Tag:Ryan Braun
Posted on: September 23, 2011 10:19 am
 

Pepper: Kemp is NL's most valuable

Matt Kemp

By C. Trent Rosecrans

They were wearing KEMVP shirts in Los Angeles on Thursday night -- and it's hard to argue with them.

In a season where there was little to cheer for at Chavez Ravine, Kemp's amazing 2011 season was something that never seemed to disappoint. And in the last home game of the season on Thursday, Kemp did nothing to disappoint -- with his mother in the stands, Kemp went 4 for 5 with three doubles and his 36th home run of the season.

And don't look now, but Kemp still has a shot at the triple crown -- he leads the league with 118 RBI, five ahead of Ryan Howard, he's just one homer behind Albert Pujols and he's third in batting average at .326, trailing Ryan Braun (.330) and Jose Reyes (.329).

He's also fourth in on-base percentage (.403), second in slugging (.582) and first in OPS (.985).  He also leads in total bases (335), runs (109), second in stolen bases (40) and second in hits (188).

If you like more advanced stats, according to Baseball-Reference.com, he leads in WAR (9.6) and OPS+ (171).

You may say his team stunk and he doesn't deserve the MVP -- but doesn't that make what he did more valuable? As bad as the Dodgers' season has been, they're still above .500 at 78-77 after last night's victory over the Giants. Andre Ethier had a nice run earlier in the season, but he's hardly been in the MVP discussion along with Kemp, while Braun has had Prince Fielder and Pujols has Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. Jose Reyes' team has a worse record and Justin Upton can't match his stats. Kemp's not only the best player in the National League, he's also the most valuable.

Historic collapse: No, I'm not talking about the Red Sox or Braves -- it's the Pirates. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with a little help from the folks at Elias Sports Bureau, writes that in the modern age of Major League Baseball (otherwise known as "since 1900"), no team  has fared worse after being in first place at the 100-game marker. The Pirates have gone 16-40 since holding first place at 53-47 on July 25. The Pirates' .286 is by far the worst, with the 1977 Cubs coming second. That team was 60-40 through 100 games and then went 21-41 the rest of the way. You never want to be better than the Cubs at being bad.

Like his stature, Timmy likes his deals short: San Francisco's Tim Lincecum tells the San Francisco Chronicle  that he doesn't want to sign a long-term deal that would buy out his future free-agent years. Lincecum is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

Master storyteller: One of the great joys of this job is to meet some of the great personalities in this game. With broadcasters, most of their best stories come off the air -- and nobody has more and better stories than Vin Scully. Check out this story about Scully and Don Zimmer. [Los Angeles Times]

See you in San Jose?: Could the A's be the biggest beneficiary of the change in Giants ownership? They could be, and Mark Purdy, who broke the initial story, explains. [San Jose Mercury News]

Ichiro not ichi?: Ichiro Suzuki will likely have his streak of 10 years with at least 200 hits broken this week, and next year he may not be leading off. Mariners manager Eric Wedge is not committing to Ichiro batting in his customary leadoff spot next season. [Seattle Times]

Runs in the family: Raul Lopez, the father of the guy who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, got a souvenir of his own on Wednesday. [New York Times]

Ax mustache spray: Brewers closer John Axford made this fake commercial. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

How about the American League MVP?: Forget Curtis Granderson on Adrian Gonzalez or Justin Verlander, Robinson Cano says that if he had a vote, he'd vote himself. He doesn't. [ESPN New York]

MVP improves: Last year's NL MVP, Joey Votto, says he did "more with less" this season than he did in 2010 when he won the league's MVP. Looking at his numbers -- and the absence of Scott Rolen in the lineup -- it's tough to disagree. If I had any quibble is it'd be that he did about the same with less. Either way, Votto was impressive and has established himself as one of the game's best. [MLB.com]

Oswalt not done: Although the 33-year-old Roy Oswalt had hinted at his retirement, his agent now says he's not considering hanging them up after this season. It may have something to do with Oswalt looking around at the weak free agent pitching market and seeing he'll get paid. [MLB.com

Porter interviewing again: If the Marlins were dating, they'd just about have to put out for Bo Porter by now. The Nationals' first-base coach is scheduled to interview for the Marlins' manager job soon, the Washington Post reports. Porter interviewed midseason last season when the team fired Fredi Gonzalez and then again after the season. Porter is among the candidates to take over in Washington, too, MLB.com reports

NL dreaming: White Sox starter Mark Buehrle says he's intrigued by the thought of pitching in a new league. Buehrle lives near St. Louis and has mentioned that he'd like to pitch for the Cardinals. Add him to Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia and you'd have a pretty good rotation. Of course, the Cardinals do have other financial concerns this offseason. How about Cincinnati? It's a little longer drive to his home, but the Reds rotation could certainly use the veteran. [MLB.com]

Celebrate good times: The Astros announced their plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary season in 2012 with six different throwback uniforms they'll use next season -- including the famous rainbow jersey, one of the best in the history of the game. [MLB.com]

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Posted on: September 17, 2011 1:54 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Aviles makes his first homer count

Mike Aviles

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Mike Aviles, Red Sox: Starting in place of the hobbled Kevin Youkilis, Avilies was nearly the goat when his sacrifice attempt in the second inning resulted in a double play. He made up for it in the fourth inning with his first homer in a Red Sox uniform, giving Boston a 4-3 lead -- one they'd hold on to for the big win against the surging Rays. Aviles had just three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 70 plate appearances since his trade from Kansas City on July 29 before hitting the game-winning homer.

Ryan Braun, Brewers: With two homers on Friday in Cincinnati, Braun became the second Brewer in franchise history to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season. His 29th homer of the season came in the third inning off of Bronson Arroyo (more on that later) and he hit his 30th off of reliever Jeremy Horst in the eighth inning. He entered the game with 31 stolen bases. Tommy Harper hit 31 homers and stole 38 bases for the Brewers in 1970, the team's first season in Milwaukee.

Adron Chambers, Cardinals: In just his second career plate appearance, the Cardinals outfielder singled in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning to help lead the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory. Chambers had an excellent at-bat, fouling off three pitches before lining the ball into right off Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer


Bronson Arroyo, Reds: Prince Fielder's solo shot in the second inning was the 41st homer given up by the Reds starter this season, a new franchise record. The old record was set by left-hander Eric Milton in 2005. But the record wouldn't stay at 41 long, Mark Kotsay and Ryan Braun went back-to-back in the third and George Kottaras homered in the seventh to increase Arroyo's total to 44. Arroyo easily leads the majors in homers allowed this season -- the Rangers' Colby Lewis is second with 33 and Houston's Brett Myers has allowed 31. Only four pitchers in history have allowed more than Arroyo's 44 homers, Bert Blyleven (50, 1986), Jose Lima (48, 2000), Blyleven (46, 1987), Robin Roberts (46, 1956).  Jamie Moyer also allowed 44 in 2004. With two more possible starts, Arroyo could challenge Blyleven's record. Interestingly enough, he's allowed the same number of walks as homers this season. The only pitcher in history to allow more homers than walks (with more than 40 walks) was Roberts in 1956 when he walked just 40 batters.

Derek Lowe, Braves: With Jair Jurrjens unavailable for the first round of the playoffs and Tommy Hanson questionable, if the Braves hang on to win the wild card, they'll need Derek Lowe in the NLDS. Lowe's hardly inspiring confidence right now, allowing six runs on nine hits in just 2 1/3 innings against the same Mets team that had their manager bash them the day before. Lowe, 38, is 0-3 with a 10.15 ERA in August. Rookie Julio Teheran gave up four runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings after relieving Lowe.

Ian Kinsler, Rangers: With two outs and two on in the third, the Rangers second baseman charged a chopper by Dustin Ackley and tried to get rid of the ball quickly to end the inning, but his throw from about 40 feet went well wide of first, allowing the Mariners' first run of the game to score. Pitcher C.J. Wilson didn't help himself, either when his wild pitch allowed another run to score. The Rangers then got a bad break when Mike Carp hit a ball off the bag at second to score yet another run in the three-run third. All three runs in the inning were unearned, and Wilson needed 41 pitches to get through the inning -- 18 following Kinsler's error. Kinsler did record one of the four hits the Rangers managed off of starter Blake Beavans.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 9:02 am
 

Fielder: 'Probably last year' in Milwaukee

Fielder

By Evan Brunell

Prince Fielder admits that 2011 is "probably the last year" in Milwaukee to TBS in a feature for the playoffs according to SI.com, sparking a controversy just before the postseason that the team doesn't need.

"I'm signed for this year, but being real about it, it is probably the last year," Fielder admitted to announcer Brian Anderson. "It's been great [to play with Ryan Braun], unfortunately, this is probably the last year of the one-two punch... But I think it's been good, [five] years, him and me. Hopefully, we can go out with a blast."

There's no question Fielder knows what he's doing with the bat: 222 home runs from 2006 to date speaks to that, as well as a powerful .294/.407/.543 line on the season with 32 home runs and 109 RBI in a league-leading 149 games. But he doesn't know what he's doing if he thought it was a good idea to candidly address his prospects of staying in Milwaukee, especially as the Brew Crew wraps up a successful season and heads into the playoffs with the NL Central crown.

While Fielder is only saying what many have guessed at for a while, he doesn't need to be packing his house up before his tenure with the Brewers is done. The team needs to focus on October, not on what happens after October. It's not Fielder's fault that he was posed the question -- one he's been asked all season -- but did he really need to answer candidly at this point? It's only going to take the focus of the team off of the postseason and onto Fielder.

"This game we play is a job, it's a profession," Braun, who now has to deal with the story, told Anderson. "Sometimes I think we lose sight of that which is a good thing. But there's always a business side. Everybody has to do what is in their best interest. The best interest of their family. Guys earn a right to become free agents. You never know what's going to happen when you get there. But for him, I couldn't see why every team in baseball wouldn't want him on their team. Certainly, he will get some huge offers in the offseason. So for us right now, we are just trying to enjoy while we're together, enjoy the fact that he's still a member of the Milwaukee Brewers and accomplish as much as we can this year."

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:46 am
 

Pepper: Writing on wall for Guillen



By Matt Snyder


Is there any question this is Ozzie Guillen's last season as the White Sox manager? I'd say no.

The latest report is that Guillen emailed White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf two weeks ago and texted general manager Kenny Williams Tuesday morning. He received replies from neither (Chicago Sun-Times). Granted, I've never been a major-league manager (I'm willing to give it a shot, if any GMs are interested), but I'm gonna go ahead and guess that being ignored when trying to correspond with your bosses is a pretty bad sign.

Remember, in recent weeks Guillen said he wanted to stay in Chicago, but not without a contract extension. And there was a report that indicated the relationship between Guillen and Williams had been irreparably damaged.

Guillen said he's ready for anything.

‘‘My family is ready for everything,’’ he said Tuesday (Chicago Sun-Times). ‘‘It’s like when a hurricane is coming and they say, ‘Hey, it’s Venezuela now, and it’s going to be in Miami in seven days.’ We pack everything, we have everything set up, for good or for bad.’’

The two cities he used in his example aren't just gathered at random. Venezuela is his home country. He also owns a home in Miami, but ... what else is there? Why, the Marlins, of course. A team Guillen helped coach to the 2003 World Series championship before being hired by the White Sox as manager. It's also a ballclub that is said to covet Guillen and is looking for a new manager this offseason before moving into a nice, new home.

It makes too much sense, doesn't it?

Tempers (kind of) flare in L.A.: So Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo threw an errant (and it appeared accidental) pitch near the head of Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra. And then Parra hit a home run and took his sweet old time starting his home run trot. And then Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said a few words as Parra crossed the plate -- he looked more annoyed than angry, for whatever it's worth. A few Dodgers and Parra yelled back and forth while it appeared D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said a few things, too, but then benches were warned and nothing else happened. I have to say, I'm with Ellis on this. I was watching live and sitting here thinking that it's just lame. Enough with the posturing. Play baseball.

Exit strategy? Potential new Astros owner Jim Crane has yet to be approved, even though it should have happened back in August. The approval process has been continually delayed and there are two separate camps of reports as to what the holdup is. One side says that Crane needs to accept a move to the American League West -- which would clear the way for season-long interleague play and likely an additional playoff team -- and the other says that this is not the specific holdup. Biz of Baseball wonders if Crane is just seeking a way out without being turned away by the MLB due to character concerns that have been raised during the approval process. In other words, if he backs out and uses not wanting to move to the AL as his reason, he was never turned down and saves face.

Braun accountable, even in victory: "Tonight was not a pretty game ... We didn't play well ... I think I probably played my worst 10 innings of baseball of the year ... I don't think we really deserved to win ... we really didn't play a good basball game." Those quotes are all cherry-picked from Ryan Braun's post-game comments (Brewers Blog). Oh, by the way, Braun hit a walk-off home run to win the game in the 11th. And in the parts of the above quotes I removed, Braun was saying to give all the credit to the pitching staff for keeping them in the game (the final score was 2-1). We're big fans of accountability here, so major points to Braun for not forgetting the rest of the game just because the team pulled out a victory. He could have easily only focused on being the hero in the 11th, instead he owned up to playing poorly for most of the night and instead wanted the pitchers to be viewed as the heroes of the game. That's an MVP teammate. While we're here, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller has a great feature on the Brewers. Check it out.

Great day for stat-heads: SeamHeads.com has now finished work on a Negro League database, so you can search for stats from players like Oscar Charleston, who by many accounts was one of the best players to ever play the game -- he just never had a chance to do so on the big stage due to unfortunate bigotry.

Mauer understands backlash: Joe Mauer has made quite a few commercials in the past few years and he has received some criticism over them during this season -- easily the worst of his career. He said that he understands this and he's not going to take on any more commercials for the time being (StarTribune.com).

Some "Moneyball" reviews: Here's a glowing review of the upcoming movie ... and here's a not-so-great review (he does say it's entertaining, just questions the direction taken). While I greatly respect the work of both writers, I don't really care what anyone says. I'm seeing it. If I don't like it, that's on me. 

St. Louis North? The Chicago Sun-Times floats a rumor that has the Cubs landing Reds' general manager Walt Jocketty -- who used to be the Cardinals' GM -- and then bringing Tony La Russa to manage the Cubs ... and then signing free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. Of course, the report only said "could" and mentioned it was a scenario floated only on the Cubs' end, not mentioning whether or not all three parties would be interested in this. I personally think I have a better shot at winning the lottery than this happening.

No surgery for Dickey: Mets starting pitcher R.J. Dickey has suffered from a partially torn plantar fascia most of the season, but it has subsided enough that he won't need surgery this offseason. (MLB.com)

Happy Anniversary: On this day 25 years ago, Bo Jackson launched his first career home run ... all 475 feet of it. Also, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg made his major-league debut 81 years ago and on this day in 2008, Carlos Zambrano threw his only career no-hitter. If you'll recall, it was a game in Milwaukee against the Houston Astros, as a hurricane moved the series. (Hardball Times)

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:17 pm
 

How blockbusters explain Manager of the Year

Kirk Gibson

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated came up with what he calls the "Movie Plus-Minus" -- it's a stat he uses to rank movies. It's simply this: how much he expected to like a movie versus how much he actually liked a movie. It's how a good movie can still be seen as bad, because expectations were too high -- or how a bad movie can actually be good. Anyway it's all about the expectations in judging the experience, if you don't expect much and it turns out to be good you have a more favorable impression than maybe a movie that you expect to be pretty good and turns out to be about what you expected, even if that movie is much better in a vacuum.

That's exactly how it seems that the Manager of the Year Award in baseball is awarded. Manager of the Year is usually an easy formula:

(Wins) - (Expected wins) = MoY total.

The highest number of MoY gives you the hardware.

Last year nobody expected anything out of the San Diego Padres, yet they nearly won their division. So little was expected that it didn't even matter that the Giants won the division or the Padres piddled away a lead at the end, they were in it and that was enough for the voters to make Bud Black the winner. In the American League, Terry Francona may have done his best managing in 2010, but because he finished third and the Red Sox are expected to make the playoffs every year, he finished fourth in the voting with no first-place votes. Instead it was Ron Gardenhire, followed by Ron Washington and Joe Maddon.

The likely winner in the National League this year? Well, that's easy. Kirk Gibson is going to be the overwhelming, perhaps unanimous, winner because nobody expected the Diamondbacks to contend, and here they are. Manny Acta and Maddon, whose teams were picked to make the playoffs by just about nobody, are frontrunners for this year's award in the American League.

So which managers scored high on the Movie Plus-Minus? Let's look at this summer's blockbusters and who their managerial equivalents:

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson as Rise of the Planet of the Apes: In April, it sounded ridiculous -- another Plaent of the Apes reboot? Didn't anyone see Tim Burton's attempt? This was a bad idea. A horrible idea. And that's what it looked like in Arizona, where the team started the season with Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright in the rotation. How about Russell Branyan and Melvin Mora. Geoff Blum? But like Gibson, Apes director Rupert Wyatt made all the right moves, making the ridiculous exciting and harnessing the energy and genius of his enigmatic star (James Franco and Justin Upton). While it may not be the best movie or take home either an Oscar or a World Series title, it certainly had the highest Movie Plus-Minus and Gibson will take home some hardware, even if his team doesn't.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke as X-Men: First Class: The franchise has had its hits, but stumbled in its last outing (X-Men: The Last Stand and 2010). Back with a new focus (the origin story for the movie and pitching for the Brewers), the movie not only lived up to tempered expectations, it exceeded them -- just like the Brewers. A thoroughly enjoyable season for the Brewers and a fun movie, both will be punished because there were decent expectations for the movie and the season, even if they delivered the goods. As a bonus, you can also use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to link X-Men First Class and Roenicke -- Roenicke manages Ryan Braun, who was in one of the world's worst commercials with Marissa Miller, who was on Entourage with Kevin Connolly, who was in Beyond All Boundaries with Bacon, the bad guy in X-Men: First Class.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as Green Lantern: Neither ended up being being good, but compared to expectations, it was an Oscar and a World Series. If you weren't scared off by the words "Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan", you certainly were when you heard about the CGI suit. Expectations were incredibly low, just as they were in Pittsburgh (and after 18 losing seasons, why not?). That said, there were some bright spots -- the suit wasn't anywhere near as bad as expected and there was a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to superhero cliches in the movie, while Andrew McCutchen is a superhero himself. Both had a  decent quick start, but in the end, both suffered as time went on and some concepts (a ring given to some dude by an alien, or Kevin Correia as an All-Star), proved too ridiculous for anyone to fully get behind the movie -- or the Pirates. In the end, though, you'll remember it as "not that bad" even if the Pirates do record their 19th consecutive losing season, but Hurdle will likely have a positive MoY score.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi as Super 8: You figured it would be good -- it was from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, there was plenty of money behind it. Expectations are always high for the Yankees and neither Spielberg nor Abrams are strangers to hype. A solid leading man (Kyle Chandler, Derek Jeter) and surprising performances from others thrust into lead roles (the kids in the movie and the not-quite-kids like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the Yankees' rotation), made it a great summer. While some expectations can never be met, the Yankees and Super 8 got the job done. Of course, rarely are awards given for merely meeting expectations.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Everyone knew the story coming in -- Harry would defeat Voldemort and the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would prove as unbeatable as the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and Cloak of Invisibility. It was great fun to watch, but the source material was handed to director David Yates by J.K. Rowling, just as Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick gave Manuel this pitching and roster. Dismissed as just a press-button manager or director, the film succeeded, but those charged with doing so will have their role in making it so diminished because the perception is that it would be difficult to screw up the hand that was dealt.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy as Cowboys and Aliens: An excellent cast, a director with a good track record, beloved source material and, well, in the end it wasn't a hit.

Astros manager Brad Mills as The Smurfs: You expected it to be bad, but maybe not this bad.

Now, it'll just be interesting to see if Moneyball lives up to Art Howe's managing.

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Posted on: September 8, 2011 7:35 pm
 

Rain could cost Kemp HR, RBI titles

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The second game of Thursday's doubleheader in Washington has been postponed -- well, actually canceled. The game will only be made up if it's necessary, and it won't be.

The Nationals, 26.5 games behind the Phillies in the National League East and are already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The Dodgers are 70-72, 11.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West, but still have an elimination number of 9, so they still have a chance, but not a great one.

So what does it matter if the Dodgers and Nationals play 161 games instead of 162? Not much to either team, but it could mean something to Matt Kemp. The Dodgers' center fielder probably won't win the triple crown -- his 1-for-5 performance earlier on Thursday dropped his average to .318, well below Jose Reyes (.336 after a pinch-hit single in Game 1 against Atlanta on Thursday) and Ryan Braun (.332 before Thursday's game), but still good for third in the race for the batting title. Even without the batting title, he's still very much in the race for the home run and RBI titles. Kemp has 32 homers, tied for third in the National League. He's two homers behind Albert Pujols and one behind second-place Dan Uggla. His 107 RBI is third in the league, just one behind Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. While the average could benefit from one less game, it's the counting stats that hurt -- at this time of the year and with margins as close as they are in those two races, the rain on the East Coast this week could cost Kemp one of the only titles the Dodgers have a shot at winning.

If Kemp finishes a homer shy of the title or an RBI short, tonight may have been the difference. 

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Posted on: September 7, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 1:06 am
 

Sizing up the NL MVP contenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Tonight: the NL MVP.

Lacking perhaps the sizzle or controversy of the American League MVP race, the National League MVP race could be just as interesting. While there's plenty of buzz in the AL about whether a pitcher should win the MVP, the NL question of the MVP status quo may be about a member of a losing team taking the game's top honor. While the contending teams have some worthy candidates, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, the Reds' Joey Votto and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen all have compelling arguments to be included even if their teams are well out of the race.

In alphabetical order, here are the 10 candidates that figure to appear on many of ballots:

Ryan Braun, Brewers: Braun leads the league in batting average (.335), slugging percentage (.595), OPS (.999) and runs scored (96), he's also in the top five in RBI (95) and top ten in homers (27) -- and he's doing it for a team that will be headed to the playoffs. Last season Joey Votto beat Albert Pujols convincingly on the MVP ballots (31 first-place votes out of 32), if not so convincingly on the stat sheet. The two were close to even in their offensive stats, with Votto's team winning the division title perhaps giving him the edge in the very vague category of "value." The Brewers' record could be Braun's trump card on many ballots.

Roy Halladay, Phillies: Widely considered the best pitcher in the National League, if not baseball, Halladay is having another stellar season with a 16-5 record and a 2.49 ERA. However, the pitcher for MVP argument is being made with Justin Verlander, not Halladay. While Halladay may be the best pitcher in the National League and could appear near the bottom of several ballots (he does lead the NL in pitcher WAR, 6.2 according to Baseball-Reference.com), but it will take a clear-cut best pitcher in the league to win the MVP. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is making a late push for Cy Young with a 17-5 record and 2.45 ERA) and Cliff Lee may be having the best season of any Phillies' starter.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Going into Tuesday night's game, Kemp was third in batting average (.320), tied for second in home runs (32) and third in RBI (106), giving him a shot at becoming the National League's first triple crown winner since Joe Medwick did it in 1937. The knock on Kemp will certainly be his team's 68-72 record and a season in Los Angeles much better remembered for the drama off the field than anything done on it.

Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: At the All-Star break, this would have been a popular pick, but since then, the Pirates have faded and the star around Pittsburgh's center fielder has dimmed. But McCutchen is still having a fabulous year, cementing himself as one of the game's emerging stars. His stats have taken a dip, hitting .269/.372/.464 with 20 homers and 81 RBI to go along with 20 stolen bases. According to FanGraphs.com, he's seventh among position players in WAR, but much of his value comes from his defense. McCutchen won't win the MVP and won't finish in the top five, but he may get some votes based on his all-around game and the Pirates' impressive start.

Albert Pujols, Cardinals: You can't talk National League MVP and not bring up Albert Pujols, can you? Not even this year -- when so many counted him out at the beginning of the year and others thought he'd miss a good chunk of time with a broken bone -- can you leave out the three-time winner. He's bounced back from an awful start to hit .295/.367/.553 and lead the league in homers (34). Pujols won't win, not just because he failed to live up to the expectations he's set for himself, but also because the Cardinals have faded in the seasons last months once again.

Jose Reyes, Mets: Reyes' reward will likely come after the November announcement of the MVP and be in the form of a huge contract. A front-runner for the award for much of the season, hamstring injuries have hampered the Mets' shortstop, limiting him to 105 games. He's fallen behind Braun in the batting title race, but is still putting up a very good .332/.371/.493 line with five homers, 37 RBI and 35 stolen bases. 

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: The Rockies have seriously underachieved, but not Tulowitzki, who is hitting .304/.376/.550 with 29 homers and 100 RBI while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. It seems like a matter of time before Tulowitzki wins an MVP (or two), but it won't be this year. Colorado's collapse was too great and while his offensive numbers are great, they aren't so much better than any other category that he's going to vault to the top of many ballots. He may be the best all-around player in the game (especially considering his position), but won't be the MVP.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: It looks like the Diamondbacks are going to run away with the NL West and their best (and perhaps only recognizable player) is Upton, the 24-year-old center fielder. Upton is hitting .296/.378/.540 with 27 homers, 82 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He's having a fantastic season and has a very bright future. That said, in what was the most important month of the season and one that saw Arizona take control of the NL West, Upton maybe his worst month of the season, hitting .260/.342/.481.

Shane Victorino, Phillies: Overshadowed by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and even Jayson Werth in previous years, Victorino has been outstanding in 2011. He's hitting .303/.380/.529 with 15 homers and 56 RBI, while scoring 84 runs. He's won three straight Gold Gloves in center field and has been a constant for the Phillies over the years. However, on a team built around its stud pitchers, a position player may get overlooked for MVP. He finished 18th in 2009, but look for a top 10 finish this season as respect grows for one of the game's most unsung stars.

Joey Votto, Reds: Last year's winner won't repeat, but he's again having another great season, hitting .316/.428/.536, leading the National League in on-base percentage and third in OPS. He's also doing it without Scott Rolen's protection behind him. Rolen has been injured much of the season, missing 76 of the team's 141 games and his play suffering in the 65 games he has played. That's allowed pitchers to pitch around Votto, who leads the National League in walks (100) and the majors in Win Probability Added (6.9). His numbers may not quite be where they were a year ago, but he's done nothing to suggest he's not the best first baseman in the league -- and that's some pretty heady competition.

So all in all, who is the best candidate to win the MVP? We'll answer that later in the year, but you can have your say in the comments. 

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Posted on: September 1, 2011 3:12 pm
 

Brewers, Braun able to laugh about fall

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If you missed Ryan Braun's stumble around third in Wednesday night's loss to the Cardinals, make sure you check it out. I'll wait.

Well, there was no chance his teammates were going to let that go without comment, and MLB.com's Jordan Schelling shared these photos on Twitter.

 
 
The tape outlines have been done before, but I love the detail of these with the number -- and the three distinct phases of Braun's stumble around the bases, plus the innovation of using the screen to depict the stumbling part of Braun's fall.

The culprits were pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum along with bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Braun told the newspaper he was able to laugh about the incident, even more so a day later.

"The further I get away from it, the funnier it becomes," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it. There's no reason not to laugh about it. You can't go back and change anything.

"I think if I had been able to get up after the first time I fell, I still would have made it. I had it easy.

"I think I tried to increase my stride. I saw (third base coach) Eddie (Sedar) sending me and I got excited and tried to run faster than I needed to and lost my form. My stride got too long. I felt it coming. Not much you can do at that point." 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com