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Tag:ALcides Escobar
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:11 pm
 

Spring position battle: American League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


Gearing up for spring training, we're headed east -- -but not too far east, just east from west, or in other words, to the Central, starting in the American League and what positional battles will be fought in the American League Central this spring, continuing the spring position battles series.

Chicago White Sox
Closer: Matt Thornton vs. Jesse Crain vs. Addison Reed

With Sergio Santos in Toronto and Chris Sale headed to the rotation, the White Sox are once again looking for a closer. Thornton saved three games last season and Crain one, but both are more or less keeping the seat warm for Reed, the team's top (and perhaps only) prospect. Thornton, an All-Star in 2010, won the closer battle last season before blowing his first four save opportunities to start the season and he was ultimately replaced by Santos. Crain pitched well last season, but it's Reed that has a chance to be special.

Cleveland Indians
Fifth starter: Kevin Slowey vs. David Huff vs. Jeanmar Gomez vs. Zach McAllister

Ubaldo Jimenez is the team's opening-day starter followed by Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. The fifth spot is probably Slowey's to lose. The 27-year-old right-hander was twice traded this offseason, first to Colorado and then to Cleveland. While he struggled last season (0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in eight starts and 14 games), he's a proven back-of-the-rotation starter with a 39-29 record and 4.66 ERA. He's also familiar with the AL Central. Gomez made 10 starts for the Indians last season, as did Huff, the only lefty of the group. McAllister made four starts and wasn't overly impressive.

Detroit Tigers
Third base: Miguel Cabrera vs. third base

When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder, the stated plan was that Cabrera will move to third, leaving the DH spot for Victor Martinez -- who isn't playing this year. The Tigers, it appears, are trying to keep Cabrera from getting too big to play third in preparation for 2013 when they'll really have a logjam at the position with Fielder, Cabrera, Martinez and Delmon Young. For now, it seems like wishful thinking that Cabrera can play a passable third base. But if he can, it helps the team out -- especially defensively in the outfield with Young not trying to figure out what to do with that that thing on his left hand.

Kansas City Royals
Second base: Johnny Giavotella vs. Chris Getz vs. Yuniesky Betancourt

What you've heard is true -- there's a ton of talent in Kansas City. In fact, the lineup is nearly set, except for second base and center field. Center should be manned by Lorenzo Cain, who doesn't have a realistic competitor for the spot, but second could be a question. Giavotella came up in 2011 to middling results - .247/.273/.376 with two homers and five stolen bases in 187 plate appearances, but he has a chance to take the position if he can play at the level he established in the minors, where he was a .305/.375/.437 hitter since being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. While just 5-foot-8, he has shown the ability to make contract (striking out no more than 67 times in any of his minor league seasons) and walk nearly as much as he strikes out (192 minor-league walks to 212 strikeouts). He's not the best defender, but he's adequate. Getz is nobody's idea of a long-term answer. He hit .255/.313/.287 last season, but plays good defense. And then there's Betancourt, who was signed not add depth. The former Royals shortstop will not and should not be pressuring light-hitting Alcides Escobar, but he could add some pop to the infield at second.

Minnesota Twins
Disabled list: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau vs. the disabled list

No two players may be as essential to their team's success as Mauer and Morneau. The two made a combined $37 million last season -- more than the entire Royals team. And, by the way, Kansas City finished eight games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. The Twins just barely avoided being a $100-million, 100-loss team, but it took a 1-0 victory over the Royals on the last season to do it. Mauer played in 82 games, while Morneau played in just 69, with the two combining to hit seven home runs between them. Morneau's never seemed to fully recover from the concussion he suffered in July of 2010 and Mauer's had a variety of injuries, missing games with a leg injury, as well as lower back stiffness, a bruised shoulder, neck stiffness and pneumonia. Both players will play first base and DH some to try to keep them healthy, but questions will continue until either plays a productive 130-game-or-so season.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Milwaukee Brewers

Prince Fielder

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

Last offseason the Brewers made two huge moves that powered them to a National League Central title -- trading for Zack Greinke from the Royals and Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays. One look at roster of players the Brewers have drafted and signed out of Latin America tell you exactly why the Brewers had to reach outside the organization for starting pitching. While the team has consistently developed position players, its track record with pitchers -- both starters and relievers -- is not so good. So, check out one of the best lineups in this exercise, and worst pitching staffs.

Lineup

1. Corey Hart, RF
2. J.J. Hardy, SS
3. Prince Fielder, 1B
4. Ryan Braun, LF
5. Rickie Weeks, 2B
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Lorenzo Cain, CF
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Starting Rotation

1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Manny Parra
3. Dana Eveland
4. Mark Rogers
5. Tim Dillard

Bullpen

Closer - Mike Adams
Set up - Craig Breslow, Jeremy Jeffress, Zach Braddock, Tom Wilhelmsen, Michael Fiers, Mike McClendon

Notable Bench Players

The bench actually has a nice mixture of bats -- Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, along with two outstanding defensive replacements in Alcides Escobar in the infield and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield. There's also a super-utility guy in Bill Hall.

What's Good?

The lineup is ridiculous. It's like the team's lineup from this year, but better. Lawrie at third base adds serious pop, while Hardy is an upgrade at shortstop (and really, who isn't an upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt?) The core of the lineup is about the same, and shows the team knows how to spot bats that will play in the big leagues. This lineup is certainly one a manager would love to pencil in every, single day.

What's Not?

That pitching staff is ridiculous -- and not in a good way. Yovani Gallardo is a really good pitcher, but the rest ... woof. The fourth starter (Rogers) has 10 innings in the big leagues. The back of the bullpen with Adams, Breslow and Jeffress, well, it's better than the rest of the bullpen. Really, this is all a mess. There's no way this team could compete with this pitching staff. Just brutal.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, the pitching staff ensures this team wouldn't win the division or even sniff the playoffs. The staff is so bad, that even with all the runs they put up, there's likely no way this team wins 70 games. The Brewers tried to slug their way to titles in the past and it was proven it doesn't work. In the end, it's why the Brewers had to gut their minor league system to get Greinke, and trade away an impact bat to get Marcum -- pitching is vital to the success of a baseball team and this hypothetic team has next to none.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 4:55 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Kansas City Royals

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Kansas City Royals
Record: 70-89, 22 games back in AL Central
Manager: Ned Yost
Best hitter: Alex Gordon -- .303/.376/.502, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 101 R, 45 2B, 17 SB
Best pitcher: Aaron Crow -- 4-4, 2.80 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 64 K, 61 IP

Few seasons that end with a team 22 games back will garner as much optimism as the 2011 Royals, a team with few expectations other than playing time for young players and giving a glimpse of the future. Even before 2011, that future was bright -- but with some of the performances by the Royals' youngsters and even its less-youngsters -- have made that future seem even brighter.

2011 SEASON RECAP

For the 2011 Royals, the wins and losses were never part of the proposition, it was progress by the likes of Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez. What the Royals found was that Hosmer is an absolute stud, Escobar can contribute enough at the plate to keep his glove in the lineup and Moustakas, after a rough start, has shown the ability that had so many excited. 

Not only were the new toys impressive, so were some of the other, slightly older types, such as Gordon, Billy Butler, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur (none of whom are older than 27). In all, the Royals were sixth in the American League in runs (719), fourth in batting average (.274) and fifth in OPS (.743) -- all marks better than league average.

The problem for the Royals was finding pitching, finishing 12th out of 14 AL teams in team ERA at 4.46, allowing the third-best OPS by opponent batters (.763) and their starters had a 4.83 ERA. 

2012 AUDIT

The rotation remains a mess, and without a significant trade or two in the offseason will likely stay that way. It's never a good sign when your best starter was Bruce Chen. There are, of course, good pitching prospects, but the arms the organization was banking on breaking through all took steps back in 2011, with lefty John Lamb undergoing Tommy John surgery, another lefty, Mike Montgomery, struggled in Triple-A, while yet another lefty, Chris Dwyer, struggled in Double-A.

Left-hander Danny Duffy had his ups and downs, going 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA in the big leagues, but his stuff was never in question. Many talented young pitchers have struggled in the big leagues before finding their control.

Former Astro Felipe Paulino (an actual right-hander) pitched relatively well this season for the Royals, going 3-6 with a 4.10 ERA for the Royals in 118 2/3 innings. Luke Hochevar, a former No. 1 overall pick, has teased with his talent -- but seems to do so every year. If this is the year he puts it all together…

FREE AGENTS
C Jason Kendall
RHP Kyle Davies
LHP Bruce Chen
LHP Jeff Francis

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The offseason focus is pitching, namely starting pitching. Of course, few teams aren't looking for starting pitching. The difference is the Royals still have some talented prospects to dangle.

  • Every offseason there seems to be a pitcher that most didn't think was available, but yet the thoughts of a big-named prospect can get another GM excited (think Shaun Marcum last offseason). The Royals have the prospects to flip for a high-quality pitcher -- and any chance they get, they should take.
  • The Royals missed their shot to trade high on Joakim Soria, who went from one of the game's best closers to being that guy in Kansas City. That said, he has a track record and team-friendly contract. He could bring back a starter for a team desperate for a reliever. The Royals have a $6 million options or 2012 and options for 2013-14. He does have a limited no-trade clause, but that could be waived.
  • Move Crow from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He can always go back, and going back is easier during the season than moving into the rotation. Crow was a starter until this season and still projects as one.
  • Offer arbitration to Melky Cabrera -- sure, he's due to regress and he'll probably make more than he's worth right now, but he could bring something at the trade deadline if nothing else works out. It also doesn't seem like the team has a center fielder ready to take over quite yet.
  • Ricky Nolasco has talent, but his recent struggles mean the Royals won't have to give up much to get the right-hander from Florida. A middle-tier Royals prospect is better than some team's top-tier prospects and it may not even take that to get Nolasco. Kauffman Stadium is a place where pitchers can succeed, so a change of scenery could help. He's owed 20.5 million over the next two seasons, but the Royals are said to have some money to play with. If they take his salary, they won't even have to give up much in prospects.
The Royals are unlikely to contend in 2012, but the promising start of 2011 should continue and if the pitching talent develops or the team makes some big moves to get pitchers to Kansas City, the playoffs could reach KC by 2013.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 4, 2011 6:26 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Picking the game's best defensive players

Alcides Escobar

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The All-Star Game is supposed to showcase the game's best players, but when it comes to position players, we all know offense trumps all. The players with the best offensive numbers are headed to Phoenix next week.

Defense gets its due after the season with the Gold Gloves, but too often those are rooted in offensive numbers, as well. So, while everyone is focused on batting average, home run totals and OPS, I prefer to look at the guys getting it done on D.

Of course, one of the reasons we focus on offense is it's just easier to look at and interpret those numbers. The quantification of baseball defense is still one of the great last frontiers of statistical analysis -- there are attempts at advanced numbers measuring defense and even some very good, useful ones. But even with UZR/150, plus/minus, runs saved and range factor, it's tough to fully appreciate defense without watching a player day-in and day-out.

Even the best metrics can't tell the whole story, but they do have a start. One of the best stats for defense, UZR -- or Ultimate Zone Rating -- doesn't exactly tell  the whole story even after an entire season's worth of data. At this point, UZR gives just a snapshot. That's why I'll use UZR/150 -- UZR rate per 150 games. I also looked at John Dewan's plus/minus system and runs saved stats.

We here at Eye On Baseball watch a lot of baseball, but it's still tough to get a real good handle on all the defensive players in baseball, so I'll use my observations plus statistics, both advanced and traditional in picking the game's best fielders.

Matt WietersC: Catcher is one of the toughest positions to judge -- or at least quantify -- because it's so much different than all the other positions on the field. Catcher is easily the most demanding defensive position on the field. The likes of Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz are known as the gold standard for catcher's defense, but I'm going with a young player who has showed incredible improvement and proven to be one of the best in the game, and that's Baltimore's Matt Wieters.

Check out this play from April, it's one that's stuck with me all year, as Wieters blocks the plate from Derek Jeter.

Adrian Gonzalez1B: Defense is often taken for granted at first base because it's assumed it's not an important position and just a place to stick a slugger. Well, Boston's Adrian Gonzalez is a slugger, but he's also one of the game's best all-around players. A good first baseman -- and Gonzalez is certainly that -- makes the entire defense better. He leads the way in UZR/150 at 11.6 and has just two errors this season. 

Brandon Phillips2B: This one is tough for me, because I believe in the numbers, but I also believe in my eyes. Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist is beloved by the advanced metrics, logging a 20.4 UZR/150 and a +11 plus/minus, easily the best at second base in both categories. However, it's tough to go against the Reds' Brandon Phillips, who I've seen most days for the last four years. Phillips not only makes the spectacular plays, but he also makes the routine ones. The two-time Gold Glove winner has just two errors to Zobrist's five. Dustin Pedroia is also in the conversation, with a +4 plus/minus and an 18.5 UZR/150, but my eyes tell me it's tough to play much better at second base than Phillips. In this one, I'm going with my gut (it's bigger than my brain anyway) and picking Phillips.

Alcides EscobarSS: It's tough to imagine the difference the Royals see in defense at shortstop this season, going from one of the game's worst defenders in Yuniesky Betancourt to Alcides Escobar, who has been exceptional at short (the opposite could be said about the Brewers). Escobar has seven errors -- just two fewer than Betancourt, but his range is outstanding. He leads all shortstop with 285 assists and second with 58 double plays. As for the advanced metrics, he and Troy Tulowitzki both grade out with a 14.2 UZR/150 and Escobar edges the Rockies' shortstop in Dewan's plus/minus, +17 to +13. Tulowitzki is by far a better all-around player, but Escobar gets the nod here by the slightest of margins.

Alex Rodriguez3B: Alex Rodriguez may be the most scrutinized player of all time, so it's easy to forget just how great of a player he's been throughout his career. Unlike many, his offensive numbers seem to overshadow his defensive prowess. It seems like this season he's been completely healthy for the first time in years and it's showing up in his play at third base. Rodriguez's 21.2 UZR/150 is the best in the game at third base and he has seven fewer errors than the next guy on the list, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers.

Brett GardnerLF: This may be the easiest of all the positional picks, as Brett Gardner has played a nearly flawless left field for the Yankees this season. Gardner combines great speed with good fundamentals to become one of the best defensive players in the game. Gardner dominated the advanced stats, scoring +19 in the Dewan plus/minus system and has a 38.1 UZR/150. He has one error and four assists, as his reputation keeps runners close. Sam Fuld may make more highlights, but Gardner makes more plays.

Shane VictorinoCF: Shane Victorino has played a flawless center field this season, at least according to the official scorers around baseball. Victorino doesn't have an error this season and also has the best UZR/150 of any center fielder in the game at 24.3. Dewan's plus/minus prefers Minnesota's Denard Span, but I'm sticking with the Flying Hawaiian.

Torii HunterRF: Torii Hunter is one of the game's all-time best defensive players, but moved to a new position last season with the emergence of Peter Bourjos in center field. Hunter's gone from one of the game's great defensive center fielders to maybe its best right fielder. Hunter has a +16 in Dewan's plus/minus, while UZR/150 likes him less than Shin-Soo Choo or J.D. Drew. Add in the error-less performance this season, gets the nod. We've seen so many of his great catchers over the years, but he's been able to show off his arm in right this season, picking up eight assists so far this season.

Mark BuehrleP: White Sox starter Mark Buehrle has won the last two American League Gold Gloves as a pitcher and certainly deserves those honors. His 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame belies a very good athlete, who covers a lot of ground in front of his mound. The left-hander then makes strong, accurate throws, just as you'd expect from a pitcher.



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Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 11:34 am
 

Pepper: No rule change needed at 1B

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: There may not be a more interesting division in baseball than the American League Central. While the surprising Indians lead the Tigers by a game, the White Sox and Twins linger. Can the Twins, now just 6 1/2 games out, continue to get themselves in contention? Will Jake Peavy be able to stay in the White Sox's rotation? NESN.com's Tony Lee joins our own Lauren Shehadi to discuss.

RULE CHANGE NEEDED?: And just yesterday, I was going to make a sarcastic joke that I was surprised I hadn't heard Giants fans complain about safety at first base after the Albert Pujols injury.

For weeks after Buster Posey's injury we heard long discussions about changing the rules for plays at the plate and how the catcher had to be protected. Scott Cousins was vilified and scapegoated. Well, Wilson Betemit was taken off the hook when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa put all the blame on the shoulders of rookie Pete Kozma, even though in both cases the injured player deserves much of the blame for being in a  poor position (and I'm not saying either deserved to be hurt, just that they put themselves in a bad spot and got hurt -- it happens).

Anyway, the New York Times is the first (and only that I've seen) to start up the change-the-rules-at-first-base bandwagon. My response? In a word: no.

LUDWICK ON THE MOVE?: Ryan Ludwick was moved last July from one contender to another -- from St. Louis to San Diego (in a three-team trade that brought Jake Westbrook to St. Louis); he could be on the move again.

The Phillies, Marlins and Reds have all reportedly asked about Ludwick's availability. Ludwick is hitting .255/.322/.393 with a team-high nine home runs this season, but is hitting .279/.324/.419 away from Petco Park.

The Padres could also move some of their relievers, with the Phillies and Cardinals having already checked in on the availability of Chad Qualls and Heath Bell.[FoxSports.com]

SHIPPING HANLEY?: Are the Marlins better off without Hanley Ramirez? Ramirez is in the third year of a six-year, $70 million contract that pays him $46.5 million over the next three years and does not include a no-trade clause. [Palm Beach Post]

MADDON APOLOGIZES: Joe Maddon didn't intentionally pull the wool over the eyes of umpires Monday by not having Sam Fuld face a batter after warming up in the eighth inning, it's just that Bob Davidson was behind the plate, and he didn't know the rule any better than Maddon did. Maddon apologized to the umpires and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. [Tampa Tribune]

FAUSTO FLOUNDERING: One Ohio team has already demoted its opening-day starter to the minors, and the other team may soon be sending its opening-day starter to the bullpen if he doesn't get it together. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona is 4-9 with a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts this season and is 1-6 with a 9.73 ERA over his last seven starts. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

ESCOBAR IMPROVING: Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has seen his batting average rise nearly 50 points in the last two weeks, and his glove was already playing at a high level. Is the one big-league player the Royals got from the Zack Greinke trade beginning to show why the Royals thought he could be part of their next wave of talent? [Kansas City Star]

HEADED HOME?: The Hanshin Tigers are scouting Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome if either Japanese player decides to return to Japan after the season. Fukudome would be a better fit for the Tigers, who play in Japan's Central League. Like in MLB, NPB has one league with the DH (the Pacific League) and one without (the Central League). [YakyuBaka.com]

GREEN LIGHT: The Rangers' Craig Gentry is pretty fast. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

RESPECT: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sometimes goes out of his way to tweak the Cubs and Cubs fans, but not when he's talking about the other Chicago team's shortstop, Starlin Castro. Guillen calls Castro "amazing." Guillen gave some encouraging words to Castro after Monday's game, and that meant a lot to the young Cub. [Chicago Sun-Times]

TURNING 20: Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez celebrated the 20th anniversary of his big-league debut Monday. The 39-year-old Rodriguez has 13 Gold Gloves and an MVP since he came up as a 19-year-old with the Rangers. [MLB.com]

NICE PICK: With the Yankees in town, the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with former Reds first-round pick Chad Mottola, who was taken with the pick before the Yankees took Derek Jeter. Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati breaks down why Mottola wouldn't have played for the Reds even if they picked him. Hint, his name is Barry Larkin.

ARMS SALE: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times looks at what the Mariners could get for Jason Vargas or Doug Fister, two guys who are having pretty decent years.

COMPELLING CAMPANA: A great story in The Tennessean about Cubs outfielder Tony Campana. As a kid in Franklin, Tenn., Campana battled Hodgkin's disease and couldn't play baseball, but was still in the dugout with his teammates, cheering them on. His coaches at the time didn't think he'd survive, much less be in the big leagues.

WORTHY CAUSE: There's a petition online to have Vin Scully call one more World Series. Scully hasn't called a World Series on TV since 1988 and is still one of the best. [Yahoo!'s Big League Stew]

CUTTER CUT: The Jays have told recently demoted Kyle Drabek to shelve his cutter for now. The team wanted him concentrating more on his fastball, but he kept going back to the cutter more than the team liked. The Jays hope he gains confidence in his fastball and lessens his reliance on the cutter. [National Post]

NO CHANGE IN POSTING: The posting system for Japanese players coming to the United States won't change, NPB Tracker passes along (since I can't read the original Sanspo report).

GOLDEN GROOMING: You may have missed the Golden Groomer Award, a monthly award given to the baseball player with the best facial hair. The last winner was Reds minor league catcher Corky Miller. [OMGReds.com]

LOGO FUN: Check out this really cool graphic of all the team's cap insignias since 1950 (including batting practice). Hat tip to the fine folks at the UniWatchBlog, which had a cool thing worth reading about spotting baseball fields from the sky.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 1:59 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Jimenez dazzles, Drabek falls

Drabek

By Evan Brunell


UpUbaldo Jimenez, Rockies -- In Wednesday's On Deck piece, Jimenez's struggles were documented, as his ERA ranked fourth-worst in baseball among those who were still in the majors and qualified for the ERA title. Well, that ranking just improved as Jimenez dazzled with a complete-game shutout of the Dodgers, stifling them with four hits and no walks with seven whiffs, dropping his ERA under 5.00 to 4.97. That's a major step forward for the righty who is hoping to find the magic that sparked his 2010 run of a 10-1 record.

Francisco Cordero, Reds --
Cordero reached a milestone Wednesday with his 300th overall save, pitching a clean inning with two whiffs against the Brewers. Cordero's having a sublime season so far with a 1.71 ERA and 10 saves, which is surprising coming off his up-and-down 2010, making him a prime target for those who expected Aroldis Chapman to be closing games by now. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto each slammed a two-run home run, one in the seventh and one in the eighth to make Cordero's save possible. The win pushed the Reds to their fourth win in 15 games.

Billy Butler, Royals --
The Royals/Angels game was deadlocked at zero apiece before Billy Butler stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth inning. He then sent fans home happy on a walkoff home run with a two-run job to send the Royals to victory, pushing Los Angeles to .500. But it wasn't actually a homer in the first place, as umpires originally ruled it a double. Good thing too, because Jeff Francouer stopped running on the play and wouldn't have scored had the play been upheld. "I ran out and told (umpire) Fieldin Culbreth, 'I've got no stinking idea where that ball hit,'" Royals manager Ned Yost told the Associated Press. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. We're going to do the right thing right now because I'm not really sure either. We'll go check it.' The replay showed it did make it over that fence and bounced back."

DownKyle Drabek, Blue Jays --
Drabe's fall from grace was only a matter of time, as his 1:1 K/BB ratio going into the game did not portend success. The touted right-hander can eventually emerge as the ace of the staff, but for now, it's clear the 23-year-old still has some work to do. Drabek lasted only two outs of the game, exiting after coughing up three walks and four earned runs to balloon his ERA to 4.69. And as Jeff Sullivan notes, Drabek made some unwanted history, as his strike rate of 54.8 percent would represent the worst rate over the last 12 years in baseball by a pitcher with at least 100 innings to his name. (Drabek has 63 1/3 innings on the year.) That's history you don't want.

Tim Lincecum, Giants --
The Freak was anything but Wednesday, as the Cardinals teed off for five runs in 6 1/3 innings, coughing up 10 hits although he struck out nine and walked zero, so it wasn't all bad. Still, that pushed his ERA to 2.59 after he had shaved it down with a 1.22-ERA May. It looked as if he would head to a loss before the Giants scored one in the top ninth then tacked on two in the 11th to seal the deal. The big blast came from Allan Craig, who had a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the seventh to send the Cardinals up by one.

Alcides Escobar, Royals --
Escobar's 0-for-3 night dropped his OPS to a putrid .497 on the "strength" of a .212/.249/.249 line. He has 41 hits in 193 trips to the plate and only seven extra-base hits, all doubles. Still, Escobar will get plenty of playing time as K.C. loves his defensive work. There's something to be said for shipping him to Triple-A and allowing him to gain confidence against lesser pitchers, but Escobar has plenty of time logged in the bigs and at some point, needs to start producing. To be fair to him, he made a crucial defensive play with the bases loaded in the eighth to preserve the tie.

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

Posted on: April 29, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 11:14 am
 

Pepper: Radar-gun manipulation

By Evan Brunell

BASEBALL TODAY: How big of a surprise has Freddy Garcia been for the Yankees? Will Max Scherzer remain unbeaten? Danny Knobler joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

RADAR GUN SHENANIGANS: As pitch F/X takes hold across all of baseball, it's meant the decline of radar-gun manipulation, which used to be an asset to teams.

While radar guns still vary from stadium to stadium (the Angels and Rangers reportedly run a bit slow), it's become difficult for teams to jigger radar-gun readings on the scoreboard to their advantage.

Current Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers recalled situations in San Diego when the team would purposely reduce the velocity of Brad Penny's fastballs, causing the hurler to get upset that he wasn't throwing as hard as he thought. That made Penny -- with the Dodgers at the time -- start throwing harder, which in turn made his fastball elevate for the hitter's liking.

The pitch F/X system is automatic and feeds directly to the scoreboard, so the lack of a middleman cuts out shenanigans that could otherwise take place. However, some stadiums may still manipulate readings despite annual reminders from the league not to do so.

Radar-gun readings became an issue last week when Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman was registered as throwing 93-94 mph with his fastball. That led to much concern, with many wondering if Chapman was injured. He's back to 100-plus these days, so everything is fine, but one can't help but wonder if San Diego was gaming the system, given their current reputation as a stadium where radar-gun readings are low despite having switched over to the pitch F/X system. (Arizona Republic)

WHAT IT MEANS TO LEAD OFF: A leadoff man is responsible for getting on base. Period. Stolen bases can be a nice luxury, but too many teams act as if the flip's true. (New York Times)

THE STATE OF ELLSBURY: Jacoby Ellsbury is currently in the midst of a hot streak which has seen his return to the leadoff spot in the lineup. But it's still unclear what Ellsbury really is as a hitter. To stay as leadoff man, Ellsbury needs to get on base. (Boston Globe)

BACK TO O'MALLEY? Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley could be back to the rescue, as he may be gearing up for an eventual run at taking the team back. A Dodgers executive revealed that O'Malley has lined up two "big time" investors if -- or when -- Frank McCourt sells the club. (KLAC 570 AM)

DEFENSIVE WHIZ: Alcides Escobar doesn't even have a month's tenure with the team but is already being discussed as the best defensive Royals shortstop in franchise history. (FOX Sports Kansas City)

SLOW GOING: Chris Snyder now has the ignominious lable of slowest runner in the game now that Bengie Molina has retired (brother Jose and Yadier are, somehow, faster). In fact, Snyder has never stolen a base in a game and should end up in second place by the end of the season behind Russ Nixon, a catcher in the 60s, for most plate appearances without a steal. (Wall Street Journal)

ADJUSTING: Corey Hart has only just returned to the lineup for the Brewers, and he's not pleased with where he is swing is despite collecting two hits in his return. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

LAWN CARE: Former major leaguer and current minor-league manager Delino DeShields knows what its like to have a heralded prospect with his son, Delino Jr., in the Astros system. Funny thing, though -- his former landscaper does, too. Cecil Newton saw his son, Cam, go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft Thursday night. (Dayton Daily News)

HOME RUN! Only in this day and age can you read a story written by a fan -- also a ball-catcher who has over 4,000 baseballs caught -- on how he caught someone's first major-league home run and what it was like to meet the player. That's what happened here, and it's a nice behind-the-scenes telling of what happens when you catch such an important ball. Of course, it helps when the batter, Mike Nickeas, is "genuinely awesome." (MLBlogs.com)

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Posted on: March 6, 2011 9:45 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/6: Walk-off edition

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

By C. Trent Rosecrans

3 UP

1. D.J. LeMahieu, Cubs. Yes, it's just spring training, but an extra-innings, pinch-hit, walk-off home run is always special. LeMahieu was the Cubs' second-round pick in the 2009 draft and had a solid 2010 in Class A Daytona, hitting .314/.346/.386 with 73 RBI and 15 stolen bases, playing second, third and short. LeMahieu had just two home runs as a pro, so this one may have been even more unlikely.

2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins. The newly-minted Twins second baseman went 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBI on Sunday against the Orioles. As impressive as his triple was, a third-inning hit-and-run got his manager's attention. With Alexi Casilla on first, Nishioka, batting left-handed, noticed the second baseman going to cover second and hit the ball in the vacated spot, allowing Casilla to advance to third.

3. Tim Lincecum, Giants. This skinny little kid for the Giants may end up being someone to watch. Lincecum was a little wild on Sunday, walking three and giving up three hits in 3 2/3 inning, but he also struck out seven batters.

3 DOWN

1. Mat Latos, Padres. I don't like to make much of early-March numbers, but after his outing on Sunday he  went back to the dugout and fired his glove up against a wall. Latos allowed three runs on two hits and two walks before being lifted after just 2/3 of an inning, when he was scheduled to throw three. He struggled with his command, just 21 strikes among his 38 pitches. In his first start, he went just 1 1/3 innings and walked four batters, with 15 of his 34 pitches called strikes.

2. Mark Buehrle, White Sox. Buehrle was the first White Sox pitcher to go three innings this spring, yet it didn't do too well, allowing nine hits and five runs against the Royals on Sunday. It could have been worse -- the Gold Glover snared a Lorenzo Cain liner that appeared to be headed for a hit in the third inning, which was followed by a double.

3. Alcides Escobar, Royals. My mother always told me not to scratch bug bites or they'd get infected, and I never believed her. Sorry mom, you were right. The Royals shortstop was -- pardon the pun -- scratched from the team's lineup on Sunday following the infection of a bed bug on his right wrist. He'll miss Monday's split-squad games, but is expected back later this week.


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