). Regardless, he is better than his numbers show so far.

AL Leader: JJ Hardy – .267/.307/.461. WAR: 2.0

Hardy’s offensive numbers are kind of pathetic to be in the lead. His defense is saving him. But I still don’t understand why he is in the lead, as I don’t imagine the average voter to be overly savvy about defensive stats. His 13 homeruns are, I guess, what makes the Sportscenter highlights (they must forget to mention he only has 14 doubles and zero triples), but it still seems weird he’s in the lead. Peralta is probably the player who deserves it the most.

If you vote for Escobar: MILDLY UNACCEPTABLE. With Hardy in the lead, everything seems out of whack. I don’t get it. So since the leader is a player with an obs barely over .300, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if Royals fans want to vote for Escobar instead.

Cardinals: Pete Kozma – .253/.302/.320. WAR: 0.9

Kozma’s pretty bad. And I can’t mention him without mentioning that I don’t understand why The Cardinals won’t just start Jackson instead. But, regardless, he is our horse in this race. And since there is another player named Tulowitzki in this conversation, everything I’m about to type seems so futile.

NL Leader: Troy Tulowitzki – .347/.413/.635 (!) WAR: 3.9

This guy is good.

If you vote for Kozma: IT MAKES THE ROYALS FANS WHO VOTE FOR GETZ LOOK LIKE SCHOLARS.

Yet he is in 4th place somehow. Good for him.

THIRD BASE

Royals: Mike Moustakas – .183/.246/.279. WAR: -0.4

I’m not going to shock anyone by telling them that Moustakas has been underachieving badly this year. It’s almost unfair to compare him to other AL third basemen as he’s fighting for the job just on the Royals alone. I don’t know if he will ever be what was expected of him, but he will definitely be better than this someday.

AL Leader – Miguel Cabrera – .358/.451/.638. WAR: 4.3

Remember how I said you can defend voting for Perez by voting saying you didn’t vote for Getz? Well if for some unknown reason you did vote for Getz, you can try to defend that by saying “At least I didn’t vote for Moustakas!” It’s impossible to analyze this, as Cabrera is infinitely better this year than Moustakas and all of the rest of the league.

If you vote for Moustakas? IT’s TOO INCONCIEVABLE TO IMAGINE ANYONE WOULD DO THIS IS SO IT’S TOO HYPOTHETICAL TO ANSWER.

Look, if for some reason you did decide to vote for Moustakas, you could try to defend it by saying he’s just struggling but has a bright future in front of him and he needs to be in the spotlight. You can maybe say Cabrera is getting luckier with a high BABIP of .381, while Moustakas is getting extremely unlucky with a BABIP of .194.

Cardinals: David Freese – .290/.362/.403. WAR: 0.5

Freese is struggling, even though his OBP is pretty high. His fielding has been detrimental. But he still has name recognition for doing what he did on the national scene 2 years ago. That will help him, but shouldn’t be a real reason you should vote for him.

NL Leader – David Wright – .300/.384/.502. WAR: 3.6

Mix Freese’s sub par season with Wright’s consistently stellar season, and you have your answer. I just hope Wright can win this over whatever is going on in San Francisco that allows them to get so many votes for Panda. Last year Sandoval undeservingly beat Wright (and then ironically had the biggest hit in the game). But this year, with the game being played in Queens, it just has to be Wright.

If you vote for Freese? DON’T DO IT, JUST VOTE FOR WRIGHT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT BASEBALL, HE DESERVES TO REPRESENT THE NL. Seriously, remember being a kid and watching the All Star game? Remember how excited you were to see your favorite player play? Now imagine the kids of NYC going to see Sandoval start. Undeservingly. Just tell yourself Freese is having an off year. Because he is. Vote for Wright

Next up: Catcher and Outfield.

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Video: Adron Chambers Has A Day

Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are battling hard for spots on the St. Louis Cardinals roster this Spring Training.

Adron Chambers

Up until now, Robinson is leading that charge, putting up much better offensive numbers and playing solid defense.  Chambers had been his normal self, showing great speed in the field and on the base paths.

It was his speed that allowed Chambers to show off a flashy defensive play Friday as the Cardinals played the Astros.  Chambers chased a fly ball into the left field corner, eventually sliding and producing a stellar grab on the warning track.  Courtesy of MLB.com, here’s the video:

Adron brought a part of his game Friday that most had not seen real well until now, however.  His 3-for-3 performance was capped off by a three-run home run in the sixth inning.  Again, courtesy of MLB.com:

Chambers has long been intriguing to the makeup of the roster due to his speed and athletic ability.  If he can start to find his stroke at the plate, he may just find himself in St. Louis instead of Memphis.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina should be NL MVP

While much of the National League Most Valuable Player talk has shifted out West to campaign for San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, the catcher who should receive that award is in St. Louis.

No discussion about the NL MVP award should leave out Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, but most breakdowns of the MVP frontrunners inexplicably don’t include Molina.

For years, people could point to Molina’s offensive numbers as a way to keep him out of an award that honors what a player does at the plate much more than what he does with his glove. But this year Molina is hitting a career-best .332 with 19 homeruns, 66 RBIs and even 11 stolen bases heading into play Saturday. Each of those numbers is already a career-high, and there is still nearly 20 games left in the season.

Despite Molina’s numbers, Posey still surpasses him in every category except stolen bases. Posey would be a solid choice for MVP. His return to the Giants this year after missing most of 2011 after a horrific collision at the plate has made the Giants a better team. But Molina’s skills beyond the stat sheet should give him the edge.

Molina’s defense has always been his hallmark trait. He already has four Gold Gloves and has caught 47 percent of baserunners this year, which is substantially better than Posey’s 29 percent rate. But Molina has also allowed just 33 stolen bases compared to Posey’s 80. Baserunners don’t often steal against Molina because he has such a strong reputation as a great throwing catcher, a reputation that is well-earned. Molina also has a wins-above-replacement of 6.3 compared to Posey’s 6.0.

Molina is a force behind the plate with just his presence. When Albert Pujols left in the offseason to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Molina stepped in as the unquestioned leader of the team. Sure, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday are also team leaders, but Molina is the drive-train that has carried the Cardinals through the 2012 season.

Interestingly, Holliday is getting more MVP attention than Molina. Holliday is hitting .298 with 27 homers and 96 RBIs. Those are certainly impressive numbers, but they don’t stand out so much that he should be considered the best, or most important, player in the league this year. Holliday is an offensive force, but Molina is the complete package. There hasn’t been an area of the game Molina hasn’t excelled in this year.

Need to catch a baserunner? Molina has thrown out 29 this year. Need the pitcher to drop a pitch in the dirt with two strikes? Molina has just four passed balls. Need a hit in a clutch situation? Molina is hitting .337 with runners in scoring position. He has also played in 123 games, the fifth-most on the team.

He will also defend the plate even if it means getting hit by a truck. Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison mowed down Molina in the second inning of a game Aug. 28. Amazingly, Molina held onto the ball for the out. He had to come out of the game, but he was back in the lineup after missing just one game.

That’s not to say Posey isn’t as tough because he no longer blocks the plate. Posey’s ankle was destroyed in a collision early last season, and it would be stupid to ask him to risk another similar injury because he is an important part of the team.

The National League has other worthy candidates outside Posey and Molina. Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen is having a great season, as is Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun. But, neither of those players play fantastic defense, and their position is not nearly as demanding defensively.

Many MVP races are decided by which team makes the postseason, but for some reason Posey is much more likely to win the award even if the Giants and Cardinals both make the playoffs. Maybe there is still a stigma against Molina’s hitting abilities.

Molina doesn’t play for a bad team, but voters have already shown they will vote for the best player regardless of the team’s record. They gave the Cy Young award to Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez in 2010 even though he went 13-12 and the team had a 61-101 record.

In any case, Molina is a deserving candidate for this year’s NL MVP award. Now it’s up to the voters to recognize his brilliance includes more than a golden glove.

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A Season of Allen Craig

This week, the St. Louis Cardinals found out exactly what a full Major League season of Allen Craig looks like. He has now played in 156 games and collected over 500 plate appearances in the big leagues. The numbers are in…and they look pretty good.

In his time with the Cardinals during the regular season, Craig sports a .297 batting average with 25 home runs, 95 RBI, and a better than .880 OPS. He does have 100 strikeouts against only 42 walks, so perhaps his pitch selection could be a bit better. But those numbers are great. Craig is just one of those players who goes out and rakes.

The problem, of course, is that it has taken Craig parts of three seasons to get one season’s worth of stats on his résumé. Injuries have definitely taken a toll on the slugger’s playing time early in his career. The good news is, the biggest injury he sustained was a result of hustling his ass off and crashing into the wall knee first and not some muscle or tendon pull as a result of poor conditioning or other weakness. The time he missed certainly still counts, but a freak accident injury is something entirely different from being injury prone. It will take more time to see if Craig is predisposed to weird injuries or not.

Craig’s true breakout may have come in the 2011 World Series. Though he only hit .263, Craig had three home runs and an otherworldly 1.154 OPS. Pretty much every other performance in that series got overshadowed by David Freese’s heroics, and he certainly deserved the MVP award. But Craig at least had a case to be in the conversation. Many of his offensive numbers were very close to Freese, and he added some flash with the catch over the wall and go-ahead home run in Game 7. In fact, most of his RBI were of either the go-ahead or game-winning variety. Craig was clutch in that World Series. Remember the hits off Alexei Ogando in the first two games? Overall, Craig had just as big a part in the Cards winning that series as Freese, Chris Carpenter, and Albert Pujols.

Not too shabby for a player who one week will play several positions and the next week seem to be a man without a position. Under Tony LaRussa, Craig played everywhere on the field except pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. New manager Mike Matheny has thus far kept Craig in the outfield or at first base, an important position for him to excel in with Lance Berkman’s return uncertain.

But that is a great question: What happens if/when Berkman does come back? Where do the Cardinals play Craig if everyone else is healthy? He was capable playing elsewhere in the infield, but he was not great. With an outfield of Matt Holliday, Jon Jan and Carlos Beltran and everyone’s healthy and producing, who sits? It would be a nice problem to have…unless your name is Allen Craig.

Craig has proven he belongs in the big leagues; now he needs to prove he can stay off the disabled list. He is forcing management on and off the field to take notice by putting up rock-solid numbers. If they continue and his time on the field stabilizes, Craig has a fine career in front of him.

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The return of YuniGetz

When infielder Chris Getz returned from the disabled list Tuesday night, the Royals sent infielder Johnny Giavotella to AAA Omaha. And when infielder Yuniesky Betancourt returned from the DL earlier this month, long time minor league infielder Irving Falu went back to Omaha.

If you read some of the articles and comments on Royals blogs and websites, it’s obvious Getz and Betancourt are not fan favorites. And with Betancourt’s lack of defensive range and Getz’s lack of power, it’s easy to see why. But are the players they replaced, Falu and Giavotella, any better? Or are Betancourt and Getz the best the Royals have for now?

For the sake of comparison, I’ll compare the positions of second base and utility infielder. For second base, I’ll compare second basemen Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. For utility infielders, I’ll compare Yuniesky Betancourt and Irving Falu.

Comparing the offensive numbers of Getz and Giavotella, they’re similar in many ways, but some stats stand out.

      Chris Getz Johnny Giavotella
Games 30 21
PA 94 73
Hits 23 15
Runs 9 8
RBI 8 6
BA/OBP/SLG .277/.322/.386 .217/.260/.261
Strikeouts 8 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getz has more games and plate appearances than Giavotella and edges Gio in runs RBI and strikeouts. But Getz has seven more hits and a much higher batting average, on base percentage and slugging. Neither player has a home run, but second base is not a power position. Offense is important, but defense is key for asecond baseman. Here’s their defensive numbers:

Chris Getz Johnny Giavotella
Fld% .991 .939
lgFld% .981 .981
RF/9 4.52 4.06
lgRF/9 4.61 4.61

Defensive stats aren’t as reliable as offensive stats due to a lot of factors I won’t list here. But Getz’s fielding percentage is 52 points over Giavotella’s and Getz is 10 points over the league fielding percentage. Giavotella is 42 points less than league average. And with range factor per nine innings, Getz is close to league average, but way ahead of Giavotella. So looking at statistics, one can see why the Royals say Getz’s defense has the edge and at least for 2012, Getz’s offense has the edge overGiavotella. Like it or not, Getz is playing better than Giavotella and until that changes, Giavotella will be staying in Omaha.

Moving on to the utility infielders, here’s the offensive numbers of Yuniesky Betancourt and Irving Falu:

Yuniesky Betancourt Irving Falu
Games 22 12
PA 82 45
Hits 20 14
Runs 9 7
RBI 10 1
BA/OBP/SLG .267/.309/.467 .326/.326/.442
Strikeouts 8 7

Betancourt has a lot more games and plate appearances compared to Falu, but Falu has a decent number of hits with his limited playing time, which increases his batting average. And Falu was close to Betancourt in runs. However, Betancourt drove in more runs and Falu almost had as many strikeouts as Betancourt. Yuni has the edge in offense, but if Falu played as much as Betancourt, I have a feeling the numbers would be similar.

How about defense? That’s the bread and butter of an utility infielder and here’s the defensive numbers of Betancourt and Falu:

Yuniesky Betancourt Irving Falu
Fld% .918 .957
lgFld% .969 .969
RF/9 3.39 3.79
lgRF/9 3.88 3.88

These defensive numbers are the average of second base, shortstop and third base, all positions Betancourt and Falu played. Both Betancourt and Falu are below league average in all categories, but Betancourt’s numbers are lower than Falu’s. The numbers tell us what we’ve known all along: Betancourt’s defense and range are below average and he’s not a good fielder. And Falu would likely do a better job as an utility infielder than Betancourt and provide almost the same level of offense.

So instead of playing Falu, a longtime minor leaguer who’s been with the Royals for years and would play at league minimum pay, the Royals play Betancourt, who has worse defense and is getting two million dollars that could be spent on pitching. And don’t forget the Royals like to platoon Betancourt and Getz at second base. These are the things which frustrate Royals fans.

These players alone aren’t going to get the Royals towards .500, let alone winning the American League Central. But for now, Chris Getz is the best player at second base and the Royals should dump Betancourt and call up Falu as their utility infielder.

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Preseason concerns about St. Louis Cardinals offense prove to be unfounded

Heading into the 2012 season, the St. Louis Cardinals had lost the best hitter in the game during the past decade. Albert Pujols left the comforts of St. Louis to chase big money, and many thought the Cardinals’ offensive production would leave with him.

Instead, the opposite has been true. Going into play Saturday, the Cardinals were leading the National League in hits, homeruns, RBIs, batting average, runs scored and tied for the league lead in triples.

Simply put, the Cardinals are mashing at the plate so far this season. In fact, the team is on pace to put up offensive numbers far superior to the numbers the World Series champion club did a year ago, even though that team also led the National League in batting average.

That’s not to say people expected the Cardinals to be horrible, but certainly not this good.

Many thought the Cardinals’ pitching staff would have to be incredible for the team to just keep pace this season. Well, it has been great so far. The staff is second in the National League in ERA behind the Washington Nationals.

But the offense has made a strong case that it can carry the team.

Right fielder Carlos Beltran is tied for the National League lead in homeruns and is second in RBIs. Third baseman David Freese is tied for fifth in the league in RBIs. Center fielder Jon Jay is hitting .376. Utility man Matt Carpenter is tied for third in the league in triples. Catcher Yadier Molina is tied for second in doubles and shortstop Rafeal Furcal is tied for the league lead in hits.

Good grief, this team is hitting the tar out of the ball. Even the most optimistic fan had to expect a bit of a drop off from the offensive numbers of the 2011 squad, but the opposite has been true.

What’s also amazing is how the Cardinals have built this offense. Beltran is 35 years old, Furcal is 34 and first baseman Lance Berkman is 36. Granted, Berkman has been sidelined much of the year with a calf injury, but the Cardinals have resurrected these hitters’ careers the way former pitching coach Dave Duncan brought old pitchers back to life to throw for a few productive years.

Beltran, Berkman and Furcal all looked to be at the end of their careers right before they joined the Cardinals.

Berkman joined the team in 2011 after hitting .248 the year before with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. Furcal was hitting .197 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011 before he joined the Cardinals at the trade deadline. Beltran is already more than halfway to his 2011 homerun total of 22 that he hit while playing for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.

What makes these hitters find a reserve tank of energy when they join the Cardinals? Might hitting coach Mark McGwire have something to do with it? In any case, each player has certainly enjoyed his time with the Cardinals, and the franchise has gotten much more than people expected out of these aging stars.

The Cardinals have excellent clubhouse chemistry right now under the leadership of rookie manager Mike Matheny. Just observe the homerun line that forms in the dugout after each homerun.

This team is having fun, and it is winning ballgames. That’s a recipe that could make for quite a ride throughout the rest of this season, especially since it was unexpected.

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Meet the newest Royals, Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois

With catchers Salvador Perez and Manny Pina being out for 2-3 months with knee injuries, the Kansas City Royals made a trade Tuesday, acquiring catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois from the Houston Astros for minor league left-hander Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later. To make room for the newest Royals, the team put Perez and Pina on the 60-day disabled list.

Ever since Perez’s injury, the Royals expressed interest to acquire a catcher outside the organization. There were rumors the Royals invited Ivan Rodriguez to camp, but it ended up being just rumors. Instead, the Royals went the trade route, getting Quintero.

The 32 year-old Quintero is a nine-year major league veteran, playing for the San Deigo Padres from 2003-2004 and with the Houston Astros from 2005-2011. He’s been a career backup catcher, appearing in 379 games. Quintero appeared in 88 games in 2010, the most he’s played in a season.

Quintero’s career line is .234/.268/.321, so the Royals didn’t get him for his hitting. They got him for catching and throwing ability and his major league experience. For now, Quintero expects to play two to four days a week, splitting playing time with Brayan Pena.

It was clear the Royals didn’t see Max Ramirez as a solution, despite his good spring offensive numbers. In fact, Ramirez only started a handful of spring training games as a catcher, so the Royals didn’t have much faith in his catching abilities. Cody Clark doesn’t have major league catching experience and it’s likely the Royals believe Clark would be a better fit for AAA Omaha, where they also need catching help.

There is one concern and hopefully it’s a minor one. This spring, Quintero was out with a bulging disk in his back but returned to action over the weekend. At least it’s not his knee.

As for Bourgeois, the 30 year-old outfielder has four years in the majors, playing for the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Astros. Bourgeois played 192 major league games in his career with a .262/.307/.324 line with 431 plate appearances and 22 RBIs. His speed and versatility are his main assets, with 46 career stolen bases, with 31 of those in 2011. Bourgeois also hits well against left-handers, with a .328 batting average compared to .205 against right-handers.

Bourgeois is not a everyday player, so Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur have little to worry about. But with his versatility of playing all outfield positions and some second base, players like Mitch Meier and Jarrod Dyson have some competition for the reserve outfielder job. Who knows, maybe Manager Ned Yost might have Bourgeois in the second base mix between Johnny Giavotella, Chris Getz and Yuni Betancourt. It is spring training after all.

Probably not. The Royals see Bourgeois as a right-handed reserve outfielder who’s a cross between Meier and Dyson. The odd man out in this situation could be Dyson, who bats from the left side but doesn’t have the versatility of a Bourgeois.

Both Bourgeois and Dyson have options remaining, so it’s likely one of them makes the Opening Day roster and the other one goes to Omaha. If Bourgeois goes to Omaha, he would serve as outfield depth in case someone get injured. If Dyson goes to Omaha, he would get more playing time, perhaps improving his chances of developing into an everyday outfielder. If either player makes the Royals roster, it will be as a reserve outfielder.

The Astros get Chapman, a 24 year-old left-handed relief pitcher who played two seasons with A+ Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas. His career ERA is high at 5.06, and he gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings. But his strikeouts per nine innings is 12.4, so Chapman gets a lot of strikeouts. Chapman projects to be a reliever if he makes it to the majors. And that could be soon, since he’s with the Astros.

The other player the Astros get is our old friend player to be named later. It’s uncertain who it is, but according to Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, this player was a big reason the Astros did the trade. Don’t worry, Royals fans, it’s doubtful the PTBNL are either outfielders Bubba Starling, Wil Myers or pitcher Jake Odorizzi. It better not be, if Dayton Moore wants to keep his job. And if Royals fans want to keep their sanity.

Quintero and Bourgeois are not long-term solutions for the Royals. Quintero was acquired to fill the gap of Perez and Pina being gone for half the season and Bourgeois was acquired to provide outfield depth and perhaps give Dyson and Meier some competition as a reserve outfielder. For now, they fill some holes, if nothing else.

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Quite a week

The last few days have been game-changers for the St. Louis Cardinals and, really, all of baseball.

The Yadier Molina Effect
This week, the Cards signed their all-star catcher to a five year, $75 million extension. It is one of the biggest deals for a catcher in baseball history, and ranks among the top contracts ever given out by the Cardinals. The two sides completed the deal just days after Molina’s agent laid out a familiar refrain that the player would not negotiate once the regular season started. This would have all but guaranteed Molina would test the free agent market after the 2012 season.

The progression of events was becoming strikingly similar to what the Cards went through with Albert Pujols before the 2011 season, so they struck while they still could. Molina anchors the pitching staff and is the de facto on-field manager. He controls the running game like no other catcher in the league. He is a clutch hitter and a leader in the clubhouse. Losing him—especially while the departure of Pujols was still so recent—would have been devastating to the franchise.

But the deal also had a ripple effect across the league. Almost immediately, other pending free agent backstops like Russell Martin and Miguel Montero decided to stop talking with their respective teams about contract extensions. While Molina has virtually no peer defensively, a number of catchers put up better offensive numbers and will likely use the deal given by the Cards as a basis for their demands.

The Cardinals may have slightly overpaid on this deal, but that’s not uncommon when trying to keep a player in his prime off the free agent market. But it’s curious that Molina and his agent would employ the same tactic Pujols’ camp did by setting a deadline for the end of negotiations. Was Molina coached by more than his agent on this move? Was he just imitating his friend’s tactics from the year before? Or is this the new way to entice a club into pulling the trigger sooner on a deal they know they have to make anyway? Time will tell…

Another Wild Card
Also this week, Major League Baseball expanded the postseason by adding an additional Wild Card team to each league. Starting with the 2012 postseason, the two Wild Card teams in each league will play in a one-game elimination playoff with the winner moving on to play the team with the best record in the league. For this year only, the Division Series also has to be altered so the lower-ranked team plays the first two games at home and the higher-ranked team plays the next three at home because of scheduling and travel complications.

Obviously this gives all teams in the majors a better shot at postseason play. And MLB is most definitely also trying to capture more of the drama that is a one-game elimination playoff, which has at times proven to be some of the most exciting baseball of the year.

But is this a watering down of the MLB playoff system? In the last 20 years, the league has more than doubled the number of teams allowed into postseason play. Are they simply trying to manufacture drama at this point?
Once the details of the plans were released, the internet was buzzing with scenarios and “what-ifs” regarding both the past and present. For instance, the drama surrounding Game 162 in 2011 would not have existed if the new rules were in play. Both the Cardinals and Braves would have been in on the last day of the season and preparing for their one game playoff to determine who met the Phillies. The Red Sox and Rays would have been in a similar scenario over in the AL. And as we all know very well, anything can happen in one baseball game.

The flip side, of course, is that the expanded opportunity is a good thing for teams that always seem to be on the cusp but can’t quite break through. The Toronto Blue Jays come to mind. But imagine a playoff bracket with three teams from one division getting in. Seems strange, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s only strange for the teams that still can’t seem to find their way into October.

Because we all know if the Cardinals end up being the second Wild Card team in 2012, this will be the best thing MLB has ever done, right? I think I like their chances even more now…

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King Midas: A Royals Fan

Offense puts them in the seats.  Pitching and defense gets them to come back.  Yes, if you score a lot of runs and have a lot of flashy offensive numbers the fans will surely come and watch your team.  But wins are what fans are looking for and that is what defense achieves.

The 2011 Royals showed vast improvement in their play on the field. Having such a young team will be a test for players who are stilling learning how to play at such a high level. But by all means having those players play a full season could have even a bigger impact in the field this season.

In his first full season in left field, Alex Gordon, proved that a position change may have been exactly what he needed to give his career the spark it needed.  In 1309 innings, Gordon had 20 outfield assists with only three errors, earning him a Gold Glove. Not only that, the outfield for the 2011 Royals as a whole racked up 51 total assists. Of those 51, 13 came from now San Francisco Giant, Melky Cabrera. So Lorenzo Cain has some shoes to fill in the monstrous outfield inside of Kauffman Stadium.

Now for the guys on the dirt.  First basemen, Eric Hosmer, showed not only last year that he can hit but that he as skills with the leather as well.  With such a young infield, Hosmer was able to save some of his compatriots a few errors of some wild throws.  Something that he will have to continue to accomplish throughout his career.

One of those young guns on the diamond is Alcides Escobar.  He proved to everyone last season why the Royals front office wanted him when they traded away pitching ace Zack Greinke in the winter of 2010.  He was everything defensively that Royals fans heard about.  Making stellar plays throughout the 2011 season as a whole.

The other two players in the field more than likely being, Mike Moustakas at third base and Johnny Giovotella at second base, need to be consistent defensively and not make many mistakes.

Behind the plate, Salvador Perez will not only need to continue to throw out runners attempting to steal bases but also become the defensive leader on the team.  With his ability to play the position and call games Perez will set the tone for the team in the 2012 season.

So who will take the Gold Glove bragging rights from Alex Gordon this season? Or will King Midas touch of few of the young players on the 2012 roster?

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The Jonathans And Jose Come Lately, The New Kids In Town

For 2012, there’s great expectations for the Kansas City Royals. So far, the Royals haven’t made a big splash in the free agent or trade market, but they did acquire pitchers Jonathan Sanchez, Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares this offseason. Let’s take a look at Sanchez, Broxton and Mijares, the new kids in town.

Jonathan Sanchez: The 29 year-old left-handed starting pitcher spent his career with the San Francisco Giants before being traded to the Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera. The Royals also acquired Minor League starter Ryan Verdugo.

I remember watching the Kansas City media interviewing Sanchez when he visited Kauffman Stadium. Wearing black, he appeared to have the demeanor of a man forced to kiss a porcupine wearing a Royals jersey.

If I were Sanchez, I’d be glad I’m not fighting the porcupine for a starting pitching job. Sanchez had a disappointing 2011, missing playing time recovering from a sprained ankle and biceps tendinitis. Sanchez’s career 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings are good, but a career 4.8 walks per nine innings aren’t as good. Giving up a lot of walks means issues with control. If Sanchez stayed with the Giants, he would battle Barry Zito for the fifth starter job.

Sanchez will get $5.2 million in 2012 and be eligible for free agency at the end of the season. If the Giants thought Sanchez was a fifth starter and the Royals have plenty of fourth and fifth starters, why did they trade for Sanchez? The Royals needed starting pitching and the Giants needed offense. Cabrera’s 2011 offensive numbers made him a good trade chip, which got Sanchez and Verdugo. Sanchez had a down year in 2011, but if he cuts down his walks, he could move to the top of the rotation and help the Royals contend in 2012.

 

Jonathan Broxton: When I watched a video clip of Broxton at his introductory press conference, I thought the Royals signed Bigmouth, the giant from the Smurfs cartoon. Well, at least their hairstyles are similar. And there’s a rumor from Brainy Smurf that Bigmouth has a wicked curveball.

But the Royals signed Broxton, a 27 year-old right-hander who spent his career as a reliever and closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. From 2006 to 2009, Broxton was one of the top relief pitchers in baseball with a 2.79 ERA, 11.8 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings. The 2010 campaign wasn’t bad, with a 4.04 ERA, 10.5 strikeouts and 4 walks per nine innings. But In 2011, elbow injuries limited Broxton to 14 games. While he was on the mound, his ERA ballooned to 5.68 and his strikeouts per nine innings went down to 7.1 and his walks went up to 6.4 per nine innings. Last September, Broxton had arthroscopic elbow surgery and recently started an off-season throwing program. He should be ready to go by spring training.

Why did the Royals sign Broxton to a one-year, $4 million deal when they have a young, inexpensive and solid bullpen anchored by All-Star closer Jokaim Soria? With a weaker crop of free agent starting pitchers this offseason and the Royals reluctance to give up top prospects for starting pitching, the team focused strengthening their bullpen. A good bullpen can hold leads or at least minimize runs so the offense has a chance to score runs in the late innings. The addition of Broxton also gives 2011 relievers Aaron Crow and Everett Teaford an opportunity to win a spot in the starting rotation. Like Sanchez, if Broxton can bounce back from his 2011 season, he can help the Royals in 2012.

Jose Mijares: The Minnesota Twins non-tendered the 27 year-old lefty reliever in December, and the Royals signed Mijares to a one-year Major League contract for $925K.

Over his four year Major League career with the Twins, Mijares has a career 3.16 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts and 3.6 walks per nine innings. His career platoon splits tell a more complete story, with right-handed batters having a .268/.353/423 line and left-handed hitters having a .212/276/.331 line. Over his Major League career, Mijares gave up 85 hits and 41 walks against right-handed batters compared to 55 hits and 21 walks against left-handed batters. Since Mijares is more effective against left-handed batters, The Royals plan to use him as a left-handed specialist, giving Royals manager Ned Yost more lefty-lefty matchups in late inning situations.

In the past, Mijares had attitude problems and the Twins were concerned with his conditioning. At 6’0″ and 230 pounds, he is what some would call hefty. But the Royals want Mijares to get left-handed batters out, not steal bases or patrol the outfield, so his size shouldn’t be an issue. As for Mijares’ attitude, maybe the 6’4″ 300 pound Broxton will threaten to sit on him if he starts misbehaving.

All three players have one year commitments and they’re unlikely to be with the Royals in 2013. If Jonathan Sanchez and Jonathan Broxton bounce back from their disappointing 2011 campaigns, they give the Royals a chance to contend in the AL Central. If lefty specialist Jose Mijares gets crucial outs in late inning situations, the Royals could win more games. The Royals hope these new kids in town will contribute in 2012 and get the team to 2013, when more of their vaunted prospects are in the Major Leagues.

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