Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Yadier Molina
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:47 pm
 

NLCS Game 2: Miller Time is good to Brewers



By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- It's been beat into the ground by this time in the playoffs, but it's only because it's held true -- every game at Miller Park is crucial to the Brewers, who held baseball's best home record and struggled on the road this season. So far, the Miller Park faithful has seen four postseason victories and no losses. The Brewers also lost both of their road games in Arizona in the first round, furthering the storyline.

Sunday, the Brewers came back from an early deficit to beat the Cardinals, giving Milwaukee the early lead in the series and keeping the momentum alive at home.

NLCS

"The atmosphere here is something that we really feed off of, I think it's one o fate big reasons we've been so successful here at home," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "Obviously the fans are very passionate. And they're excited. I think they're enjoying it as much as we are, playing meaningful baseball games on Oct. 10. And they're embracing the opportunity, just like we are, and trying to make the most of it."

For St. Louis, getting a win in Milwaukee would mean a chance at clinching a trip to the World Series at home. For a team that came back from 8 1/2 games in the wild card in the last three-and-half weeks of the season and lost the first game of the NL division series, St. Louis is used to performing under pressure.

"Just look at how we've played over the last six weeks -- we've lost some tough games and bounced back, we did it against Philly, we did it in the last two weeks of the season when we needed wins, we're too good of a ball club," St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols said. "This is too long of a series  and whoever wins four games is going to the World Series. Just because they won one game -- you can go to the (Brewers) side and ask them -- it's not over."

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Cardinals' Edwin Jackson: The right-hander's last outing came in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Cardinals facing elimination and he rebounded from giving up two first-inning runs, he allowed just three more base runners in his six innings as St. Louis forced a Game 5 with a victory over Roy Oswalt and the Cardinals. 

The start was Jackson's first postseason start of his career, but not his first appearance, having pitched in three games of the 2008 postseason with the Rays. The oft-traded Jackson has gone 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts and 13 games since coming to the Cardinals, and take out one start and his ERA's down to 2.92. But there's the rub -- that one start you'd need to take out was against the Brewers, at Mlller Park. In just his second start for the Cardinals, Jackson surrendered 10 runs (but just eight earned) in seven innings on 14 hits. The Brewers tagged him for four homers -- three by Casey McGehee and one from Corey Hart to lead off the first inning. 

On Sunday, Jackson was asked about that start -- "What start? It's that simple. I mean, I'm a competitor. I mean, I can take my beatings and I can handle that. It's not my first one and it probably won't be my last."

Jackson followed that start with another against the Brewers -- losing but in better fashion, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in six innings on Aug. 9. In his next start in Milwaukee he allowed just one run in seven innings, earning the win.

Brewers' Shaun Marcum: The Brewer right-hander wasn't able to get through the fifth inning in his one start in the NLDS, going up seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings in Game 3. During the season, he flashed moments of brilliance, but also struggled -- evening out to a 13-7 record with a 3.54 ERA.

Marcum's Game 3 start will best be remembered for his flip of his glove after giving up a grand slam to Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

"I didn't really see the replay, and I didn't realize I did it until afterwards," Marcum said. "I was like, what the heck did I just do? It reminded me of Ted Lilly a couple of years ago in Arizona, but he slammed his glove down on the ground. It's just a reaction thing. Definitely I didn't realize I did it until afterwards."

Like just about every other pitcher in this series, he's seen plenty of his NLCS opponents -- facing the Cardinals three times in August, going 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in those three starts and 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four total starts against St. Louis.

"They know what I'm going to do; I know what approach they're going to take for me," Marcum said. "For me it's a matter of going out and locating, keeping the ball down. I do know what they're going to try to do. They know what they're going to try to do against me. We're going to go back and forth."

Starting pitching advantage for Game 2:

Both starters are so unpredictable that it's hard to give anyone an edge -- it depends on the night.

LINEUPS

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Nyjer Morgan CF
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Lance Berkman RF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
7 David Freese 3B 7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
8 Nick Punto 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Edwin Jackson RHP 9 Shaun Marcum RHP

NOTES

  • With his 62nd postseason game in a Cardinals' uniform, Albert Pujols passed Jim Edmonds for most in franchise history. With his single in the first inning, Pujols has now hit safely in 21 of the 26 LCS games in his career, hitting .354 (34 for 96) in the LCS with eight homers and 18 RBI.
  • Based on history, the Brewers' victory in Game 1 puts them in the driver's seat -- in the last 19 NLCS, winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 16 times (84.2 percent).
  • Rafael Furcal hsas a hit in each of the nine games he's played at Miller Park this season, with eight of those coming as a Cardinal. He's hitting .323 (10 for 31) here this season and .295 (26 for 88) in his career.
  • Despite the Brewers' prodigious power, Sunday was just the second time in team history Milwaukee hit multiple homers in one playoff game. The only other time came exactly 30 years before, when Pal Molitor and Ted Simmons hit home runs against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 9, 1981. It was the 37th time Braun and Fielder homered in the same game.
  • Marcum may not have the most success with the Cardinals this season, but he has had success against Pujols and Lance Berkman. Berkman is just 1 for 15 in his career against Marcum and Pujols is 1 for 9.
  • Likewise, Jackson's been good against Braun and Fielder. Braun is 2 for 12 against Jackson and Fielder is 2 for 13. McGehee's three homers are his only three hits against Jackson in his career.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Gomez in, Morgan out for Game 1 of NLCS

Carlos Gomez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Nyjer Morgan was the hero of the game that got the Brewers to the National League Championship Series, but he's not in the Game 1 lineup against Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia. Morgan and Gomez have platooned this season, with Gomez getting the start against left-handed pitchers.

However, Gomez was moved up in the batting order from his usual eighth to seventh in hopes of utilizing his speed more.

"I think it allows Gomey to do some more things when he's on base versus in the eighth spot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Sometimes you can't run as much. It frees up Gomey a little bit."

The Cardinals are keeping their lineup more or less intact, although that could change at the leadoff spot when Milwaukee uses lefty Randy Wolf. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he may flip-flop Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday against Wolf -- but he may not.

"I don't think there's a big difference," La Russa said. "Berk's been in there every day. As long as you've got Yadi, you've got protection and he's one of the toughst hitters on our club."

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

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

Pictured: Carlos Gomez
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:17 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

NLCS

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The National League Central is often overlooked or looked down upon -- but not this year, as the NL Central champs have to fight off their divisional rival with the winner headed to the World Series. What makes this matchup even more fun is that these two clubs don't like each other one bit.

There was a dust up late in the season between Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. There was also an accusation by the Cardinals that the Brewers were using different graphics on the Miller Park scoreboards to create an advantage while the Cardinals were batting. And even Saturday, Zack Greinke got the ball rolling by making comments about Carpenter, which got Cardinals manager Tony La Russa upset.

It's a contrast in style -- if only in the surface style. The Brewers are young, brash and loud. The Cardinals sit on their porch and tell them to get off their lawn.

On the field, both teams have some impressive individual pitchers, but got to the playoffs on the strength of their bats. While the Brewers won the National League Central, the two teams split their 18-game series during the regular season. While it won't bring in the ratings like some bigger markets might, it should appeal to true baseball fans.

TEAM INFORMATION

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4, 5*)
90-72, NL wild card winner
ALDS
: Defeated Phillies in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Phillies-Cardinals
Manager
: Tony La Russa
Regular-season batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.78 ERA (8th), 1.31 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 651 plate appearances, 37 HR 99 RBI

Miwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, NL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Diamondbacks in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Brewers-Diamondbacks
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Regular-season batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd), .325 on-base percentage (5th), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.63 ERA (7th), 1.24 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597, 629 plate appearances, 33 HR, 111 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

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

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Jonathan Lucroy
 
Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game also hit .305/.349/.465 this season … that's Molina if you weren't sure, or weren't watching Game 5 of the NLDS when he threw out Chase Utley at second. Molina seemingly does it all. Lucroy may be best known as the "guy who can't really hit," even if he hit a pretty respectable .265/.313/.391 with 12 homers.

First base: Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder
 

You want to talk about a heavyweight battle? You have perhaps baseball's best player versus a guy who had an MVP-worthy season. You also have two of the offseason's premier free agents. Fielder's 27, so who knows exactly who is going to get the bigger contract between him and the 31-year-old Pujols, but there's no question as to who is the better all-around player. Pujols is not only the most feared hitter in the league, he's also a guy who can beat you with his glove and his base running in addition to his bat.

Second base: Ryan Theriot vs. Rickie Weeks
 

Theriot's a much better second baseman than he his shortstop, so the good news is that he's at second base, although he's still not exactly a Gold Glover -- of course, neither is Weeks. Both garner their value with their bats, not their gloves. When healthy, Weeks is probably the better player. But he hasn't looked healthy and he was just 1 for 18 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. At the beginning of the year, this was an easy choice. Today it is, too, but it's the other way.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal vs. Yuniesky Betancourt
 

Once the Cardinals got Furcal from the Dodgers and he returned healthy, the Cardinals were a much better team. St. Louis has gone 30-20 in games which Furcal has played. Even though his stats are a less-than-impressive .255/.316/.418 with the Cardinals, the threat he brings at the top of the lineup coupled with how much he improves the team's defense, St. Louis is better because of him. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

Third base: David Freese vs. Jerry Hairston Jr.
 

Freese may be one of the more underrated players the Cardinals have. While we all know about Pujols and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and even the likes of Molina and Theriot, Freese is a guy you have to watch in that lineup. He hit .297/.350/.441 this season, but injuries have been a problem in his career. When healthy, he's a vital part of the the team's offense after the big boppers. Hairston is a journeyman utility player -- and those are great to have. He's a fantastic role player that has been in some winning situations the last few years, but there's a reason he's moved around both on the field and to different clubhouses. He's always in demand, but he's no longer an everyday player.

Left field: Matt Holliday vs. Ryan Braun
 

If the first base matchup weren't so good, this one would be getting the headlines. Braun would be my choice for the MVP in the National League, and Holliday is one of the more underrated players in the game. Cardinals fans love to hate the guy because of what he hasn't done, while ignoring the production he has put up in a Cardinals uniform. The guy is an absolute monster. However, he's hurt right now -- and like the Theriot vs. Weeks argument, that looms large in this matchup.

Center field: John Jay vs. Nyjer Morgan/Chris Gomez
 

Morgan's the hot name right now for his outrageous and engaging personality. His Game 5 heroics even overshadowed the fact that he hit .188 in the NLDS. As bad as that is, it was better than Jay's .162. Morgan brings enough to the team to give Milwaukee the slight edge. 

Right field: Lance Berkman vs. Corey Hart
 

Hart's another one of those players who gets lost among all the other good players in this series. He hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers this season, much of it out of the leadoff spot. But as good of a season as he's had, it pales in comparison to the season Berkman put together. A year after it seemed like he had nothing left in the tank, he was refueled with premium, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers.

Starting pitching: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse vs. Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
 

Both teams needed to use their best playoff pitchers on Friday, meaning the Game 3 matchup in St. Louis of Carpenter-Gallardo should be a good one. Garcia's been a different pitcher on the road (the 3.33 ERA vs. 2.92 isn't so bad, but batters are hitting a robust .313 against him away from Busch Stadium and .230 in the shadow of the arch). Lohse and Wolf are wild cards, while Greinke should pitch better than he did against the Diamondbacks. Both have their solid points and their question marks. In the end, it may be too close to call.

Relief pitching: Jason Motte and co. vs. John Axford and co.
 

Give credit to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak for going out and improving the team's bullpen at the break. For much of the season, the bullpen was a weak point, but Mozeliak strengthened it during the season and the bullpen has become a strength. Milwaukee also went out and made a bold move for a setup man, picking up Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have to feel good when their manager goes out to the mound to make a change.

Defense
 

Neither team is going to put on a clinic, but the addition of Furcal has improved St. Louis' defense to the acceptable level. Almost. With Pujols and Furcal they have players who can field the ball, so there's that. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop

PREDICTION

While these may not be the two best teams in the National Leauge, they certainly make for an intriguing matchup. No matter how many times each team says its letting bygones be bygones, they don't really like each other -- and the national spotlight could turn up the heat. The two teams split their 18-game season series, with each team going 5-4 on their home field. The way the Brewers play at home, they could be tough to beat here. In the end, I see it going the distance and the fact that four of the games are at Miller Park being the biggest difference. Brewers in 7.


For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 4:56 pm
 

NLDS Game 2 preview: Carpenter goes on short rest



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Cardinals at Phillies, 8:37 p.m. ET, Citizens Bank Park, TBS

Cardinals Phillies
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Jimmy Rollins SS
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Chase Utley 2B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Hunter Pence RF
4 Lance Berkman LF 4 Ryan Howard 1B
5 David Freese 3B 5 Shane Victorino CF
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Raul Ibanez LF
7 Ryan Theriot 2B 7 Placido Polanco 3B
8 Jon Jay CF 8 Carlos Ruiz C
9 Chris Carpenter RHP 9 Cliff Lee LHP

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Carpenter vs. Phillies: The Phillies can't be too excited about facing Carpenter again as the Cardinals' ace has dominated Philly this season. In two starts against Philadelphia, Carpenter's allowed just a single earned run and beaten the Phillies in both outings. Most recently, he held the Phillies scoreless through eight innings in the Cardinals' 5-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 18. On June 23 in St. Louis, Carpenter allowed one earned run on five hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking one. Utley's had the most success of any Phillies hitter against Carpenter, going 7 for 15 in his career. Pence and Fielder have homered off of Carpenter, but Pence is 4 for 22 (.182) and Howard is 2 for 9 (.222). 

Lee vs. Cardinals: A full sixth of Lee's 42 walks this year have come against the Cardinals, as the Phillies left-hander is 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA in two starts against St. Louis this season. Six of those seven walks, however were in one game, a loss at Busch Stadium on May 16. In his last outing, he pitched a six-hit shutout on June 22 at Citizens Bank Park. Berkman's had the most success against Lee in his career, with five hits in 13 at-bats, including three doubles. Pujols, on the other hand, has just one hit in eight at-bats against Lee. The only Cardinals to homer off of Lee is Furcal, who is 2 for 3 in his career off of the lefty. 

NOTES

Full Playoff Coverage
  • According to Weather.com, there are possible showers Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park, but no real threat of prolonged delays.
  • Matt Holliday is out of the lineup again with a strained tendon in his right palm. Tony La Russa said before Game 1 that he'd be available to pinch-hit and hoped he'd be ready for Game 2. Holliday left the penultimate game of the regular season and hasn't played since.
  • Carpenter is starting on three days rest for the first time in his career. He threw a 105-pitch shutout over the Astros on the final day of the regular season to help the Cardinals win the wild card.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 2:43 pm
 

NLDS Game 1 preview: Holliday out vs. Halladay

Roy Halladay

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Cardinals at Phillies, 5:07 p.m. ET, Citizens Bank Park, TBS

Cardinals Phillies
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Jimmy Rollins SS
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Chase Utley 2B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Hunter Pence RF
4 Lance Berkman LF 4 Ryan Howard 1B
5 David Freese 3B 5 Shane Victorino CF
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Raul Ibanez LF
7 Skip Schumaker 2B 7 Placido Polanco 3B
8 Jon Jay CF 8 Carlos Ruiz C
9 Kyle Lohse RHP 9 Roy Halladay RHP

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Lohse vs. Phillies: The former Phillie is 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA in two statrts against Philadelphia this season, beating Halladay and the Phillies on Sept. 19, allowing just an unearned run on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. Howard is 8 for 16 in his career against Lohse with two homers, while three of Raul Ibanez's nine hits (in 33 at-bats) against Lohse have found the seats. On the other hand, Utley is just 4 for 24 (.167) against Lohse. 

Halladay vs. Cardinals: The Cardinals may be wondering what the big deal about Halladay is -- Halladay is 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season. He picked up a no-decision on June 21 in St. Louis and then the Cardinals beat him last month, allowing four earned runs on six hits, while walking four. Berkman homered in the first against Halladay in their last meeting, setting the stage for a key Cardinals victory. Berkman has five at-bats against Halladay, with the homer and has also walked twice. Pujols is just 2 for 11 in his career against Halladay. 

NOTES

Full Playoff Coverage
  • There is a 20 percent chance of rain at gametime, according to Weather.com, increasing to 50 percent by 7 p.m. The same weather patterens that postponed Friday night's ALDS could hurt both this series as well.
  • Matt Holliday remains out with an injured tendon in his right palm, but he is on the team's 25-man roster and expected to play later in the series. Tony La Russa said he could pinch-hit in Game 1 and hopes he can start Game 2. Berkman is getting the start in left, he started 16 games in left this season
  • The Cardianls left right-hander Kyle McClelland off the playoff roster because he's dealing with what the team is calling "dead arm." McClelland started the season in the rotation, but was moved back to the bullpen with the addition of Edwin Jackson.
  • Halladay, of course, pitched a no-hitter last year in the first game of the NLDS. It was also against an NL Central team that led the league in batting average.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 9:34 pm
 

2011 NLDS matchup: Phillies vs. Cardinals



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cardinals were left for dead in late August, trailing in both the NL Central and the wild card by more than 10 games. There was even talk they'd trade All-Star right fielder Lance Berkman once he cleared waivers. Instead, they held onto him and went 23-9 in the last five weeks of the season. A season-ending 8-0 win over the Astros propelled the Cardinals into the playoffs as the Braves lost in 13 innings. As their prize, the Cards now get to face the best team in baseball in a short series. The Phillies won the NL East for the fifth straight season and ended up with a franchise-record 102 wins. The Cardinals recently took three of four in Philly, but the Phillies weren't really playing for anything. What happens this time around? We'll soon find out. 

TEAM INFORMATION

Philadelphia Phillies (host games 1, 2, 5)
102-60, NL East champions
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Team batting statistics: .253 batting average (9th in NL), .323 on-base percentage (5th), .395 slugging percentage (7th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.02 ERA (1st), 1.167 WHIP (1st), 3.22 K/BB (1st)
Star player: SP Roy Halladay -- 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 220 K in 233 2/3 innings

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4)
90-72, NL wild card champions
Manager: Tony La Russa
Team batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (8th), 1.306 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .305/.349/.465, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 29 2B, 9 SB

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)  

Full Playoff Coverage
Game 1: STL @ PHI, Oct. 1, 5:07 p.m. ET. Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39) vs. Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35)
Game 2: STL @ PHI, Oct. 2, 8:07 p.m. ET. Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45) vs. Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40)
Game 3: PHI @ STL, Oct. 4 Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56)
Game 4: PHI @ STL, Oct. 5* Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69) vs. Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79)
Game 5: STL @ PHI, Oct. 7* TBD vs. Halladay
* if necessary

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Philadelphia: Carlos Ruiz
St. Louis: Yadier Molina

This is one of the best match ups in all of the playoffs, you have two of the best defensive catchers in the game and two of the best handlers of a pitching staff. Catcher is probably the toughest position in baseball and the toughest to judge. However, these two are at the very top when they have the gear on. 

Advantage: Tie

First base
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
St. Louis: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols struggled at the beginning of the year, but still finished with 37 homers and a .305 batting average. With the game on the line, who else in baseball would you rather have on the line? Nobody, that's who.

Advantage: Cardinals

Second base
Philadelphia: Chase Utley
St. Louis: Skip Schumaker

Even hobbled, Chase Utley is still one of the best second basemen in the game.

Advantage: Phillies

Shortstop
Philadelphia: Jimmy Rollins
St. Louis: Rafael Furcal

Furcal is struggling with a hamstring injury, and that really hurts the Cardinals because so much of his game is based on his speed. And when you start dealing with a speedster's wheels, they lose a lot of their effectiveness.

Advantage: Phillies

Third base
Philadelphia: Placido Polanco
St. Louis: David Freese

Casual fans may not know much about David Freese, but when healthy, the Cardinals' third baseman is an impressive hitter -- and right now, he's apparently healthy. Freese, 28, had a hit in eight of the team's last nine games.

Advantage: Cardinals

Left field
Philadelphia: Raul Ibanez
St. Louis: Matt Holliday

Holliday's status is unclear, but he is on the postseason roster. If Holliday plays, he's one of the game's best. That said, his palm is an issue. He took batting practice on Friday. Even at 80 percent, Holliday is a heck of a player.

Advantage: Cardinals

Center field
Philadelphia: Shane Victorino
St. Louis: John Jay

Jay has played well as the team's center fielder, hitting .297/.344/.424, but Victorino is having a great season. Not only did he hit 17 homers, he's also played Gold Glove defense.

Advantage: Phillies

Right field
Philadelphia: Hunter Pence
St. Louis: Lance Berkman

The former teammates provide perhaps the most intriguing matchup. Both have been the faces of the Astros franchise and are now beloved in their new homes. Berkman's wrapped up the Comeback Player of the Year award, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers and 94 RBI. Pence was an All-Star in Houston and even better in Philadelphia, where he's hit .324/.394/.560 with 11 homers in 54 games. Pence isn't a Gold Glover, but he's Willie Mays compared to Berkman in the outfield.

Advantage: Tie

Starting pitching
Philadelphia: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt
St. Louis:Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson

You may have noticed that the Phillies have a pretty good rotation.

Advantage: Phillies

Relief pitching
Philadelphia closer: Ryan Madson
St. Louis closer: Jason Motte

The Cardinals' bullpen has been bolstered by mid-season additions of Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel (the deal also allowed them to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen with the addition of Jackson). Since the trade, the Cardinals have the third-best bullpen ERA (2.86) in baseball. But the Phillies' pen has been stout all year long, while the Cardinals still have a bit of uneasiness when Tony La Russa makes one of his many visits to the mound.

Advantage: Phillies

Total advantage: Phillies (5), Cardinals (3), tie (2)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Phillies in 3
Gregg Doyel: Phillies in 3
Danny Knobler: Phillies in 5
Scott Miller: Phillies in 4
Trent Rosecrans: Phillies in 4
Matt Snyder: Phillies in 3

Trent's take: The Cardinals have the best offense in the National League and the Phillies the best pitching, so it will be interesting to see strength-on-strength, even though I'm always inclined to take pitching in that situation. The Phillies are the favorites, there's no doubt about that. The fact that Furcal and Holliday are hobbled by injuries doesn't hurt that idea, either. La Russa raised some eyebrows when he switched up his rotation on Friday, announcing he'd pitch Carpenter on three-day's rest in Game 2. If the Cardinals can take one of the first two games of the series, the pitching difference isn't as big in the second two games, which could make the series interesting. But there are still "ifs" to get to that point.

More Phillies-Cardinals NLDS coverage

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball 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.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:26 am
 

Picking the National League's best defenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Gold Gloves are one of baseball's toughest awards to decide -- and sometimes toughest to understand. Unlike many of the game's other awards, the Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches, and every year it seems there's a winner or two that seems to win the award more with their bat than their glove.

Not only do some players seem to win it with something other than their glove, sometimes the award can be a lot like the Supreme Court, once you get elected, you're not going to lose your seat.

That said, it's a difficult award to vote for. There are better fielding statistics coming out every year, yet most are still in their infancy and can tell you only so much. Good defense, sometimes can be a lot like the definition Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave for pornograpy in Jacobelis v. Ohio in 1964: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embrued within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it." 

With that in mind, perhaps the voters for the Gold Gloves should be the scouts, but instead I'll try my hand at picking out the best defensive players in the National League.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

As tough as it is to use numbers to evaluate fielders, it's even tougher with catchers. At least the numbers with other fielders have some meaning, with catchers there's so much more to what they do defensively that it's hard not to go on reputation -- and nobody has a better reputation than Molina.

Others considered: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies; Brian McCann, Braves.

First base: Joey Votto, Reds

When Votto was coming up, people knew he could hit -- that was hard to ignore -- but his reputation at first base was nowhere near as good. Even as a rookie, he often struggled, especially on throws to a pitcher covering first. Since then, he's improved every year and this year he has proven himself to be the best defensive first baseman in the league. Votto, last year's MVP, covers more ground at first than any other first baseman in the league, which means it can be tough to get a hit if you hit it on the ground to the right side of the Reds infield, beacuse of the next guy on the list.

Others considered: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Todd Helton, Rockies.

Brandon PhillipsSecond base: Brandon Phillips, Reds

A two-time Gold Glover, Phillips should be in line for his third. There may be no other player in baseball with as long of a highlight-reel as Phillips, who seemingly makes another amazing play every night.

Others considered: Chase Utley, Phillies, Omar Infante, Marlins, Neil Walker, Pirates

Third base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants

There are players with better defensive reputations than the Kung Fu Panda, but nobody's had a better year. The advanced stats don't tell you everything yet, but they're still pretty good. Sandoval leads qualified National League third basemen in UZR (12.3), UZR/150 (21.2) and plus-minus (20). 

Others considered: Placido Polanco, Phillies; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

The Rockies may know a little something about drafting defensive shortstops -- they picked two of the best in the league, Tulowitzki and the Astros' Clint Barmes. Finally healthy, Barmes was outstanding defensively for the Astros, while Tulowitzki seems like the second coming of Cal Ripken. 

Others considered: Alex Gonzalez, Braves; Jose Reyes, Mets; Clint Barmes, Astros.

Left field: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies

The voting has changed this year to award Gold Gloves to each of the three outfield positions instead of three generic outfielder awards that usually went to center fielders. Carlos Gonzalez is tough to categorize, but considering he's played more games in left than any other spot, he's the easy choice here. He's started 60 games in left, 34 in right and 28 in center. He's played all three well, which isn't easy at spacious Coors Field, committing only one error on the season.

Others considered: Matt Holliday, Cardinals. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks. Tony Gwynn, Dodgers.

Shane VictorinoCenter field: Shane Victorino, Phillies

This is one stacked category, with several deserving players. Under the old rules it would be easy, you'd have three center fielders and give them the three Gold Gloves. Under the new rules, it's a tougher choice. Victorino has had an MVP-type year, and no small part of that has been patrolling center field for the Phillies. The Flyin' Hawaiian is as good as anyone out there and his error-less season gives him the edge.

Others considered: Chris Young, Diamondbacks; Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Cameron Maybin, Padres; Rick Ankiel, Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates.

Right field: Mike Stanton, Marlins

He may be known best for the moon shots off his bat, but Stanton is a surprisingly good defensive outfielder. Stanton has the combination of athleticism and arm strength to be the best defensive right fielder in the game.

Others considered: Jay Bruce, Reds; Carlos Beltran, Giants; Jason Heyward, Braves.

Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, Mets

A knuckleball pitcher needs to field his position well -- there are plenty of bad hits coming back to the mound off poor contact. Dickey has been very good fielding his position and helped his team with his glove.

Others considered: Jake Westbrook, Cardinals; Bronson Arroyo, Reds; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Derek Lowe, Braves.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball 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