Tag:Cliff Lee
Posted on: June 22, 2010 11:45 am
Edited on: June 22, 2010 11:54 am

Top 10 candidates to throw a no-hitter

Dallas Braden It's safe to say that baseball is entering an era of pitching. In a span of 23 days, three perfect games were thrown (one unofficial, but in this man's eye, Armando Galarraga had a perfect game) and young pitching has been exploding in quantity and quality as of late.

CBS Sports will attempt to explain why pitchers have the advantage over hitters these days with Scott Miller checking in this afternoon. Danny Knobler will look at the Mets' pitching history as one of three teams without a no-hitter to their name. As a warmup, let's take a look at 10 candidates who have a chance to throw a no-hitter or perfect game, whether this year or down the road.

It should go without saying that it's near fool-hardy to predict who will throw a no-hitter. After all, who could have predicted Galarraga's success, or that of Dallas Braden, who notched the first perfecto of the year? Only Roy Halladay's gem could have been foreseen while Mark Buehrle cofounds logic with both a no-hitter (2007) and perfect game (2009) to his name.

With that caveat in mind, there are four attributes that lend themselves to greater odds for a no-hitter: strikeouts, walks, groundballs and defense. The best way to keep batters off the bases, quite logically, is to strike them out. This is balanced by a need to stay strong for the whole nine innings but is nullified due to the fact anyone with a no-hitter through six innings will stay on the mound until the end.

While walks are allowed in a no-hitter, those with shaky command are more prone to giving up hits, plus their odds for perfect games collapse. Last is something out of the hurler's control, which is defense. A pitcher must have strong defense behind him to make the sparkling defensive plays that are a staple of every no-hitter. Just ask Buerhle how good a defender Dewayne Wise is, or take a look at Austin Jackson's amazing warning-track catch that preserved -- at least at the moment -- Galarraga's bid. As for groundballs, if you can't strike 'em out, the next best thing is to induce a chopper that an infielder can flip to first for an out.

Defensive proficiency will be measured in UZR/150 (click here for an explanation of the statistic) -- but keep in mind that defense should only be considered for the 2010 season. Changes in defensive quality occur from year to year. Excluded from this list (sorry, Jon Lester and Ubaldo Jimenez) are those that already have no-hitters and perfect games on their resume -- a good amount of these players like the ones that received an apology also have high odds to add another to their resume.

Without further ado, your candidates with statistics through Tuesday, June 22:

Mat Latos RHP Mat Latos , San Diego Padres
2010: 7-4, 3.13 ERA, 79 IP, 8.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 45.6 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of 10.4

Latos is blessed with the league's best defense and plays in one of the most extreme pitcher's parks to boot. In his first full season, Latos has shown he's already among the better young pitchers in the game. He has already come close to a no-hitter, giving up one hit -- an infield single -- in a complete-game shutout of the Giants on May 13. He walked none and whiffed six.

Brandon Morrow RHP Brandon Morrow , Toronto Blue Jays
2010: 4-5, 4.97 ERA, 76 IP, 9.95 K/9, 4.86 BB/9, 40.8 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of -4.5

Morrow has some endurance concerns to work with and he's not exactly a control pitcher as evidenced by his average of almost five walks per game. However, he has electric stuff and certainly could have a no-hitter in his grasp. On a good day or as he matures as a pitcher, a perfect game is feasible. He's already sacrificed a bit of velocity and strikeout ability to tamp down the walks, a large reason why his ERA has dropped almost two full points since May 10.

Dan Haren RHP Dan Haren , Arizona Diamondbacks
2010: 7-5, 4.71 ERA, 101 1/3 IP, 8.97 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, 42.8 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of 6.7

Haren may not have the ERA (4.71), but his xFIP of 3.43 shows that he's been rather unlucky on the year. Haren is one of the best pitchers in the game and turned in 229 1/3 innings of 3.14-ERA ball in 2009, so not only can he produce, he can do it while going deep into games. His command is simply fantastic, and any time he toes the mound at a park not named Chase Field, he's got a great chance at a no-hitter. (Haren was a subject of CBS' Sports Fantasy Baseball podcast Tuesday, give it a listen here .)

Ricky Nolasco RHP Ricky Nolasco , Florida Marlins
2010: 5-6, 4.90 ERA, 82 2/3 IP, 6.53 K/9, 1.85 BB/9, 38.5 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of -1.6

Nolasco has somehow lost three strikeouts per nine innings off his game, but if he reclaims it, should combine stingy command with his gas to rank as one of the league's best pitchers year in and year out. He has strung together two impressive seasons prior to 2010. Working against him is his groundball percentage and a home park with a big outfield.

Hiroki Kuroda RHP Hiroki Kuroda , Los Angeles Dodgers
2010: 6-5, 3.06 ERA, 88 1/3 IP, 7.13 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 53.5 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of -9.4

Surprised to see Kuroda on the list? Don't be. The 35-year-old combines a strong strikeout rate, walk rate and groundball rate into someone who keeps runners off bases and doesn't give up too many extra-base hits. While the team is a sieve on defense (the UZR/150 mark is the worst in the majors), most of the damage comes from the outfield.

Jered Weaver RHP Jered Weaver , Los Angeles Angels
2010: 7-3, 3.04 ERA, 94 2/3 IP, 10.7 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 37.2 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of -7.2

Weaver doesn't have the defense behind him but if he keeps up his newfound two-seamer and ascension into the ranks of the pitching elite, he'll sniff a no-hitter before his career is over. The 27-year-old is breaking out, but the one negative is he has yet to go further than 7 1/3 inning on the season. On the bright side, he has four career complete games (two shutouts), all of which were registered in 2009.

Adam Wainwright RHP Adam Wainwright , St. Louis Cardinals
2010: 10-4, 2.23 ERA, 109 IP, 8.34 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, 52.3 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of 2.5

Wainwright is a horse's horse and misses a lot of bats. His curveball -- as Carlos Beltran can attest to -- could be his money pitch, which would cause plenty of strikeouts and groundballs. He gave up just two hits and one walk (eight punchouts) in a complete-game victory over the Brewers on June 4.

Cliff Lee LHP Cliff Lee , Seattle Mariners
2010: 5-3 2.55 ERA, 77 2/3 IP, 7.76 K/9, 0.46 BB/9, 43.2 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of 1.4

Cliff Lee is having a season for the ages with an obscene 16.75 K/BB ratio. All batters can do is hope against hope they can put the bat on the ball and it somehow finds a green patch of grass. He may not whiff as many as others on this list, but he doesn't have to when he simply doesn't give up a free pass unless the manager wiggles four fingers at him. He pitches in a pitcher's park with a strong defense behind him as well.

Stephen Strasburg RHP Stephen Strasburg , Washington Nationals
2010: 2-0, 1.86 ERA, 19 1/3 IP, 14.90 K/9, 2.33 BB/9, 44.1 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of 1.6

It's not often that someone with three career starts to his name lands on a list such as this, but Strasburg isn't your usual pitcher. He combines filthy stuff with pinpoint control and keeps setting strikeout records. Not only is Strasburg a candidate for a no-hitter or perfect game, but it wouldn't be shocking if he racked up multiple no-hitters. Nolan Ryan holds the MLB record with seven total no-hitters, and it's not out of the realm of possibility Strasburg could match Ryan provided Strasburg pitches for many years to come.

Tim Lincecum RHP Tim Lincecum , San Francisco Giants
2010: 7-2, 3.11 ERA, 92 2/3 IP, 10.29 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 48.9 GB percentage, Team UZR/150 of 8.4

Lincecum is the reigning back-to-back Cy Young victor and at age 26, is just getting started. He's giving up a few more walks than normal, but also leads baseball in whiffs per nine innings. On July 27, 2009, Lincecum whiffed 15 Pirates in a complete game effort. He coughed up three walks and four hits in that outing. The closest he has come to a no-hitter was June 29 of the same year when he gave up two hits to the Cardinals, but shut them out on eight punchouts and no walks.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: June 21, 2010 8:39 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2010 1:15 am

Twins could be buyers

Brandan Harris The Twins are sitting pretty, leading the American League Central and playing to big crowds at their new ballpark, Target Field.

There is room for improvement, however, and Minnesota could be active as the trade deadline approaches, with third base and the rotation their priorities according to MLB.com.

The Twins have gotten nothing offensively at third base -- a league-worst 20 RBI and a .222 average. Brendan Harris (pictured), their current starter, is batting .157. Rookie Danny Valencia, called up this month, has been impressive (.317) in 14 games but is apparently not a long-term answer at this point.

Mike Lowell, being shopped by Boston, is the most obvious solution to the third base void. Actually, 2008 Mike Lowell would be a great solution. The 2010 Mike Lowell is 36 years old, coming off hip and thumb operations and has batted .215, though he's played so sparingly it's understandable he hasn't been able to find his groove.

Minnesota's starters are eighth in the AL in ERA (4.27), and a big gun would help put the Twins over the top. The two biggest names, obviously, are Seattle's Cliff Lee and Houston's Roy Oswalt.

The Mariners are reportedly asking for a big return for Lee and are very thin at catcher, so if the Twins are willing to part with prospect Wilson Ramos for a half-season rental it could be a fit. Oswalt and his huge contract would be a much bigger financial investment.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: June 19, 2010 1:42 am

Lee continues to impress

Cliff Lee Cliff Lee did nothing to hurt his trade value on Friday night. Lee shutout the National League's top offense and the Mariners were able to scratch out a single run against Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto to win 1-0.

Lee was dominant again, striking out seven, walking none while allowing six hits in his third complete game of the season.

Lee improved to 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA, but even more impressive he has 67 strikeouts to four walks. Four.

For the record, Nick Punto, Howie Kendrick, Juan Rivera and Evan Longoria are the select four who have seen four balls in an at-bat from Lee.

Lee is a free agent after this season and the Mariners are currently 26-41 and 13 games out of first in the American League West and 15 games out of the wild card, so it's likely he'll play for his fourth team in the last two seasons sometime before the end of July.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.
Posted on: June 18, 2010 1:28 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2010 5:05 pm

Rangers on hunt for starting pitcher

Cliff Lee The Texas Rangers aren't letting their bankruptcy issues derail their quest for an AL West title.

Rather, the Rangers are willing to acquire high-salaried players if it means getting a frontline pitcher, according to MLB.com .

"We've had some preliminary discussions with clubs," said assistant general manager Thad Levine. "But to compel teams to move this far ahead of the [July 31st] trade deadline, it would take a very attractive package. We're still in the inventory stage and the information-gathering stage rather than the execution phase."

MLB.com noted that the Rangers are in on Roy Oswalt as well as Cliff Lee, expanding the number of known Lee suitors to four.

If the pending sale of the Rangers is approved to the Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan group before the trade deadline, the Rangers would be able to take on payroll. However, if no sale has occurred, Texas will have to make sure any trade either decreases payroll or stays steady. To entice another team to take on a high-salaried player, the Rangers would likely have to offer additional prospects.

Making trades with cost-saving motivations is risky. The Dodgers swapped prospect Carlos Santana to the Indians two years ago for third baseman Casey Blake and had to surrender Santana in exchage for Cleveland eating most of Blake's remaining deal at the time. Now, Santana is one of the best catching prospects in the game who just made his major league debut while Blake is 36 years old.

The Rangers are suffering from a dearth in starting pitching. Rich Harden and Derek Holland are working their way back from injury , and Texas has had to alter its plans to make Brandon McCarthy a reliever.

Acquiring Lee, Oswalt or another top-flight starter would certainly make a significant difference in the AL West race, where Texas leads Los Angeles by 2 1/2 games.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 17, 2010 1:07 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2010 2:29 pm

Suitors lining up for Mariners' Lee

Cliff Lee Trading season is heating up, and the Mariners' Cliff Lee is expected to be at the forefront of trade speculation.

Lee, on his third team in two seasons, is an impending free agent and would be more useful to the 25-41 Mariners at this point as a trade chip. That doesn't mean they will --  the M's could choose to hang onto Lee, offer him arbitration in the offseason and snag two draft picks as compensation.

That won't stop teams in contention from trying to snag Lee.

Lee is one of the best pitchers in the game, winning the 2008 AL Cy Young award and is his usual dominant self on the year. His 0.93 WHIP leads the majors with a sensational 60/4 K/BB ratio that is near unheard of in 68 2/3 innings of a 2.88 ERA.

The Yankees are most closely tied to Lee, with multiple reports saying that New York is in love with the left-hander, and that it is a virtual certainty he dons pinstripes no later than 2011. While the Yankees could wait for the offseason to bring the lefty in as a free agent, they may also be open to bringing him in midseason as the team seeks back-to-back World Series titles.

If not the Yankees, the 31-year-old's former team may have interest. Jack Curry of YES reported Tuesday that the Phillies "would love to get Cliff Lee back." The Phils dealt Lee to the Mariners in the offseason after acquiring Roy Halladay. At the time, GM Ruben Amaro defended trading Lee, saying the team needed to restock its farm system after gutting it in the trade for Halladay and 2009 midseason deal for Lee from the Indians.

Now, the Phillies are looking for starting pitching solutions. While they may settle on Pedro Martinez, Lee would be just as good a fit, if not better. In addition, Lee's price will be lower than when Philadelphia sent him to Seattle. Lee would certainly help the Phillies down the stretch, and the Phillies should be commended for being willing to buck perception that they may have made a mistake trading Lee in the first place in the name of a playoff run.

You can also add the Twins to the list of teams hot to trot for Lee. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Radio reveals the Twins may make a run at the left-hander.

Yes, it's odd to think the Twins could be interested in Lee, but these aren't your older brother's Twins. Minnesota is in a brand new park and has a payroll in the $95 million vincinity. Adding Lee for the stretch run could do wonders for a squad leading the AL Central but with no true ace on the staff -- unless you include Francisco Lirano, who has ace stuff but not the track record.

The Twins have some ready-made solutions for the Mariners in terms of trade chips, such as Ben Revere. Revere was the organization's first-round pick in 2007 and is producing at Double-A. He's expendable because the Twins are deep in the outfield with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Delmon Young.

Also working in the Twins' favor is the availability of top prospect Wilson Ramos, who catches. Of course, catcher's not a problem for Minnesota and won't be for years, as Joe Mauer is locked up to a long-term extension. That frees up Ramos for trade discussions, and the Mariners would certainly be intrigued by Ramos. Seattle has no clear catcher of the present or the future, a problem Ramos would solve.

This much is certain: Lee will be a hot commodity the closer the trade deadline approaches, and Seattle won't lack for suitors.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 14, 2010 11:08 am

Phillies unlikely to add

Phillies fans are getting a bit nervous about the National League champs being in third place at this point in the season, and Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News points out that the team is not likely to be able to significantly upgrade via trade.

The Phillies have gotten help at the deadline the past three years: Kyle Lohse in 2007, Joe Blanton in 2008 and Cliff Lee in 2009. Those trades depleted the farm system of the kind of players they'd need to make a similar deal this year. The cupboard is bare except for outfielder Domonic Brown, and the Phillies aren't inclined to trade such a promising prospect.

The Phillies also are hamstrung by their high payroll, much of which is going to players who already are signed for 2011. That rules out taking on a big contract.

The return of Jimmy Rollins (on the disabled list since May 22 with a calf injury, maybe back this weekend) will be a boost to the offense, but for the most part the Phillies are going to have to figure out how to get it done with the guys currently in the clubhouse.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: June 9, 2010 12:20 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2010 5:57 pm

Yankees to pursue Lee?

According to the New York Post's George King , the Mariners are expecting the Yankees to be among the bidders if they shop left-hander Cliff Lee before the deadline.

Lee was traded to Seattle in the offseason and is in the final year of his contract. The Mariners hoped to contend and convince Lee to sign long-term, but with their season in the ditch they will almost certainly opt to cash him in. Lee is making $9 million this season.

A source told King the Mariners have been scouting the Yankees' minor league system extensively and will ask for shortstop Eduardo Nunez and a catcher.

-- David Andriesen

UPDATE: The New York Daily News says the Yankees are not interested in adding a starter, according to a team source.

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Category: MLB
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