Tag:September storylines
Posted on: September 1, 2011 5:33 pm
 

September Storylines: What races?



By C. Trent Rosecrans

If I were a conspiracy type of guy (and I'm most certainly not), maybe I'd suggest Bud Selig rigged this whole thing to get people on board for expanding the playoffs. I don't believe that, or even believe Selig has dreamt about that, much less thought about it -- but the lack of a pennant chases this September may make adding another playoff team to the mix more desirable.

September Storylines

As September began, only two division leaders had a competitor within five games of them for the lead, and one of those -- the American League East -- has both teams pretty much as shoe-ins for the playoffs. Both wild card leaders are up by at least 7 1/2 games over their nearest competition. In short, it may be a boring September.

So, with that buildup, let's look at the race for the eight playoff spots as we enter the last month of the season:

AL East: While the revamped Rays gave it a nice run, Tampa starts the month nine games behind the Rd Sox and virtually out of the race, so we're down to the usual suspects -- the Yankees and Red Sox. The rivals finish their series on Wednesday with Boston leading New York by 1 1/2 games. A difference could be the two teams' schedules -- Boston doesn't leave the Eastern Time zone the rest of the season, while the Yankees not only have a swing out West, they also have 26 games in the last 27 days. Boston does as well, but a doubleheader on Sept. 19 against Baltimore gives them two off days in the game's last month. Boston is 35-20 against the five teams remaining on their schedule while the Yankees are 39-31 against the seven teams they have left on their slate. While many may say it doesn't matter which team wins the division, there's something to be said for home field advantage and opening against Detroit over opening at Texas.

AL Central: The Detroit Verlanders lead the division by 5 1/2 games over the Indians and are six games ahead of the White Sox. However, both the White Sox and Indians have six games left against Detroit, so it's hardly over -- but it could be by the middle of the month. Detroit and Justin Verlander welcome the White Sox to Comerica Park on Friday. Detroit follows that series with a trip to Cleveland. A nice run here by the Tigers could go a long way to letting them work their rotation so Verlander can get ready for Game 1 of the ALDS.

AL West: This is where it could get interesting -- Texas led the division by as many as seven games in August, but enter Thursday's game just 3 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles, which has won eight of its last 12 games and returns for Seattle for a nine-game home stand on Friday. The Angels are a .500 team on the road and 38-28 at home entering Thursday's game in Seattle. The two teams have just three games remaining against each other, but they come the last series of the season, Sept. 26-28 in Anaheim.

AL Wild Card: Red Sox or Yankees. Yankees or Red Sox.

NL East: Much like the American League East, the top two teams can smell the postseason. Philadelphia is rolling and nobody wants to face Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in the postseason. The Phillies improved to 87-56 with a win over Cincinnati on Thursday.

NL Central: The Cardinals have looked spunky by taking the first two games of the series in Milwaukee headed into Thursday afternoon's game, but it still leads by 8 1/2 games. The Cardinals welcome the Brewers at Busch Stadium next week after a weekend series with the Reds. The Brewers are still in control, so St. Louis needs to win the rest of its series remaining (including a trip to Philadelphia for four and three games against Atlanta) to make the Brewers sweat. St. Louis does follow that trip to Philly with series against the Mets, Cubs and Astros to finish the season, so the schedule helps them once they get back from Philadelphia.

NL West: Last year the Giants entered September four games back in the National League, this year it's six. But there's a lot different feeling than there was a year ago when people were wondering if the Padres could hold on to first (they couldn't), while this year the division-leading Diamondbacks enter the season's final month riding a nine-game winning streak. The two start a three-game series in San Francisco on Friday in what could turn out to be the knockout punch. However, the Giants miss Daniel Hudson, while they also put on the mound their three top starters in Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. The two teams also have another series in the season's last weekend at Chase Field. Arizona plays all its remaining games in either the Pacific or Mountain time zones. The Diamondbacks are 30-23 against the teams remaining on their schedule, with a 4-8 record so far against the Giants. All of San Francisco's remaining games are against NL West teams, which helps because those teams are the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies.

NL Wild Card: The Braves will play, but a more interesting question is who they will play. This isn't exactly about the wild card, but more about which team dodges the Phillies in the first round of the playoffs.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 12:53 am
 

September Storyline: The return of Strasburg



By Matt Snyder


The picture above was taken June 8, 2010. Stephen Strasburg had emerged from the Washington Nationals dugout for the first time, ready to carry the future of a floundering franchise with his mighty right arm. A sellout crowd was on hand, buzzing with anticipation of this possible savior. They did not go home disappointed. Strasburg looked every bit the part of an elite ace. He struck out 14 hitters in his seven innings, leading the Nationals to victory. The rest of the season, every time Strasburg pitched, the buzz and hype came back to the ballpark. He did his part -- ending up 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings. The Nats went 8-4 in Strasburg's 12 starts. They went 61-89 in games he didn't start.

Washington had its savior.

And then he went down.

Strasburg was diagnosed in late August of 2010 with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. In layman's terms, Strasburg had to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery -- a procedure that requires around a year of rehab.

Losing Strasburg didn't take the Nationals out of any pennant race, but it was a huge blow to the ballclub for several reasons.

September Storylines
First of all, losing Strasburg killed the Nationals financially. They are averaging 24,049 fans per game this season, which is 57.9 percent of the stadium's capacity. Last year, Strasburg's first two starts were sellouts, with tickets on the secondary market going for triple figures. The game after Strasburg's debut drew less than 19,000. His debut alone brought in $1.5 million in revenue for the Nats, who were estimated to lose out on about $10 million of revenue with him injured for a year. Also, ratings on local TV for the debut night set records (all figures from the excellent Biz of Baseball). People were actually calling his starts "Strasmas," spinning one in every five days as a holiday. Obviously, every night isn't going to be the same as the debut, but the point remains that Strasburg -- just as Bryce Harper will be -- is a gargantuan draw for Washington. For now, he's the Nationals' rock star.

Next, morale took a hit upon news of the injury. The Nats were 81-81 in their first season, but haven't won more than 73 games since. They have finished in last place five of their six seasons, and the one time they didn't it was a fourth-place finish. Getting a pitcher the caliber of Strasburg was symbolic. We don't have to be a doormat any longer. But when he went down, it had to be a huge blow to the mindset of the suffering fan base and even the team itself. Now, with his return, Nationals players, brass and fans can start thinking about a future that includes Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse, Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez and a host of others. Hope of contending is actually on the horizon, and as our friend Andy Dufresne taught us, hope is a good thing.

Now, the question becomes whether or not Strasburg will ever be able to stay healthy for long periods of time. He throws so hard and puts an awful lot of torque on his shoulder and elbow. If he can return to form, he gives the Nats a legitimate ace to anchor the promising future of the franchise. Tommy John surgery isn't necessarily a harbinger of things to come. The following pitchers came back just fine -- many better -- from the procedure: John Axford, Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, Billy Wagner, Brian Wilson, C.J. Wilson, Shaun Marcum and, of course, Tommy John himself. But what if Strasburg's motion lends itself to breaking him down?

We'll start finding out soon. After making one more rehab start Thursday night, Strasburg will make his first start for the Nationals in 2011 September 6. He was lights-out last time on the mound in Triple-A, so he should be ready to step right back on the hill and pick up where he left off last August. How Strasburg fares in the final month will easily be one of the biggest storylines in all of baseball, because he's a game changer.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 1:55 pm
 

September Storylines: Kemp's season overshadowed

Matt KempBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Dodgers may have the best player in the National League, and yet he's been overshadowed by the team's ownership story and even his own teammate, Andre Ethier who has a long hitting streak and a mysterious injury that have garnered headlines. Heck, the biggest story of the year involving Los Angeles' Matt Kemp may be better known for his breakup with his girlfriend last offseason than his breakout on the field this season.

Yep, Matt Kemp may be the best player in the National League, and Dodgerland is still talking about the McCourts, Ethier's possibly injury and the return of their broadcast team. Meanwhile, Matt Kemp leads all big leaguers in Wins Above Replacement players at 8.0 (according to Baseball-Reference.com -- FanGraphs.com has him sixth overall and second in the National League at 6.6).

If advanced metrics aren't your thing, he's hitting .321/.396/.573 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI -- numbers that put him in the running for the triple crown. (He's also tied for second in the NL in stolen bases with 35, 12 behind the Braves' Michael Bourn.)

September Storylines
    • A look at the postseason races

Last year it was Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez challenging for the triple crown, this year Kemp has the best shot. Here's a look at his numbers, and chances.

Batting average: Kemp's currently hitting .321, good for fourth in the National League behind Jose Reyes (.335), Ryan Braun (.331) and Votto (.325) -- with David Murphy (.320) hot on his heels. A career .292 hitter, this is his best batting average since 2007, when he hit .342 in 98 games (and 311 plate appearances) as a 22-year-old. This is the best year of the 26-year-old's career, so it's not like past performance will predict production, but he has tailed off in the last month of the season in his career. Kemp's hit .264/.310/.426 in September and October in his career, while hitting .297/.354/.502 in the other months (although those numbers do include this season's production). 

Home runs: Kemp's tied for the National League lead with Mike Stanton and Pujols with 31 homers, with Lance Berkman and Dan Uggla just one homer behind, each with 30. Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder both have 29 homers, while Troy Tulowitzki and Jay Bruce each have 28 homers -- meaning the race is wide open. 

The Dodgers have 10 home games remaining on their schedule and 17 road games, which would appear to help Kemp who has 16 of his 31 homers on the road this season in fewer games, hitting a homer every 17.3 plate appearances on the road and one every 19.4 plate appearances at Dodger Stadium. However, the stadiums left on the Dodgers' tour of the National League haven't been kind to Kemp -- he has just three homers in the parks left on the team's travel schedule, with two of those coming at Arizona's Chase Field. He hasn't homered in either San Francisco's AT&T Park or San Diego's Petco Park, despite playing six games in both stadiums this season. Kemp has just two homers in San Francisco in his career (166 plate appearances) and three in San Diego (139 plate appearances). Overall, he's managed just one homer every 40.6 plate appearances in the six parks (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona) the Dodgers will play in during September and 15 total, seven of those at Chase Field.

RBI: Kemp enters Wednesday's game with 101 RBI, already tying his career best (2009), and just one behind leaders Howard and Fielder. Tulowitzki is the only other player with more than 90 RBI, with 94 on the season. The RBI stat is dependent on what other players do, and after struggling in July, the Dodgers had one of their best offensive months of the season in August, scoring 127 runs in the month, the most of any month and getting on base at a .322 rate, only just below its .339 OBP in June. That said, that doesn't mean much, since the Dodgers followed their productive June with their worst month of the season in July. Predicting RBI is the ultimate folly, because not only does Kemp have to deliver, so do his teammates. The same thing can be said about the others on the list, as well. 

It'd be silly to predict a triple crown or even guess at a single crown for Kemp with a month to go in the season, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on -- and gives Dodger fans something to cheer about, something that's not been easy to do in 2011.

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

Posted on: August 30, 2011 6:25 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 11:41 pm
 

September Storylines: Minor-leaguers to get calls

Mesoraco

By Evan Brunell

With September around the corner, major-league rosters will be expanded to 40 men, allowing teams to call up players for any reason. Whether that be taking a look at a player that could be a big part of the team's future or supplementing playoff contenders, the transition to 40 men will change games in September. Here's a look at nine players who could have significant roles moving forward that could dictate a team's immediate and long-term future. For the purposes of this discussion, we're limiting the candidates to those with little-to-zero MLB experience, as well as those who have yet to make an impact in the majors. (In other words, no Stephen Strasburg, Pedro Alvarez or similar candidates.)

Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, Yankees: The hubbub has been all about Jesus Montero for quite some time, and he should finally get the call to New York on Thursday. When he arrives, Montero should collect enough starts behind the dish and as DH for the Yankees to evaluate whether he can help them in October. While the Yankees have enjoyed a productive DH combination of Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada, Montero could easily outdistance the two if he delivers on his promise.

Banuelos, meanwhile, has a chance to be a sneaky threat. The Yankees lack a true viable left-handed reliever as Boone Logan's effectiveness in that role has been deceptive. Banuelos was expected to be converted to relief in the hopes of helping in that role down the stretch, but has remained in the rotation for Triple-A, making six starts and posting a 3.03 ERA, and GM Brian Cashman said a couple weeks ago that it was unlikely Banuelos would be called up.

I'm not sure we should buy into that, however. Banuelos has long been linked to an eventual call-up and can help the team. Plus, don't look now, but the Rays have made up some ground recently, and the wild card is not even close to being in hand, while a three-game set with division-leading Boston coming up Tuesday night will also have ripple effects. Given A.J. Burnett has imploded, Phil Hughes is a box of chocolates (you never know what you're gonna get) and Bartolo Colon has shown chinks in his armor lately, Banuelos could end up a surprise starter down the stretch and save New York's season.

Devin Mesoraco, Reds (pictured): The Reds have an embarrassment of riches at catcher, with Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan equipping themselves well in the majors, while Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal continue rising up prospect charts down on the farm. Mesoraco could be the best of them all and will get a chance to prove that in September. Hitting .289/.372/.486 in 495 plate appearances for Triple-A, the 23-year-old figures to bump Hernandez off the team this winter. The Reds are clear sellers in a disappointing season after winning the division, and a strong debut by Mesoraco could get the team chomping at the bit for 2012.

Anthony Rizzo, Padres: Rizzo fell on his face in an earlier promotion to the majors after ripping apart Triple-A. Hitting .143/.282/.265 in 117 plate appearances isn't how one wants to start his career, but Rizzo should get another shot in September, although he'll have to jostle for playing time due to Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman. The 21-year-old has nothing to prove in the minors, ripping 26 home runs in just 89 Triple-A at-bats and could be an important piece to the Padres' 2012 hopes, so he'll get plenty of chances to redeem himself. The guess here? He will.

September Storylines
To come:
    • A look at the postseason races
Jacob Turner, Tigers: Turner already made a spot start for the Tigers, but Detroit could dip down again for the phenom that could top the rotation one day. The freshly-minted 20-year-old has a 3.44 ERA in 20 minor-league starts, all but three at Double-A. Overall, he's tossed 136 1/3 innings in 2011, which is a significant leap forward from 2010's 115 1/3 innings, so inning limitations could play in. However, if Detroit wants to make the postseason and go deep, they have to do something to support Justin Verlander in the rotation. Max Scherzer has been playing a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act, and Doug Fister is a capable pitcher but no one's idea of a lockdown starter. If the Tigers take the gloves off, Turner could emerge to be an important piece.

Stephen Lombardozzi, Nationals: The Nationals already have a middle-infield combination in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, but the Nationals balked at including Lombardozzi in a potential trade for Minnesota's Denard Span for a reason. The second baseman will receive a look in September as a potential solution at second next year, which forces Desmond and Espinosa into a tough position of playing for their jobs. Lombardozzi is only 22 but has handled Triple-A with aplomb, slashing .320/.364/.426 after a promotion from Double-A. If he plays well down the stretch, one of Desmond or Espinosa will likely be playing in another uniform come 2012 and could be the prime bait needed to grab the long-term center fielder the team so covets. A strong September by Lombardozzi could have ramifications for years in Washington.

Wilin Rosario, Rockies: Chris Iannetta hasn't given the Rockies any indication he can be a long-term, viable starter, but it's OK because Rosario can be that man. While Rosario hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in his repeat of Double-A with a .254/.285/.468 line over 410 PA a year after hitting .285/.342/.552 in 297 PA, he will be receiving a call-up and will play extensively down the stretch. Rosario is well-regarded by both the organization and prospect mavens, so he's a player to watch.

Domonic Brown, Phillies: Brown already tried and failed to hold down a starting job earlier this year, and his role will be greatly reduced in September thanks to the recent play of Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry, but don't overlook Brown. Any day, Ibanez or Mayberry could stop hitting and Brown would be looked at to step in and keep the offense going. Even if not, the Phillies have been linked to Jim Thome and Jason Giambi in recent days as ways to shore up the bench. Brown is a left-hander... even if he's not oozing with power or established. Still, he could be that pinch-hit threat off the bench Philadelphia is looking for in October. He hasn't exactly inspired confidence in Triple-A, but the light could go on any day and when it does, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Brett Jackson, Cubs: As the Cubs look to move past the futility that has dogged them in recent years, Brett Jackson could be a breath of fresh air. While his call-up isn't guaranteed, he's ripped apart Triple-A despite striking out in 30.6 percent of his at-bats. That can be forgiven with a .319/.395/.583 line in 186 plate appearances, which could force the Cubs' hand. Long considered the Cubs' center fielder of the future, that could turn into the present as Chicago begins evaluating its prospects for 2012. With Kosuke Fukudome out the door, Tyler Colvin struggling and Marlon Byrd not part of the future, Jackon could be in line for significant playing time. If he produces, that's one less spot Chicago has to worry about filling, and will give the team someone young on offense other than Starlin Castro to build around.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 5:06 pm
 

September Storylines: Reyes readies for payday

Jose Reyes

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It only takes one to like you to hit the jackpot -- I'm the living proof. My wife, she's great. Me? Eh. I'm probably not even a replacement player -- I'm guessing my Win Against Replacement husband is roughly somewhere around negative-1.2. I'm certainly no Jose Reyes, I can tell you that.

Reyes has a lot of things I don't -- youth, speed, a great arm and he can hit. He also has really cool hair. Me? I'm left-handed, so there's that. Beyond that? I type pretty quickly and I'm not too shabby at a grill (and I smoke a mean pork butt). 

So what does this have to do with anything? Reyes will enter the offseason as the biggest free agent on the market and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Last night Reyes came off the disabled list between games of a doubleheader after missing three weeks with a strained left hamstring, singling in the seventh inning as well as making a nice play in the field (along with an error earlier in the game). There will be plenty of eyes on Reyes down the stretch, despite his Mets being well out of the pennant race, but not for what exactly he does on the field, just that he stays on it. What those watching will see with Reyes in the last month of the season? It's kind of a glass half-empty or half-full thing...

September Storylines
To come:
      • Can Jose Reyes stay healthy?
      • Which minor-leaguers can make an impact?
    • A look at the postseason races

Some general managers could see a guy who put up MVP numbers for the Mets this season. He's in line to win the batting title, has a .376 on-base percentage and is slugging .505. Put that a premium position and you're talking a pricey player for any team wanting to make an offseason splash -- and this would be as big of a splash as me doing a cannonball off the high dive. Reyes is the best shortstop in baseball not named Troy Tulowitzki -- and Tulowitzki isn't going anywhere soon. Reyes also just turned 28 in June, so he'll likely still be younger than New York's other starting shortstop when this contract is over (assuming it's not a crazy 10-year deal or anything).

Others could see him as injury-prone and a gamble. Despite great talent, they can look back on Carl Crawford and his injury-plagued first season in Boston as a cautionary tale. Even his own owner, Fred Wilpon said earlier this year that he didn't think Reyes would get a "Carl Crawford contract" -- which for the record was seven years and $142 million -- and that was before his two stints on the disabled list this season. And given that the Mets are one of the prime suspects for handing out that kind of contract, it certainly raises some eyebrows. When Reyes went on the disabled list earlier this month, an anonymous teammate told a reporter that his injury might cost him $100,000 for every day he's on the disabled list. So, that could cost him $2,150,000 -- that's more money than I can imagine, but just small percentage of what Reyes could earn on the open market.

And that's just the point -- no matter what Reyes does over the final month of the season, he's going to get paid. He's going to be paid handsomely -- and he may just get a "Carl Crawford contract" -- because in the end, it only takes one team to fall in love and overpay. Just like my wife… and Jayson Werth with the Nationals.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 29, 2011 8:45 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 11:33 pm
 

September Storylines: Swan songs for players

Oswalt

By Evan Brunell

Note: Through Thursday, the Eye on Baseball team will be churning out two September Storylines per day.

The 2011 season could mark the end of the line for many players in the game -- some of whom will walk away of their own choosing and some who will be forced out. There will be legends and scrubs alike hanging up the cleats. Here's a look at the top nine players that could be bidding farewell to their playing career after the season.

A generation of shortstops: We're gonna start this list out by cheating immediately and count eight players -- yes, eight -- as one on the list. This season could be the end for a cadre of shortstops who, over the last two decades, have been responsible for significant playing time at the position. Orlando Cabrera, Craig Counsell, Rafael Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada and Omar Vizquel could all choose to hang up their cleats. While none of these players appear to be viable starters in 2011, it's still a significant chunk of history to lose. Between these players, 61,355 plate appearances headed into Monday's games have been earned by these shortstops. Between these players alone, they are responsible for just over 102 full seasons of playing time, assuming 600 plate appearances a year.

It's unlikely that all these players will retire, especially since someone will have to occupy a starting or bench spot. Losing eight shortstops currently holding starting or backup positions would create a major depth void, and teams simply don't have enough resources to fill the gap. Several Dominican Republic newspapers believe Tejada will retire, while Counsell's retirement is a virtual lock.

Here's the breakdown of plate appearances per player through Sunday's games and their debut season:

Orlando Cabrera: 8,213 PA, 1997
Craig Counsell: 5,450, 1995
Rafael Furcal: 6,557, 2000
Alex Gonzalez: 5,935, 1998
Julio Lugo: 5,338, 2000
Edgar Renteria: 8,990, 1996
Miguel Tejada: 9,035, 1997
Omar Vizquel: 11,837, 1989

Roy Oswalt (pictured): Oswalt has made reference enough times to retiring after the season that one has to take the threat seriously. Oswalt rejuvenated his career last season and has been a capable pitcher for Philadelphia this year and is just 34 years old. If he wanted to, he could net another strong contract, but has struggled with back problems all year and has been held to just 17 starts on the season. If Oswalt decides he doesn't have anything left to play for, he'll just go back to his ranch and bulldozer that was a gift from Astros owner Drayton McLane.

If he does indeed retire, he'll do so as one of the best pitchers of the '00s, tying for fifth in the decade for wins with 137 and 10th in ERA with 3.23, a mark that jumps to fifth when you remove relievers from the equation.

September Storylines
To come:
      • Can Jose Reyes stay healthy?
      • Which minor-leaguers can make an impact?
    • A look at the postseason races
Jorge Posada: It's doubtful that the Yankee great will retire. Instead, he's likely going to move on to another team, but he could also end his career having played for just New York and as the best catcher in franchise history since Thurman Munson. In his first year as full-time DH after 14 seasons behind the plate, he's progressively earned less and less playing time the longer the year has gone on thanks to an anemic .244/.322/.407 line. At age 40, no team will live with Posada behind the plate and there are only so many DH jobs to go around. Posada will be in the same spot as several other players toggling between coming back for another year or retiring in jockeying for jobs. A down-and-out DH isn't exactly in demand, especially during a time where the DH is increasingly being used to give players in the field a break as opposed to sticking someone in DH the entire season and leaving him there.

Vladimir Guerrero: Vlad the Impaler looked like he might be done after the 2009 season, but hammered 29 home runs for Texas last year (albeit mostly during a scorching-hot first half), which earned him another starting job this season. But in Baltimore, the wheels have completely fallen off, with the 36-year-old hitting just .277/.307/.390. Guerrero is a lost cause in the field, so is limited to DH these days. He's clearly not doing a good job of it and could elect to walk away as one of the greatest Expos in franchise history and 446 career home runs through Sunday. Guerrero didn't sign until mid-February, adamant on getting a full-time job and an $8 million salary. He won't come close to those guarantees again and may elect to pack it in. The demand for Guerrero, especially after the year he's had, figures to be tame.

J.D. Drew: Drew isn't the only outfielder that many in the game would recognize that could retire, as Magglio Ordonez could also hang them up. But Drew's had a more prominent role, first becoming a lifelong villain in Philadelphia for spurning them in the draft, later signing with the Cardinals. Drew also has had a productive career, despite being injury-prone and has a World Series ring (2007, Boston) to show for it. The 35-year-old isn't the type of person to hang onto a baseball career as long as he can, and would absolutely walk away to be with family. Even though he's had a lousy year in which he lost his starting job to Josh Reddick, he wouldn't lack for job prospects if he decided to return. But given his reputation in the game as a passive player disliked by fans, with injuries constantly sidelining him and more money than he will ever need, Drew could walk away.

Tim Wakefield: Tim Wakefield has had a long and storied career, but is reaching the end of the line. He's failed in six straight instances to grab career win No. 200. Some of these games, he's deserved to come out with a win, but the last two years have been a struggle for him -- especially the second half this season -- and the Red Sox may opt to cut the cord. If that happens, Wakefield will retire, even if he feels like he could return for another season or two. He's also just eight wins away from the all-time Red Sox wins record, a mark that looked sure to fall two years ago but he's collected just 10 wins these last two seasons while losing his role as a permanent starter. When Wakefield retires, he will take his knuckleballer with him, leaving the late-blooming R.A. Dickey as the only knuckler in the majors. Wakefield's retirement is dependent more on Boston's interest in bringing him back.

Javier Vazquez: Vazquez was cryptic about his retirement plans to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, telling the paper that he has known for some time whether this will be his final year or not, but is declining to reveal his answer until after the season.

"Something I've always wanted to do is when I retire to do it on my terms," Vazquez, who has three children, of which the oldest is 8, said. I've never wanted to retire because I couldn't pitch anymore. I want people to say, 'He retired, but he could have kept pitching,' not, 'It was already time for him to retire.'" Vazquez has turned his season around since an awful beginning, posting a 2.53 ERA over his last 75 1/3 innings. Given that, plus the lack of free agent starters, Vazquez may be able to net another sizable contract, but it appears as if he's ready to go home at the age of 35.

As the Sun-Sentinel reports, if Vazquez does retire, he will do so having amassed the the second-most strikeouts by a Latin pitcher, behind just Pedro Martinez. In addition, the righty will probably pass Christy Mathewson for 29th all-time.

Jim Thome: Thome isn't the only slugging first baseman that could hang up his cleats -- Jason Giambi may also call it a season. But there's no doubt that Thome has had the more storied career, recently knocking his 600th home run and heading back to Cleveland in a deal, rejoining the team he came up and had his glory years with. Thome is hitting .238/.347/.477 on the year with 13 home runs in 251 PA, so he could easily find work next year if he wanted to. But with No. 600 out of the way, a return to Cleveland in the books and a current age of 41, Thome could decide to hang it up, even if he would do so without a World Series ring.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 29, 2011 11:59 am
This entry has been removed by the administrator.

Post Deleted by Administrator

This message has been removed by the administrator.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 11:56 am
 

September Storyline: Astros try to avoid history

By Matt Snyder

[Note: Through Thursday, the Eye on Baseball team will be churning out two September Storylines per day]

With the first installment in the September Storyline series, we'll get the bad news out of the way first: The Houston Astros have a good shot at being historically bad. In fact, if you view from the lens of just club history, they quite certainly will make history for futility.

The bare bones are that the Astros are currently 44-90, which is a .328 winning percentage. That means they're on pace to go 53-109.

The good news is this pace will spare the Astros from getting deeply into the realm of major-league history. Dipping below .300 winning percentage would be. Only 21 teams in major-league history have dropped below .300, and it's happened just one time since 1962: The 2003 Tigers. That Tigers team was 43-119. So the Astros' 44th win Sunday already spared them from being that bad.

Still, only 11 teams since 1900 have lost 110 times in a season and the Astros are on pace to approach that number. They're also on pace to be the first team since the 2005 Royals to lose more than 105 games.

In terms of franchise history, the 2011 Astros are pretty easily destined to end up as the worst. The Astros began as the Colt .45's in 1962 and became the Astros in 1965. Only once has a ballclub in this franchise ever dipped below a .400 winning percentage and that was a .398 clip in 1975. That team lost 97 games, just as the 1991 Astros did, which are the most ever in one season for the Astros/Colt .45's. Considering the 2011 installment already has 90 losses with 28 games to play, it's a no-brainer club history is on the way. Sorry, they aren't going 21-7 the rest of the way. So the goal should be to avoid big-league history.

The good news for the Astros is they've been playing better since adjusting to life without outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. In their last 12 games, the Astros are a modest 6-6. Also, with several young players having been recalled from the minors and some more certainly on the way, it would be shocking to see them give up on the season. It's certainly not scientific to bring this point forward, but it seems that bad veteran teams would be more apt to not give full effort late in a disaster season. The young guys are trying to impress management and living their dream, regardless of record.

At the end of the day, though, effort only carries so much weight and the fact of the matter is the Astros just don't have much developed talent. So it's going to be an uphill battle to avoid making dubious history.

Let's check out the schedule for the remainder of the season to see how rocky the water is.

Games against teams above .500
3 vs. Brewers
3 vs. Phillies
3 vs. Cardinals
3 at Reds

Games against teams below .500
3 vs. Pirates; 3 at Pirates
3 at Nationals
3 at Cubs
4 vs. Rockies

So they have 16 games against teams with a losing record and three in Cincinnati -- and the Reds are only one game over .500. The six games against the two best teams in the NL are definitely rough, but otherwise this appears to be a relatively easy schedule. Of course, every team on here has a drastically better record than Houston. And most of the games against weaker teams are on the road.

If the Astros play well enough to get half the games against teams below .500 and get, let's say, a third against the plus-.500 teams, that gives them an 11-17 mark the rest of the way, which means a 55-107 final record -- the worst in the majors since 2005, but not the dreaded 110 loss mark.

But can they actually win that many? Time will tell. It feels generous to give them those 11 wins, that's for sure. This is definitely a storyline to watch in September.

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