Tag:J.J. Hardy
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What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional?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

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:43 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Baltimore Orioles

By Matt Snyder

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: Baltimore Orioles
Record: 64-90, 29.5 games back in AL East
Manager: Buck Showalter
Best hitter: Adam Jones -- .283/.324/.466, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 63 R, 25 2B, 11 SB
Best pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie -- 9-17, 4.28 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 128 K, 202 IP

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Orioles haven't been in playoff contention since 1997. Following that season, they finished fourth nine times and third once. They're now headed for their fourth consecutive last-place finish.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Things appeared to be looking up early in the season for the Orioles. They started off 6-1, and this wasn't against pushovers. They swept the Rays, took two of three from the Tigers and then beat the Rangers. Of course, it was too good to be true. They proceeded to lose eight straight. They did battle back to .500 twice and lingered close to .500 until being buried by an awful stretch, when they went 6-23 from June 11-July 15. That would end any hope of breaking through, as the Orioles wouldn't be closer than 20 games in the AL East after July 22.

The Orioles did get younger in trading Derrek Lee, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, and there were some positive signs. They now have a decent offensive core of catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Mark Reynolds, shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones (any of the four could have been picked as the "best hitter" above). None of those players are older than 28. Of course, none are younger than 25, nor do any appear to be superstar material. On the mound, the Orioles saw enough from rookie Zach Britton to believe he's one of the pieces of the future, but Brian Matusz had a disaster of a season. Jim Johnson is showing himself the answer at closer and Pedro Strop -- who was acquired from the Rangers in the Gonzalez deal -- is throwing the ball very well in front of him.

2012 AUDIT

The outlook would be a lot more sunny in a different division. The fact of the matter is that the Orioles are set up to improve their on-field product, but probably not be drastic enough to translate into more wins next season -- because the AL East is so good. The Yankees, Red Sox or Rays don't appear to be getting much worse any time soon and the Blue Jays are pretty well set up to take some significant steps forward. That means that even if the Orioles get better, they're still behind the 8-ball, so to speak.

One area where they can improve is from simple progression from all the young players. Matusz can't possibly be worse, so long as he stays mentally balanced, healthy and works hard in the offseason. Tommy Hunter has good enough stuff to be a part of the rotation, too, just as Jake Arrieta does. Chris Tillman is still too young to give up on. Shifting to the position players: Brian Roberts will still only be 34 and should be healthy, so there's hope he comes back with a productive season. Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold are fine pieces of a supporting cast and we already mentioned the offensive core. Also of note: Wieters is becoming a great defensive catcher. That matters.

FREE AGENTS

Cesar Izturis, SS
Vladimir Guerrero, DH

OFFSEASON FOCUS

They need to quit trying to make a patchwork lineup (Lee, Guerrero) for the short-term and instead use some money looking long-term. You aren't competing in the AL East by filling holes with washed-up vets. Here are five big things I'd do to improve the Orioles with the eyes on the future.
  • Sign Prince Fielder. Whatever it takes. I mentioned above the offensive core is good, but lacking a centerpiece. Prince ties it all together. The top seven in the lineup would go something like: Roberts, Markakis, Fielder, Jones, Hardy, Reynolds, Wieters. That looks pretty good, no? Fielder might not want to head to the worst team in the AL East, but money talks. Blow him away. Worried about his durability due to weight? He's only 27 and hasn't played less than 157 games in a season until this year (and he's at 155 and primed to surpass that mark again). He just doesn't miss games. After the big splash signing, try to keep everything else in-house and see what other holes definitely need to be filled after '12.
  • Move Mark Reynolds to DH permanently. He's an absolute butcher at third, but his power and on-base abilities are helpful to the offense.
  • Let Josh Bell and Chris Davis compete for the third base job. Both players have upside, so the Orioles could strike gold here and make the lineup even stronger.
  • Trade Jeremy Guthrie. He's going to be 33 next season and -- as long as you can ignore the high-loss totals his Orioles have saddled him with -- isn't a bad pitcher. He could give a contender 200 decent innings as their fifth starter. Thus, he'll get something like a mid-level prospect back, but the main reason is the Orioles need to see what they have by giving extended looks to the young pitchers who have already seen time in the bigs. Go into the season with a rotation of Britton, Matusz, Hunter, Arrieta and Tillman and give it an extended look. By midseason, if one or two aren't working out, it's time to dip into the minors for others. If three or four aren't working out, more drastic measures will have to be taken in the offseason.
  • Stick with the Strop-Johnson duo at the end of games. There's no reason to go out and grab another retread like Kevin Gregg again. Trade Gregg if they could, but it's doubtful much comes back. Whatever, let him pitch in non-save situations.
This wouldn't make them a contender in 2012, but they'd be better and would have the chance to evaluate where everything stands with the young players after the 2012 season. You have to take babysteps to get back to respectability after finishing fifth four straight times.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:35 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Chipper gets the Mets again

Chipper Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Chipper Jones, Braves: For the 39th time in his career, Jones knocked in the go-ahead run against the Mets. His two-out RBI single drove in the game's only run as Atlanta's Tim Hudson and New York's R.A. Dickey engaged in a fantastic pitcher's duel. Hudson struck out 10, while Dickey allowed just three hits, two to Jones. It was also Jones' 153rd RBI against the Mets, only Willie Stargell (182) and Mike Schmidt (162) have driven in more against New York. Only Stargell has driven in more go-ahead runs against the Mets (40).

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: After missing six games with a sprained left thumb, A-Rod returned to the Yankees lineup and made an immediate impact, collecting two hits, including his 16th homer of the season, a three-run shot off Henderson Alvarez to pull the Yankees to within a run of the Blue Jays in the sixth inning. It was the 629th homer of Rodriguez's career, putting him one behind former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time list.

Mike Moustakas, Royals: There were plenty of raised eyebrows when the Royals' third baseman struggled in his first two months in the big leagues. He was hitting just .182/.237/.227 in his first 53 games in Kansas City with just one home run. That .182 batting average after an 0-for-4 night on Aug. 16 against the Yankees was a low point. The next night he went 3 for 3 against the Yankees and since then he's hitting .385/.418/.548, raising his season line to .252/.301/.338. Saturday he went 3 for 5 with his third homer in four days, as the Royals picked up their seventh straight win.


Ervin Santana, Angels: In what may have been the Angels' last shot at the postseason, the right-hander gave up two homers in a five-run first in Baltimore. Los Angeles has now lost four of its last six games, while the Rangers won in Seattle. Santana retired just two of the first nine batters he faced, allowing a two-run homer to J.J. Hardy and a three-run homer by Mark Reynolds. He allowed just one more hit in his final six innings of work, but the damage was already done.

Rafael Furcal, Cardinals: St. Louis had a chance to get out of a sticky situation in the eighth inning, trailing by two, but with bases loaded and two outs, Octavio Dotel got Hunter Pence to ground into what appeared to be an easy play to end the inning. Furcal looked first at second for a force but couldn't get a hustling Chase Utley. Furcal had to double pump and try to get Pence at first, but with Pence running down the line, the Phillies outfielder was safe, scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded. The next batter, Raul Ibanez, hit a grand slam, making a close game a laugher. St. Louis had scored two in the eighth to pull within a run of the Phillies but then gave up six runs in the bottom half of the inning, in no small part to Furcal's mistake.

Robinson Cano, Yankees: It didn't end up hurting the Yankees, but Cano did cost the team a run in the fourth inning with a base running gaffe. Cano was on second and Mark Teixeira was on third with one out when Nick Swisher hit a liner into center. Cano assumed it would drop, while Teixeira was waiting to see what happened. Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus ran it down and as Teixeira went back to third to tag up, Cano raced around him for the inning's third out.

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Posted on: September 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 12:46 pm
 

What if MVP was decided like Manager of the Year?



By Matt Snyder


As my esteemed colleague C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out Monday in a really creative and entertaining way, the Manager of the Year award is routinely roped off for certain managers. For example, heading into this season, the Phillies and Red Sox were heavily predicted to make the World Series. The Yankees are the Yankees, and the Giants and Rangers went to the World Series last season. So right there, Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona, Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy and Ron Washington are virtually eliminated from the chance at winning the Manager of the Year award in their respective leagues.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, because managing is far different from playing. It's totally apples vs. oranges. But it's fun to imagine if the MVP awards were decided in the same fashion. Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez would have zero chance at winning. Former winners like Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton and Dustin Pedroia? Sorry. Heavily predicted 2011 winner Adrian Gonzalez? Cross him off. Sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard? Nope, you guys are supposed to hit for all that power.

Instead, the candidates would be guys having amazing seasons that we might not have expected. Like Kirk Gibson being the runaway NL winner over Manuel. For example, Jose Bautista would have easily won last season in the AL.

Here are four candidates for the MVP of each league, if voters reacted as they did in the Manager of the Year voting -- along with who I think would win and why.

American League

Alex Avila, Tigers
2010 numbers: .228/.316/.340, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 28 R, 12 2B
2011 numbers: .302/.392/.523, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 60 R, 31 2B
The best part about these numbers is they came from out of nowhere. Avila only hit .264 with an .814 OPS in his only season of Double-A. It's not awful, but those are hardly the type of numbers that scream future All-Star. And Avila's likely to get some real MVP votes this year (remember, each ballot gets 10 entries). Don't discount what kind of stamina he has to have to catch 120 games and still keep hitting like this, either. It's been an absolutely stellar campaign for Avila, and he's going to be a starting catcher in the playoffs.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
2010 numbers: Doesn't matter, it was a lost season due to injuries. He only played 10 games.
2011 numbers: .317/.376/.533, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 104 R, 36 SB, 41 2B, 4 3B
He's got a real shot at the real MVP, and it's all due to his power increase. The average, OBP, doubles, triples, runs and steals aren't surprising at all, if you go back to Ellsbury's numbers pre-2010, and he's only 28. So we knew he had a real shot to drastically improve -- but he's approaching 30 home runs and 100 RBI. No one would have predicted that.

Alex Gordon, Royals
2010 numbers: .215/.315/.355, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 34 R, 10 2B, 1 SB (only 74 games due to demotion to minors and injury)
2011 numbers: .299/.371/.500, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 95 R, 45 2B, 16 SB
This wouldn't have been surprising in 2007 ... or 2008 ... or 2009 ... or maybe even 2010. But after four relatively failed seasons in the face of lofty expectations, people kind of gave up on Gordon. He went from a No. 2 prospect in all of baseball to an afterthought. And just when people gave up on him completely, he broke through in a huge way. Those 45 doubles lead all of baseball and he's doing pretty much everything well.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles
2010 numbers: .268/.320/.394, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R
2011 numbers: .264/.304/.483, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 65 R
This is a return to where Hardy was in 2007 and 2008, though his home run rate is the highest it has ever been. He worked his big season into a multi-year contract extension for the Orioles and has solidified the middle infield.

And the winner is ... Alex Avila. It's a really close call over Gordon. With Ellsbury, I believe we all knew the potential was in there and injuries killed him in 2010. The power increase is nice, but Avila and Gordon are more surprising. Hardy's done it before and he's not old. Plus, his numbers pale in comparison to these other three. Sure, Gordon has far exceeded expectations, but I think if you asked most people before the season who was more likely to impress this year between Gordon and Avila, Gordon would be the answer simply based upon minor-league pedigree. That kind of talent doesn't just abandon someone. Gordon starred -- albeit years ago -- but Avila had never hit enough to believe this kind of monster season was possible. I could easily be wrong on this decision, though, as this is total guesswork. To reiterate, it's really close.

National League

Lance Berkman, Cardinals
2010 numbers: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 48 R
2011 numbers: .290/.405/.551, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R
The newly slender "Fat Elvis" shed loads of pounds this past offseason as he was determined to revert back to vintage "Puma." He did. Many mocked the signing by the Cardinals, especially as Berkman had to return to right field. Well, he hasn't been good defensively, but he's swinging the bat like he did back in his prime and the protection he's provided to Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols has been instrumental in keeping the Cardinals in contention for much of the season.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2010 numbers: .249/.310/.450, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 82 R, 19 SB
2011 numbers: .318/.397/.566, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 97 R, 38 SB
If he doesn't win the real MVP award it won't be because he didn't do enough for his team. It will be because his team didn't do enough for him. Kemp has absolutely carried the Dodgers' offense this season in every facet. He has an outside shot at the triple crown and the 40/40 club, but he'd have to get scorching hot. Still, from a guy who didn't even hit .250 last season, this has been a rebirth. On the flip-side, we knew Kemp had this potential.

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
2010 numbers: .268/.323/.409, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 61 R
2011 numbers: .301/.345/.516, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 50 R
If the counting stats don't look overly impressive this year, that's because he's only played in 103 games. Last season it was 152. He was so disappointing in 2010 that he only started five playoff games -- just once in the World Series. It's been a huge bounce-back season for Sandoval, despite the fact that his team has regressed a bit.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
2010 numbers: .273/.356/.442, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 73 R, 27 2B, 18 SB
2011 numbers: .296/.378/.547, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 100 R, 38 3B, 21 SB
Here's another guy who will get real-life MVP consideration. While 2010 was a disappoining campaign, this is the Upton the D-Backs drafted first overall in 2005. Look at the number jumps across the board for Upton, and he's still only 24. And his team appears headed for the postseason. Like Kemp, however, we knew this was inside Upton.

And the winner is ... Lance Berkman. The other three players are young and have tons of potential, so their big turnarounds aren't entirely surprising, even if incredibly impressive. At least Upton, probably Kemp and maybe Sandoval were all predictable to have seasons like this. Kemp was definitely a bounce-back candidate, but not many would have envisioned him to be this huge in 2011. Berkman is 35 and many believed he was done as a productive major leaguer -- especially since the Cardinals were moving him back to the outfield. This one feels obvious, as opposed to the Avila/Gordon decision, which I'm still second-guessing ...

Wednesday: What if the Cy Young was decided with Manager of the Year criteria?

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Posted on: August 23, 2011 1:39 am
 

Twins won't blame fan

Joe MauerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Former Twin J.J. Hardy made the most of his second chance on Monday, giving the Orioles the lead in the fifth inning with a solo homer off of Carl Pavano. However, it looked as if Hardy would be retired when he fouled off the second pitch he saw  near the stands on the first-base side when a fan in a Joe Mauer jersey had the ball bounce off his hands as the real Mauer tried to lean over the railing to make the catch. Four pitches later, Hardy launched a fastball into the seats in left field for a 2-1 Baltimore lead.

Even though fans booed both Hardy and the fan for setting up the home run, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire refused to blame the fan. From Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune:

"The ball was in the stands," Gardenhire said. "If you're a fan, you've got two choices: reach up and catch the ball, or let it hit you in the head and hope that Mauer catches it.

"C'mon. If you're sitting there in the stands, you're going to try to catch the ball. It's the same way with [Steve] Bartman. You're going to try to catch the ball if you're a fan.

"You can't blame our fans for reaching up and catching the ball. You can boo him, like I heard, but they're going to try to catch it. Joe would have caught the ball. He had a chance to catch the ball, but that's not why we lost the game."

Hardy said he appreciated the help.

"Someone was saying he had a Hardy jersey on," Hardy joked to the Associated Press. "Any time you get a second chance, it's nice."

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Posted on: August 15, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Anthopoulous won't close door on Aaron Hill

Hill

By Evan Brunell

In the span of two seasons, the Blue Jays' Aaron Hill has plummeted from one of the best young second baseman in the game to one of the worst. Still, GM Alex Anthopoulous isn't ready to give up on Hill as the long-term second baseman, Blue Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner reports. Anthopoulous points to J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart as reasons not to give up, given each player's resurgence after experiencing a dip in effectiveness.

Problem is, neither Hardy nor Hart have fallen to the depths Hill has. Hardy has experienced a bounceback season with the Orioles, swatting 23 home runs and posting a .270/.314/.520 mark in what is lining up as a career season, although is production in 2007-08 came close before a two-year hiatus as an effective player. Hart's return to prominence, meanwhile, occurred last season after another two-year dip after a promising 2007. In both cases, Hill and Hart preceded their original breakout year with a couple seasons of futility.

That also happened to Hill, whose first two years in the majors were wanting, but acceptable for someone breaking into the bigs. He showed flashes of potential in 2007 before falling off in 2008 and rebounding in '09 with 36 home runs. Since then, though, he's fallen to depths even Hardy and Hart didn't reach, plummeting all the way to .226/.275/.312 this season with worsening plate discipline and power. Offensively, Hill has been 35 percent worse than league average by weighted runs-created plus, wRC+)  which sounds like a really imposing advance statistic, but isn't. Think of wRC+ as OPS, but done better, and scaled to league average. Thus, Hill's 65 wRC+ means he's 35 percent worse than league average. Among qualified batters, Hill is tied for being the fourth-worst hitter in the game by this metric. The White Sox's Alex Rios is in first by a wide margin, while Orlando Cabrera and Alex Gonzalez eke out Hill, tied with three others.

Hardy, meanwhile, has never fallen below 74 while Hart hasn't been below 93 with a significant major-league sample to draw from. Hardy has only been below the 100-point threshold -- exactly league average with the bat -- four times, and over it three times. Hart has been under twice and over it four times. Hill, meanwhile, has cracked the 100-point barrier just twice in a seven-year career. Hill's not necessarily cooked as a player, but he represents far longer odds than Hardy and Hart ever did to become "re-"reckoned with at the plate. Anthopoulous quoting Hardy and Hart as reasons to believe in Aaron Hill doesn't quite work -- if anything, it shows just how unlikely it is for Hill to rebound. He still has a good chance to return to being a league-average player, but anything above and beyond that at this point is just wishful thinking.

Hill has an $8 million club option for 2012 and 2013, as well as a $10 million option for 2014 that is already guaranteed not to be exercised. While Anthopoulous may not be ready to give up on Hill, it's hard to see Toronto paying $8 million in 2012 to one of the worst hitters in the game. To do so, Anthopoulous will have to really believe in the second baseman.

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Posted on: August 13, 2011 1:21 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Fun homecoming for Wells



By Matt Snyder


Vernon Wells, Angels. Wells was the Blue Jays' first-round pick all the way back in 1997. He first grabbed a cup of coffee in the bigs in 1999 and stuck for good in 2002. He amassed 223 home runs, more than 1,500 hits and an .804 OPS for the Jays. He was traded to the Angels this past offseason. Friday night, Wells returned to Toronto for the first time as an enemy, but the Blue Jays faithful hadn't forgotten him. Wells was greeted with a nice ovation before his first at-bat. He then proceeded to hit his 126th career home run in the Rogers Centre, only this time it hurt the Jays. Wells' new team would go on to win 7-1 and stay two games behind the Rangers in the AL West.

Prince Fielder, Brewers. Going 3-for-4 with a home run wouldn't normally land the big man here. That's what he's paid to do and what he's going to be paid a gigantic amount this offseason to continue to do. But one of his singles Friday is worth noting. In the bottom of the fifth, Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm completely jammed Fielder inside, and the result was what should have been a routine grounder to the shortstop area -- with the shift on, it was third baseman Pedro Alvarez making the play -- but Fielder beat it out. There wasn't even a bobble on the defensive end. He just legged out a single. And the Brewers won for the 14th time in their last 16 games.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles. The shorstop hit two more home runs Friday night, giving him 23 on the season. His career high in homers is 26, which he in 592 at-bats in 2007. He also hit 24 home runs in 2008 ... in 569 at-bats. He has just 343 at-bats so far this season. If Hardy can stay healthy -- which is a big if -- his contract extension earlier this summer by the Orioles was a great decision. He's still just 28 years old.



CC Sabathia, Yankees. For the first time in his career, Sabathia allowed more than three home runs in a game. He actually allowed five in the Yankees 5-1 loss to the Rays. The funny thing is, Sabathia is a such a competitor he still kept the game within striking distance and lasted eight innings. I almost wanted to make him an "up" for such an effort. Then I realized CC himself is probably livid he coughed up five bombs to a team that came in averaging less than one per game.

Giants offense. Matt Cain told reporters after the game he cost his team the game. You know, because he allowed two runs. If a starting pitcher is blaming himself for a loss when he allowed two runs -- against a team that entered the game with a seven-game losing streak, mind you -- that's a problem. Pablo Sandoval told reporters the Giants aren't having any fun right now, too (SFGate.com). Will things suddenly turn around when Carlos Beltran and Nate Schierholtz get healthy? They better, for the Giants sake, or else Arizona is taking the West while the Giants watch from home in October.

The Oakland A's. So Rangers starter C.J. Wilson talks about how much everything in Oakland sucks this week and then he takes the hill Friday night in Oakland. And the A's come out and get their teeth kicked in, 9-1.

And in case you missed it, the biggest clown down of the night was Carlos Zambrano. Click here and here to see why, again, if you missed it.

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Posted on: July 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: July 27, 2011 2:18 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Who needs Joe?



By Matt Snyder


Vance Worley, Phillies. On the day the Phillies learned they'd be losing No. 5 starter Joe Blanton for the season, rookie phenom Worley showed -- once again -- that Blanton's spot is more than covered. The 23 year old has been sensational this season and came up big once again Tuesday night. He allowed only three hits and two runs in his first career complete game and is now 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA. If Roy Oswalt comes back as strong as he's capable, the Phillies have an absurdly scary rotation.

J.J. Hardy and Derrek Lee, Orioles. The O's busted out with 12 runs -- a season high -- on 16 hits Tuesday night in a resounding victory over the Blue Jays. The entire offense hit the ball well, but Hardy and Lee were the obvious stars. Hardy clubbed two home runs and drove home four. Lee went 4-5 with a double, home run and five RBI.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox and Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins. Both of these guys are getting close to making us pay attention daily to their hitting streaks. Bonifacio went 2-4 with a double in a Marlins victory to extend his streak to 24 games. Pedroia went 4-5 with a double and triple in a Red Sox win and is currently sitting with a 23-game hitting streak. The magic number for when streaks deserve our full attention is debatable, but with the trade deadline this week and lots of other stuff going on, 28 -- halfway to Joe DiMaggio's record 56 -- seems about right. Still, both of these guys deserve no less than a tip of the cap.



Neftali Feliz, Rangers. The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year hasn't been near as effective this season, and it showed once again Tuesday night. He closed 40 of 43 save opportunities last season, but Tuesday he blew his fifth save in 25 tries in 2011. He's already surpassed last season's walk total in a little more than half the innings. A crucial fielding error didn't help Feliz Tuesday, but he still allowed a single, two doubles and a walk. If the Rangers do acquire Heath Bell, they should seriously consider dropping Feliz to eighth-inning duties. Bell is much more a sure thing.

Reds defense.
We could call the division the NL Comedy Central when it comes to defense, but the Reds are actually a really good defensive team. Tuesday night, they tried to emulate their Central bretheren. Three errors -- including from the normally sure-handed Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips -- cost the Reds six runs in an 8-6 loss to the Mets. That's right, only two of the eight allowed runs were earned. That's pretty rough on the pitching staff. Chalk it up as a bad day, but the Reds need not make mistakes like this in the NL Central battle, as they've fallen five games back.

Offense in Pirates-Braves game. It was 3-3 after three innings. It was 3-3 after nine innings. It was 3-3 after 18 innings. Cristhian Martinez worked six scoreless innings from the bullpen for the Braves. Martin Prado went 0-9. Andrew McCutchen went 0-6. It was so bad the Pirates elected to sac-bunt against Scott Proctor -- whose ERA is over 7.00. Oh, speaking of Proctor ....

BONUS DOWN: Umpire Jerry Meals. OK, we understand that was a long night behind home plate, but you cannot end a game with such a ridiculous call. The Braves beat the Pirates 4-3 in 19 innings after receiving an absolute gift at home plate (click here for a post with video and photo evidence). Braves baserunner Julio Lugo pretty clearly exhibited the type of body language that he knew he was out at home plate on Scott Proctor's ground ball -- which became a game-winning fielder's choice. Meals just called Lugo safe. Lugo even popped up several feet shy of home plate and was tagged on both the arm and the leg before stepping on home plate and being called safe. We're bound to discuss instant replay a bit the rest of the week, as this was an embarrassing way to end a 19-inning game. I'd even guess most Braves fans agreed (the Braves broadcast team most certainly did). Oh, by the way, there had already been a few ejections due to arguing Meals' strike zone.

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