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Tag:Francisco Rodriguez
Posted on: October 30, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Sabathia, Scutaro and more free agency notes

By Matt Snyder

Sunday morning officially marked the beginning of free agency in Major League Baseball. 148 players filed for free agency, and teams now have exclusivity on retaining their free agents until Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET. Lots of smallish news broke Sunday with nothing really major, so let's check it all out here in a fun little bullet-pointed post for your perusal.

• The Yankees were expected to offer a contract extension to CC Sabathia this weekend (Jon Heyman) and ESPN New York reports they have done as much -- citing a source who said: "We believe it is a very fair offer, but we haven't heard anything back yet.''

Sabathia is signed through 2015, but he has an opt-out clause in his contract, and he's expected to do exercise it -- per multiple reports and common sense -- in order to get a longer and more lucrative deal.

• The Red Sox announced via press release that they have picked up shortstop Marco Scutaro's option for 2012, which is for $6 million. It's a bit of a birthday present, as he turned 36 Sunday.

More Free Agency
• The Cubs and Aramis Ramirez had a $16 million mutual option. The Cubs elected to exercise it, but Ramirez -- as has been expected for months -- declined it (Chicago Sun Times). So he'll be a free agent, and he's basically the only viable everyday third baseman on the market.

• The Giants have exercised relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's $5 million option for 2012 (Henry Schulman). You might recall Affeldt's 2011 season ended when he badly sliced open his hand while trying to separate some frozen hamburgers.

• The Giants also agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with fellow left-handed reliever Javier Lopez.

• The Cardinals will exercise Yadier Molina's $7 million option, reports MLB.com's Matthew Leach.

• The Red Sox have not made an offer to Jonathan Papelbon, reports WEEI.com.

• The Brewers have declined their options on relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, making both free agents.

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

Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 3:19 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:31 pm
 

NLCS Game 5: Cardinals' backs against the wall



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Brewers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Series tied, 2-2.

ST. LOUIS -- With Thursday's Brewers victory, this much we know for sure, the NLCS will be headed back to Milwaukee. That simple fact makes Game 5 bigger game for the Cardinals, who would certainly like to go to Milwaukee up a game instead of on the verge of elimination.

"We want to be 3-2 going into Miller Park and not having to win two games over there. It's a big game, we've got Jaime (Garcia) on the mound. We're going to come ready to play," St. Louis infielder Nick Punto said. "It's one of those teams that we play pretty good with our backs against the wall and our backs are against the wall again -- we'll see what happens."

Milwaukee, it has been beat into the ground by now, had baseball's best home record. The Cardinals, though, were 4-5 at Miller Park this season, not a winning record, but pretty good against a team that only lost 24 home games all season. And St. Louis also split with the Milwaukee in the series' first two games.

"We've been in this situation. It's the best out of three," Albert Pujols said. "We want to win (Friday) and then we go to Milwaukee. But one thing we can look at is that we're pretty much the on in the team in the National League that played pretty well in Milwaukee. We need to flip the page, hopefully take the lead (Friday) and go to Milwaukee and win."

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

 

This is a tough one -- I usually just go on the pitching matchup, and even that is problematic. In the end, although Garcia has been very good at home this year and Zack Greinke has struggled in the playoffs and on the road, Greinke's the better pitcher. Garcia can be very good, and he's one of the best young pitchers in the game. Greinke, though, can be the best in baseball at times. The 2009 Cy Young Award winner has struggled in the playoffs thus far, but the potential to shut down a team -- even one as explosive as St. Louis -- is there. 

Brewers' Zack Greinke: Greinke wanted out of Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs. The Brewers wanted him not only to help them get to the playoffs, but also to have a no-doubt No. 1 starter if they got to the playoffs. But it hasn't worked out that way. The Brewers have won both of his playoff starts, but Greinke's hardly been impressive in his two starts.

In his first playoff start, Greinke allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings, but did strike out seven Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS. He was back for Game 1 of the NLCS, allowing six earned runs on eight hits in six innings, but getting massive backing from his offense to earn the victory over Garcia.

"In all honesty, it's just another game… kind of," Greinke said Thursday when asked about his playoff experience. "I thought it might be a lot different, but it's really just a normal game, and you just get as ready as you can and do what you can. The first two games, I've given ups one runs, but I've been really happy with how I've pitched. So (Friday), I'm just going to do what I can do, and if I throw good, I'll be happy."

Cardinals' Jaime Garcia: Like Greinke, Garcia's been much better at his own ballpark, going 9-4 with a  2.55 ERA at Busch Stadium and a 4-3 record with a 4.61 ERA. In Game 1, he gave up six runs on six hits in just four innings before giving way to the Cardinals' bullpen. But that was at Miller Park.

"Obviously I like pitching here, but I don't really feel any different on the road," Garcia said. "I just feel like a lot of this throughout the year, a lot of the times where I've pitched on the road, it's just one of those things don't go your way, but I've had some good games on the road and then some not very good at home. So I can't really answer your question, because to me, it's all the same. Obviously, I like pitching at home -- you have the fans, you can sleep in your own bed. But other than that, to me it's the same. I just try to see it as any other game and then prepare yourself for that specific game."

His career home/road splits also show that Garcia's much better at home. He's 16-9 with a 2.37 in 35 appearances at home and 11-7 with a  4.28 ERA in 35 road appearances.

"If you want Jaime to pitch, this is where you want him to take the ball," Pujols said.

LINEUPS

Brewers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Corey Hart RF 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B 2 Jon Jay CF
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Rickie Weeks 2B 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Yuniesky Bentancourt SS 6 David Freese 3B
7 Carlos Gomez CF 7 Yadier Molina C
8 Jonathan Lucroy C 8 Nick Punto 2B
9 Zack Greinke RHP 9 Jaime Garcia LHP

NOTES

  • Since the seven-game LCS format was introduced in 1985, only 14 of the 52 series have been tied at two after four games. Of the previous 13 LCS tied at two, six have gone seven games and the other seven have gone six games.
  • David Freese's eight-game postseason hitting streak is the longest for a Cardinal since Scott Rolen hit in 10 straight games in 2006. Freese was 2 for 4 in Game 4.
  • The Brewers' last road victory in the playoffs was on Oct. 12, 1982, at old Busch Stadium in Game 1 of the 1982 World Series.
  • Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has reached base safely in the first inning in each of the team's last eight postseason games, becoming the first player to do so in eight straight games. Gary Sheffield reached safely in seven straight in 1997 for the Marlins.
  • Francisco Rodriguez has no allowed an earned run in eight career LCS relief appearances. He allowed two unearned runs in Game 5 of the 2005 ALCS for the Angels against Chicago.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 3:22 pm
 

2011 NLDS matchup: Brewers vs. Diamondbacks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Milwaukee made a splash in the winter acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum -- it was a signal to the baseball world that the Brewers were going for it in 2011 and anything short of the postseason would be a disappointment in what figures to be Prince Fielder's last season in Milwaukee. Well, the Brewers responded by winning their first division title since 1982, when Harvey's Wallbangers went to the World Series as the American League representatives. While the Brewers were picked by many to be in the playoffs, the Diamondbacks were a complete surprise. Both teams have used pitching to get here, so expect some strong pitching performances.

TEAM INFORMATION

Milwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 5)
96-66, NL Central champions
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Team batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd in NL), .325 on-base percentage (4th), .425 slugging percentage (2nd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.64 ERA (7th), 1.240 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 R, 38 2B, 6 3B, 33 SB

Arizona Diamondbacks (host games 3, 4)
94-68, NL West champions
Manager: Kirk Gibson
Team batting statistics: .250 batting average (10th in NL), .322 on-base percentage (7th), .413 slugging percentage (3rd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.80 ERA (9th), 1.286 WHIP (7th), 2.39 K/BB (7th)
Star player: RF Justin Upton -- .289/.369/.529 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 R, 39 2B, 5 3B, 21 SB

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)  

Game 1: ARI @ MIL, Oct. 1, 2:07 p.m. ET. Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88) vs. Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52)
Game 2: ARI @ MIL, Oct. 2, 4:37 p.m. ET. Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49) vs. Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83)
Game 3: MIL @ ARI, Oct. 4 Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54) vs. Joe Saunders (12-12, 3.69)
Game 4: MIL @ ARI, Oct. 5* Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69) vs. TBD
Game 5: ARI @ MIL, Oct. 7* TBD vs. Gallardo
* if necessary

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Milwaukee: Jonathan Lucroy
Arizona: Miguel Montero

Hands-down Montero is the better offensive threat, hitting .282/.351/.469 with 18 homers and 86 batted in. The 27-year-old made his first All-Star team this year and while he was once thought of as an all-offense catcher, his defense has improved.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

First base
Milwaukee: Prince Fielder
Arizona: Paul Goldschmidt

The rookie Goldschmidt has come up big in some important games, but he still has 222 fewer career homers than Fielder.

Advantage: Brewers

Second base
Milwaukee: Rickie Weeks
Arizona: Aaron Hill

The Diamondbacks and Blue Jays pulled off an August deal for struggling second basemen, sending Kelly Johnson north of the border and Hill going to Arizona. The change of scenery worked for Hill, who is hitting .315/.386/.492 in 33 games with the Diamondbacks. Weeks' numbers are down and he's coming off an ankle injury that limited him to 14 games since the end of July.

Advantage: Brewers

Shortstop
Milwaukee: Yuniesky Betancourt
Arizona: John McDonald

McDonald was an emergency stopgap acquired from the Blue Jays along with Hill in August, for the injured Stephen Drew. And Yuniesky Betancourt is Yuniesky Bentancourt, one of the worst all-around players in all of baseball.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Third base
Milwaukee: Casey McGehee
Arizona: Ryan Roberts

Roberts is better known for his tattoos, but he's also had a decent season for the Diamondbacks, while McGehee has had a disastrous 2011. With a .223/.280/.346 line, McGehee's OPS+ is just 69. There's pop in that bat, but it's been hard to find.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Left field
Milwaukee: Ryan Braun
Arizona: Gerardo Parra

Braun is going to be one of the favorites to win the MVP, Parra is not.

Advantage: Brewers

Center field
Milwaukee: Nyjer Morgan
Arizona: Chris Young

Young is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, but has struggled a bit at the plate. Morgan is the Brewres' spark plug and resurrected his career in Milwaukee. Morgan's intangibles are huge -- and in the Brewers' favor.

Advantage: Brewers

Right field
Milwaukee: Corey Hart
Arizona: Justin Upton

Hart sometimes get lost in the shadow of Fielder and Braun, but he's had a pretty good season, as well, hitting .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers in 130 games. That said, Upton is one of the best young players in the game and will be in the top 10 of the MVP results.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Starting pitching
Milwaukee: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf
Arizona: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders

Both teams are strong at the top, but the Brewers have more depth, with Marcum starting Game 3 and Randy Wolf possibly starting Game 4. Of course, the three-man rotation could really help the Diamondbacks, allowing Kennedy and Hudson to pitch twice if needed. Greinke wanted out of Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs, and now he gets his shot.

Advantage: Brewers

Relief pitching
Milwaukee closer: John Axford
Arizona closer: J.J. Putz

Last season the Diamondbacks had a historically bad bullpen. This year it's one of the reasons they're in the playoffs. While Axford is the best of the three closers in this series (counting the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez), the Diamondbacks have the deeper bullpen, which only improved when Kirk Gibson decided to go with a three-man rotation and put right-hander Josh Collmenter in the bullpen, where he started the season.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Total advantage: Tie: Diamondbacks (5), Brewers (5)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Brewers in 5
Gregg Doyel: Brewers in 5
Danny Knobler: Diamondbacks in 5
Scott Miller: Brewers in 4
C. Trent Rosecrans: Brewers in 4
Matt Snyder: Brewers in 4

Trent's take: I'm still not exactly sure how the Diamondbacks wound up in the playoffs. The team has been doubted from spring training to the All-Star break and even at the start of the regular season's final month. Nobody has believed in the Diamondbacks at any point of this season. So I'm pretty sure they won't be too upset to be picked against here. Milwaukee has famously "gone for it" since last season, pulling off moves big (Greinke, Rodriguez) and small (Morgan). No pitcher likes to see Braun and Fielder back-to-back in that Brewers lineup, not even a 21-winner like Kennedy. The Brewers also have the arms in the rotation to be dangerous. I like the Brewers, but it wouldn't be the first time I was wrong about Arizona.

More Brewers-Diamondbacks NLDS coverage

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Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:06 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:28 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Florida Marlins

MarlinsBy Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Florida Marlins
Record: 72-89, 29 games back in NL East
Manager: Jack McKeon (replaced Edwin Rodriguez, who resigned on June 19)
Best hitter: Mike Stanton -- .263/.357/.540, 34 HR, 87 RBI, 4.5 WAR
Best pitcher: Anibal Sanchez -- 8-9, 3.67 ERA ,3.35 xFIP, 196 1/3 IP, 64 BB, 202 K

The Marlins haven't been heard from much on the field since 2003, when they took down the Yankees to win their second World Series. Since then, the club has been in the news for their miserly spending, firing two well-regarded managers in Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez and their owner's irrationality. The last few seasons, owner Jeffrey Loria has believed this team can contend, but anyone who actually looks at the club thinks otherwise. However, entering 2011, there was some hope for contention, but it all unraveled.

2011 SEASON RECAP

There's no doubting that the Marlins had a season to forget. The team's prized offseason acquisition that was supposed to give the club a formidable rotation, Javier Vazquez, stumbled to a 5.23 ERA in the first half. Meanwhile, team ace Josh Johnson continued his injury woes by only making nine starts.

And yet, the team got off to a strong start, posting a 16-9 record in April. They kept it up in May with a 15-13 record, and it looked like the Marlins might finally be players for the first time since 2009 (and before that, 2003 when they won the World Series). But Johnson's injury and Vazquez's ineffectiveness caught up with the team along with Hanley Ramirez's bizarre slow start to the year, causing the Fish to collapse in June and cost manager Edwin Rodriguez his job. Rodriguez resigned in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, which Jack McKeon snapped the second game after taking over. The team rebounded in July with a 17-10 mark, but collapsed yet again in August with a 7-20 mark once Hanley Ramirez hit the shelf for the remainder of the year, and it was over. At that point, the Marlins became known more for off-the-field headlines than on, demoting top prospect Logan Morrison to the minors in a thinly-veiled attempt to curtail Morrison's tweeting (@LoMoMarlins) and other off-the-field issues.

2012 AUDIT

The Marlins head into the offseason with heavy expectations on hand and a bit of a front-office restructuring, with Loria and team president David Samson taking on more of a role in baseball operations since the Marlins' moves the last few seasons haven't quite panned out under president Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill. Even if Beinfest leaves after being marginalized, it will be business as usual in Florida as the team is going through a facelift, finally abandoning the horrid Sun Life Stadium in favor of their own baseball-only park. In addition, the team is undergoing a name change to the Miami Marlins and has a new (not well-received) logo to boot. The Fish are taking this chance seriously to win over new fans and start a new beginning, hoping that baseball will finally start being viable in the Sunshine State. They're even willing to approach $100 million in payroll, reports say, which is a stark divergence from their penny-pinching ways.

On Wednesday, the last day of the 2011 regular season, the Marlins began their offseason by hiring Ozzie Guillen to manage and handing him a lucrative $10-million deal to manage Miami over the next four seasons. This hiring adds credibility to the team, both for being able to get a well-respected manager with a World Series ring (2005) and showing that the team will open their checks. However, they still have a difficult avenue ahead of them, with the powerhouse Phillies, elite Braves and emerging Nationals. If MIami has any hope of competing, they need to be serious about acquiring assets in the offseason to build out the rotation and add more bats to a team seriously deficient in offense.

FREE AGENTS

Jose Lopez, 2B
Javier Vazquez, SP

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The Marlins, ever since they showed just how serious they were in being players on the free-agent market, have been linked to the three top targets -- Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. However, Pujols and Fielder both play first base and the club already has Gaby Sanchez at that position. While Sanchez is far from quality enough to block Pujols and Fielder, Logan Morrison is also a first baseman masquerading as a left fielder, so it's hard to envision the Marlins grabbing a first-baseman. Not to mention, even with the Marlins reportedly serious about laying out as much as $60 million in free agency, it's still a tremendous risk for the Marlins to get locked in a long-term contract.

For Miami to take the next step, and yet keep their team viable for long-term success, they should look to do the following...
  • Sign Aramis Ramirez to play third base. The Marlins really need to boost their offense, and Ramirez is a logical fit, even before Ozzie Guillen headed to Florida. Ramirez said the Marlins were an attractive team with Guillen, but warm weather and proximity to Ramirez's home of the Dominican Republic is also important. The Marlins are willing to throw money around, but Ramirez would be a better fit than Pujols or Fielder, filling a position of need while coming at a short-term cost, at least compared to Fielder and Pujols. In addition, Ramirez wouldn't break the bank, allowing the Marlins to...
  • Sign Hisashi Iwakuma. The Japanese pitcher was posted last season, but couldn't come to an agreement with the Athletics. Now a free agent, Iwakuma is free to sign with any baseball team. It's difficult to envision the Marlins signing C.J. Wilson, but Iwakuma makes much more sense. At a lower cost, the Marlins can get a viable starting pitcher to plug into the rotation. The failure of Daisuke Matsuzaka will make a lot of teams skittish on Iwakuma, opening the door for the Marlins to sign the lefty. The club also needs to convince Javier Vazquez to come back for another year, giving the club a rotation of Johnson, Sanchez, Vazquez and Iwakuma to start.
  • Additionally, the club could use a closer. Even if Leo Nunez -- er, Juan Carlos Oviedo -- comes back, the team could use an upgrade. There's a ton of closers hitting the free-agent market, and Huston Street will be available from Colorado. Given the team will already have made two commitments in Ramirez and Iwakuma, the better move would be to go after Street, with just $7 million left on his deal running through 2012. But Street isn't a sexy name, and the Marlins will want to make headlines. Ramirez and Iwakuma aren't splashes, but signing Francisco Rodriguez? That's a splash, but it might cost the Marlins a first round pick. Brad Lidge and Jonathan Broxton wouldn't require first-rounders, but are risks. Jonathan Papelbon would be a better target than Rodriguez, unless Milwaukee declines arbitration on K-Rod, which is entirely possible.
  • The Marlins need to show patience with their internal candidates. Logan Morrison hasn't been a force right away as some hoped, but the talent is there for him to break out. Similarly, Chris Coghlan had a lost season to ineffectiveness and injury, but is won the Rookie of the Year award in 2009 for a reason.
These moves all minimize Miami losing draft picks, don't lock the team into any long-term commitments they may become unable to sustain, address clear deficiencies on their team and would put them in position to contend.

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Posted on: August 21, 2011 12:11 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Kinsler, Uggla belt two HR

Kinsler

By Evan Brunell

3 UpIan Kinsler, Rangers: Ian Kinsler could do no wrong Saturday, although it wasn't enough to defeat the White Sox, by rapping out three hits in four trips to the plate, adding two runs and RBI apiece. But it only gets better -- two of Kinsler's hits went over the fence, giving him 20 homers on the season. The second baseman hasn't fulfilled high expectations set in the 2008-09 seasons, and is currently on pace to post the worst offensive season of his career. Don't tell that to John Danks, though, who coughed up both homers.

Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: The Rays have received fantastic starting pitching as of late, and Hellickson kept the ball rolling by blanking the Mariners in eight innings, giving up one free pass and six hits, punching out five. The outing lowered Hellickson's ERA to 3.04, which is fantastic for any pitcher, never mind one in his first full season. Hellickson is increasingly looking like the favorite to snag the Rookie of the Year award, and no one else is mounting a major challenge -- at least, not yet.

Dan Uggla, Braves: Uggla's hitting streak may be over, but he's still crushing pitchers, rocketing two home runs Saturday against Arizona. Uggla finished the night with a 2-for-3 effort, driving in three runs, scoring twice and tacking on a walk. Not including Saturday's outburst, since July 2, Uggla has hit .327/.393/.648. You can now tick these numbers up slightly more. It's been an incredible resurgence for Uggla, whose season numbers still pale in comparison to the past, but it's now no longer a lost season, as it was shaping up to be.



3 DownFrancisco Rodriguez, Brewers: In K-Rod's return to the Mets, he allowed New York to cap off what was a stunning comeback by giving up three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, including Angel Pagan's two-run home run to push the Mets ahead. Milwaukee actually ended up coming back to win the game in the top ninth thanks to Rodriguez's replacement in the Big Apple, Jason Isringhausen, blowing the lead. Before that, though, the Mets needed to push five runs across the plate in the seventh just to pull within one, and kept the good times going against Rodriguez, who was making his first appearance at Citi Field since being traded immediately after the All-Star Game ended. Since Rodriguez arrived in town, the Brewers bullpen has been fantastic, but they just didn't show up for work Saturday.

Tim Wakefield, Red Sox: And the saga continues. Wakefield made his fifth attempt at gaining 200 victories but fell short on Saturday when he was removed from the game in the middle of the sixth inning and the Royals threatening. Matt Albers relieved and offered up a walk and a single to plate Mike Moustakas with the tying run in a bang-bang play at the plate before the Royals poured on the runs against the bullpen. Wakefield walks away with four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits while striking out three and walking zero. The knuckleballer didn't exactly knock them dead Saturday, but has pitched rather well over the last five starts and deserves to have that win in hand by now.

A.J. Burnett, Yankees:  Burnett didn't exactly endear himself to Yankees brass with his start on Saturday. Already struggling through a lousy year, Burnett allowed seven runs to cross the plate in just 1 1/3 innings, walking three, whiffing one and spiking his ERA to 4.96. When skipper Joe Girardi came to yank Burnett from the game, the right-hander had some choice words for Girardi. He may want to have some choice words for himself, as he now checks in with a 6.98 ERA in nine starts over 49 innings.

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Posted on: August 1, 2011 9:44 am
 

Pepper: Pelfrey finds sinker; Buchholz finished

Pelfrey

By Evan Brunell

SINKING: Mike Pelfrey thinks he has his sinker back and is hoping to reclaims some optimism during a season where Pelfrey crumbled under the weight of being considered an ace, regressing from a 3.66 ERA in 204 innings last night to a 4.55 mark to date.

"Mike takes such pride in what he does," pitching coach Warthen told the New York Daily News. "I see a guy who was forcing his pitches instead of throwing them."

Pelfrey, for his part, believes that mechanics were an issue. The right-hander's bread and butter has been his sinker, but that lost effectiveness when he altered his arm slot to make his secondary pitches more effective. While Pelfrey isn't scrapping his arm slot, he did say he has to make sure to get his arm out in front of his body more when he throws the sinker. Perhaps then, Pelfrey thinks, he can start racking up the numbers he produced last season even though his peripherals in both 2010 and 2011 are rather similar.

"... I've never seen anybody that can command a baseball as well as he can," Warthen added. "So when he goes out and walks three, four, five guys, I'm just baffled. It's beyond my belief that that can happen with a guy who can do the things he can with the baseball."

Pelfrey will face the Marlins on Monday night and has long struggled against Florida with a career 1-7 record and 5.25 ERA in 15 starts. He'll look to use his sinker, which pushed him to a complete-game victory last time out, to walk away with a win. (New York Daily News)

TOP GMS
: You usually see a winners or losers list come out of the trade deadline, but what about a list of best GMs for those who focused on the short-term and then long-term? Unsurprisingly, contending teams dominate the first list, rebuilding the latter. (ESPN's Jim Bowden)

BAD BACK
: Clay Buchholz appears to have a stress fracture in his back, which will shut him down for the rest of the season and most likely the postseason as well. David Wright recently missed two months with a stress fracture. (CSNNE.com)

BELL EXTENSION: Now that Heath Bell is staying in San Diego, the talk can turn toward the Padres potentially signing him to a contract extension. Bell, for his part, continues to stand by his proclamation that he will accept a three-year deal with a hometown discount to stay with the Pads. (North County Times)

Dodgers DEAL: The Dodgers are considered one of the biggest losers of the trade deadline, dealing a blue-chip prospect for three organizational players. Steve Dilbeck pens a defense, saying the blue-chipper in Trayvon Robinson clearly didn't fit in Los Angeles' plans, plus they finally got the prospect catcher they coveted in Tim Federowicz. GM Ned Coletti says Federowicz could make the roster next spring training. (Los Angeles Times)

Cubs DON'T DEAL: Carlos Pena, who is expected to resign with the Cubs should Chicago miss out on Prince Fielder in free agency, was thrilled the Cubs stood pat at the trade deadline.

"I'd rather have someone really working toward our common goal, instead of (trading players) just for show," Pena said. "Our GM is not like that. He's not trying to 'look' like he's working. He's working. It's totally different than [thinking] 'I can fool the world by switching a couple pieces here,' and it really looks like he's making moves, making changes. When in reality it's just all for show.

"He's not like that. He's doing something that's going to mean something at the end of it all, something substantial, and we're going to reap the benefits. I'd rather have that. We put all our heads together, all our energy together, and personally, I'm excited about the possibility of me being part of that team. Even with our record at this point, with our difficulties, I can say the same thing. I'm excited about what's coming."

Sorry, Carlos. Hendry still messed up. (Chicago Tribune)

THAT'S NICE: That's the reaction of columnist Dejan Kovacevic on the Pirates' haul at the trade deadline, bringing in Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. Unfortunately, they may be arriving aboard a sinking ship as Pittsburgh's pitching regresses. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

BEHIND THE SCENES
: Here's a quick look behind the scenes of the Francisco Rodriguez trade that sent the Mets closer to Milwaukee. K-Rod requested that his vesting option for 2012 be waived so the Mets were free to make baseball decisions about Rodriguez's usage. Alderson used that information to convince other teams the closer would void the option, which is exactly what happened once the righty moved to Milwaukee. (New York Times)

LOOKING FORWARD: Manager Eric Wedge won't let the Mariners get complacent the rest of the way, even if the trades made at the deadline deleted two strong pitchers from the staff and clearly set Seattle back this season. "What we're not going to do is spin our wheels," Wedge said. (MLB.com)

TOP DH: One of the best DHs in baseball history is Frank Thomas, who wasn't afraid to proclaim David Ortiz an all-time great at the position. Also, Thomas is a believer that DH gets a bum rap when it comes to Hall of Fame voting and perception of the position. "You ask any DH in the league how tough it is to sit there and pinch hit four times a day and put up monster numbers,” he said. (Boston Herald)

OPTION VESTS: Bobby Abreu's option for 2011 vested with his 433rd plate appearance of the season, reaching the milestone in the ninth inning Sunday against the Tigers. Abreu is now tied to Los Angeles for one more season at $9 million.

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Posted on: July 22, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 10:51 am
 

Pepper: Turn the page on spitting incident



By Matt Snyder


We're just two days away from the induction of Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar into the Hall of Fame, so I'm going to concentrate on the negativity. This is a special moment for Blyleven, Alomar, their families and their fans. If you don't like either player or believe there's some reason for the general public to dislike either one, just shut it for a few days. It's their moment, and many, many fans and baseball people believe they both deserve it.

It feels as if most of the venom directed toward Blyleven's Hall candidacy has waned, but whenever Alomar's name gets brought up, we're bound to have someone -- even if it's only one person -- bring up the fact he spit in an umpire's face. Sure enough, it happened earlier this week when I posted on the Blue Jays retiring Alomar's number.

Make no mistake about it, that incident was bad. It was really bad. Alomar made a one-time mistake. Now, we may not have all spat in the face of an authority figure, but we've all made mistakes that we regret. It happened 15 years ago. Oh, and the person on the receiving end of the spit is just fine with Alomar, in case you didn't know.

"I'm very, very happy for him," said John Hirschbeck (MLB.com), the umpire Alomar spat on. "I've been in the big leagues for 29 years, and he's by far the best second baseman I've ever seen. Hitting, fielding -- he was the whole package. I think he should have gotten in the first time, but he's very deserving. I'm glad he's in."

Hirschbeck also noted (MLB.com), "If that's the worst thing Roberto Alomar ever does in his life, he's led a very good life."

And here's what Alomar had to say about Hirschbeck (MLB.com): "He and I have become great friends. I want people to know that the year I didn't make it, one of the first calls I got was from him. He said he felt sorry because maybe one of the reasons I didn't make it was because of the incident. I told him, 'No. It was not your fault. It was my fault.' John embraced me the same way I embraced him."

See, they've both long since moved on. Isn't it time everyone else gets on the same page and just forgets about it?

HARDEST TO HIT: The easy route in looking at the hardest pitchers to hit is looking at things like ERA, batting average against, OPS against, etc. But what about if you looked at hits per swing. For example, the hardest pitchers to hit would miss many bats and also -- when someone does get a bat on it -- would induce many foul balls. SB Nation took a look at the data since 2002 and found the 10 highest and lowest swing/hit percentages. It's interesting enough just to see the names on there and reminisce a bit. The thing I found most interesting, however, was that of the 10 guys who allowed the lowest percentage of hits per swing, nine were stud closers (Joe Nathan, Billy Wagner, etc.) and one was a starting pitcher. Randy Johnson? Nope. Roy Halladay? Justin Verlander. Nah, how about Chris Young. Shocking, eh?

WE'RE NO. 1: New Brewer Francisco Rodriguez blew a lead in the eighth inning Wednesday night and was caught displaying a middle finger on camera from the dugout afterward. Shockingly, the New York media are trying to make it out like a huge problem, in that K-Rod will disrupt the Brewers chemistry (New York Daily News). Yeah, I'm sure K-Rod's new teammates will be angry that he's aggravated at himself for blowing a lead and blame no one but himself. How dare he.

KEEPING HIS HEAD UP: Highly touted Royals prospect Mike Moustakas was promoted with great fanfare a little less than six weeks ago. He started strong, going five for his first 18 (.385) with a home run and 1.145 OPS. Since then he's struggled mightily, and he's in the midst of a horrifying stretch. The 22-year-old third baseman has only two hits in his last 47 at-bats and is zero for his last 22. But you have to give Moustakas credit, as he seems to have maturity beyond his years. “Yeah, I’m hitting .190 right now, but we won the last two ballgames and that’s what’s important," he told the Kansas City Star. Kudos to the young man. He'll come around, too.

MATUSZ SHELLED: Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz showed flashes of his immense potential in 2010, but this season has been a different story. The former top-five prospect battled an injury early in the season but returned to the O's in June. He was mercifully demoted to Triple-A after six starts and an 8.77 ERA. Thursday, though, he was no match for the minor-league hitters he faced, as Matusz was knocked around to the tune of eight hits and seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. (MiLB.com box score)

UNDERRATED STAT ALERT: When James Shields actually lets guys on base -- and his 1.01 WHIP says it doesn't happen often -- they most certainly aren't going to take a free base. Not only are runners 0-for-3 in stolen base attempts against Shields, but he's picked off 11 guys. And he's right-handed. (ESPN.com)

POUTING WORKS, PART DEUX: Earlier this week, we brought you the video of the young boy in San Francisco being upset that he didn't get a ball ... and then later getting a ball. This time around, we'll link to a story about a boy getting a baseball and then giving the ball to a younger boy who was upset. God love the charitable nature at such a young age. (Big League Stew)

SEEING HELPS: Aaron Miles was horrible in 2009 and not very good in 2010, but he's hitting .311 this season for the Dodgers. He believes the difference is that he had laser eye surgery in the offseason. (Los Angeles Times)

COCO'S 'FRO: Remember when Coco Crisp let out his dreadlocks and had a huge afro? Well, now there's a shirt to help the memory live on. Awesome. (MLB Shop)

JOSHY BLUE EYES: Much has been made of Josh Hamilton's woes during day games this season, as some have attempted to prove his blue eyes make it more difficult to see. Thursday, he tried some new sunglasses (MLB.com) that he thought were much more clear. Of course, he went 0-3 and ditched the glasses (ESPN Dallas).

A LOOK BACK: This time of year, each season, we hear rumors involving major-league players and mostly focus on the impact every move will have for the rest of the season. Sometimes deals -- such as the Mark Teixeira to the Braves trade -- end up proving quite costly for the acquiring team due to coughing up prospects. SB Nation took a look back at some recent deals that didn't happen but could have had a huge impact. For example, the A's reportedly could have gotten Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier for Joe Blanton back in 2007. Wow.

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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