Tag:Doug Fister
Posted on: October 7, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Tigers vs. Rangers ALCS preview

By Evan Brunell

Detroit-Texas ALCS

The Tigers and Rangers share one thing in common -- both teams have AL pennants to their name in recent seasons, but fell short in the World Series. Jim Leyland took Detroit to the World Series in 2006, his first season with the club, winning 95 after the Tigers registered five straight seasons of at least 90 losses, including 119 in 2003. It's taken them some time to return to the postseason, but they're here after downing the Yankees in five games. Detroit will be leaning on the electric arm of Justin Verlander, who won Rookie of the Year in '05 but gave up 17 runs in 21 2/3 innings across the 2005 postseason. He'll get a chance at redemption against Texas, who appeared in the Fall Classic a mere season ago.

The revamped Rangers may have lost Cliff Lee, but their offense is as potent as its ever been in franchise history, adding Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli to its monstrous lineup. Seeking to become the first consecutive AL pennant champion since the 1998-2001 Yankees, Texas will be relying on C.J. Wilson and its formidable bullpen to keep the Tiger offense in check. However, Texas' own offense needs to play up to its billing, as the team scored just 16 runs in the LDS, least among any team. (Granted, Texas was the only advancing club to play a series in less than five games, bouncing Tampa Bay in four.)

TEAM INFORMATION

Detroit Tigers (host games 3, 4, 5*)
95-67, AL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Yankees in 5 games -- View coverage of ALDS Tigers-Yankees
Manager
: Jim Leyland
Regular-season batting statistics: .277 batting average (3rd in AL), .340 on-base percentage (3rd), .434 slugging percentage (4th)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 4.04 ERA (7th), 1.32 WHIP (8th), 2.27 K/BB (6th)
Star player: SP Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 2.41 ERA, 251 IP, 0.92 WHIP, 250 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, AL West champions
ALDS
: Defeated Rays in 4 games -- View coverage of ALDS Rangers-Rays
Manager: Ron Washington
Regular-season batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE? (Click player name for statistics)

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge...

Catcher: Alex Avila vs. Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba


Being a quality catcher is difficult to do. You have to be able to call a game, develop a rapport with pitchers, block balls effectively, have a gun for an arm... and oh yeah, hit too. The latter category is what Avila and Napoli excel at, as both rank 1-2 in baseball in catcher offense. Napoli of course, blows away Avila in offense, but the Ranger also has 28 less games at the position, in large part due to another capable catcher also on the roster in Torrealba -- but the Tigers have Victor Martinez, too. Defensively, Avila holds the edge, and this is just too close to call.

First base: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mitch Moreland, Michael Young


Moreland could feasibly be at first base the entire series, as he's a favorite of the club and all of Detroit's starters are right-handed, but Young could steal a couple games if the team wants to get Torrealba or Craig Gentry into the lineup. Either way, both these players pale in comparison to Miguel Cabrera who, if it wasn't for Justin Verlander lucking into 24 wins (to be clear, he's a very good pitcher, but win-loss records have nothing to do with player quality), he could very well be the favorite for the MVP award. Cabrera led all of baseball in doubles, batting average, OBP and decided to swat 30 homers too. Moreland is still scrapping to be a full-time player and Young just can't field.

Second base: Ramon Santiago vs. Ian Kinsler


This isn't even close. The Tigers have cycled through six second basemen this season, with five of them receiving at least 17 starts. Santiago won the job basically by default, as Carlos Guillen can't stay healthy, Ryan Raburn split his time between left and second then lost his job for a complete inability to hit and Scott Sizemore was traded. Santiago is like Raburn in that he can't hit, but can flash a solid glove. Kinsler, meanwhile, was one of the most valuable second basemen in the game.

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta vs. Elvis Andrus


Andrus can pick the ball, get on base and steal bases. Peralta can't steal any bases and can only play a passable short. But boy, can Peralta hit. Here's the thing, though -- people tend to overvalue offense because it's easily quantified, and you can see with your eyes the impact a bat can have. Stolen bases and defense, not so much. But they are important facets of the game as well, and when you factor everything in, this is a dead-even.

Third base: Wilson Betemit, Brandon Inge vs. Adrian Beltre


Adrian Beltre is an awesome player, there is no doubt about that. He posted the second-best season of his career and slugged three home runs to pace the narrative of Texas winning the ALDS. However, the gap between Beltre and the Tigers' crew isn't as large as one might think. Betemit rakes against righties, while Inge is capable against left-handers. But don't ask them to face the opposite-handed pitcher. Inge also has excellent defense at the hot corner and is a great late-inning replacement for Betemit. All told, the duo combines into a pretty good player. Good enough that the difference between Detroit and Texas at the spot is not significant.

Left field: Delmon Young vs. David Murphy, Craig Gentry


Young injured himself in Game 5 of the ALDS, but reports are that he should be fine for the ALCS. If not, Raburn will start in his place. Young has played his way into a 2012 role with the Tigers, but he's doing so on the backing of a hot streak that might not be sustainable long-term. He's a statue in left field and his value is tied up completely in swatting home runs. Murphy, meanwhile, parlayed a hot September into more playing time and has been sharing time with Gentry, with Murphy getting PT against right-handers and Gentry mostly playing against lefties. If Young wasn't performing well as of late, this would probably be a slight edge to the Rangers, but as long as Young's hot streak is carrying him, we'll call this even.

Center field
: Austin Jackson vs. Josh Hamilton


This isn't a difficult decision at all. Hamilton is one of the best hitters in the game and is the reigning AL MVP. Austin Jackson, meanwhile, rode a lot of luck to a .293 batting average last season that sank to .249 this year. He has strong defense, but is miscast as the leadoff hitter.

Right field: Magglio Ordonez vs. Nelson Cruz


At one point this season, Ordonez contemplated hanging his spikes up. Good thing he didn't, for he hit .365 from Aug. 21 to the end of the year and finished the ALDS with five hits in 11 at-bats, including a 3-for-3 effort in Game 2. When Ordonez is hot, he can still beat any pitcher, regardless of his advanced age. But his defense is questionable, and Nelson Cruz is a better hitter at this point. Although Cruz is slumping significantly, gathering just one hit in 15 trips to the plate during the ALDS against the Rays, he remains the better player.

Designated hitter: Victor Martinez vs. Young


A certain three-year-old, I'm sure, would pick Young here with an edge. But both Martinez and Young are remarkably similar in production at the DH spot, and the numbers are uncannily similar even though Young has played in 14 more games. Take a look:

Martinez: .330/.380/.470, 12 HR, 103 RBI
Young: .338/.380/.474, 11 HR, 106 RBI

How can you not call this even?

Starting pitching: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello vs. C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison


The order listed here is the order that both teams have announced will go in the ALCS, so let's judge it on these parameters. For one, the Tigers clearly lose by not being able to set up their rotation they way they wanted. Rick Porcello, obviously the lesser member of the quartet, will start twice while Max Scherzer only draws Game 4 after appearing in relief during Game 5 of the ALDS. Regardless, the Tigers still hold an overall edge here. You don't need me to throw more platitudes Verlander's way, and Fister has been a revelation since coming over from Seattle (although he's veering fast into overrated territory) and Scherzer is a quality pitcher whose potential breakout has been tantalizing pitchers for quite some time.

Over in Texas, C.J. Wilson is a great pitcher, but doesn't quite stack up to Verlander. Porcello matching up against Derek Holland pits a battle of proming young pitchers, especially Holland, who is showing signs of emerging into an ace but is lacks consistency and is prone to the wild inning if he lets the game get away from him. Lewis has an incredible postseason record, but his propensity to give up the long ball held him back in the regular season. Harrison impressed against the Rays by punching out nine but could only last five innings and the jury is still out on just how good a picher he is.

All told, yet another matchup where both teams look even -- but not quite, as Verlander is the man that tips the scales in the Tigers' favor.

Relief pitching: Jose Valverde and co. vs. Neftali Feliz and co.


Both Valverde and Feliz are good pitchers when on, but both can also be maddeningly inconsistent. The Tigers closer can point to his 49 of 49 record in saves, but he walks way too much to be reliable. Feliz, meanwhile, took a clear step back from last season when he closed 40 games as a rookie and lost his strong command. He's been much better since the All-Star break, though, and if I had to pick one closer, I'd take Feliz. Texas also has a vaunted setup corps, boasting Mike Adams (who is still one of the best relievers in the game despite a spike in home runs allowed), Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez and Darrell Oliver most notably.

Texas' 3.79 bullpen ERA during the regular season was fifth-best in the AL and would have been even better with full years of all relievers mentioned sans Feliz and Oliver, who have been with the club all year. By comparison, the Tigers' two best relievers are Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit, but Alburquerque only pitched 14 1/3 innings in the second half and did not look good in Games 1 and 4 of the ALDS. The Tigers pen has a chance to be a good one, but Texas is the better bet to come out on top in the war of bullpens.

Defense


Defensive statistics are getting a bum rap these days, and it's understandable. Quantifying defense is a very difficult thing to do and no defensive metric out there can be relied on. However, when you have a large sample to draw from, multiple numbers to look at and enough of a disparity in the numbers, it becomes obvious which defense holds up. And that's the Rangers, who score well in defensive metrics, largely on the strength of Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre, while the Tigers are affected by the tin gloves of Betemit, Cabrera, and Young the most.

DetroitPREDICTION

Both teams shape up to be remarkably even all across the board -- even though both teams are the last two standing in the AL and it makes sense that they would be equals, it's not often you see such a balanced division. It will come down to the postseason mantra of good pitching always beating good hitting, and given the presence of Verlander, I'll give the nod to Detroit vanquishing Texas in six games, while Daniel Knobler likes Detroit too, but in seven.

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



Posted on: October 6, 2011 7:55 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 7:07 pm
 

See-saw ALDS comes down to Game 5



By Matt Snyder


You want to talk about momentum? Go ahead. It's proven incorrect through most the Tigers-Yankees ALDS.

The national narrative has constantly shifted in this series. After Game 1 was suspended, the Yankees had the advantage because Justin Verlander would only get one start. After Game 1 finished, the Yankees had the advantage. After Game 2, the Tigers had the edge as they were going home with a split. After Game 3, the Tigers had the series in the bag, because there was no way A.J. Burnett would pitch well. But he did. And now the Yankees have the advantage, as they head home with the momentum. Right? So goes the narrative.

This Game 5, like the entire series, is a complete toss up. Drawing conclusions based upon what we've seen in the first four games would be folly, because you can throw everything out the window. It's Game 5. Anything can happen. And it's great theater involving pretty opposite cities.

We've got a team that hadn't won a division since 1987 against a team that has won its division 12 times in the past 16 seasons, but it's also blue collar against white collar. It's East Coast against the Midwest. Wall Street against the auto industry.

And it all comes down to one game. Let's size it up.

Game 5: Tigers at Yankees, 8:07 p.m. ET, Yankee Stadium, TBS

LINEUPS

Tigers Yankees
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Austin Jackson CF 1 Derek Jeter SS
2 Don Kelly 3B 2 Curtis Granderson CF
3 Delmon Young LF 3 Robinson Cano 2B
4 Miguel Cabrera 1B 4 Alex Rodriguez 3B
5 Victor Martinez DH 5 Mark Teixeira 1B
6 Magglio Ordonez RF 6 Nick Swisher RF
7 Alex Avila C 7 Jorge Posada DH
8 Jhonny Peralta SS 8 Russell Martin C
9 Ramon Santiago 2B 9 Brett Gardner LF
  Doug Fister RHP   Ivan Nova RHP


PITCHING MATCHUPS

Nova vs. Tigers: He completely shut the Tigers down in the continuation of Game 1 through six innings, but faltered after that. Still, he now has one postseason outing under his belt and got some confidence out of it. The big stage won't phase him one iota Thursday night. As far as the hitters, we have a very small sample from which to judge. Not one Tigers hitter has more than six plate appearances against Nova. Victor Martinez has reached base four of the six times he's faced Nova. The only other thing that stands out is Nova's faced 38 Tigers batters in his career and has not allowed a single extra-base hit.

Fister vs. Yankees: He actually settled in for a short span in Game 1, but the final line looks ugly because he had a rough last inning and Al Alburquerque gave up a grand slam -- three runs of which were charged to Fister. I know some of the stat crowd would freak out to hear this, but it's possible Fister had some nerves last time out, too. He'd never pitched in the playoffs and he had to take the hill on the biggest stage of all. Now that he has one outing under his belt, it's possible he gets back into a groove. In a small sample, several Yankees hit Fister well, though. Derek Jeter is 5-for-13 (.385). Mark Teixeira is hitting .364 with a 1.273 OPS against Fister. Robinson Cano is 3-for-8 with two doubles. Overall, the Yankees are hitting .310 off Fister, but no player has faced him more than 13 times.

NOTES
New York-Detroit ALDS
  • The last time the Yankees won a deciding game (meaning a Game 5 in the ALDS or a Game 7 in the ALCS or World Series) was the Aaron Boone home run game. Seriously. In the 2003 ALCS, the Yankees won Game 7. Since then, they've either not needed to go the full series to beat someone, or lost a decisive game. They lost the 2004 ALCS to the Red Sox in seven. They lost the ALDS three games to two to the Angels in 2005. Otherwise they haven't played a series all the way to the final game.
  • This doesn't have anything to do with many of the current players, but it's still interesting: The only other time these two franchises met in the postseason, the Tigers beat the Yankees 3-1 in the 2006 ALDS. 
  • I'll again point out that Teixeira has an abysmal playoff track record. A-Rod gets showered with boos, but Teixeira is hitting .203 with an embarrassing .314 slugging percentage in 30 career postseason games. And his only hit since Game 1 in this series was a dribbler down the third-base line that Wilson Betemit thought would go foul.
  • Brett Gardner is 5-for-13 with a double, three runs scored and five RBI in this series.
  • Alex Avila is 0-for-12 this series after a brilliant regular season.
  • The Yankees have had the same batting order all five games, but the Tigers have had a different lineup in each of the five games.
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Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:08 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 12:52 am
 

Tigers need Fister to step up now



By Matt Snyder


Like a pendulum, the momentum in this ALDS has swung back and forth, even a few times during the games. Now that the Yankees put the hurt on the Tigers in Game 4, 10-1, the series will conclude Thursday night in Yankee Stadium. And the pressure is back on the Tigers, as Doug Fister takes the hill.

Fister was essential to the Tigers running away with the AL Central down the stretch. He was acquired from the Mariners in late July to minimal fanfare and immediately locked in for Detroit. After the trade, Fister was 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 0.84 WHIP and a much higher strikeout rate than he had for Seattle. Of course, he didn't have to face the Yankees during that stretch. In Game 1 of the ALDS, he did. And he faltered.

New York-Detroit ALDS
The outing was odd from the get-go, as Fister started on the hill as a road pitcher, and it was the bottom of the second inning, as it was a continuation of a suspended game. Still, he had time to prepare just as he would for any normal start. The result, in Fister's first career playoff appearance, was seven hits, two walks and six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. He even balked. It was easily the worst outing of his brief Tigers career.

It's possible any nerves that may have affected Fister last time out will be gone, now that he has an outing in Yankee Stadium under his belt. Of course, the pressure won't lessen at all, because this is Game 5 of a five-game series in The Big Apple.

Whatever the problem was in Game 1, it needs to be solved before Thursday, because the Tigers are playing the Yankees in a win-or-go-home game. And the Yankees have the momentum.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 9:47 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:25 am
 

Cano's near-homer breaks up pitcher's duel



By Matt Snyder


Game 1 of the ALDS between the Tigers and Yankees was supposed to be a matchup of aces; a pitcher's duel for the ages. It was set to showcase a pair of Cy Young candidates. And then Mother Nature intervened and we had to re-start Game 1 Saturday in the bottom of the second inning.

Early on, it looked like we'd get that pitcher's duel anyway, only this time it would be courtesy of Ivan Nova and Doug Fister.

Through five, Nova has thrown three shutout innings, allowing two hits and no runs. Sure, he was helped by a nice relay from Curtis Granderson to Derek Jeter to Russell Martin to nail Alex Avila at home plate, but no runs have scored, so that's the bottom line.

Fister, meanwhile, had been even better. He'd thrown three shutout innings, having allowed just two hits while striking out five and walking none. But a Curtis Granderson single and a near-home run from Robinson Cano gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead through five innings. The ball bounced right off the top of the wall in left-center field and came back into play. Two fans in the direct line of the ball even backed away and let the play run its course. The umpires used the replay review system and determined the call of no home run on the field would stand. Alex Rodriguez then flew out to end the inning, but the Yankees had notched an advantage.

Still, both offenses appear to be getting settled in. This thing is far from over.

Click here to follow the action live on CBSSports.com's GameTracker

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Yankees-Tigers series2011 playoffs

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Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:40 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 9:11 am
 

Phillies have the best rotation in playoffs

By C. Trent Rosecrans

This time of year, pitching can carry an otherwise flawed team all the way to a title, we saw that last year when the Giants rode their starters and a shut-down closer to a World Series championship. So which teams have the best rotations heading into this postseason? Glad you asked…

Here's our ranking of the eight playoff rotations:

 

1. Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt

Like there was a doubt? Halladay started last postseason with a no-hitter. It'll be tough to top that, but we'll see what happens when the National League's best pitching staff takes on the National League's best offense. 

 

2. Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price

Joe Maddon is taking one heck of a chance giving a rookie with fewer than 10 big-league innings under his belt on the hill to start Game 1, but Moore is amazingly talented -- and he's never lost a start for the Rays (small sample size alert!). 

 

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf

Gallardo is perhaps the least-heralded of the Brewers' starters, but that could just be that unlike the other members of the team's rotation, he's spent his entire season in Milwaukee. The 25-year-old right-hander has gone 44-29 with a 3.69 ERA over the last three years. There's also former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke who wanted to be traded from Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs. Now he's here and it's time to deliver.

 

4. Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello

Call them top-heavy, and even heavier at the top since Fister joined the rotation. Fister, acquired at the deadline from Seattle, has gone 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts for the Tigers. Add him to Justin Verlander and you have a heck of a 1-2 punch. It's the 3-4 that lacks punch.

 

5. Arizona Diamondbacks: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders

It looks like Arizona will go with a three-man rotation in the playoffs, which will certainly help the bullpen with the addition to Josh Collmenter. Kennedy was the breakout star of the Diamondbacks' rotation, winning 21 games, while Hudson and Saudners have also pitched well.



6. Texas Rangers:
C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison

Sure, they don't have Lee this year, but they do have Wilson, who has established himself as an ace, going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA this season, striking out 206 batters in 223 1/3 innings. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40 ERA) is the only right-hander in the rotation.

 

7. St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia

The Cardinals' two best pitchers are pitching Games 3 and 4, but everyone has contributed down the stretch. St. Louis would be higher on the list with Adam Wainwright, but he's not coming back this season. Jackson has pitched well since joining the team and Lohse, a former Phillie, has had a bounce-back season.

 

8. New York Yankees: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia

Sabathia's as good of a big-game pitcher as there is in the game, but Nova is a rookie and Garcia is anything but. The fact the team is going with a three-man rotation tells you what you need to know about the guys not in the rotation. Garcia's the team's third-best starter -- I guess $196 million doesn't buy what it once did.

For more postseason coverage.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 1:31 pm
 

Players of the Month: Beltre, Fister

Fister, Beltre

By Evan Brunell

September brought a dazzling postseason race that culminated in perhaps baseball's greatest final day of the season. Interestingly enough, however, there were only two of a possible 12 nominees for September player of the month that had any involvement in the race to the wire. As far as individual performances went, September belonged to two teams who had the division title in hand much of the month.

September's Best
Expert Batter Pitcher
Knobler Cabrera Fister
Miller Beltre Fister
Brunell Napoli Fister
Rosecrans Longoria Carpenter
Snyder Beltre Fister
Fantasy Kinsler Fister

Texas had an incredible offensive explosion, with three separate players garnering votes. Adrian Beltre, who finished fifth in the AL with 32 home runs, eked out a victory over his teammates along with Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria. Beltre hit .374/.385/.778, driving 12 homers out of the park after missing all of August and part of July with injury. Imagine how many homers Beltre might have had if he stayed healthy.

Teammates Napoli and Kinsler also had months to remember, the second baseman swinging to the tune of .330/.421/.711, blasting 11 homers, just one behind Beltre. He also swiped eight bags, two more than any other month to finish with 30 stolen bases and give Kinsler a 30/30 season. Napoli blew Beltre and Kinsler out of the water statistically, although he played in in a handful of less games thanks to being a catcher and having people blocking him at DH and first base. But Napoli went bonkers for a .429/.518/.843 line.

Meanwhile, Evan Longoria put the Rays in the playoffs and Miguel Cabrera solidified the offense behind the pitcher of the month in Doug Fister. Acquired from the Mariners at the trade deadline, Fister blew away the competition in September and showed that he was for real. After coming up as nothing more than a back-of-the-rotation starter thanks to solid command but no true out pitch, he emerged with Detroit as a potential ace. Fister's 0.5 ERA in September paced the field, and he was a perfect 5-0, throwing 34 innings and allowing just 15 hits and three walks.

Past players of the month: April | May | June | July | August

Batter of the Month
Danny Knobler Scott Miller
CabreraMiguel Cabrera, Tigers
I read somewhere that Cabrera said Justin Verlander was the MVP. I'll go with that, but if there's an MVP for September, it's got to be Cabrera, who hit .429 and drove in 21 runs, with a 1.290 OPS. He hit, and the Tigers took off.
BeltreAdrian Beltre, Rangers
Not only did Beltre step off of the DL in the month of September and ease Texas' October concerns, he did it with incredible aplomb. Aside from playing his usual great third base, Beltre slugged 12 homers, collected 29 RBI and had an astounding 1.162 OPS. Thanks to his glove and his bat, the Rangers clinched home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Evan Brunell C. Trent Rosecrans
NapoliMike Napoli, Rangers
Napoli struggled to break through with the Angels, then finally forced the Rangers' hand. And yet, he still goes unnoticed despite leading all batters in September in slugging percentage (.843), tied for first in average (.429) and second in OBP (.518). Only one word for this performance: Beast.
LongoriaEvan Longoria, Rays
Am I putting too much on Wednesday night's performance? Perhaps, but he still had an incredible month as the Rays rallied over the last month of the season from nine games behind the Red Sox when the month started. Longoria hit .289/.454/.589 over the last month with seven homers and 22 RBI, including two big homers in the biggest game of the year.
Matt Snyder Fantasy -- Scott White
 BeltreAdrian Beltre, Rangers
The Rangers have been under the radar this month because they were expected to win the West, didn't have a huge comeback and won last year. But two of the best players in baseball this past month came from Texas and they weren't named Michael Young. Ian Kinsler loses out by a nod here, as Beltre hit 12 homers, drove home 28 and had a .374/.385/.778 line.
KinslerIan Kinsler, Rangers
Kinsler's .330 batting average wasn't the highest for a batter in September, but that's the way his entire season has gone. The .255 hitter is so valuable in so many other ways that he's clearly among the cream of the crop, and never was it more evident than in September. He had 16 walks, 11 homers and eight steals, and the latter two propelled him to a 30-30 season.
Pitcher of the Month
Knobler Miller
FisterDoug Fister, Tigers
The Red Sox got Erik Bedard. The Tigers got Fister. The Red Sox are going home. The Tigers aren't. Fister was 5-0 in September, with a 0.53 ERA. Red Sox starters were 4-11 with a 7.08 ERA. Fister allowed just 18 base runners in 34 innings, with 34 strikeouts.
FisterDoug Fister, Tigers
I watched Fister pitch down the stretch after Detroit acquired him from Seattle at the July 31 trade deadline and I felt like I was watching Doyle Alexander in 1987. Fister is taller (6-8), but man, was he nails after the trade. He went 5-0 in September with 34 strikeouts and three walks. He compiled an 0.53 WHIP. As long as the Tigers didn't give Seattle a future John Smoltz (they didn't), this is the best trade any contender made.
Brunell Rosecrans
FisterDoug Fister, Tigers
What else can be said that my fine colleagues already hasn't? Fister's September was so awe-inspiring, no one blinks twice when his name gets slotted behind Verlander at No. 2. in the postseason rotation. This guy was a No. 4/5 starter last year. How quickly things change.
CarpenterChris Carpenter, Cardinals
Carpenter went 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in six starts in September. He also had two shutouts, as well as a scoreless eight-inning appearance against the Phillies. Like Longoria, he had a pretty good night on Wednesday, allowing just two hits to the Astros in his shutout at Minute Maid Park. September's all about raising to the occasion, and that's what Carpenter did.
Snyder Fantasy -- White
FisterDoug Fister, Tigers
The Tigers' rotation isn't a one-man show. Justin Verlander is going to take home the Cy Young in a rightful landslide, but Fister gives them a solid No. 2. He was 5-0 with a 0.53 ERA and a 34/3 K/BB rate in 34 innings. Many pitchers had great months, but Fister's symbolized how great the Tigers' chances to reach the World Series have become.
 FisterDoug Fister, Tigers
It sounds like a joke, but it's not. Fister was the most valuable pitcher for Fantasy owners in September. Was Javier Vazquez slightly better? Yes. But the disparity between expectations and results for Fister was so high that he's now forever part of Fantasy lore. He managed to win more games (five) than he started (four) and allowed only 18 baserunners in 34 innings. He was an out-of-nowhere ace.

Danny Knobler and Scott Miller are Senior MLB Writers; Evan Brunell, C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder are Eye on Baseball Bloggers; Scott White is a Fantasy Writer.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:50 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Big Game James



By Matt Snyder


James Shields, Rays. One of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this season went out and got the job done when his team needed him most. Yes, the Rays got some big offensive and defensive (hello, Desmond Jennings) plays, but Shields nearly completed another game and gave his boys the chance to win it. They trailed 2-0 early, but then Shields put the brakes on the Yankees' offense the rest of the way while his teammates did their jobs as well. Shields' final line: 8 2/3 innings, six hits, two earned runs and the win. The Rays are now tied for the AL wild card with two games to go.

Melky Cabrera, Royals. Raise your hand if you thought he'd collect 200 hits this season. Now quit lying and put that hand down. In a 7-3 Kansas City win, the Melk Man picked up his 200th and 201st hits of the season. His previous career high was 149. This was a guy picked up off the scrap heap.

Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles. The O's won (we'll get to that below), but Guerrero's single to lead off the bottom of the sixth was special from an individual standpoint. It was his 2,587th career hit, which moved him past Julio Franco as the all-time leader in hits by a Dominican-born player (Biz of Baseball via Twitter). Congrats to Vlad.



Red Sox. Even forgetting the dramatic collapse this month, the Red Sox played a pretty brutal game Monday night. All-Star starting pitcher Josh Beckett was given a 2-1 lead early, but ended up allowing seven hits, four walks and six earned runs in six innings. Jacoby Ellsbury lost control of what would've been a tough -- but makeable -- catch in center, allowing Robert Andino a three-run, inside-the-park homer. The Boston offense left 12 runners on base. And for some reason, manager Terry Francona used the incredibly valuable Alfredo Aceves for an inning when trailing 6-2. With Erik Bedard going Tuesday night, it's entirely possible Francona needs Aceves for multiple innings, so it's a questionable move to be sure. They lost 6-3 and are now tied in the AL wild-card race. All in all, it was an awful night for the Red Sox.

Nick Punto, Cardinals. My high school and college coaches hammered the point home for years to me, and I'll never forget it -- and probably because it keeps happening in the majors: A baserunner should only slide into first base to avoid a collision. That's it. There is no other reason. And then I think about all the times I've heard people -- Cubs color commentator Bob Brenly immediately comes to mind -- make the very salient point that if it was faster to slide, Olympic sprinters would slide through the finish line. It just boggles my mind how many guys are paid to play this game and still make the mistake. Punto made it Monday night in the eighth inning and it may have cost his team the playoffs. He hit a grounder that Astros first baseman Carlos Lee booted. Lee recovered in time to feed the pitcher the baseball in a bang-bang play. Punto dove head-first and was out by about a split-second to end the eighth. Had he run through the bag, he would have been safe and the Cardinals -- who had a runner on third -- would have scored. They ended up losing 5-4 in extra innings and still trail by one game in the NL wild-card race. With two games to play.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians. Is this what the Indians dealt two premium pitching prospects for? Jimenez was shelled again Monday night, allowing nine hits and six runs in five innings in a 14-0 loss. He now has a 5.10 ERA since coming over in that July trade. Oh, and the Tigers acquired the less-heralded Doug Fister before the July 31st deadline. He's 7-0 with a 0.61 ERA in his last eight starts after stifling the Indians for eight innings Monday. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com