Tag:Blue Jays
Posted on: September 11, 2011 11:46 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 11:52 am
 

On Deck: Strasmas, McGowan, AL Wild Card race

OD

By Matt Snyder

It's September 11, 2011. Much smarter people than myself have written about today, but things other than baseball should certainly be somewhere in our minds. Ten years ago today was a rough one. Let's be happy for what we have and cherish life. When you do stumble back to baseball for entertainment -- and it's essential for maintaining sanity -- you can follow all the live action on CBSSports.com's scoreboard. For me, though, it feels like baseball takes a back seat to the 10-year anniversary of a day that was so horrible, yet brought us all together as one, big family.

Strasmas ... again: It's Strasmas in D.C. Phenom Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 0.00) will make his second start of the season Sunday for the Nationals, as they host the Astros. He worked five shutout innings Tuesday, allowing just two hits while striking out four. In his major-league career, Strasburg has a 2.71 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 73 innings. Expect him to work somewhere from four to six innings, depending upon how the pitch count falls. Henry Sosa (2-3, 4.11) takes the hill for the Astros, whose next loss will match a franchise-high 97 for the season. Astros at Nationals, 1:35 p.m. ET.

Dustin's Return: Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan hasn't started a game in the majors since July 8, 2008, but he'll give it a go Sunday against the Orioles. He's had several surgeries -- two to his shoulder and one to his knee -- and a long road of rehab back, so it's difficult to not root for him. He allowed three runs in four relief innings earlier this week, but it feels like a clean slate in his start Sunday. Tommy Hunter (3-3, 5.28) takes the hill for the Orioles. Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m. ET.

Sunday's Big Game: If the Rays beat the Red Sox, it will only be a 3 1/2 game lead for the Sox in the AL Wild Card race. And the Rays visit the Red Sox for a four-game series on their upcoming road trip. As if the stakes weren't high enough, two All-Stars take the mound. James Shields (14-10, 2.77) squares off against Jon Lester (15-6, 2.93). Last time the two started in the same game, the result was a 3-1 Red Sox win -- in which Shields only allowed a three-run homer to Jacoby Ellsbury in one of his major-league leading 11 complete games. Rays at Red Sox, 1:40 p.m. ET.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 2:03 pm
 

AL Rookie of the Year race wide open



By Matt Snyder


During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Today: the AL Rookie of the Year.

View contenders for the: AL MVP | NL MVP | AL Cy Young | NL Cy Young

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who get to vote for the Rookie of the Year in either respective league are forced to narrow the field to three players. In looking at the American League rookies in 2011, that's not a simple task. It seems like the three best at the moment haven't been up for long. Others were stellar for a stretch but have also suffered through rough patches. It's a subjective award, so let's throw some names out there.

Here are seven players who have a realistic shot and three more who could have had one -- if they were recalled from the minors earlier (denoted by an asterisk).

*Dustin Ackley, Mariners. One of the future anchors to the Mariners lineup has only been up for 71 games, which likely isn't enough to garner tons of support here. He is hitting .300 with 13 doubles, seven triples and six home runs and an .845 OPS. He scores well in WAR (wins above replacement player), but he probably needed to be overly spectacular to win the award with what will be just over a half season.

J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays. Big power (21 home runs) at a tough defensive position is a plus. It would be awfully difficult to overcome the .221 batting average and .281 on-base percentage to win the award in a crowded field, though.

Jeremy Hellickson, Rays. It feels like he'll have a good shot, depending on how the rest of the season goes. Hellickson is currently 12-10 with a 2.90 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He also has two complete games and is averaging 6 2/3 innings per start. It's been a very solid rookie campaign, even if not spectacular.

Eric Hosmer, Royals. The 21-year-old first baseman has been very good since getting his call in May. He's hitting .285/.335/.458 with 16 home runs, 66 RBI, 55 runs and nine stolen bases. Like Hellickson, though, Hosmer's been more steady than spectacular. The next two guys have been spectacular, but only for a short time ...

*Desmond Jennings, Rays. He's only been up for 44 games, but he's hitting .302 with nine home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .936 OPS. He also passes the eye test, as he comes through in the clutch and has made a few highlight-reel defensive plays. The talent is immense, but the service time probably keeps him off most ballots.

*Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays. In just 32 games, Lawrie is hitting .324 with eight homers, 21 RBI, 19 runs, six steals and a 1.076 OPS. He also has a few clutch home runs (see the picture to the right) and plays the game with a youthful enthusiasm (again, see right). Had he not broken his hand on a hit-by-pitch earlier this summer in the minors, a promotion was likely to come earlier and he'd probably have a real shot at the award, Instead, he's going to have enough service time to qualify as a rookie, yet probably not near enough to gather many, if any, votes.

Ivan Nova, Yankees. Do you like win-loss record in judging pitchers? If so, Nova's your guy here in a no-brainer. He entered Thursday 15-4 for the first-place Yankees. If you don't love win-loss record, he probably doesn't win the award. He has a 3.89 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with a low strikeout rate (again, these numbers are prior to Thursday's start).

Michael Pineda, Mariners. The gargantuan starting pitcher was the easy favorite to win the award at the All-Star break. He was 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 113 strikeouts in 113 innings at the time. Since then, he's 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA. Still, did he do enough to hold on? His full season numbers: 9-9, 3.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 163 strikeouts in 159 innings. It will be interesting to see how the early stretch of dominance (6-2, 2.16 ERA through nine starts) plays in the minds of the voters.

Mark Trumbo, Angels. His power numbers look great -- 26 homers, 80 RBI, 28 doubles -- and he's playing in a pennant race. He's also had the job since opening day and has admirably filled in at first for injured Kendrys Morales. Trumbo also had some clutch moments of his own. Do the average (.256), on-base percentage (.295) and strikeout-to-walk (102 to 24) rates hurt him? We'll see.

Jordan Walden, Angels. The 23-year-old closer made the All-Star team, but he's faltered in several rough stretches. What looks good: 29 saves, 2.55 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 59 strikeouts in 53 innings. What doesn't: Nine blown saves out of 38 chances. That's awfully high. So do the positives outweigh the negatives? There's sure to be some disagreement among voters.

So who is the best candidate? What would be your top three? Let us know below ...

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 11:01 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 11:04 am
 

Pepper: Crane's purchase of Astros in doubt

Crane
By Evan Brunell

Limbo: The saga of Jim Crane as Astros owner continues to take a strange path, and that path may be headed toward a rejection.

BizofBaseball.com outlines the reasons behind why the deal has stalled... and why approval may be a pipe dream at this point. You'll have to click through to get the full breakdown, but the main takeaway is that Crane shares some sobering similarities with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, and we all know how that turned out.

For one, Crane had a contentious divorce himself that ended up in the papers back in 2000, where he reportedly came to blows with his son. Crane's history in court is also checkered, as allegations of racism and war-profiteering are very real concerns, and baseball understandably may not be interested in being affiliated with such a person, especially one whose companies were in federal court 130 times in 15 years.

Current Houston owner Drayton McLane expects a vote to be passed at any minute. But it won't come this week, and might not come at all unless commissioner Bud Selig and all 29 current owners can get on board. But even that might be rendered moot, as Crane is reportedly having a hard time keeping his investment group together, which is large and has investments as low as $25 million committed. Eventually, these investors may tire of having their money tied up in a venture that looks less and less ideal.

Time for a four-man: For a few years now, I've strongly believed that the best rotation would be that of four men plus a fifth starter who could start every now and then. I've blogged on it before, and now Jeff Passan comes out in favor of a four-and-swing rotation, even as teams move to six-man rotations these days. (Yahoo! Sports)

Managers of the year: You know it's September when you start seeing articles on who should win certain awards. Today, two candidates for manager of the year are discussed: The Angels' Mike Scioscia by the Orange County Times while Ron Roenicke of the Brewers gets love from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Return of Strasburg: The return of Stephen Strasburg was highly anticipated, and the phenom delivered Tuesday night with a dazzling performance. Here's a pitch F/X review of the outing. The biggest takeaway? Strasburg is throwing a new changeup. (Fangraphs)

Finally: It took three years, but Dustin McGowan has finally moved past all his injuries, surgeries and rehab. For the first time since July 2008, McGowan pitched in a game when he threw four innings Tuesday night. He wasn't lights out, but that's besides the point. (Toronto Star)

Done in Pittsburgh? Paul Maholm is shut down for the year due to injury, which may bring an end to his Pirates career. The club holds a club option, but it's anyone's guess if the option is exercised. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Venable a Bear: Wil Venable's brother has made the Chicago Bears football team. Winston was an undrafted free agent, but made the squad on special teams. (North County Times)

Beer me: If you're looking for a good beer, give AT&T Park in San Francisco a try, a destination that received a glowing beer review. (Fangraphs)

Montero wants to return: 'Zona catcher Miguel Montero will be in his final year of arbitration next season before becoming a free agent. The backstop has indicated his desire to stay, and the team has reciprocated, with both sides likely to discuss an extension after the season. (Arizona Republic)
 
Team USA
: Brett Jackson won't be called up to the Cubs this season, as he will instead play for Team USA in the Pan American Games. With a solid spring training, Jackson should cement himself as the Cubs' center fielder. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Back in L.A.: Rod Barajas has found a home in Los Angeles and is interested in returning. The Dodgers may disagree, though, and may prefer to go young at the position next year. (Los Angeles Times)

Social day: Speaking of L.A., it's hard to argue against the fact that the Dodgers have taken the biggest step back in public relations this year. As an attempt to reconnect with fans, the team is holding a Social September campaign, a month-long campaign that will give fans the ability to win prizes and interact with the team. (MLB.com)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 6, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Sizing up the AL MVP contenders

Verlander, Bautista

By Evan Brunell

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

The AL MVP race is shaping up to be one of the more interesting races as of late, with compelling cases to be made for several candidates. Increasingly, the MVP race in the junior circuit looks to be one that could bear out a surprise candidate. Without a clear-cut candidate, players will lose votes due to team performance, being a pitcher or seeing teammates stealing votes. This last distinction is important, as the Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers will all boast multiple candidates.

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

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: The presumptive top candidate, Bautista is getting dinged due to Toronto being way out of the postseason race. But since when does one player control the fate of a team that could be in the hunt if it didn't play in the AL East? Bautista leads baseball with 40 homers and is far and away the most productive hitter with a .306/.444/.632 line. Any votes he loses due to playing for Toronto could easily be negated with rivals splitting the vote with teammates, so Bautista remains the most likely victory.

Robinson Cano, Yankees
: Entering play Tuesday, both Cano and Dustin Pedroia had equal production on offense as wOBA suggests (basically OPS, but weighted on an OBP scale and tweaked to account for OPS' weaknesses). Cano checks in at .307/.350/.535, while Pedroia lands at .304/.391/.469 in one less game than Cano. The difference is on defense, where Pedroia has played worthy of a Gold Glove and Cano has slipped back to below average, but fielding isn't considered a major factor in MVP balloting. Both players are deserving, but aren't even considered the best MVP on the team.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
: Voters will be dealing with a lot of AL East fatigue in MVP ballots, which could cause Cabrera to slip up the ballot further than anyone may have otherwise thought. The first baseman will crack 100 RBI before the year is out and should also slide over the 30-homer barrier, which will be enough to make him viable to the voters still adamant about relying on traditional counting metrics. This is a player to watch.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
: Ellsbury has been a wrecking machine all season and may be the most popular candidate on the Red Sox for voters, who will love the five tools Ellsbury brings to the table. Leading off much of the year, the center fielder has contributed a .311/.371/.520 line, swiping 36 bags and hammering 24 homers. If he can get hot down the stretch and toss in a 30/30 season for good measure, his candidacy will be overwhelming and could take home the honors. But will it be enough to cut through the noise of two other Boston contenders?

Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
: Gonzalez leads baseball in batting average with a .339 mark and while his power has suffered with the move to Fenway, 23 homers and 67 extra-base hits is nothing to sneeze at. An August swoon dropped his RBI pace down and no longer leads the league in that respect, but he's still collected 103 on the season. Pair that with fantastic defense as always, and he's another strong candidate. Someone who was considered a lock to win the award before the year and even for the first few months of the season, Gonzalez may fall short thanks to Bautista's overpowering talents and Ellsbury doing it all on the same team.

Alex Gordon, Royals
: Gordon's not going to win the award, but with the MVP balloting going 10 deep, he figures to show up on enough to place on the ballot. He's been the Royals' best hitter by far, with a sneaky .303/.376/.502 line that would get far more play if he played on a better team or in a better media market. Gordon has also taken to left field, leading all outfielders with 20 assists. (Second best: Nick Markakis, 14.) While some of these assists are certainly players taking a risk early on in the season with an unknown entity manning left, it's still to Gordon's credit that he's become a strong fielder. If he keeps up these type of numbers in the coming years, he could have a MVP waiting for him down the line.

Curtis Granderson, Yankees
: Granderson is doing all he can to outslug Bautista with 38 homers and 109 RBI to his name, but where he drops off is in batting average, with his .271 line the lowest among any hitter on this list, and the only one under .300. That's going to hurt Granderson, as well as the presence of Cano as a candidate. And, while not listed here, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira could also steal votes. Mitigating things is Granderson's 24 stolen bases. If you throw fielding out of the equation, Granderson easily clears Ellsbury in terms of offensive value. But when you add in overall game... well, the balloting results should be interesting.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
: As mentioned above, Pedroia has the same offensive value as Cano, but wins it all on fielding. Yet, Pedroia pales in comparison -- at least as far as MVP chatter goes -- to Ellsbury and Gonzalez. Pedroia is the Red Sox at this point and is one of the most indispensable players in the game. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's MVP, and it's hard to look past the gaudy numbers Ellsbury and Gonzalez are putting up in favor of someone who just keeps motoring along. Perhaps in a weak class, he'd stand out.

Justin Verlander, Tigers
: The only pitcher on this list, Verlander has a chance to win it all because when he pitches, the Tigers win. When he doesn't the Tigers... well, they win too, but a lot less to the point where they'd be out of the postseason chase by now. Scott Miller describes his chase as well as anyone could: "Most dominant single individual player in baseball this season. In line to win the first pitching Triple Crown in the AL since Johan Santana in 2006, and he's 14-3 this season after a Detroit loss."

Michael Young, Rangers
: Young will get some love here for two reasons: First, he's not in the AL East. Second, the Rangers are currently poised to win the AL West, although the Angels may have something to say about that. (And even then, there's no clear MVP candidate in Los Angeles.) Plus, Young had that well-publicized spat with the Rangers over the winter, when he was booted to the DH spot, causing the infielder to ask for a trade. It didn't work out, but Young has been immeasurably valuable in his ability to play around the infield and has thrown up a .334/.376/.482 line, driving in 91 games, so he'll top 100. Getting votes as a MVP after the offseason he had would be an interesting story.

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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 5, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 12:49 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Jesus connects twice



By Matt Snyder


Jesus Montero, Yankees. Monday was quite a day for the Yankees' heavily hyped young slugger. The 21 year old hit his first and second career major-league home runs in an 11-10 Yankees' victory. The locals were excited enough that Montero got a curtain call after each homer. Meanwhile the Yankees opened up a 2 1/2 game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East with their fifth consecutive victory.

Doug Fister, Tigers. You think the Tigers don't have a good starting pitcher after Justin Verlander? Think again. Fister dominated the Indians for eight innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run while striking out 13 in a 4-2 win. His ERA is down to 3.17. If you insist on looking at his win-loss record (7-13), at least concede his playing for the Mariners until late July drastically hurt him.

Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays. Neither the Red Sox nor the Blue Jays scored a run through 10 1/2 innings Monday, but the Jays' rookie third baseman came through with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th. He also stole a base earlier in the game as he continues to pretty much do it all for his ballclub. Though it's tough for the Blue Jays to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of payroll in the AL East, an offensive nucleus of Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Lawrie looks pretty damn solid for the next several years.

Also take note of the efforts put forth by James Shields (click here), Cliff Lee (click here) and Zach Stewart (click here), who had big Labor Day outings in their own right.



Andrew Bailey, Athletics. He only faced four hitters in the 10th inning, but it was enough to gather the loss after giving up three hits and being charged with three earned runs while only recording one out in an 11-6 loss.

Padres offense. The Padres managed two runs against the Giants, which wouldn't normally be that bad, but it's a season-long issue that we're going to point out. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner struck out 13 while reliever Santiago Casilla struck out two as the Padres fell 7-2. It marked the 11th time this season the Padres' offense has collectively struck out 13 or more times in a game (Follow the Padres via Twitter). When power is an issue (the Padres rank dead last in the majors in home runs) and speed is a strength (the Padres are first in the majors in stolen bases), it's probably a good idea to put the ball in play as much as possible.

Twins offense. They managed one run on eight hits Monday ... in a doubleheader. The Twins also had two walks and only one extra base hit. They only left nine men on base, which wouldn't be so awful for two games, except for the fact that they only got 10 guys on base. In light of this, the 4-0 and 2-1 losses shouldn't be surprising.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 12:54 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Remember me?



By Matt Snyder


Albert Pujols, Cardinals. So ... about that "disappointing season" ... Thursday, Pujols hit a solo home run in the first inning, a grand slam in the third inning and ended the day 4-4 with five RBI and three runs as the Cardinals trimmed the Brewers lead to 7 1/2 games in the NL Central with an 8-4 win. Pujols is now hitting .292 with a .917 OPS, 90 runs, 84 RBI and an NL-best 34 home runs. You'd be hard pressed to name a handful of players more scary in the batter's box to opposing pitchers, even in the worst season of his career.

Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays. The kid the Jays got in return for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum just keeps hitting. With the score tied at six in the eighth inning Thursday, Lawrie hit a two-run bomb to propel the Blue Jays to victory. On the day, Lawrie was 3-5 with a double, home run, two runs and two RBI. In just 26 games since getting his call to the show, Lawrie has 32 hits, six doubles, four triples, seven home runs, 20 RBI, 15 runs and four stolen bases. He's hitting .340/.392/.713 and he's only 21 years old. Needless to say, the return on Marcum looks like it is going to be quite nice for years to come.

Miguel Batista, Mets. The 40-year-old veteran made his Mets debut Thursday, meaning he's now pitched for 10 different teams. He put together a quality start, working six innings and allowing two earned runs, which was enough to earn the victory. It was the 100th win in his 17-season career (he has 375 relief appearances to 240 starts, so it's not as unproductive as it looks).



The Pittsburgh Pirates. Remember when the Pirates were a whopping seven games over .500? It wasn't that long ago. It was the third week of July. They were in first place in the NL Central. It's buried far in the rearview mirror at this point, though. After being held in check by Dana Eveland for eight innings Thursday, the Pirates are 11-31 since July 19. They're now 18 1/2 games out and are actually in danger of falling into fifth place at some point this month. Pirates fans were tweeting that Thursday's game was "rock bottom" due to Eveland holding the Bucs to one run over eight innings and drawing a walk at the plate, in addition to some awful defense in the seventh inning.

Yankees/Red Sox game pace. The game lasted four hours and 21 minutes. The final score was 4-2. It's taken on a life of its own at this point -- and, as Mr. Teixeira said, it's brutal. It is just amazing how long these Yanks-Sox games take. In the generation of 140 characters and endless Internet and TV options, you wonder about the lasting impact of this with the next few generations -- as these are baseball's two marquee franchises and easily get the most exposure in coverage. I have no problem with either the Yankees or Red Sox, so don't waste your time with those accusations. My bias is pro-baseball long-term. What percentage of teenagers would rather watch baseball for four hours than basketball for two or football for three? They'll be adults with jobs soon. This game pace issue is going to be a problem for our game if things don't change. It's hard enough to sell a 162-game regular season in this day and age. Think about it. We fell in love with this game as kids. The game needs to be sold to kids. Four and a half hour games that end around 11:30 on a school night don't cut it.

Tigers' pitching staff. It was a pretty good team effort to be carved up by the Royals for 11 runs on 17 hits, which included four doubles and two home runs. Starter Jacob Turner and Phil Coke -- who took the loss -- were the worst, but all five of the pitchers in the game were bad. The only one who wasn't charged with a run was Luis Marte, but he only recorded two outs and allowed three baserunners (and two inherited runners to score).

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:36 pm
 

Players of the Month: Avila, Lee



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every year August is the month when some teams pull away in the playoff race and others fade -- it's one of the biggest months of the season, even if it doesn't have the drama of September or the stakes of October. By the time August is done, there are few surprises -- what you see is what you get.

August's Best
Expert Batter Pitcher
Knobler Ortiz Lee
Miller Granderson Lee
Brunell Avila Kershaw
Rosecrans Votto Lee
Snyder Avila Lee
Fantasy Avila Lee

While one surprise team (Pittsburgh) fizzled, another (Arizona) sizzled. The Diamondbacks started August two games back in the NL West and now lead the defending champion Giants by six games. The D-Backs finished August on a nine-game winning streak -- they also had a seven-game winning streak earlier in the month. Kirk Gibson's club did have a six-game losing streak in the past 31 days, but the Giants have struggled all month, allowing some breathing distance for the D-Backs. 

This August has seen Atlanta's Dan Uggla go from a disappointment to, well, Dan Uggla. His hitting streak ended at 33 games, but his average increased from .206 at the end of July to .232 at the end of August. In all, he hit in 22 of 26 August games and went .340/.405/.670 with 10 homers as the Braves solidified their hold on the NL wild-card spot. 

Uggla was one of three players with 10 homers in the month, along with the Yankees' Curtis Granderson and the Rays' Evan Lognoria.

But it's Detroit's Alex Avila who gains the nod as our Batter of the Month.

His value to the Tigers lineup sealed the deal. Avila hit .360 with seven homers, 19 runs, 18 RBI and a 1.169 OPS in the August. Getting that kind of production from anywhere is incredible, but from a catcher it's just gravy. Even better, Avila bounced back from an awful July in which he hit .197 with a .584 OPS. Some may have thought his breakthrough season was coming to an end, but August was his biggest month of the season.

Meanwhile nine different pitchers picked up five wins. Some of the names (Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander) aren't surprising, while some (Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy, Ricky Romero) were young guns making their mark. Another was a pitcher (Hiroki Kuroda) finally getting run support and the last (Bruce Chen) was a total surprise.

But Lee was The Man. He started five games. He won five games. He only allowed two earned runs, which both came in the same game. He averaged nearly eight innings per start, saving the Phillies bullpen some extra work. He struck out nearly a batter per inning while allowing less than one baserunner per inning, meaning he kept the pressure off his defense. Basically, Lee did it all for the Phillies in August, and that's why he snags this Pitcher award for a second consecutive month.

Past players of the month: April | May | June | July


Batter of the Month
Danny Knobler Scott Miller
David Ortiz David Ortiz, Red Sox
Picking a player of the month wasn't easy, but David Ortiz's big two-run home run on Aug. 31 against the Yankees clinched it. Not exactly, but it helped. Even before that, Ortiz had a 1.308 August OPS that was the best by any major-league regular. In a month where no one player really stood out, he was definitely in the mix. And then he homered against the Yankees. So it's him.
Curtis Granderson Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Granderson's August catapulted him squarely into the AL MVP running. I love the symmetry, too: 29 RBI in August, and 29 runs scored. The runs led the majors and ribbies ranked second. Texas' Mike Napoli had a higher OPS (1.094-1.016) and deserves consideration, but if I picked one player to start a team with right now, it's Curtis G.
Evan Brunell C. Trent Rosecrans
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Avila has really come into his own in 2011. In August, he hit .372/.481/.721 with seven homers in 25 games. Did I mention he's a catcher? Avila's grip on the starting spot is so strong, he caught 18 consecutive games at one point during August. "He's been absolutely unbelievable," manager Jim Leyland told  MLive.com. "He's been tremendous. There's no question about it. Pretty impressive. Pretty darn impressive." Indeed.
Joey VottoJoey Votto, Reds 
Votto's August was much like Votto himself -- quiet and excellent. The Reds first baseman hit .347/.483/.716 with nine homers and 19 RBI in August. The Reds aren't in the postseason race, so it's unlikely Votto will get much consideration for MVP, but he may have had a better season than he did a year ago when he won the award.
Matt Snyder Fantasy -- Al Melchior
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Have you seen his average and slugging percentage in the month? That's just sick, especially for a catcher tasked with scouting opposing hitters and working with his pitching staff day in and day out. The young backstop just keeps getting better for the Tigers, who meanwhile keep winning games and appear headed for the postseason.
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Avila wasn't the most productive hitter in Fantasy formats, but he was probably the most productive relative to his position. He lapped the field of catchers, hitting .360 with seven homers and 18 RBI. He also helped owners in formats that reward walks by drawing 19 free passes in his 109 plate appearances. While he didn't have the overall production of Granderson or Carlos Gonzalez, Avila helped his Fantasy owners immensely by providing elite-level production at a thin position.
Pitcher of the Month
Knobler Miller
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
In June, Cliff Lee went 5-0 and allowed just one run. In August, he went 5-0 and allowed two. That means he was slightly better in June than in August. It also means he's had two incredible months, and that he's my pitcher of the month -- again.
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
This is why Philadelphia re-signed this guy. No, not to pitch in August. But to pitch in October LIKE he's pitched in August. Yeah, the 5-0 record in five starts grabs your attention, but that's just the beginning of the dominance. The 0.45 ERA over 39 2/3 innings, the 39 strikeouts against just eight walks, the 0.78 WHIP ... until Wednesday night, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was my guy, but Lee's WHIP and strikeouts/walks ratio even tops Kershaw's (0.95, 39/10).
Brunell Rosecrans
Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw has been bandied about as one of the next great pitchers, but he's great right now, with a 5-1 August catapulting him into the Cy Young Award chase. Don't look now, but Kershaw has a better record (17-5 to 16-5) than Halladay, thrown more innings (198 2/3; 196 2/3) and has a lower ERA, with a 2.45 mark compared to 2.47 on the year. That's thanks to a month in which the lefty hurled 46 1/3 innings, checking in with a 1.55 ERA.
Cliff LeeCliff Lee, Phillies
Only three times in baseball history has a pitcher had two months in one season with five wins, no losses and an ERA under 1.00 -- Walter Johnson in 1913, Bob Gibson in 1968 and Lee in 2011. Lee threw 551 pitches in the month and just one resulted in runs -- a two-run homer by Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt on Aug. 17 in 9-2 Philadelphia victory.

Snyder Fantasy -- Scott White
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
August was the second month this season where Lee's just been lights-out. This time around, he went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in his five starts. His worst outing in the month came when Lee gave up three hits and two earned runs in a win against the first-place D-Backs.
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies 
Lee made five starts in August and allowed zero runs in four of them, accomplishing the feat for the second time in three months. He won each of those five starts, averaging eight innings. He'll have his bouts with inconsistency, as was the case during an uneven July, but when he's on, he's arguably the best pitcher in Fantasy Baseball. He showed it again in August.

Danny Knobler and Scott Miller are Senior MLB Writers; Evan Brunell, C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder are Eye on Baseball Bloggers; Al Melchior is a Fantasy Data Analyst; and Scott White is a Fantasy Writer.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.



Posted on: September 1, 2011 9:42 am
 

Pepper: Plenty of good seats available

Dodger Stadium

By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke went to Wednesday afternoon's Dodgers-Padres game and talked to all six fans in section 314. Six. The announced crowd was 27,767 -- but there were actually fewer than 8,000, Plaschke estimated and may have been the smallest crowd in Dodger Stadium history. 

Every time I've been to Dodger Stadium it's been full and rocking -- this tells you as much as you need to know about how LA fans feel about Frank McCourt.

On the market: But the McCourts did sell one of their two homes near the Playboy Mansion, so there's that. It was the smaller of the two houses in Holmby Hills going for "just" $6.14 million. [Los Angeles Times]

Click here: Really nice work by the Detroit News illustrating just how quickly a Justin Verlander fastball gets on a batter. Check it out.

No sympathy: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is one of his closest friends in the game, but he's not exactly feeling sorry for him -- "No, because I've seen him celebrating a lot with a lot of champagne over his body when I've watch him [over the years]," he told reporters (MLB.com). "Get them next year, Gardy."

Jays scouting Darvish: Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos was in Japan on Wednesday scouting right-hander Yu Darvish. The Rangers and Yankees have also scouted him in person, while the Nationals, Orioles, Red Sox and Rays also have reportedly been interested in Darvish. [Toronto Sun]

Theo happy in Boston: Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein made his first remarks about his name being thrown around in talks about the open Cubs job -- he said he's "really happy to be with the Red Sox." He didn't elaborate much or deny any interest in the Cubs job, but why should he? Leverage is a good thing and there's no reason for Epstein to give that up. [WEEI.com]

Beane leading Cubs' wish list: Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was in San Francisco on Wednesday, while A's general manager Billy Beane was at home in the Bay Area and his team was in Cleveland -- coincidence? [Chicago Sun-Times

Rooftops expected: For the first time in a decade, all the Wrigley rooftops around the Cubs' home park have been inspected by city health officials. [Chicago Tribune]

Measuring power: An interesting article on FanGraphs.com asking the best way to measure power -- because what exactly are we talking about when we talk about power? It's more than just homers, but shouldn't homers count more? Anyway, the result is a stat called wXB -- or weighted extra bases. However, the problem with this is that are triples really a measure of power? You're not going to find anyone who says Dexter Fowler has more power than David Ortiz, but you wouldn't be surprised to learn Fowler has more triples than Ortiz.

Strasmas returns: Not that it's any surprise, but ticket prices have gone through the roof for the Stephen Strasburg's "Strasurrection" start on Sept. 6. [Washington Post]

Cards want to extend Berkman: The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice told a St. Louis radio station that the Cardinals approached Lance Berkman about a contract extension in July and the 35-year-old "very much wants to stay" in St. Louis. However, the fact he didn't sign an extension implies Berkman will at least test the free agent waters. [NBC Sports]

Phillies doomed: The Phillies are a favorite for the World Series this season, but enjoy it now, Phillies fans. Grantland.com's Rany Jazayerli writes that the team isn't built for the long haul, as the team is saddled with bloated contracts and aging players. A really interesting read.

Moose is loose: Royals rookie Mike Moustakas has found his groove. After starting his career hitting .182, he's raised his average to .232 with a 14-game hitting streak. [MLB.com]

Movie time for A's: Several A's say they're curious to see Moneyball when it premiers later this month. [Baseball Prospectus]

Bay to center? Could the Mets move Jason Bay to center field in 2012? That's one of the things the team is considering, even though it seems like it would certainly weaken the team's outfield defense. But hey, the guy is owed a ton of money, so he'd have to be put somewhere. The move would also allow Daniel Murphy's bat to get in the lineup in left, with Lucas Duda in right. Of course, Murphy wasn't able to play left in 2009, so I'm not exactly sure why he would be able to now. [New York Daily News]

Pujols teases fan: A good friend of mine can't stand Albert Pujols -- when 60 Minutes did the feature about all his charitable work, my friend wasn't impressed. He once had a to do a story on Pujols, who blew him off. He went back the next day, and Pujols was a jerk to him again. So I'm guessing he'll like this story about Pujols taunting a Brewer fan. [Big League Stew]

Quentin's return uncertain: White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but he said he's unsure if he'll be ready to play by then. He went on the disabled list for a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder Saturday, but hadn't played since Aug. 20. [Chicago Tribune]

Uehara's option vests: When Rangers reliever Koji Uehara appeared in his 55th game of the season on Wednesday, his $4 million option for 2012 vested. [MLBTradeRumors.com]

More Garfoose: Not to overload you with Dirk Hayhurst stuff, but some might find this interesting -- the recently released pitcher is auctioning off some of his game-used gear for charity. [DirkHayhurst.com]

40th anniversary: On Sept. 1, 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team in Major League history to field an all-minority lineup, with Dock Ellis taking the mound. [The Hardball Times]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com