Tag:Nationals
Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:06 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Morgan's strange journey from villain to hero

Nyjer Morgan

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The most dramatic turnaround of 2011 wasn't the Arizona Diamondbacks -- they were close, but not quite it -- instead, it was the guy who ended the Diamondbacks' season, Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan.

For all the T-Plush love that's been spread over the last couple of months, it's easy to forget how 2010 ended for Morgan. The last month-and-a-half of the 2010 season included an eight-game suspension, a $15,000 fine, incitement of a benches-clearing brawl, a clothesline from the Marlins' Gaby Sanchez in said brawl, had another suspension that was ultimately rescinded, was called out by his manager after running over Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson, called out his manager, was benched and also ran over Marlins catcher Brett Hayes and was tagged out when a slide would have won the game. Yeah, it was a rough 2010. 

Brewers 3, Diamondbacks 2

And 2011 didn't start out too hot, either. It's easy to forget now, but Morgan started spring training with the Nationals. He was a target in spring when Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco hit him in a spring training game and that drew the ire of Morgan, who didn't charge the mound, but took his base. He got in another altercation with the Cardinals before he told a reporter he felt he was on his way out of Washington. That upset then-Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, but it turned out to be reality, as two days later he was sent from the Nationals to the Brewers in exchange for minor-league infielder Cutter Dykstra.

Even when he got to the Brewers, he had a struggle of a different kind, with two disabled list stints in the first two months of the season -- one for a deep thigh bruise and another for a broken middle finger. He also had to share playing time with Carlos Gomez once he got back.

In Milwaukee, though, he endeared himself to the home fans with his intensity and personality, as well as his Twitter precense (@The RealTPlush). 

While it hasn't been all roses in Milwaukee-- there was an overly "aggressive" celebration in San Francisco and a dustup with Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and subsequent Twitter "insults" to the Cardinals and Albert Pujols.

But in the end -- or at least after the NLDS -- Morgan is the team's emotional leader on a team with two legit MVP candidates.

"He's just -- he's a joy to have, I'll tell you," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. I don't care about all the little issues we have. This guy, I love him on this team. I like him as a really nice young man. He came through big, again, when we needed him."

Morgan had the winning hit in Friday's Game 5 over the Diamondbacks, driving in Gomez in the 10th. He was front and center in the team's celebration (and in the FCC's 'to do' list), but he's also a major reason the Brewers are going to play for the right to go to the World Series.

After, Morgan even reflected on his journey from Public Enemy No. 1 to Milwaukee hero.

"I mean, it's a lot. Just everything that I've had to overcome. Just the stuff that people go out there and perceive about me," Morgan said in the post-game news conference, while wearing a Brewers' branded Army helmet. "And just everything that -- all my haters. I just wanted to show them that I can play this game. Even though I've got a fun, bubbly personality and everything like that, I still come to win and I'm a winner."

For everything you can say about Morgan, on Friday, at least, you have to give him that.

 


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Posted on: October 6, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 10:13 pm
 

Bryce Harper rooting for Yankees on Twitter

By Matt Snyder

Bryce Harper was the top overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft ... for the Washigton Nationals. He reached Double-A in the Nats system this year and could be in the majors as soon as next season. He'll certainly be there by 2013 and is a major part of a bright future for Washington. He's also a bit polarizing, as many fans don't seem to like him for whatever the reason. For those, the following two tweets aren't likely to gain Harper any more fans. During Thursday night's ALDS Game 5 between the Yankees and the the Tigers, Harper -- again, a member of the Nationals -- was openly rooting for the Yankees. Or maybe just CC Sabathia?







This just doesn't seem like the thing he should be letting the public -- including his teammates, coaches and Nationals fans -- see. Harper is a professional baseball player in the Washington Nationals system. He can openly root for a major-league team if he wants, as long as it's the Nationals. Just saying he loves the Nats wasn't enough. He shouldn't be rooting for anyone else. Period.

UPDATE: That didn't take long. The first two tweets have been deleted by Harper. Evidently he realized his error or someone else told him to delete them.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 11:48 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:00 pm
 

Pepper: Scutaro stumble costs Red Sox

Scutaro

By Evan Brunell


The Red Sox authored an unimaginable collapse, riding a 7-20 September all the way toward falling out of the playoffs at the last moment. As Boston fell to Baltimore 4-3, the Rays walked off against the Yankees 8-7 in an amazing end to the season. There's one play that stands out when looking back at how Boston blew Game 162 against the Orioles, and it appears to have been influenced by Red Sox Nation invading Camden Yards.

The setting: Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro is on first base in the eighth inning with Boston up 3-2. Carl Crawford at the plate. He slices a line drive to left fielder Nolan Reimold, who dove in an attempt to catch the ball. Scutaro, rounding second, heard cheers from the crowd. Scutaro, having briefly lost sight of the ball, paused, thinking cheers meant Reimold had made the catch. Except that Camden Yards is sometimes called Fenway Park South and it was no exception Wednesday. So the cheers actually meant Reimold had missed the ball.

"I heard the screaming, but I don't know if it was their crowd or our crowd, so I don't know if he made the play or not," Scutaro told the Providence Journal. "I just got a bad read. I should have just kept going."

Scutaro picked it back up once he realized what happened, and third base coach Tim Bogar tried to send him home anyways. The ball took a few hops to reach Matt Wieters, but it reached him before Scutaro did. Out.

Who knows if the Orioles would still have tied the game up or won in the ninth, but that extra insurance run and the wasted opportunity will haunt the dreams of Red Sox players all offseason.

"It seems like, the whole September, nothing works out for us," Scutaro said. "Everything went different ways and everything was against us, pretty much. I guess it was our destiny to be out of the playoffs. Nothing worked out. We didn't play good enough. What can I say? That's baseball."

Wakefield returning: Tim Wakefield has decided he wants to play another year and intends to return to the Red Sox. “I’ve definitely made up my mind that I definitely want to come back next year,” Wakefield told Fox Sports. “I have another goal in front of me that I’d like to accomplish, and that’s the all-time record for the Red Sox in wins. I’m only seven away. I think the fans deserve an opportunity to watch me chase that record. We’ll see what happens.”

Pavanostache: Carl Pavano had a mustache in 2010 that drew all manner of attention and was dubbed the Pavanostache, and enjoyed one of his best seasons. He didn't rock it at all in 2011 -- until Wednesday's final game, where he tossed his first shutout of the year, throwing a five-hitter. Does the mustache have some mystical power we don't know about? (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Payroll rising: The Marlins' payroll will rise, but president David Samson reined in expectations, saying that it won't reach as high as $100 million. The Marlins will set a record for payroll at the very least, he says, but payroll figures to top out at $80 million. (Miami Herald)

Moneyball: The controversy over Moneyball continues, and the subject of both the book and movie finally weighed in. GM Billy Beane responded to allegations from manager Art Howe that Beane had a hand in crafting Howe's negative portrayal in the movie. "I was wondering who was going to be the first guy to think I produced, wrote or directed this movie," Beane told the San Jose Mercury News, saying he wasn't involved in making the movie. "Now I have my answer. [Howe's] comments are completely misguided."

Skippering: Davey Johnson wants to return to the Nationals in 2012, but Washington is going to continue with interviewing other internal candidates. It still appears likely Johnson will return. (MASN)

Arrested: Milton Bradley has been arrested for the second time this year after allegedly swinging a bat at his wife and missing. He was booked on felony assault, released on bail and is due back in court Oct. 18. (Los Angeles Times)

Affair: Yankees GM Brian Cashman has just been caught up in what could be a messy affair. He is alleged to have entered into a relationship with a woman in 2009 who was married. (Deadspin)

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


Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:57 pm
 

On Deck: Wild cards hinge on final day



By Evan Brunell


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

AL wild card: It's the final game of the season, and we've got two races currently tied. The first of them is the American League wild card, where the Red Sox and Rays are knotted at one apiece. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound in the hopes of downing the Orioles. Lester has never lost against Baltimore, running up a 14-0 record. On the year, he has a solid 3.49 ERA but that mark is 6.97 over his last four starts, so there's concern there. He'll be opposed by Alfredo Simon. Meanwhile, down south, the Rays offer up their own ace in David Price to take down the Yankees. New York is already in the playoffs, so they could choose to rest some players and give the Rays a weaker opponent to play against. To that end, even the Yankees don't know who will be starting Wednesday night. Red Sox vs. Orioles, 7:00 p.m. ET | Yankees vs. Rays, 7:00 p.m. ET

NL wild card: Over in the NL, the Braves are new to this. The Red Sox have had an extra day to get used to the idea of falling into a tie, but Atlanta woke up Wednesday knowing the final game of the season was crucial to the playoff hunt. After all, if they lose and the Cardinals win, they're out. Fortunately, they have a pretty good pitcher heading to the hill in Tim Hudson, who will oppose Joe Blanton in what figures to be a bullpen game for Philly. On paper it's a mismatch, but the way the Braves has been playing lately is the complete opposite of St. Louis. Meanwhile, the scorching Redbirds offer up Chris Carpenter against the hapless Astros, who will send Brett Myers to the mound. Phillies vs. Braves, 7:00 p.m. ET | Cardinals vs. Astros, 8:00 p.m. ET

StrasburgNo walks: Stephen Strasburg has a very good chance to accomplish an incredible feat in his fifth and final start of the year. So far, he's walked absolutely zero batters in his 18 innings, striking out 14. That's a K/BB ratio of infinity. Thanks to the magic that is Baseball Reference's Play Index, I ran a query of all starting pitchers who had at least five consecutive starts with no walks in the millennium. There's been plenty of streaks of no walks allowed, most namely the amazing Greg Maddux who racked up two separate nine-game streaks of no walks allowed. If Strasburg gets through the game, he'll be tied with 15 others for five consecutive starts. Interestingly, Kevin Slowey accomplished the feat earlier this season, but before that you have to go back to Cliff Lee in 009, then Curt Schilling in 2006. Strasburg himself went six straight starts without a walk last season. He's opposing Chris Volstad in Jack McKeon's final game as Marlins manager. Nationals vs. Marlins, 4:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:43 am
 

Pepper: McKeon praises Ozzie; Moneyball ripped



By Evan Brunell

Ozzie: The dominant story Monday night and today is obviously Ozzie Guillen, who was released from his contract after Monday night's game.

It looks as if Guillen is headed to the Marlins to become their skipper, and that's just fine with outgoing manager Jack McKeon, who plans to retire (again) from managing. Guillen served under McKeon back in 2003, so the octogenarian has familiarity with the former White Sox infielder.

"I like Ozzie," McKeon told MLB.com. "I think he's a very, very intelligent manager. I think he was a very smart player. I think he'll do well. He's done well. I think he's a good man. I like him. He's a good baseball man."

McKeon continued, praising Guillen's ability to interact with players.

"I liked the way he was able to control the players, especially the Latin players," McKeon said. "He wasn't afraid to jump on them and encourage them, but also try to help him. He wasn't worried about being their friend. He'd tell it like it is. And that's Ozzie. That's what reminds me of another guy [Jack McKeon]. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

In a separate story, the Chicago Tribune wonders whether Guillen moving to the Marlins could open up a Carlos Zambrano deal to Florida. Zambrano and Guillen are close friends, and the Marlins are looking to jack up payroll and raise fan interest heading into a new stadium and a new identity. It's certainly feasible -- the Marlins will have money to spend and a desire to upgrade the pitching.

Ripping Moneyball:
Honestly, I'd rather not even waste time giving Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone publicity for this, but here goes: the two White Sox announcers ripped Moneyball despite not having read the book or seen the movie to CSNChicago.com. Credibility: out the window.

Hey, it's totally OK to rip things you disagree with. But to rip something with zero knowledge is ludicrous. (And no, being familiar with the "concept" of it or hearsay does not count.) Billy Beane isn't a perfect GM and he's made his share of mistakes, but that doesn't nullify the basic idea of Moneyball, which continues to be sadly unnoticed these days instead of the popular narrative of "Moneyball is about poor teams who love statistics and OBP and hate everything else!" Why are we still doing this in this day and age?

Oh, and according to Harrelson, playing like a kid is way better than putting up good statistics.

"You take Mark Buehrle, he has never lost his childlike qualities. That’s one reason he can go out there and throw an 86 miles-per-hour fastball and still compete and win."

Uh-huh. Or maybe Buerhle is really good at commanding the ball and inducing weak contact.

Nahhh.

Ted Williams movie? Could a movie be made about Ted Williams? Given the wealth of content of the Hall of Famer's life, a movie about Williams would be entertaining. John Underwood, who was a friend of Williams and wrote for years at Sports Illustrated, is developing a treatment he hopes can turn into something. With the success of Moneyball at the box office and Broadway wrapping up a play about Vince Lombardi, the time might be right. (Washington Times)

No charges: Juan Carlos Oviedo, a.k.a. Leo Nunez, will not face charges in the Dominican Republic for falsifying his identity. Given Oviedo came forward with the admission and cooperated with officials, he is getting a free pass. Only time will tell, though, if MLB will allow Oviedo back for 2012. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Moved
: Phil Hughes admits he isn't pleased with pitching out of the bullpen for the Yankees. The righty has struggled through a difficult year for the Yankees, with a recent back issue prompting the move to the 'pen. Even if Hughes would understandably prefer to start and although it depletes the Yanks' thin rotation, Hughes has a chance to make a major impact in the bullpen in October. In 2009, he was a lockdown reliever setting up Mariano Rivera. (MLB.com)

Signed: Omar Infante has agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Marlins, worth $8 million. In his first year with the Marlins after coming over from Atlanta in the Dan Uggla deal, he hit .279/.317/.385 in 574 plate appearances. (MLB.com)

Returning: The Reds want to bring closer Francisco Cordero back, and he's pleased to hear that. There is a $12 million option on the closer's remaining deal, and it's not clear whether or not Cincy will pick the option up. A return for Cordero isn't surprising following a solid season in which he notched 35 saves. (MLB.com)

Back to Washington: If Jonny Gomes has his way, he'll be back with the Nationals after coming over from Cincinnati in a trade. Gomes hasn't quite impressed, but could be a strong bat off the bench for Washington next season. Gomes for his part says he would probably accept arbitration if the Nats offered it and believes the team will be "friggin' good." (Washington Post)

Where's Coco?
Coco Crisp wouldn't mind returning to the Athletics, but Oakland's free-agent machinations will depend on the outcome of the A's prospects of building a new stadium in San Jose. The A's will have competition if they want to bring Crisp back -- two sources say that San Francisco is expected to make a run at Crisp. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Looking ahead: Joe Mauer can't wait to put 2011 behind him, as the year represented a disappointment for both the club and Mauer, struggling with injuries and poor play. "You always want to do well when you put the uniform on," Mauer told MLB.com. "For me, my biggest goal is just to come back and be healthy. It's been a frustrating year. I haven't been healthy. Hopefully, we can do that as a whole. I'm talking about myself, but this whole room, we've kind of got the same thing going [with injuries]. My No. 1 goal is to just get healthy and just get ready for next year."

Lost season: Peter Moylan, a reliever for the Braves, missed months with a back injury. Finally back, Moylan got lousy news once more as he'll need surgery for a torn rotator cuff and labrum, which will be his third major surgery in four years. Moylan will miss about six months worth of time, so may not be ready for Opening Day. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Posted on: September 25, 2011 12:01 pm
 

On Deck: Pivotal day for wild cards



By Evan Brunell


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

Big day: It's possible that by the second game of the doubleheader, the Red Sox will know a loss drops them into a tie for the wild card. In the first game of a doubleheader, the Sox throw Tim Wakefield against A.J. Burnett, two pitchers with ERAs north of 5.00. In the second game, Boston offers up sacrificial lamb John Lackey and his 6.49 ERA against Ivan Nova. That's not exactly a duo of pitchers that inspires confidence. If the Red Sox lose both games and the Rays win, there will be a tie in the wild card. Red Sox vs. Yankees, 1:05, 6:05 p.m. ET

MinorDetwilerStaving off collapse: A wild-card collapse is also possible in the NL, where the Braves are two up on the Cardinals. Unfortunately, Atlanta is going up against the Nationals, who has been on a hot streak lately and is sending Ross Detwiler to the mound. Detwiler has yet to put in a full year's work, but is locking up a 2012 rotation spot thanks to his strong 3.30 ERA in 60 innings, posting the best walk rate of his short major-league career. The Braves will counter with their own young lefty, Mike Minor. Minor has a 4.27 ERA in 78 innings. Braves vs. Nationals, 1:35 p.m. ET

Losing streak
: The stumbling Phillies, losers of eight straight, will look to Roy Halladay to play stopper against the Mets. Chasing his 19th win, Halladay is going up against the Mets as Philadelphia tries to avoid a MLB record ninth straight loss after clinching a division title. "I'm sitting there watching it. Don't know what I can do about it," manager Charlie Manuel told the Associated Press. "If you want to know the truth, our team's out of sync, definitely out of focus, and we're not playing. The Mets counter with Mike Pelfrey. Phillies vs. Mets, 2:10 p.m. ET

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