Posted on: June 22, 2011 1:20 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 9:11 am
By Evan Brunell
Zack Greinke, Brewers -- Greinke twirled a beauty against the Rays on Tuesday, throwing seven innings while whiffing 10 and limiting Tampa to just four hits and one run. His zero walks allowed pushed his K/BB ratio on the season to a jaw-dropping 80/9. There's no way his 4.77 ERA represents what he's doing on the field, as he's making many hitters look foolish. Greinke's best performance in a Brewers uniform came when the club had lost six of eight. The victory pushed Milwaukee to a half-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Seth Smith, Rockies -- The Rockies needed two home runs from Seth Smith to eke past the Indians, with the second homer coming in the top of the ninth to break a tie. "This was a huge character game," Rockies manager Jim Tracy told the Associated Press. "To hold a first-place team hitless [into the sixth inning], give up the lead, and win like that is huge." Smith went 3-for-4 with three RBI in the night's best hitting performance, pushing his overall line to .316/.370/.555. The 28-year-old is on pace for the most at-bats in a career largely spent as a fourth outfielder.
Michael Bourn, Astros -- Bourn isn't a sexy name and will always rank low on home-run leaderboards, but he does nearly everything else just right. Armed with impeccable defense, Bourn couldn't give the 'Stros a win in an 11th-inning affair with the Rangers but did go 3 for 5 with two runs and a RBI, stroking two doubles and swiping two bases to push his MLB-leading mark to 32. The performance gave Bourn a .285/.355/.395 line on the year. Again, not flashy, but when you add those 32 stolen bases plus his defense, Bourn is quietly one of the best center fielders in the game.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants -- Bumgarner couldn't get anything going Tuesday, allowing the first eight batters to reach. After Carl Pavano mercifully struck out, Bumgarner's night was done after coughing up a double to Ben Revere for the game's eighth run. Guillermo Mota came in and saved the bullpen with 4 1/3 innings, but Bumgarner got stuck with eight runs and nine hits in just 1/3 of an inning, ballooning his ERA to 4.07 from 3.21. The S.F. 'pen held the Twins to just one more run the rest of the way but dropped the game, giving Minnesota its eighth straight win while the Giants dropped into a first-place tie with the Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Cardinals bullpen -- A day after the Padres' bullpen gave up 10 runs to the Red Sox, the Cardinals coughed up a nine-run eighth inning to the Phillies. That allowed Philadelphia to walk away with a 10-2 victory. The inning started innocently with an out by Trever Miller, who relieved starting pitcher Kyle McClellan. But Miller then allowed a single and walk before giving way to Jason Motte, who couldn't register an out en route to hitting two batters with a pitch and exiting the game. On Monday, a Padres reliever also hit two batters in the 10-run inning. Brian Tallet relieved Motte and struck out Raul Ibanez, and it looked as if St. Louis could squeeze through the inning, giving up just one run. Nope. A Ben Francisco single chased Tallet from the game, allowing Miguel Batista to go walk-walk-single, giving up four runs. Mikael Cleto then gave up a walk and two singles to finish the scoring, finally getting Wilson Valdez (who else?), who ran for Placido Polanco earlier in the inning, to fly out. Fun.
J.D. Drew, Red Sox -- J.D. Drew's usually had one scorching hot month a year that carries the team and otherwise is a good enough contributor. But this season, not only are the BoSox waiting for Drew's breakout, he continues to be a zero at the plate. His line now rests at .230/.332/.328 after striking out three times in four trips to the plate. Drew just isn't making good contact as many of his hits end up as groundballs. Drew was already losing significant playing time against left-handers, and once Carl Crawford returns from injury could start sitting more in general, although Drew remains the best option against right-handers as both Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald are best used against lefities.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 10:26 am
By Matt Snyder
BASEBALL TODAY: Excited about rivals getting together? Danny Knobler joins Adam Aizer to look at some exciting matchups as the weekend approaches. Watch the video above.
FOUR INNINGS FOR WEBB: Brandon Webb made another start in extended spring training Thursday and pitched four innings. The big issue thus far in his rehab progress has been velocity, specifically a lack thereof. Thursday he reportedly averaged around 84 m.p.h. and topped out at 86. That's still pretty bad for someone who wants to be an effective major-league pitcher -- unless he plans on being a great knuckleballer -- but it is an improvement from what we've heard over the course of the past month, when he was sitting high-70s and low-80s. Considering he's still pain-free, maybe some progress is being made. (ESPN Dallas)
SQUEEZED: Based upon data from PitchFX, BaseballAnalytics.org checked out which pitchers have had the fewest percentage of called strikes within what is supposed to be the strike zone. It's pretty interesting, because one of the biggest problems with the strike zone is how many of the umpires seem to have their own interpretation. Topping the list of the people who have been the most squeezed is Nelson Figueroa. As the site pointed out, if we had robot umpires, maybe he'd still be pitching for Houston instead of Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Cardinals BULLPEN SORTED OUT: Since removing Ryan Franklin from the role, the Cardinals had not really named a closer, but it's a pretty foregone conclusion at this point that young Eduardo Sanchez is the closer, as he's saved four games in four chances. Hard-throwing right-hander Jason Motte is their put-out-the-fire guy. "Last year he was very successful doing that, coming in in the middle of an inning and pitching out of it," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "You have to kind of remember what he did there. Because there is a need for a guy like that." (MLB.com)
WHAT ABOUT THE Braves? After Craig Kimbrel went out and blew his third save of the young season Wednesday night, a Braves beat writer (AJC.com) brought up the subject of having Jonny Venters be the closer -- or at least be part of a committee with Kimbrel. He makes a good piont that Kimbrel is the long-term closer and has elite-closer stuff, but that Venters has been so dominant and the Braves are trying to win now. So it's a conundrum. It wasn't a save situation, but Kimbrel's outing Thursday night should stave off any temporary concerns for the time being. He struck out all three batters he faced in a tie game and ended up getting a win.
BUMPED: This is at least mildly humorous. The Mets were forced to stay an extra night in Colorado due to a rainout (I'm sure Carlos Beltran is now fine with the decision), but they had to relocate to a new hotel because they were bumped ... by the Padres, who face the Rockies in a weekend series starting Friday and arrived a day early. It really does seem like the weirdest stuff always happens to the Mets, whether it's due to self-sabotage or uncontrollable outside factors. (ESPN New York)
WALK-OFF WALKS: The boys over at Big League Stew have put together a compilation of everything you've ever wanted to know about walk-off walks. For example, did you know two pitchers issued four walk-off walks in their respective careers? Hall of Famer Goose Gossage did it three times. As for hitters, Jorge Posada is the active leader with three career walk-off walks. I better stop now, lest I reach my allotment of saying "walk-off walk" for the entire season in one paragraph.
GREAT SKIPPERS: ESPN.com's Sweetspot blog ranked the top 10 managers of all-time. The highest active manager (well, the only one) on the list was Tony La Russa, who checked in at sixth. Interestingly, Joe Torre was eighth while Bobby Cox was third, rankings sure to draw the ire of the people who put a good amount more stock on the postseason than the regular season.
WORST HAT EVER: Jim Caple of ESPN.com offers up his pick for the worst cap in major-league history -- the Seattle Pilots' 1969 monstrosity -- and he'll certainly get no argument from me. Man, that thing is awful.
CASHMAN'S CONTRACT: While everyone is concentrating on CC Sabathia's contract situation at the conclusion of this season, when it comes to the Yankees, there is another contract negotiation that will occur. General manager Brian Cashman's deal is going to expire after the season. Though both Sabathia and Cashman figure to stay put, the always-thoughtful River Blues Avenue opines that the Cashman negotiations will be "messier," most notably because ownership went over his head in the Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano signings.
ANOTHER SLOW START: Adam LaRoche has been pretty terrible for the Nationals thus far, but he's trying not to worry about it from an individual perspective. There's a good reason for that, as he's been there, done that. “I wouldn’t say I’m stressing over it, because I’ve been there so many times in my career,” LaRoche said (Washington Times). “But the frustrating part is not what the average is, it’s the fact that you look back and think, ‘Man if I’d have been doing a little more, we may have won two or three extra games.’” Not only does LaRoche have several awful starts under his belt, but he's one of the most drastically streaky hitters in baseball. He'll get hot. And then he'll go stone cold again. It's a cycle with LaRoche.
HUMBLED STAR: Andrew McCutchen was benched Thursday night for not running to first on a dropped third strike the previous night. It was a good move by manager Clint Hurdle to make sure it didn't become a recurring problem, and it doesn't appear it will. "I know that's not the type of person I am," McCutchen said on Thursday. "I let my emotions get the best of me. I took it out on my bat and myself when I shouldn't have been mad. I was just frustrated at the time and not focused on the game, not focused that the ball was in the dirt with two strikes and I needed to run to first." (MLB.com) I feel like it's important to note that McCutchen is generally a hustler and this shouldn't be discussed any further. He's a good guy and a good player who made a mistake. End of story.
NO RETIREMENT: Dodgers relief pitcher Hong Chih-Kuo is one of the better relievers in the game when he's mentally right. It's just that he seems to suffer from the yips on occasion. He's currently on the disabled list with anxiety disorder as the Dodgers have reported he's too scared to take the mound right now. Kuo's agent did say Thursday that there are no plans to retire, though, and he's going to battle his way back. It's one of Kuo's traits, actually, as he's had four surgeries, including Tommy John surgery twice. He always comes back, so this time won't be any different. (MLB.com)
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Tags: Adam LaRoche, AL East, AL West, Andrew McCutchen, Bobby Cox, Brandon Webb, Braves, Brian Cashman, Cardinals, Craig Kimbrel, Dodgers, Eduardo Sanchez, Hong Chih-Kuo, Jason Motte, Joe Torre, Jonny Venters, Jorge Posada, Mets, Nationals, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Padres, Pirates, Rangers, Ryan Franklin, Tony La Russa, Yankees
Posted on: April 18, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:32 pm
By Matt Snyder
When Matt Kemp's ninth-inning home run cleared the center-field wall in Dodger Stadium Sunday, it marked the fourth time in five tries Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin had blown a save. Sure, it was a pretty questionable way for Tony La Russa to deal with the ninth inning -- in that he insisted on using a left-hander against Andre Ethier (who doubled) and then pitched to one of the hottest hitters in baseball with first base open -- but the blown save from Franklin has been a troubling early trend for the Cardinals.
Considering Franklin is 38, he could be in a natural regression due to age. Considering he's been awful thus far in the season, coughing up eight hits -- including three home runs -- and six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, it's entirely possible his confidence is shot as well. That matters for all baseball players, but with a closer it's paramount. If he doesn't feel like he's going to mow down the opposition every time out, that's an issue.
Regardless of why, the combination of underperformance, age and a possible lack of confidence have forced the Cardinals to make a change. But where to turn? Let's rundown the options.
Mitchell Boggs - In the very small sample we've had thus far, he's been the best pitcher in the St. Louis bullpen. Boggs has a 2.00 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in nine innings. Even more importantly, he's struck out 12 hitters while only walking three. On the flip-side, his history suggests the strikeout rate comes down a bit and he's not been used in as many high-leverage situations as some of the other guys. But, hey, you gotta start sometime. Can't figure out if he's a realistic option without trying it.
Miguel Batista - He does have 41 career saves, but the lion's share of those came his one season as a full-time closer -- when he saved 31 games back in 2005. Still, it's experience in the role, and he's thrown the ball very well this season -- 1.29 ERA in seven innings. The downside is that he's 40 and his rate stats (like six hits in seven innings) suggest he's going to start allowing runs sometime soon.
Trever Miller - He's a lefty, so there's no way La Russa would give up one of his most beloved pastimes -- playing matchups with his bullpen. Therefore, Miller's not an option.
Jason Motte - The 28-year-old righty fits the part, as he throws hard and struck out more than a batter per inning last season. He had a 2.24 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 52 1/3 innings. This season, he's thrown seven innings and given up just two earned runs (2.57 ERA). He has walked too many and struck out too few, but it's a small sample. I'd give him a shot.
La Russa has now removed Franklin, even if it's only temporary. If they do, Motte seems the best-suited candidate, while they should probably keep Boggs as a put-out-the-fire guy. However, most speculation from across the writing community seems to think Boggs will get the shot. We'll find out whenever the Cards get another save chance.
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Posted on: April 11, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:54 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Three out of four isn't bad. Well, unless you're a closer and you've blown three of four save chances.
The only thing worse than having a closer that can't close is the manager having zero confidence in anybody else in the bullpen.
When St. Louis manager Tony La Russa was asked if he was considering changing his closer from Ryan Franklin, he answered, "who's better?"
"Somebody's got to come up with somebody that's better on our club right now," La Russa told MLB.com's Matthew Leach. "The fact is that right now those young guys aren't better."
In fairness to Franklin, errors by Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus with two outs in the ninth led to two victories by the Giants on Friday and Saturday, respectively. However, the way the Cardinals are constructed, defense will not be bailing out too many pitchers this season, and Pujols and Rasmus are two of the teams' better defenders.
Sunday the Cardinals found a way to avoid a closer breakdown -- by giving its pitchers a five-run lead to close out. They were successful, salvaging the series against the Giants with a 6-1 get-away day win in San Francisco.
RED-HOT Rangers -- Jeff Wilson of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram joins Lauren Shehadi to talk about the Rangers' great start.
CABRERA HELPING CABRERA -- The influence of veteran Orlando Cabrera has already started paying off for the Indians. During spring, Cabrera noticed Asdrubal Cabrera's approach in batting practice was that of a slugger, not a shortstop. He told him to try that in a game sometime. During the Indians' seven-game winning streak, Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting .316 with three homers and nine RBI. Asdrubal Cabrera had three homers all of last season. [MLB.com]
"It was good to get out of solitary confinement and hang out with the general population, you know what I mean," Dunn told the Chicago Tribune's Dave van Dyck.
However, Dunn said he was done making predictions about when he'd return when asked if he could play today against Oakland.
TINKERING -- Derek Jeter isn't the only Yankee messing with his mechanics -- right-hander Phil Hughes tinkered with his motion during his bullpen session on Sunday. Hughes is attempting to use more of the bottom half of his body in his delivery. [New York Times]
ROUSING THE TROOPS -- Rays manager Joe Maddon tried to eject all four umpires in Sunday's 6-1 loss to the White Sox. [St. Petersburg Times]
Enjoy this video while it lasts (why MLB.com won't allow embedded videos, I just don't know...)
LAROCHE CONFIDENT HE'LL BE BACK SOON -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said he doesn't expect to miss any time after leaving Sunday's game with a strained left groin. LaRoche left in the 11th inning against the Mets, but said today's day off for the Nationals would give him ample healing time. [MASNSports.com]
ZIMMERMAN UNSURE OF RETURN -- Unlike his teammate LaRoche, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is unsure when he'll return from his strained abdominal muscle. Zimmerman will be re-evaluated on Tuesday following the off day. [Washington Post]
YOUNG UNHAPPY -- Mets right-hander Chris Young wasn't perfect on Sunday and that wasn't good enough for him or the Mets. In his first seven-inning outing in nearly two years, Young allowed just one hit and two walks, and the walk came back to hurt him, accounting for the lone run he gave up to the Nationals. After he left the game, Washington tied the game in the eighth inning before winning it in the 11th. Young picked up a no-decision, but is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts for the Mets this season. [ESPNNewYork.com]
BACK-TO-BACK -- Mark Prior pitched on back-to-back days for the Class A Tampa Yankees on Saturday and Sunday as he makes the transition from starter to reliever in an attempt to return to the majors for the first time since 2006. Prior's fastball reached 91 on both days. [MLB.com]
NO REPLICAS FOR FANS -- The Giants will not make replica World Series rings available to fans, but you can by commemorative jewelry from the team. So, you know, if you've outgrown your class ring, you can get a ring that's symbolic of an achievement you had absolutely zero to do with earning yourself. But, you know, if you have $3,570 dollars just lying around with nothing else to really do with it, why not? It's not like there are charities that could use it more than you can use a 14K white gold ring with diamonds and your name on it that will repel women. Seriously, just buy one of the cool hats with the gold SF the team wore the other day. [San Francisco Chronicle]
NEW BOX -- The fine folks over at FanGraphs have unveiled their new boxscore. I swear there are some stats that aren't real in there just to see if you're paying attention. Seriously, there's just about everything you'd ever want in this box, and going through one could take longer than actually watching the game. And I mean that in the most awesome way possible. [FanGraphs.com]
NICE DAY AT THE PARK -- What's better than a beautiful Sunday at the ballpark? Try a day at the park followed by a post-game concert by the Avett Brothers. The band performed at Turner Field yesterday following the Phillies' 3-0 victory. My sisters-in-law and other friends went, plus one of my sisters-in-law met Kevin Gillespie in the beer line -- not a bad day.
Tags: Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, AL Central, AL East, AL West, AL West, Albert Pujols, Asdrubal Cabrera, Athletics, Cardinals, Colby Rasmus, Cubs, Derek Jeter, Giants, Indians, Jake Peavy, Jason Motte, Mark Buehrle, Mark Prior, Mark Riggins, Matt Garza, Mike Quade, Mitchell Boggs, Nationals, NL Central, NL East, Orlando Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Phil Humber, Rangers, Rays, Ryan Franklin, Ryan Zimmerman, Tony La Russa, White Sox, Yankees
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:16 pm
Franklin, who has considered retirement after his contract, may depart for another team or St. Louis may choose to install a younger option at closer rather than turn back to Franklin, who would be 39 entering 2012.
"I know it may sound stupid but nothing is guaranteed for any of us," Motte told the St.. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I feel I have to go out there and prove myself in the spring -- prove it to the coaches, prove it to Tony [La Russa], the other players -- that I belong here."
Given Motte posted a 2.24 ERA in 52 1/3 relief innings as a 28-year-old in 2010, his second full season as a reliever. He likely doesn't have much proving to do and should make the team without a problem. With his 54 punchouts and 18 walks, he seems in prime position to take over as closer even if he has much more to learn from the incumbent.
"Watching Frankie [you learn] just how to conduct yourself," said Motte, who is known for his pent-up energy. "You look at him. He's pretty calm and collected. Mitchell and I are a little bit more high-strung. But I think we're under control. Other people might thing we're going crazy."
Boggs, meanwhile, is still looking for his leap forward in his second year as a reliever after converting from a starter. The righty posted a 3.61 ERA with 52 whiffs and 27 walks over 67 1/3 relief innings, and has to be considered behind Motte in the race to become the eventual closer.
"I'd be lying to you if I said in my career I wouldn't want to close," Boggs, turning 27 in February, said. "If you're going to be in the bullpen, you want to be the closer. If you're going to be in the rotation, you want to be the ace. If you play football, you want to be the quarterback. We're all competitors and we want to get the most out of ourselves, so, yeah, I would like to close at some point. But we've got a closer and we all believe in him."
-- Evan Brunell