Tag:AL Central
Posted on: March 20, 2011 3:41 pm
 

Borbon's struggles could open door for Murphy

By Evan Brunell

BorbonA former first round pick, Julio Borbon has received ample opportunities to lock down the Rangers' center field job this spring, as well as collecting 468 plate appearances in 2010.

However, Borbon (pictured) has yet to show any measure of consistency on defense and offense. Last season, Borbon hit .276/.309/.340 and was relegated to the bench for the postseason. His offense was so checkered that outside of two months (April at .917 and September at .677), his OPS was under .600, which is absolutely brutal.

However, Borbon still has the talent to develop into a dynamic leadoff hitter, and Texas went into spring training with the idea that he would claim the center field job and allow the club to push Josh Hamilton to left.

While Borbon has largely delivered on the offensive ledger for spring training with a .348./375/.435 line in 46 at-bats and four stolen bases, he's also tacked on five errors and has looked lost in center.

That could open the door for David Murphy, long the No. 4 outfielder who plays often enough to get a ton of at-bats. The same could happen again this season should Borbon start the year in Triple-A or assume a platoon role. Platooning would likely push Josh Hamilton back to center and slot Murphy into left, although Murphy is hoping to prove his worth in center, where he has rarely played.

"When I have gotten an opportunity to play there in the big leagues, I haven’t played well," Murphy told ESPN Dallas. "That’s just kind of taken my chances away to play there regularly. But obviously, they’re trying to see if I can play out there and I would like to. I need to improve out there. I need to get re-acclimated to the feeling of playing out there and play well when I get a chance."

There's no questioning Murphy's bat, as he's racked up a career .282/.342/.460 line in 1,552 plate appearances and reaching 467 PA last season. Defensively, however, if Murphy can't play center, it will restrict his ability to force his way in the lineup should Borbon receive everyday playing time.

"When you’re in center field, you have to cover ground," Murphy said. "One false step can mean a few feet in range that you might not catch a ball. I think that’s the big thing that I need to work on."

Meanwhile, the Rangers are focused on determining just what Borbon can provide the club.

"He's been up and down," manager Ron Washington told the Dallas News. "He's been doing a lot of good things, mixed with some things that need to be corrected. The down has only been on the defensive side.

"He's made some pretty good defensive plays. He just has to be more consistent. We feel like he can play good defense. We hope he straightens it out pretty soon."

Borbon was unable to corral a ball that turned into a triple off the wall in center field that a speedy center fielder should have tracked, although Washington declined to say whether the catch should have been made or not.

If Borbon doesn't make the roster, Hamilton would almost certainly return to center even if Murphy shows improvement in left field. That would presumably give Endy Chavez a great opportunity to make the club as backup outfielder with no other clear solution on the roster as Craig Gentry -- the only other feasible solution -- has been hobbled by injury.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 7:54 pm
 

Getting to know the White Sox

By Matt Snyder

MVP

Lots of different ways to go here, as the White Sox have a large amount of good players but no real superstars -- at least not yet, as Gordon Beckham and/or Chris Sale could well be in a few years. For now, I'm partial to Adam Dunn. What he's going to do for the rest of the lineup is going to totally elevate the team. In the three-hole, in front of the likes of Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin, he's going to see pitches. But with a career OBP of .381, you can assume he's going to be driven in by those guys quite frequently. And what about the power? Dunn has averaged 40 homers a season for the past seven seasons. He'll now play in the ballpark that ranked as the most homer-friendly in 2010. The durability will be nice as well, since he's played at least 152 games in every season since 2003.

PLAYER ORACLE -- Ed Walsh to Jake Peavy . From the MLB's career leader in ERA (1.82 in 430 appearances) to the White Sox current bulldog.

Ed Walsh played with Jimmy Johnson for the 1911 Chicago White Sox

Jimmy Johnson played with Freddie Fitzsimmons for the 1926 New York Giants

Freddie Fitzsimmons played with Gil Hodges for the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers

Gil Hodges played with Ed Kranepool for the 1963 New York Mets

Ed Kranepool played with Jesse Orosco for the 1979 New York Mets

Jesse Orosco played with Jake Peavy for the 2003 San Diego Padres

POP CULTURE

The easy way out would have been a mention of Eight Men Out -- the movie about the Black Sox scandal. I could have gone with a personal favorite in Jack Parkman, the slugging catcher for the White Sox against the Indians in the ALCS in Major League II. Instead, I just couldn't resist embedding this horrifically awesome "rap" back and forth of Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and then-Cubs manager Lou Piniella. It's so bad it's good.


Rap by bsap11

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 11:21 am
Edited on: March 19, 2011 11:49 am
 

Pepper: Live from my mother's basement!

By Matt Snyder

It just won't go away, this petty little feud.

I speak, of course, of the "old school" baseball people who hate blogging -- yet blog themselves, which is weird -- and despise anyone who dares to disagree with their beliefs, especially when it comes to "newer" statistics (though OBP is hardly new). Check out this really awesome paragraph from Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle :
It won't be long before we get the first wave of nonsense from stat-crazed dunces claiming there's nothing to be learned from a batting average, won-loss record or RBI total. Listen, just go back to bed, OK? Strip down to those fourth-day undies, head downstairs (to "your mother's basement and your mother's computer," as Chipper Jones so aptly describes it) and churn out some more crap. For more than a century, .220 meant something. So did .278, .301, .350, an 18-4 record, or 118 RBIs. Now it all means nothing because a bunch of nonathletes are trying to reinvent the game?
Now, I'm not gonna go nuts. Several people already have across the 'net, though the great Joe Posnanski already took care of the heavy lifting in the most rational post possible -- and came back for a little more .

I'll just add that my personal feeling is that it's always dangerous to side with someone who attacks people for simply disagreeing. I prefer on-base percentage over batting average because not making outs is a much better measure of a good baseball player than disregarding walks and hit-by-pitches and figuring a hit percentage. In fact, I don't understand how it's not obvious -- seriously, a walk doesn't even count in batting average! -- but I'm not about to attack the character of someone who disagrees. If you feel compelled to freak out and use a decade-old joke that makes no sense, maybe you are the one with the problem? Just a thought.

As for the "non-athlete" thing, I have a short anecdote to illustrate my point. I realized I hated batting average as compared to OBP one time when I went 0-1 with three walks and three runs scored -- noticing it was a .000 batting average for the day, yet a pretty damn good day of helping my team win.

And the game wasn't even in my mother's basement. Seriously!

Honestly, though, don't you think guys in a similar situation in the bigs would feel the same way? What about a pitcher who throws a complete game and only allows one unearned run, yet loses 1-0. And he goes home and sees on MLB Network that a pitcher for the Yankees allowed seven earned runs in five innings and got the win because the Bombers' offense went nuts. Judging pitchers on wins and losses would have us believe the latter performed better. Really?

Again, I don't understand how it's not obvious these stats aren't the best ones. If this was elementary school you'd get an F for disagreeing. Maybe I should start making lame jokes in return instead of having an actual, meaningful conversation. Apparently that's the best way to plead your case when it comes to the old school.

MORNEAU AT NIGHT: Justin Morneau played his first night game in a long, long time Friday night, and things went well. "It's just different. For the most part, the stuff has come on later in the day. So I wanted to see, because we usually play night games during the season, I wanted to see where I was at, and I felt pretty good." That "stuff" to which he is referring, in case you've been asleep since last July, would be lingering symptoms from his concussion. (MLB.com )

STOREN STRUGGLES: Second-year pitcher Drew Storen was supposed to be the Nationals' closer this season. He still very well may be eventually, as he has the highest upside of any of the candidates. But he's had a pretty disastrous spring and might be in jeopardy of being optioned to the minors. It's not likely, but possible. (Washington Post )

DON'T DOUBT DAVIS: Doug Davis has worked out for four teams in Arizona and is looking to catch on somewhere (MLB Trade Rumors ). It's uncertain that he'll definitely be able to grab a job in a rotation at some point this year, but I don't plan on wagering against the veteran. He's already kicked cancer's butt.

UBALDO GETS NOD: We've been posting the announcements of opening day starters as stand-alone pieces, but Ubaldo Jimenez as the Rockies' opening day starter is far too obvious. It would have been shocking if he wasn't handed that responsibility. Just a heads-up, don't expect posts on CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay or Felix Hernandez on this subject either. (MLB.com )

ELVIS MUSCLES UP:
Elvis Andrus hit a home run Friday. He hasn't done so in a regular-season game since September 2 ... of 2009. (ESPN Dallas )

FANS HAVE CLOUT?
You always wonder if teams take these sort of things under consideration, but it's incredibly rare -- if not unprecedented -- for a team to admit fan venom played into a move. But the Mets did so with Luis Castillo (ESPN New York ). Manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson both admitted that the Mets' fans' collective hatred of Castillo played a role in the team cutting him.

WESTY'S ROAD BACK: Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland has stared death in the eyes and survived. Now he's on the comeback trail. I won't even attempt to do this lengthy feature justice, instead I'll just say please go read it. It's great stuff. (Boston.com )

RETURN TO DODGERTOWN? The Dodgers' spring training games are not drawing well. In fact, attedance is down 42.3 percent from last season in Camelback Ranch. The average draw per game is barely over half the capacity. (Los Angeles Times )

A QUESTION OF DURABILITY:
Scott Rolen hasn't played more than 140 games since 2006 and not more than 150 since 2003. He's 36. He faltered in a big way in the second half last season. But he's saying all the right things and preaching accountability. (MLB.com )

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 10:40 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/18: Wake and Rake

Wakefield

By Evan Brunell

It's pitching day here at 3 up, 3 down with only Melky Cabrera the non-pitcher to be featured in this lineup. While some hitters had some fine days, the most interesting lines came from pitchers, as we'll find out...

3 UP

1. SP Francisco Liriano: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K. Liriano has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, with the rush continuing into spring training. Apparently Liriano's now going to be the hot name in trade talks after Cliff Lee dominated that arena for two years. Lirano got spring training off to a brutal start but really shined Friday against the Orioles, who had a dominating performance by Brian Matusz to hang tough.

2. SP Brandon Morrow: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. Don't sleep on Morrow, whose K/9 would have led the AL had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The Jays will lift their protective hands off Morrow just a bit more in 2011, and Morrow could soon become a household name after coming within a final out of a no-hitter last season. His showing Friday knocked his spring ERA down to an eye-popping 0.75.

3. CF Melky Cabrera: 3 AB, 2, R, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K. The Melk Man is hitting a scorching .529 and it could actually be possible that Cabrera's ready to bounce back from a dismal season in Atlanta, where he was out of shape and it showed. After thrilling fans with the Yankees, Cabrera seems doomed to being overhyped and flaming out. But while spring statistics don't mean much, Cabrera's strong showing so far means the still-just-26-year-old could actually have some life in his bat.

3 DOWN

1. RP Tim Wakefield: 3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 4 HR, WP. Um... yeesh. What is there to say? Wakefield's spot with the Red Sox is tenuous at best, as this sobering piece from the Boston Globe reports. Could the knuckleballer's career be coming to an end? Probably not, but four home runs in the span of six batters is pretty gosh-darn bad. For what it's worth, manager Terry Francona said Wake's knuckler has been the best he's seen so far this spring, but starting in the second inning, the knuckler wouldn't move outside of the strike zone. Such is the life of a knuckleballer.

2. SP Wily Peralta: 1/3 IP, 5 H, 5 HR, 2 BB, 0 K. Ouch. Double ouch. Triple ouch. The first ouch was for Zack Greinke getting hurt. The second for Shaun Marcum experiencing shoulder tightness that could be an issue. And triple ouch for Peralta's day, which gives him a spring ERA of 9.00. Peralta's just 21, but was thought to be right up there in terms of getting a shot to start with Greinke out. But this start doesn't help him leapfrog ahead of... uh... who are the other candidates again?

3. SP J.A. Happ: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. It's not every day that allowing zero runs gives you a bad day, but Happ is quite an interesting character. He has long defied the laws of ERA, as his career mark is 3.27 against an xFIP of 4.61. How long can Happ continue to defy the baseball gods with a criminally-low BABIP and strand rate? So far, he's defying them just fine.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 4:17 pm
 

Looking at possible landing spots for Castillo

By Matt Snyder

Now that Luis Castillo has been given his walking papers , there's a veteran second baseman on the market who could fill a void toward the end of the lineup for someone else.

He's obviously not an overly attractive player in the present, but he has good pedigree and would be dirt-cheap -- the Mets are paying his salary for this season, so someone else could swoop him up for the league minimum. He did hit .302 with 20 stolen bases and play decent enough defense in 2009.

Thus far, the only team that has reportedly expressed interest is the Dodgers (Los Angeles Times via Twitter), but we can expect that list to grow soon, even if only marginally. For the Dodgers, it looks like Casey Blake might be starting the season on the disabled list, which would mean they'll need to use Juan Uribe at third and Jamey Carroll at second -- a situation that cripples the bench depth. Adding Castillo would ease that situation.

Here are some other teams where Castillo might fit:

Cubs: They do have Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker fighting for the starting job, but neither are going to blow your socks off. With an aging lineup in some spots, the Cubs might feel like seeing if he can bring something to the team a la Jim Edmonds in 2008 (who was picked up after the Padres cut him).

Rockies: I'm not sure they'd want to add to the logjam, but the Rockies are currently sitting with Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton and Eric Young Jr. in the spot.

Tigers: Carlos Guillen isn't healthy and Jim Leyland has been talking about moving Ryan Raburn into the infield to fill the void. Simply snagging Castillo and giving him a chance would make a good amount of sense.

Marlins: It's pretty unlikely, but Castillo did play there for a decade. Plus, the Fish don't really have a third baseman. Adding Castillo could allow them to use Omar Infante at third. Plus, we know the Marlins love the price tag on Castillo.

Phillies: Assuming the Chase Utley health situation doesn't come to a close soon -- and it really doesn't feel like it will -- Castillo could be a nice stop-gap until Utley returns. Plus, with the whole rivalry and Castillo's likely bitterness toward the Mets, he'll be motivated to stick it to the Phillies' rivals.

Cardinals: With the injury to Nick Punto, the Cards are lacking some depth up the middle. Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker are slated to start with Tyler Greene backing them up. Adding Castillo would probably be a good mutual fit, as many middling middle infielders seem to thrive under Tony La Russa (Aaron Miles, for example).

The overwhelming majority of this is idle speculation and the smart money is on the Dodgers, Tigers or Phillies (dependent upon Utley). Just keep in mind the most likely destination is a place where they're expecting to win now, but has a hole due to injury or weak competition at the position.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: March 18, 2011 11:18 am
 

Pepper: Kemp has something to prove



By Matt Snyder


Prior to last season, the common sentiment was that Matt Kemp was headed to stardom. It made sense. He was only 25 and was coming off a season where he hit .297 with a .352 OBP and 26 homers, 101 RBI, 97 runs and 34 stolen bases. Though he did hit two more home runs last season, he regressed rather significantly. His average dropped 48 points and OBP was a poor .310. He stole 19 bases, but was caught stealing 15 times. And the stat-line wasn't the worst part. His love life and butting heads with coaches made more news than his actual play.

But the proverbial page has been turned this spring.

"He seems great. I shouldn't say 'seems,' because he's been great," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told the Los Angeles Times .

Kemp came into the spring with that cliche of being in the best shape of his life. So far, it's coming through on the field, as he's hitting .316 with three home runs and three stolen bases. He's looking for it to carry over into the games that actually matter, and there's an extra motivation at play.

"Last year was a very disappointing season, personally and team-wise," he said to the Times. "I felt like I failed in some way. This year, I'm going to try to make sure that doesn't happen again, that we get back to the playoffs and get to where we should be."

HEILMAN ON THE HILL: Aaron Heilman hasn't started a game since 2005, but he's making a strong case to break camp as the Diamondbacks' fifth starter. Two of the three between Heilman, Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga will join the D-Backs' rotation, and Heilman became the first Arizona pitcher to toss five innings Thursday. He allowed two runs -- coming on a Matt Kemp homer, coincidentally. (MLB.com )

ABOUT FELIX'S NO-TRADE CLAUSE: A popular topic this week on the interwebs has been this list of teams Felix Hernandez has on his no-trade clause. Specifically, he can block a trade to the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies and two still-unnamed teams. Now, upon first glance, it might seem he's scared to play in a large-market, high-pressure situation. Quite the contrary, however, as this is actually a savvy move by Hernandez and his agents. Reports indicate these are the teams they felt were most likely to try and acquire King Felix and would be able to offer financial incentives to waive the clause. While we're here, Yankees fans, Felix is not going to be traded this year. It's time to turn the page. (FOX Sports )

NICE CATCH:
Yankees legend Yogi Berra was speaking with Rays manager Joe Maddon Thursday when Berra tripped and began to fall. Maddon caught him. "It's one of those things, you just see it and he's going down. There's Yogi Berra falling right in front of me," Maddon said. "I try to catch him. It might have been my best play as a professional." If not for Maddon's steady hand, it would have been the second fall this spring for Berra. (TBO.com )

OUTFIELD DEFENSE: The best defensive outfield? The Mariners, followed by the Rangers, Giants and Yankees. (MLB.com )

BIG DAY: Kendrys Morales is either going to play Sunday or start the season on the disabled list. He did say rather definitively that he plans to play, but words can only carry you so far. If he's not fully recovered from last season's broken leg, he's just not ready. Mark Trumbo would be the Angels' starting first baseman if Morales can't go. (MLB.com )

ROLEN FOR HALL: This is interesting to me because I rarely consider a Hall of Fame case for a guy who has yet to retire, but Fangraphs.com takes a look at the possible Hall case for Scott Rolen. He probably doesn't pass that gut feeling test -- you know, when people say you should be able to hear the name and automatically just say "Hall of Famer!" if he belongs in -- but it does look like his numbers will merit strong consideration. Fangraphs does warn Rolen is in danger of becoming Ron Santo 2.0.

DEFUNCT LOGOS: This is a fun one. SBNation's Beyond the Box Score takes a look at its top 30 defunct MLB logos. I'm partial to the No. 5 logo, but there are some good ones in there.

LASTINGS IMPRESSION: It's easy to forget that Lastings Milledge is only 25. After all, he was a first-round draft pick in 2003 and was in the majors in 2006. Since then, it's been mostly disappointment, but he is raking this spring with the White Sox -- hitting .314 with four home runs and nine RBI. He hit two bombs in Thursday's win. The biggest plus might be seeing the humility. "Whatever production they get out of me is a plus. I’m not a key piece," he said. (Chicago Sun-Times )

A SIX-YEAR HIATUS? How about a Darren Dreifort comeback? He hasn't pitched since 2004, but threw a bullpen session this week at Dodgers camp. He's 39, but had severe injury woes in his career and retired at age 32. I'd say don't hold your breath. It's spring and sometimes people are just trying to file any story even remotely interesting. (MLB.com )

ON CONTRACTION:
The New York Post has a theory on what the majors could do with the Rays, A's, Mets and Dodgers. The Rays and A's would be contracted while the respective ownership groups would take over the messes that are the Mets and Dodgers. In order to curb the complaints of the player's union, major league rosters would be expanded to 27 players, thereby not eliminating jobs -- it would actually very slightly increase the number of major-league players. It's decent fodder for this time of the year, when we're killing time until the regular season begins, but I just don't ever see contraction happening.

SOUTH KOREAN IDOL: Shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee has fully embraced life in America, as he's become a huge fan of KFC and Papa John's, for example. He's also a big American Idol fan and sings really well -- according to himself. (TampaBay.com )

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 8:51 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 9:47 pm
 

Sizemore to play on Sunday

By C. Trent Rosecrans

http://sports.cbsimg.net/images/bas
eball/mlb/players/60x80/392088.jpgGrady SizemoreGrady Sizemore will return to the field on Sunday, Indians manager Manny Acta said on Thursday.

Sizemore hasn't played since May 16 when he injured his knee and had microfracture surgery in June. He will start by getting two at-bats as the team's designated hitter on Sunday against the Diamondbacks.

"Hey, we've got to sell some tickets," Acta joked to reporters, including Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Sizemore is expected to run the bases again on Friday, although Acta declined to say when he would start sliding. Sizemore told MLB.com he expects to slide Friday or Saturday.

"I'm excited to get back on the field," he told MLB.com. "Everything else has felt good. [Sliding] is just the last progression."

The Indians open the season on April 1 at home against the White Sox.

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Thornton grabs closer's gig for White Sox

ThorntonBy Evan Brunell

It appears that Matt Thornton will be the White Sox's new closer, as Peter Gammons relays Ozzie Guillen's intention to give Thornton "first dibs."

This will be Thornton's first time closing, but he has quite the pedigree for it. The 34-year-old has been one of the game's best left-handed relievers over the last three seasons, posting a 2.70 ERA in 200 1/3 innings, punching out 245 and walking just 59. The stuff made of out closers is what Thornton is made out of: those who limit hits and strike out a ton of batters.

Thornton ranked second in WAR among all relief pitchers in the last three years with a 6.6 mark and only Mariano Rivera higher at 6.9. Coming in third, perhaps surprisingly, is Jonathan Broxton at 6.2 and then Jonathan Papelbon at 6.1, rounding out relievers who accumulated at least six WAR. In terms of xFIP, Thornton actually beats out Rivera, 2.71 to 2.77. (Broxton came second at 2.73.)

So yeah, Thornton should do fine.

The one drawback is that the lefty has marginal experience as closer, but did notch eight saves last season, totaling 17 for his career. The questions surrounding Thornton's adjustment to closing is enough Guillen wouldn't hesitate to remove Thornton from the gig if required, using a shorter hook than he admitted he deployed with ex-closer Bobby Jenks.

Should Thornton fail, the role would likely fall to Chris Sale, who was in college at this time last year. Sale was drafted in June, debuted in the majors by year's end and is now slated to be Thornton's setup man.

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