Tag:Alex White
Posted on: May 20, 2011 5:16 pm
 

On Deck: Interleague's best


By C. Trent Rosecrans


A little something different today for on-deck, with interleague play starting, here are the top three interleague matchups on tap this weekend. But what's really different is this ranking of the top three is done not by hype or television market or geography, nope, it's done by good ol' fashion numbers -- combined winning percentage.

BATTLE FOR OHIO -- The two teams play for the Ohio Cup -- and for the last couple of years, that's all that was at stake. Not this season. The Reds' resurgence started last season when they won the National League Central and this season they enter this series just a half-game out of first, while the surprising Indians lead the American League Central by five games, the biggest lead of any of baseball's division leaders. Indians starter Alex White, the team's first-round pick in 2009, hasn't pitched an official game in nearly two weeks and had his outing last Saturday cut short after an inning because of rain. Former Indian Brandon Phillips has absolutely punished the team that gave up on him in 2006, hitting .354/.390/.540 with five homers in 29 games against Cleveland. Combined winning percentage: .600. Reds at Indians, 7:05 p.m. ET (Watch live)

SUNSHINE STATE SHOWDOWN -- Usually you think of old folks when it comes to Florida, but between the Rays and the Marlins, you have two of the best young teams in baseball. The Rays have rebounded from their slow start to take the lead in the American League East, while the Marlins are just a game and a half behind the Phillies. There's never really been a rivalry between these two teams as neither have really been playoff contenders in the same year. That could change this season. Andy Sonnanstine goes to the hill for Tampa tonight for his second start of the season, while Anibal Sanchez is off to a hot start, going 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA. Combined winning percentage: .570. Rays at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET (Watch live)

DIVISION LEADERS -- Considering the Rangers made the World Series last season and are currently leading the American League West and the Phillies have the game's best rotation, this could be an October preview. As it stands, it's the only matchup (today at least) of first place teams. Oh yeah, and C.J. Wilson against Roy Halladay, that's not too bad either. Too bad there's no Josh Hamilton, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino or Nelson Cruz, but there's still plenty of star power to go around. Combined winning percentage: .563. Rangers at Phillies, 7:05 p.m. ET (Watch live)

And, just to note, the three worst matchups by terms of combined winning percentage are: Twins-Diamondbacks (.412), Astros-Blue Jays (.425) and Dodgers-White Sox (.444).

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Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:33 pm
 

Indians' hot start setting up for division race

Masterson

By Evan Brunell

With one day in the books in baseball's second month, the division leader of the AL Central has gotten off to a commanding 19-8 start, building up a 4 1/2 game lead over the second-place finisher.

Except second place is Kansas City, which is odd enough. Even odder is who is atop the Central in the Cleveland Indians, who are 9 1/2 and 10 games, respectively, ahead of the White Sox and Twins, the trendy picks to win the division in the offseason.

So far, the Indians' dominance is no fluke; they're tied with the Rangers for the AL lead in runs scored with 146 and also boast the league's third-best ERA. They're doing all this with the second-youngest roster in baseball with an average age of 27.8, and that number could get dragged down as the months go on if they promote top prospects Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis to man third and second, respectively.

How have the Indians pulled all this off with a roster that was projected to lose over 90 games?

Simply, the Indians have benefited from production out of left field that isn't going to hold up over the entire season. Justin Masterson, for example, is doing his best Derek Lowe impersonation and has rocketed off to a 2.25 ERA start, going 5-0. Another hot performer is Josh Tomlin, who has one less win than Masterson and has registered a 2.45 ERA.

"The biggest question mark," closer Chris Perez said of the Indians coming into the season to MLB.com, "was getting quality starts, [Nos.] 1-5, and we've done that."

But here's where red flags pop up. Masterson, if he has indeed finally learned how to neutralize left-handed batters, could have taken the next big leap forward toward becoming a top starter in the league. But even if he's taken that step, a 2.25 ERA just isn't sustainable and will backslide at least a full point. Tomlin, for his part, is due a serious regression shortly. Last season, he posted a 4.56 ERA and 4.76 xFIP in 12 starts. This year, those marks are at 2.45 and 4.02, respectively. While one may have to start buying into Tomlin as a solid starting pitcher despite an 87-mph fastball, any ERA under 4.00 means Tomlin is pitching over his head.

The outlook is rosier when you turn to the hitters. Travis Hafner's .342 average simply isn't sustainable, but he remains a quality bat while Asdrubal Cabrera has jumped out to a quick start along with Grady Sizemore. These performances are far more believable, and even if some hitters regress, it will be offset by the emergence of catcher Carlos Santana and right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo once those two kick into gear. Choo and Santana are both attempting to keep their OPS's above .700 when they should be breaking .800 without a sweat. That will happen by the end of the season.

"We're not putting godly statistics up there," backup outfielder Shelley Duncan said. "And we still have a couple guys who haven't really started hitting, and we still have some young guys who are going to get better and better."

Some of those young players include Matt LaPorta, a key player in the CC Sabathia trade way back in 2008. LaPorta has failed to live up to his billing so far, but may finally be ready to cobble together a quality season at age 26, already knocking out four homers and slashing .263/.344/.513.

So yeah, the offensive production of Cleveland looks like it will hold up well, but despite a strong bullpen to date, the starting pitching looks due for a serious regression. The offense will be able to cover that up to some degree, and Alex White could end up being the team's saving grace, but for now, that can't be assumed. Currently, the Indians shape up to be a team with a talent level that of a .500 ballclub or a shade under.

Here's the rub, though -- you can't backdate true talent. That 19-8 record is in the books and cannot be changed, period. Even if the Indians play to .500 caliber the rest of the way, you're looking at around 86 victories total. That's plenty enough to capture the AL Central the way things are going. Last season, the Twins took the division with 94 wins (and that's not happening again this year) while the White Sox took second with 88 victories.

Right there, it's clear Cleveland will contend into September unless they experience a sudden and massive decline back to being a 90-loss team, but that looks out the window at this point. In addition, if the Indians are in the hunt in late July, you have to figure the club will be buyers in the trade market and could supplement the team that much more.

"Everything's really falling into place for us, if you look at it," Perez said. "It's there for the taking, but it's not going to be easy. ... It might be one of those five-team races where nobody is really leading the pack. That's why it's nice coming out to this great start, because if we do stub our toe, we could still be there.

"That's all we can ask for is to have a chance."

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Posted on: May 1, 2011 1:43 am
Edited on: May 1, 2011 1:51 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Shields, Halladay baffle batters

Shields

By Evan Brunell

3 UP

James Shields, Rays -- Shields delivered a dominating performance and may be on the way back towards being an ace. However, Shields is an inconsistent player, so we'll have to see how he performs more. Still, he twirled a beautiful start against the Angels, going eight strong with an eyebrow-raising 12 strikeouts against one walk, six hits and an earned run. He combined to strike out the first three batters of the game six times, holding them to 1 for 13 with a walk. This game pushes Shields' ERA down to 2.14.

Roy Halladay, Phillies -- What else do you expect? Halladay rivaled Shields for best pitching performance as he pitched a complete game seven-hitter, allowing a walk and punching eight out. The Mets -- especially Jason Bay in an 0-for-4 night with three whiffs -- were helpless as Philly squeaked out a 2-1 victory. That offense is starting to run a little cold in Philadelphia, who were lifted by reserve outfielder John Mayberry Jr.'s first home run of the year plus a sac fly by Placido Polanco. Carlos Beltran did have two hits, continuing a nice return from knee problems.

Michael Brantley, Indians -- The league's best hitting performance that also directly won the game for Cleveland by Brantley, who sparked the team to victory by first tying the game at two-all in the sixth by ripping a solo home run and then scoring the winning run on an Orlando Cabrera single. All in all, the leadoff man who was playing center as Grady Sizemore took a breather, stepped up to the plate with a 3-for-6 night (so did Cabrera), scoring those two runs and driving in himself on the homer to edge the Tigers 3-2. Top Indians pitching prospect Alex White got throw his start by throwing six innings and allowing just two runs despite coughing up four walks and six hits -- two home runs -- and whiffing four.

3 DOWN

Matt Thornton, White Sox -- Ozzie Guillen must be furious. In his house, that is, as he was suspended two games for his comments about the umpiring earlier in the week and then tweeting about it. Matt Thornton was called in by bench coach Joey Cora to keep the ChiSox in the game as they trailed 2-1 in the eighth. Phil Humber had a two-run, seven-inning start, calling into question whether he should be demoted when Jake Peavy returns. Against the Orioles, Thornton went as such: single, stolen base, strikeout plus Pierzynski error allowing a run to score and batter to reach, single, wild pitch, walk, infield RBI single, sacrifice fly, and -- that was it for Thornton as Jerry Gray sandwiched two outs around a hit by pitch. Not a good day at the park for Chicago's closer at the beginning of the season who has already lost his job.

Red Sox offense -- What can the Red Sox offense do for you? Well, it can mount a seven-hit attack on Doug Fister, walk six times, and ... leave 11 men on base in a 2-0 defeat. Awesome. David Ortiz want 0-for-4 with two whiffs, coming up in a key situation that could have changed the complexion of the game. The Red Sox left the bases loaded in the first (yes, really) and fourth, with Jacoby Ellsbury ending the threat in the fourth by getting doubled off second in a mistake. Oh, and no Mariners game is complete without a Milton Bradley ejection. The mercurial outfielder delivered a RBI double in the second to send Seattle up 1-0 then argued with the second base umpire about a play in which Miguel Olivo grounded to first and got the heave-ho. Skipper Eric Wedge was in the process of leaving the field after mounting his own complaint, but he didn't get tossed.

Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays -- Drabek got a little lesson in humility Saturday night, lasting just 2 1/3 innings. Drabek has been a bit up and down in his first full major-league season, but was still doing decently enough. Now his ERA rests at 4.45 after giving up five runs on seven hits, four walks and four strikeouts against the Yankees. He was dinked to death, but those runs count and can be even more deflating than a single big blow. You can attribute giving up a grand slam to one misplaced pitch, but you can't justify any of your stuff when everything is being rifled. Oddly enough, no Yank had more than one hit, but everyone did sans Derek Jeter (all together: when will he be demoted to No. 8 in the lineup? -- hey, look a reunion of the top two in the order from last season... at the bottom).

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Posted on: April 30, 2011 12:43 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 9:29 pm
 

On Deck: West Coast battle

Kuroda
on

By Evan Brunell

BATTLE OF THE SAME ERA: Both Tim Stauffer and Hiroki Kuroda have a 3.21 ERA. How much do you want to bet that the two won't have that in common after tonight's affair? The flailing Padres will meet the Dodgers, who are one game over .500 in a game where Andre Ethier will seek his 26th consecutive game with a hit. It's way too early to conjure up visions of Ethier taking down Joe DiMaggio, but he is coming awfully close to Luis Castillo's 30 straight games which remains the longest streak in recent years. Kuroda has his own streak, but it's a bad one as he's lost two consecutive starts in Dodger Stadium. He's never lost three in a row, but Stauffer has dominated the Dodgers lately with San Diego winning its last four starts with Stauffer on the mound against L.A. Padres at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

DEBUT: Alex White makes his big-league debut for the Indians as he will host Rick Porcello and the Tigers. The surprising Indians continue to win, roaring out to a 17-8 record that includes 12 consecutive victories at home. White is Cleveland's top pitching prospect and replaces the injured Carlos Carrasco. The 22-year-old has torn Triple-A apart in the early going, logging a 1.90 ERA in four starts in what has been a meteoric rise through the farm system after being drafted with the No. 15 overall pick of the 2009 draft. He has a 28/5 K/BB ratio, an encouraging sign for his ability to hold his own in the majors. Still, making your first career start is no walk in the park, so it will be interesting to see how he performs. Tigers at Indians, 6:05 p.m. ET

CAN I GET A WIN, PLEASE? It's not Matt Garza's fault. The new Cubbie has 41 strikeouts on the season, which is tied for second in the NL. And it's not as if he's giving away victories elsewhere, as he's only coughed up nine walks and boasts a 4.11 ERA on the season. Yet, Garza is seeking his first win as a Cub after starting the year 0-3. He'll look to keep Chicago rolling after snapping a four-game losing streak Friday night against the Diamondbacks. Ian Kennedy will be a tough battle for Garza, and it's easy to see Garza dropping to 0-4 with Kennedy on the mound. Kennedy three-hit the Phillies Monday for his first career game, denying Cliff Lee a victory. He's been up and down over his career so far, but could be ready for a leap forward after allowing no walks and striking out 10 Phillies. That's hard to do against that offense. Cubs at Diamondbacks, 8:10 p.m. ET

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