Tag:Ryan Vogelsong
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.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:18 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 11:44 pm
 

Looking at NL Comeback candidates

Ryan VogelsongBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Earlier today my colleague Matt Snyder wrote about the Comeback Player of the Year awards and also took a look at the top candidates in the American Leaugue. Now it's time to look at the National League.

As Matt noted, the Comeback Player of the Year Award has been sanctioned by the MLB since 2005. It is voted upon by the 30 MLB.com beat writers (one per team). The criteria for the award is incredibly subjective and open to interpretation. Voters are asked to name a player in each League "who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season."

That's vague -- but that seems to be a recurring theme with baseball awards. There's usually a couple of different type of comebacks -- the comeback from injury, the comeback from poor performance, the old guy and putting together one last hurrah and then the wild cards.

We've got a bit of each of those in the National League, but I'll get to that later. Like Matt, I'll give you the three frontrunners and several others. And once again, it should be noted I don't vote for this and I'm not exactly sure who I would vote for at this point. But here's who is in the running.

The Frontrunners

Carlos Beltran, Mets/Giants
2010 numbers: .255/.341/.427, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 64 games
2011 numbers: .298/.386/.524, 20 HR, 80 RBI in 129 games
Beltran may not win it because of his team's performance, not his. Beltran was supposed to ignite a dormant Giants offense, but even a .325/.367/.558 performance with five homers and 14 RBI in his 31 games before Thursday's game were just as advertised, it's just that it hasn't led the Giants to the postseason. The 34-year-old Beltran was the hottest name at the trade deadline because he'd looked like he had finally recovered from the knee surgery that limited him in 2010. Beltran missed 13 games after coming over to the Giants because of a wrist injury, but he's still shown that he has something left in his tank -- and just in time for free agency.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals
2010 numbers: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI in 122 games
2011 numbers: .290/.404/.551, 30 HR, 86 RBI in 132 games
Berkman looked like he was finished last season, first with the Astros and then with the Yankees. In the offseason he signed a one-year deal worth $8 million with the Cardinals to play the outfield and there were plenty of skeptics -- myself included. Still, Berkman got into shape and thrived with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. He was an early candidate for MVP, and he may still not be in that discussion, but he's certainly at the forefront for this award. If your definition of a "comeback player" is returning to form, Berkman's the easy pick. If you have a different definition, well, your choice may be...

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
2010 numbers: 3-8, 4.81 ERA, 1.773 WHIP in 33 games and 14 starts in Triple-A
2011 numbers: 10-7, 2.66 ERA, 1.251 WHIP in 27 games and 25 starts
Vogelsong hadn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues since 2006 and hadn't won a game since 2005 before the start of the 2011 season. When you talk about comebacks, Vogelsong's may not have ever been a great pitcher (he had 10 career victories in 33 career starts before 2011), but he fits the comeback in terms of just coming back to the big leagues. Since 2006 he pitched for two teams in Japan over three years before trying a comeback in the United States in 2010. Vogelsong replaced Barry Zito in the rotation in April  and then went 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA before the All-Star break and earned a nod to the All-Star team. He's not been quite as good since then, but he still has a 3.30 ERA in the second half, only to go 4-6 thanks to a sputtering Giants offense.

Sean BurroughsThe Others

Sean Burroughs, Diamondbacks. You can put Burroughs in the Josh Hamilton comeback category, except unlike Hamilton, Burroughs had reached the big leagues before he returned from addiction to play. Burroughs, the ninth-overall pick in the 1998 draft, made it to the big leagues at 21 and even hit .298/.348/.365 for the Padres in 2004. However, he was out of baseball by 2006 and battled with substance abuse. As recently as last year, Burroughs was homeless and eating out of garbage cans. His .265/.276/.333 line isn't going to earn him too many accolades, but the fact that he's in the big leagues is as much of a comeback as can be imagined.

Aaron Harang, Padres. Returning to his hometown of San Diego after eight years in Cincinnati, Harang has been the Padres' best starter. After winning just six games in each of the last three seasons with the Reds, Harang is 13-6 with a 3.85 ERA this season. There's no doubt Harang has benefitted from the change of scenery -- and home ballparks, going from homer-happy Great American Ball Park in Cincy to the pitcher's dream of Petco Park in San Diego. Harang is 7-4 with a 3.30 ERA at Petco and 6-2 with a 4.70 ERA away from home.

Todd Helton, Rockies. The 37-year-old Helton was healthy this season after battling a back injury last season, when he hit just .256/.362.367 in 118 games. This season he's hitting .302/.385/.466 with 14 homers and 69 RBI. 

Jason Isringhausen, Mets. Isringhausen, 39, had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and signed a minor-league deal with the Reds in 2010, pitching for their Triple-A team in Louisville. He signed a minor-league contract with the Mets -- the team that drafted him in 1991 -- and after a short stint in extended spring training made the team and served as the team's closer for much of the season. Overall, he notched seven saves to get his career total to 300, pitching in 53 games for the Mets and putting up a 4.05 ERA, striking out 44 batters in 46 2/3 innings.

Kyle Lohse, Cardinals. Lohse has always been bit of an enigma -- blessed with immense talent, Lohse can one day look dominating and the next day out of his league. When he did pitch in 2010, he didn't pitch well and then his season was ended in May when he underwent surgery on his right forearm. He's been a staple in the Cardinals' rotation this season, going 13-8 with a 3.62 ERA in 28 starts. 

Pablo Sandoval, Giants. San Francisco won the World Series in 2010 with very little help from Pablo Sandoval, who played in just one of the team's World Series games and six postseason games. Well, Sandoval came into camp in shape and has responded, despite missing 40 games with a hand injury. Going into Thursday night's game, Sandoval was hitting .301/.345/.511 -- and then hit for the cycle on Thursday, notching his 20th homer and 25th double. 

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals. The Nationals hope Zimmermann's return from Tommy John foreshadows the recovery of Stephen Strasburg. Much like Strasburg, Zimmerman had to have Tommy John surgery after a promising start to his rookie year, but was then able to return the next season and pitch. While his 8-11 record isn't too impressive, the 3.18 ERA in 26 starts is. With Zimmermann and Strasburg, the Nationals have high hopes for the future.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 14, 2011 2:13 pm
 

If Cy Young was decided like Manager of the Year

By Matt Snyder

As my esteemed colleague C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out Monday, the Manager of the Year award is unavailable for certain managers in any given season. For example, the Phillies and Red Sox were heavily predicted to make the World Series in 2011. The Yankees are the Yankees, and the Giants and Rangers went to the World Series last season. So right there, Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona, Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy and Ron Washington are virtually eliminated from the chance at winning the Manager of the Year award in their respective leagues.

It's not necessarily wrong, but it's still fun to imagine if the other awards were decided in the same fashion. Tuesday, I took a look at the MVP with this twist. Now, we'll go with the Cy Young Award in each respective league. Remember, expectations disqualify people in Manager of the Year voting, so we're doing that here, just for fun. Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and several others aren't in contention because they are already established studs.

Here are three candidates for the Cy Young Award of each league, if voters reacted as they did in the Manager of the Year voting -- along with who I think would win and why.

American League

Doug Fister, Tigers
2010 numbers: 6-14, 4.11 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 K, 171 IP
2011 numbers: 8-13, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 130 K, 197 1/3 IP, 3 CG
Fister was already improved in 2010, but he's been lights out since joining the contending Tigers (2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in eight starts) and helped them build up some incredible momentum in their race to win a division title for the first time since 1987. His deadline deal to the Tigers garnered modest fanfare, but it has ended up being a huge splash and he gives them a bona fide No. 2 behind Verlander in the playoffs.

Justin Masterson, Indians
2010 numbers: 6-13, 4.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 140 K, 180 IP, 1 CG, 1 SHO
2011 numbers: 11-10, 3.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 151 K, 205 1/3 IP, 1 CG
A question mark heading into the season, Masterson developed into the Indians' ace -- at least before the Ubaldo Jimenez trade -- as they stormed out of the gates and were in first place for a long time. He's faltered lately (5.85 ERA in his last five starts), but he's only 26 and has a big workload. Also give him major points for drastically lowering home run and walk rates.

James Shields, Rays
2010 numbers: 13-15, 5.18 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 187 K, 203 1/3 IP
2011 numbers: 15-10, 2.70 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 210 K, 226 1/3 IP, 11 CG, 4 SHO
So Shields nearly chopped his ERA in half while going from leading the majors in hits and earned runs allowed -- and the AL in home runs allowed -- to leading the AL in shutouts and the majors in complete games. He entered the season with just five complete games and two shutouts in his entire career (which was 151 starts). Just look at those numbers differences. It's utterly staggering.

And the winner is ... James Shields. Fister would likely get some late support and Masterson's growth has been great to watch, but Shields blows the rest of the field away here. He'd be the Kirk Gibson of this award.

National League

Johnny Cueto, Reds
2010 numbers: 12-7, 3.64 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 138 K, 185 2/3 IP, 1 CG, 1 SHO
2011 numbers: 9-5, 2.36 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 102 K, 152 1/3 IP, 3 CG, 1 SHO
Wow, look how he's trimmed that ERA. Cueto has been huge for the Reds this season as they struggled to get anywhere what they thought they would from some other starting pitchers, but he could only do so much on his own.

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks
2010 numbers: 9-10, 3.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 168 K, 194 IP
2011 numbers: 19-4, 2.99 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 182 K, 208 IP, 1 CG, 1 SHO
Sure, the D-Backs being a vastly improved team this year helps the win-loss record, but Kennedy is one of the biggest reasons for the surprise season. He's grown into an ace far quicker than most predicted. In fact, most scouting outlets only had him pegged as a middle-of-the-rotation guy.

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
2010 numbers: 3-8, 4.81 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 110 K, 95 1/3 innings ... oh, and these were spread across Double-A and Triple-A.
2011 numbers: 10-7, 2.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 124 K, 162 1/3 IP, 1 CG, 1 SHO
From 2000-06, Vogelsong had a 5.26 ERA and 1.59 WHIP for the Giants and Pirates. He then played three years in Japan before returning for an uninspiring season in the minors last year (as you can see above). He the joined the Giants as a 33 year old and was thrown into the rotation due to injury issues in late April. By the All-Star break he was 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA and headed to Phoenix as an actual All-Star. He's one of the better stories in baseball this year.

And the winner is ... Ryan Vogelsong. You could make a great argument for any of the three, but I'm going with Vogelsong because he came from completely out of nowhere. Cueto and Kennedy at least had hope for big seasons, especially as they should be progressing with more age and experience. Vogelsong was barely even an afterthought entering the year, and no one expected him to ever be a meaningful major-league player.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:17 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Bloomquist kills Giants' hopes

Willie Bloomquist

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Willie Bloomquist, Diamondbacks: Bloomquist's two-run triple in the eighth inning may have been the final nail in the defending champions' 2011 coffin. Ryan Vogelsong held the Diamondbacks scoreless into the eighth inning before Ryan Roberts homered and then after Gerardo Parra singled and Geoff Blum walked, Bloomquist fired Ramon Ramirez's first pitch into the corner in right, scoring the eventual winning runs. With the 4-1 victory, Arizona leaves San Francisco up seven games in the division with 22 games remaining for each team.

Shaun Marcum, Brewers: Marcum again showed why the Brewers could be a team to be reckoned with in the postseason. Although Zack Greinke was the team's most high-profile pickup in the offseason, Marcum's been just as good, if not better. Marcum, acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays, improved to 12-5 with a 3.11 ERA after allowing just one hit and a walk in seven innings in a 4-0 victory over the Astros. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning when Jordan Schafer singled up the middle with one out. No Astro made it to second base until the eighth when Francisco Rodriguez walked J.B. Shuck and then a single to Jason Bourgeois. However, Rodriguez recovered to retire the next two batters he faced to quell the scare. With the win and the Cardinals' loss to the Reds, Milwaukee now leads the NL Central by 9 1/2 games.

Derek Jeter, Yankees: Many of us said Jeter was too old and should just be sent out back and shot (or, you know, out to stud or whatever Derek Jeter will do after he's done with baseball), but those of us who said that (with me raising my hand right here) were wrong. The Captain didn't just go 2 for 5, tying a career-high five RBI in Sunday's 9-3 rout of Toronto, but since the All-Star break he's hitting .343/.397/.448. The one thing he hasn't done much of in that span is hit homers, but he had his second of the second half on Sunday and first since July 25. However, on a team with Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees don't need Jeter to hit homers, just be on base when the others do.


John Lackey, Red Sox: A favorite whipping boy of Red Sox fans, Lackey looked as if he were getting it together -- going five straight starts without giving up more than four earned runs (baby steps, people, baby steps). That streak ended on Sunday. Lackey allowed six runs on eight hits in five-plus innings of work. He didn't retire a batter in the Rangers' seven-run sixth inning, leaving after allowing three straight singles, threw a wild pitch and then walked a batter before being lifted. Lefty Felix Doubront gave up Lackey's final three runs and then three of his own in a 11-4 Rangers victory.

Mark Reynolds, Orioles: The Orioles third baseman committed two errors in the Orioles' 8-1 loss to the Rays, taking over the lead in the majors for errors, leapfrogging shortstops Elvis Andrus of the Rangers and Starlin Castro of the Cubs, who both have 25 errors. Reynolds hadn't started a game at third base since Aug. 14, but was moved back to third on Sunday to give Robert Andino a day off. Reynolds booted a two-out grounder with bases loaded in the third inning and led to four unearned runs in the inning. Reynolds' fielding percentage is down to .897 at third base. He's dead last in pretty much any fielding stat you want to name, UZR, UZR/150 and fielding percentage among them -- and it's not really close. Among qualified third basemen, none have a fielding percentage less than .940.

David Herndon, Phillies: His 2-1 pitch to Mike Cameron with bases loaded in the bottom of the 14th was close -- but his 3-1 pitch wasn't, as Herndon walked in Emilio Bonifacio to give Florida a 5-4 victory. Herndon loaded the bases in the 13th inning, but got out of it. He couldn't repeat the feat in the 14th, despite not allowing a ball out of the infield. In 3 2/3 innings, he walked seven batters -- so really blaming one call on one pitch doesn't carry much weight.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 4, 2011 10:56 am
 

On Deck: D-Backs pulling away in NL West

OD

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

Pulling away: The National League's closest race is on the verge of being decided -- the Diamondbacks can take a commanding seven-game lead in the NL West with 23 games remaining with a victory in Sunday's series finale at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Arizona's Daniel Hudson looks for his 15th victory of the season and third straight. In his last four starts, he's gone 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA, pitching seven scoreless innings in his last start, a win over Coloardo. He's just 1-2 against the Giants this season, but limited them to a run on six hits in a victory at AT&T Park on Aug. 6. Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong has lost each of his last three starts and four of his last five. Diamondbacks at Giants, 4:05 p.m. ET

Matt HarrisonWelcome back: Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison will get another chance against the Red Sox, returning to the team's rotation to face the same team that roughed him up in his last start. Texas manager Ron Washington inserted Scott Feldman into Harrison's spot in the rotation last week and used Harrison in relief on Wednesday. Harrison gave up seven earned runs on 11 hits in five innings on Aug. 24 against the Red Sox, prompting Washington to give the 25-year-old a short break. Harrison had a 3.04 ERA before the All-Star break and 4.56 afterward, so the Rangers hope the time off returns him to his pre-break form. Red Sox starter John Lackey hasn't had much success against the Rangers, either. In two starts against Texas this season, he's given up 13 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings. Rangers at Red Sox, 1:35 p.m. ET

Clayton KershawCy Kershaw: While the American League Cy Young race is about as excited as most of the races around baseball right now (read: not very), the National League competition has heated up because of the performance of Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. The 23-year-old is 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA overall and 8-1 with a 1.32 ERA since the All-Star break. Kershaw has won his last four starts, allowing just two runs in those four games. Kershaw has five starts to win three games and become the Dodgers' first 20-game winner since Ramon Martinez won 20 in 19990. Dodgers at Braves, 1:35 p.m. ET

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 5:33 pm
 

September Storylines: What races?



By C. Trent Rosecrans

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

September Storylines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 25, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 4:06 pm
 

On Deck: Watching the Wests

OD

By Matt Snyder

With four day games and only five night games, the pickings are slim for On Deck. Fortunately, we have three pretty important evening games, thanks to some of the teams out West. Follow all the action live on CBSSports.com's scoreboard and keep up with the standings that update at the conclusion of every game.

Texas heat: The Angels are idle Thursday, but breathing down the neck of the Rangers again, as they've won six in a row while the Rangers have dropped two straight. The Texas lead is 2 1/2 games, while the Angels visit for a pivotal three-game series beginning Friday. Should the Rangers lose Thursday night against the Red Sox, they'd be in danger of losing the division lead during the Angels' series. All-Star Alexi Ogando (12-5, 3.30) will start for the Rangers and square off against Andrew Miller (5-1, 4.99) of the Red Sox. Ogando has faltered a bit of late, with a 5.19 ERA in his last six starts, though he was good last time out. Still, the Red Sox offense in a hitter's park is a tall order. The Rangers bats better be ready to answer the call. The Red Sox have work to do themselves, as they entered Thursday with a one-game lead in the AL East. Red Sox at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET.

Snakes in D.C.: The surprising Diamondbacks are sitting atop the NL West with a two-game lead -- despite a recent six-game losing streak -- but have the defending champs hot on their heels, so every game at this point is big for Kirk Gibson's crew. Thursday night won't be easy against the Nationals, who, by the way, are in third place in the NL East. John Lannan (8-9, 3.61) takes the hill for Washington, and he's 3-1 with a 1.04 ERA in his career against Arizona. The D-Backs, meanwhile, send Wade Miley (0-1, 11.25) to the mound. He only has one career start, a four-inning, five-runs-allowed loss this past Saturday against the Braves. Diamondbacks at Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET.

Giant opportunity: If the D-Backs do lose to the Nats, the Giants should move to within one game. They're taking on the Astros, who have lost four in a row and have the worst record in the majors. Further on the side of the Giants, All-Star Ryan Vogelsong (10-3, 2.47) takes the hill, and he's had great success at home (1.82 ERA in 74 1/3 innings). Meanwhile, the Astros hand the ball to Henry Sosa (0-2, 6.35). He's going on three-days' rest, as the Astros are going to activate J.A. Happ from the disabled list Friday. Astros at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 5:29 pm
 

On Deck: Wakefield aiming for 200

OD

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

Tim WakefieldGoing for 200:
Boston's Tim Wakefield will take his third chance at winning his 200th game of his career. The 45-year-old knuckleballer has pitched well in his last two starts, but wasn't able to pick up the win. He gave up three runs to both the White Sox on July 29 and to the Indians on Aug. 3, going a combined 13 2/3 innings and 11 strikeouts with just four walks. Baker's looking to bounce back from a three-inning outing against the Angels on Aug. 3. He gave up five hits and four runs (three earned), throwing 77 pitches in the outing. Red Sox at Twins, 7:10 p.m. ET


Perfect timing:
If you're a team just a half-game out of first place, there are few things that can make you happier than seeing a four-game series against the Astros coming up on the schedule. Arizona is 5-5 over its last 10 games but is still just a half-game out in the National League West thanks to San Francisco's recent struggles. The Astros are 40 games under .500. Daniel Hudson starts for the Diamondbacks opposite Houston's best pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, in the series opener tonight. Watch for Arizona's Justin Upton who is putting up MVP numbers. Upton is hitting .366/.418/..831 with seven homers and 22 RBI over his last 18 games and has a homer in his five plate appearances against Rodriguez. Astros at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET

Ryan VogelsongThis one goes to 11?: Pittsburgh has an uphill climb in San Francisco if it wants to stop its 10-game losing streak. While the Pirates will miss Tim Lincecum in the three-game series, they have to face former Pirate Ryan Vogelsong, who is 9-1 with a 2.19 ERA. While Vogelsong's ERA is slightly higher at AT&T Park, batters aren't hitting him as well at home, putting up a .228/.290/.312 line. He's allowed just three homers in his 11 home starts. Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton got the Pirates' losing streak started in Philadelphia by allowing eight runs in four innings. He threw seven shutout innings in his last start, but the Pirates lost a 1-0 game to the Cubs. Pirates at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

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