Tag:Rays
Posted on: January 19, 2012 9:13 am
 

Would You Rather Have: Kershaw or Price?



By Matt Snyder


For the latest installment in our ongoing offseason series, let's take a look at two similar left-handed starting pitchers. They're both under age 27, both made their respective debuts in 2008, were both drafted in the first round and both have already had a top two finish in Cy Young voting (one won it). One plays in the AL East, the other in the NL West. That's right, it's Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers against David Price of the Rays.

The case for Kershaw

Well, gee, where to begin? How about with a 2011 Cy Young Award -- coming in a season where Kershaw won the pitching triple crown, leading the NL with 21 wins, a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts. Also impressive were Kershaw's 233 1/3 innings pitched, five complete games, two shutouts while sporting an NL-best 0.98 WHIP. On top of all that, Kershaw took home the Gold Glove. He can even hit, as the .225 batting average and 10 runs scored is pretty impressive for a pitcher.

Better yet, Kershaw is only turning 24 this coming March and has already logged over 700 innings in his young career. We're talking a guy who could be a legitimate Cy Young candidate for the next decade-plus.

The case for Price

Upon first glance at the historically basic pitching categories, Price had a down year in 2011. He went 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA. This came on the heels of a season where he went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and finished second in AL Cy Young voting. Advanced metrics like FIP and xFIP, however, say Price simply had worse luck in how things shook out. And it wasn't like he was bad anyway. He struck out 218 batters in 224 1/3 innings and sported an impressive 1.14 WHIP. And at age 26, it's very reasonable to expect Price to have a similar looking W/L and ERA in 2012 to what we saw in 2010.

Would You Rather Have
Still, I can hear the cries already. This is a stupid "comparison" because Kershaw's numbers like W/L and ERA dwarfed Price's in 2011, right? Well, the opposite was true in 2010 and let us also consider the competition. Remember, Kershaw is in the NL West while Price is in the AL East.

Kershaw made nine of his 34 starts against the Giants or Padres -- and the only worse offense in baseball belonged to the Mariners. He made two more starts against the Astros. In those 11 starts against dreadful offenses, Kershaw went nuts, to the tune of a 10-0 record and 1.33 ERA. Meanwhile, Price made 12 starts against the top three offenses -- in terms of runs scored -- in baseball: The Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers. Of Price's 34 starts, 21 came against teams with a winning record.

It's fair to point out that Kershaw had good success against the Diamondbacks and Tigers while Price was knocked around by the Twins and A's, for example. But the general point is that Price faced much tougher offenses throughout 2011.

Our call

There is absolutely no wrong answer, but I'm going Kershaw. It might be surprising after those last few paragraphs, but I was merely trying to sell just how tough this decision should be. Glancing merely at the Cy Young voting and traditional stats from 2011 says Kershaw is an easy choice, but it's far from easy. In fact, my choice is based merely on the roughly 2 1/2 year difference in age. Otherwise they are basically the same to me, as the competition level evens out their numbers -- not to mention factoring in 2010.

Fan Vote:



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Posted on: January 16, 2012 11:31 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Strasburg or Moore?



By Matt Snyder


Admission time: This is the matchup I've been most looking forward to in this series. In judging from the comments on occasion, it seems that some fans become angry when we speculate about what might happen in the future. I couldn't possibly be more in disagreement with that sentiment. Thinking is fun. There's no right answer yet, so why not just make an educated guess on which player will end up with the better career? In fact, I think it's much more boring in the offseason to discuss what has already happened than to try and surmise what is coming next.

So we're going to do some looking ahead here and ask that you do the same. We're going to go with two young pitchers who appear to have ace potential, but the sample sizes we have seen in the majors aren't very big -- and with one of these guys, he's already undergone major arm surgery.

It's Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals against Matt Moore of the Rays. A righty against a lefty -- and both with gobs of potential.

The case for Strasburg

This one could be spun whatever way one wants, based upon any preconceived biases. We could say Strasburg was the most heavily-hyped pitching prospect since Mark Prior ... And look how he turned out! Or we could say Strasburg is the most heavily-hyped pitching prospect since Roger Clemens.

Then there is the Tommy John surgery. There have been players that had their career ruined by the procedure, so focusing on them suits the Strasburg haters. Of course, nowadays the procedure is successful at a very high rate and you could go down the list of names like Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter, John Axford, Jaime Garcia, Shaun Marcum, Brian Wilson, C.J. Wilson, etc. etc. etc.

Would You Rather Have
What if Strasburg stays healthy the rest of his career and does what he's done his entire life: Dominate the opposition. That's an ace for about 15 years.

Strasburg, 23, was the first overall pick in the MLB Draft after making collegiate hitters look silly for a few years. In 17 minor-league starts, he's 8-3 with a 1.90 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings. In 92 major-league innings, Strasburg is 6-4 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 116 strikeouts against just 19 walks. This past season, he was even more dominant upon his return from Tommy John surgery, putting up a 1.50 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 24 strikeouts in 24 innings. He only walked two hitters.

He's going to have his innings capped at 160 this season to protect him in recovery, but starting in 2013 -- assuming full health -- watch out.

The case for Moore

Unlike Strasburg, Moore built himself into a huge prospect while in the minors. He wasn't hyped heading into the draft, as the Rays snagged him in the eighth round. Still, the 22-year-old left-hander was utterly dominant in 2011. He was promoted to Triple-A midseason, where in nine starts he went 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings. He was so good the Rays felt that was all the time he needed before hitting the bigs in September. Moore made a pair of relief appearances and then one start: Against the Yankees. He did not disappoint, striking out 11 hitters in five shutout innings, picking up in the all-important win as the Rays were chasing down the Red Sox in the wild-card race.

Then, manager Joe Maddon felt comfortable enough with the rookie (he'll still be a rookie in '12, by the way) to start him in Game 1 of the ALDS. And Moore was nails. He threw seven shutout innings against the mighty Rangers in the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors. He struck out six while allowing just two hits, two walks and a hit batsman.

On top of all that, the Rays have locked Moore up with an incredibly team-friendly contract through 2016 -- but club options could keep him away from free agency until 2018. On the other hand, Strasburg's agent is Scott Boras, so the Nats won't have near as easy a time in keeping him.

Our call

I think the question comes down to if you trust Strasburg's arm to stay healthy. Moore looks like he has perennial All-Star potential, but Strasburg has Hall of Fame talent. I like gambling, so I'm going to go with Strasburg. If you're conservative with selections like this -- and want to factor in contract status in a major way -- Moore is the pick. But I'm not conservative on issues like this. Gimme Strasburg and the possibility of him winning a handful of Cy Youngs.

Fan Vote:



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Posted on: January 13, 2012 2:39 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 2:27 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Tulowitzki or Longoria?



By C. Trent Rosecrans


And once again it's time for our bloodfeud showdown in the Would You Rather Have series, and we're still not messing around. So far it's been even difficult for Matt and I to agree -- not to mention you, but that's cool, because it's the offseason and talking about baseball is always good. When there's snow outside my window, I yearn for baseball and baseball talk, so here we go with another hypothetical to keep the boredom and basketball away.

Today, we'll look at two of the best young players in the game, that although they play different positions on the infield, are still cornerstones of their franchise -- Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. So, which former Dirtbag of Long Beach State would you rather have?

The case for Tulowitzki

It's not that tough to make a case for Tulowitzki in any argument. When you bring up Tulowtizki, you're talking about a career .293/.364/.505 hitter with two Gold Gloves at the most important defensive position on the field. He's also gracious with fans and media alike, apparently a great teammate and a team player. He has a great sense of humor and has even rocked a mullet for charity. He's only 27 and is entering the prime of his career. There's almost nothing not to like about Tulowitzki.

The case for Longoria

A year younger than Tulowitzki, Longoria is one of the game's best players, regardless of position. A career .274/.360/.515 hitter, he's coming off what on first glance is a "down" season, hitting .244/.355/.495 with 31 homers. But look more closely and he had terrible luck, with a career-low batting average on balls in play of .239 -- nearly .100 points lower than his 2010 BABIP of .336. It's the first time in his four big-league seasons that he's had a BABIP less than .300. Despite the low BABIP, he increased his walk rate (13.9 percent) and decreased his strikeout rate (16.2 percent) in 2011, both career bests. Longoria didn't win the Gold Glove at third base in the American League for the first time since his rookie season, but there's no shame in losing to Adrian Beltre when it comes to fielding.

Contracts always play a big role in these kind of decisions and in most real-life decisions. That's where Longoria has the advantage. The Rays may have the most team-friendly contract in baseball, with control of Longoria through the 2016 season, making just $4.5 million in 2012 and $40.5 million due to him over the next five seasons (if the team exercises it's no-brainer team options in 2014-16.) Tulowitzki is also staying put for the near future -- and beyond. The Rockies have him signed through 2020 with a team option for 2021, when Tulowitzki will be 36, owing him at minimum $152.25 million.

Tulowitzki is aided by Coors Field, of course. That subject is going to come up anytime a Rockies player is brought up in just about any discussion -- and for good reason. As good as Tulowitzki is, he's better at Coors Field. In his career, he's a .312/.382/.549 hitter at Coors Field and a .274/.346/.462 hitter everywhere else. Last season the gap wasn't nearly as large, as he hit .310/.381/.567 at home and .292/.362/.519 on the road, with 13 of his 30 homers coming on the road.

Our call

This one may be a tad easier than our last two, but it's still a choice between two of the game's best -- but in the end, the choice is Longoria. Despite playing in fewer games by nearly a season, Longoria's accumulated a better WAR as measured by both Baseball-Reference.com (24.1 vs. 23.7) and FanGraphs (26.9 vs. 24.5), but the biggest reason is the contract status. While it's hard to fault the Rockies for locking up Tulowitzki for the better part of the rest of his career, Longoria's under contract for half the length of Tulowitzki's contract at nearly a quarter of the price. While Tulowitzki gives you positional value, it's not that much more, especially when you have elite defensive talent at both spots.

Fan Vote: Would you rather have Tulowitzki or Longoria on your favorite team?



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Posted on: January 11, 2012 1:37 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 12:40 pm
 

Luke Scott signs with Rays

By Matt Snyder

Free agent Luke Scott has agreed to sign a one-year contract with an option for 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays, the club announced Thursday. The deal will pay Scott $5 million in '12 and the option for '13 is worth $6 million with a $1 million buyout.

Scott, 33, played in just 64 games last season as he was battling a torn labrum in his shoulder. He's undergone surgery to fix the issue and should be ready to go come spring training. If he's not, this deal won't happen, as it is still pending a physical.

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Scott was actually a pretty underrated power hitter prior to injury. In 2010, he hit .284/.368/.535 -- good for a 144 OPS-plus -- with 27 homers, 72 RBI and 29 doubles in just 131 games in 2010. He hit 75 total home runs from 2008-10 for the Orioles after going to Baltimore in the Miguel Tejada trade.

Where Scott fits on the Rays remains to be seen. He can play left field, first base or serve as the designated hitter. The Rays are set in the outfield with Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce, but still appear to have possible holes at first and DH. Scott can fill either of those voids, with DH being much more likely.

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Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:10 am
 

Under-30 players building Hall of Fame foundation



By Matt Snyder


T-minus two days until the Hall of Fame vote for the 2012 induction is unveiled, so we'll continue talking about the Hall of Fame in this relatively slow time of the year. This time around, we'll take a look at active players younger than 30 who have laid a foundation that makes a run to Cooperstown possible.

Now, make no mistake about it, none of these players are close to having completed their big-league careers nor are they currently close to being locks to the Hall of Fame. Still, some are well on their way and others have started a journey that may push them into the discussion in a decade or so.

Obviously things could change in just one season -- just take a look below at a certain catcher from Minnesota. Or think about how good it looked for Grady Sizemore three years ago at this time before injuries completely derailed him. And we have to understand that just a few seasons of being an elite player doesn't necessarily mean the longevity will be there -- take the cases of Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, for example. For various reasons, careers can get off track. Still, it's fun to take a look at which young players have built a possible Hall-of-Fame foundation.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are 20 under-30 guys who could be on the right track, in alphabetical order (age in parentheses):

Hall of Fame coverage
Miguel Cabrera (28) - The first name we list might well be the most impressive case on here. In eight full seasons (he appeared in 87 games as a rookie) Cabrera has been an All-Star six times and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He's hit .317/.395/.555, which is good for a 149 OPS-plus. Saying Cabrera is just about halfway through his career is probably reasonable and he already has 277 homers and 984 RBI.

Robinson Cano (29) - He wouldn't have appeared on this list until the past two seasons, but Cano has grown into one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball. He'd need to continue this pace for another six to eight years at least before being a Hall candidate, though.

Prince Fielder (27) - Six full seasons -- with 39 games in '05 -- have yielded 230 homers and 656 RBI. Fielder also has an impressive .390 on-base percentage and a whopping .929 OPS (143 OPS-plus). He's already finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Can his robust body hold up long-term? If it does, he's probably headed to Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com's top similar statistical player through age 27 is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

Adrian Gonzalez (29) - Did he get started too late? Gonzalez didn't become a full-timer until '06 and wasn't a dominant force until '09. Still, four All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves and two Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. He also has a career .889 OPS (140 OPS-plus) and over 1,100 hits already.

Felix Hernandez (25) - We've seen so many pitchers flame out over the years after huge starts -- I mentioned two in the intro -- but King Felix basically only needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight. He's already 85-67 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,264 strikeouts. He has one Cy Young and also finished second once. And he could conceivably pitch 15 more seasons. Even conservatively -- assuming health -- you have to say he has 12 more in him.

Matt Kemp (27) - After a runner-up finish in MVP voting this past season, Kemp inked a huge contract with the Dodgers. He could be the face of the franchise for a decade. The power-speed combo (128 HR, 144 steals) along with a Gold Glove shows he can do it all.

Clayton Kershaw (23) - He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award last season. At 23. Enough said.

Tim Lincecum (27) - Two Cy Youngs, four All-Star appearances and a World Series ring so far. Not too shabby. Like Hernandez, Kershaw and all other great young pitchers, health and avoiding major off-field trouble are the biggest roadblocks. But there is serious foundation and talent here. I wouldn't bet against Lincecum. 

Evan Longoria (26) - He's going to be the face of the Rays for a long time and his arrival coincided with them shedding the laughingstock label. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His 136 OPS-plus bodes well. But his average dropped 50 points last season. Harbinger or aberration? I'd guess the latter.

Joe Mauer (28) - Would've seemed a lot more firm here last year at this time. The disaster of a season doesn't erase the amazing good Mauer did through the first six-plus seasons in his career, but it raises health questions moving forward. His bat means a whole lot less if he's playing first base instead of catching.

Andrew McCutchen (25) - He already has 95 doubles, 19 triples, 51 homers and 78 stolen bases. He has an .822 OPS (123 OPS-plus). What if he gets even better and is the driving force behind a complete Pirates turnaround?

Dustin Pedroia (28) - The 2007 Rookie of the Year followed up that act with a 2008 MVP. He's hitting .305/.373/.463 in his six-year career, while he's also won a World Series ring, two Gold Gloves and been to the All-Star Game three times.

Hanley Ramirez (28) - He would've been one of the best bets two years ago, but he's now mired in a two-year decline. Goes to show how quickly things can change. Of course, there's plenty of time to get back to 2007-09 form.

Jose Reyes (28) - In six "full" seasons (we'll say at least 125 games played), Reyes has been among the best players in baseball. There's no questioning that. Can he stay on the diamond enough to make himself a viable Hall candidate? It doesn't look great, but the talent is there.

Troy Tulowitzki (27) - Tulowitzki brings in three straight top-eight finishes in MVP voting and is the premier defensive shortstop in the National League. He really only has four seasons worth counting toward a possible Hall induction so far, though, so he's gonna need about eight to 10 more.

Justin Upton (24) - The potential here is insane. He came in fourth in MVP voting last season and should only get better. Again, there are many ways for younger players to derail, but Upton has all the tools to one day hit Cooperstown. Consider me a believer.

Justin Verlander (28) - Yes, he's only 28. Verlander already has 107 wins, 1,215 strikeouts, four All-Star appearances (that is, he made the team, not pitched in the game), a Cy Young and, yes, an AL MVP. He was already one of the better aces in baseball, but then went into a new stratosphere last season. If that continues, he's a cinch to make the Hall. We'll see.

Joey Votto (28) - In just four full seasons, Votto has made a name for himself as a marquee slugger. He won the 2010 MVP and followed it up with a stellar 2011 campaign as well. His career .955 OPS (151 OPS-plus) is incredible and he added a Gold Glove last season, too.

Jered Weaver (29) - Weaver was quietly really good until last season, and you can now drop the "quietly." He was the All-Star Game starter and could have easily won the Cy Young Award, if Verlander didn't happen to be putting up a historic season in the same league. In six seasons, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Considering his age, though, this is a pretty tall order. He'll need another eight years of dominance, I'd guess.

David Wright (29) - I think I would have felt pretty good about him after 2008, but he's fallen off a slight bit since then. Perhaps the change in the ballpark dimensions helps, in addition to some health -- for himself and teammates. Wright does already have five All-Star appearances and a .300/.380/.508 line with 183 homers and 151 steals.



I think my four best bets right now would be, in no particular order: Verlander, Cabrera, Hernandez and Upton. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. All 20 of these guys have plenty of time to either build a resume or screw it up. History tells us there's no chance all 20 make the cut, and even guessing half of these guys getting to Cooperstown is a big stretch.

Feel free to add more names in the comments, as there definitely isn't a wrong answer in this department.

Coming Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:25 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 1:47 pm
 

Halladay, CC lead over-30 Hall hopefuls



By Matt Snyder


In our series of Hall of Fame-related posts, leading to Monday's announcement about who will join Ron Santo in the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame class, we continue right here with a grouping of 30-plus year old players who haven't yet rounded out their resumes. None of these guys could retire right now and be a sure bet for the Hall (though the top option would very much have a chance), but all have at least the slimmest of chances.

Hall of Fame coverage
To clarify what we're attempting to do here, this isn't C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder say who should be in the Hall of Fame (though Trent does have only two more years until he's a voter). This is us going through and trying to guess how the entire voting body -- which is larger than 550 people -- would react to certain players. We could be wrong. It's just a fun, and subjective, discussion leading up to the 2012 voting results.

Saturday, we'll check out the under-30 crowd to see who is building a Hall-like foundation to their careers (Hint: You may see a "Felix" on there ... ).

For now, we're looking at players over 30-years-old who are still in their prime or just barely past it.

Looking Good ...

Roy Halladay - Could Doc retire right now and make the Hall? Maybe. Maybe not. I would say it's not a sure thing yet but he's headed to the Hall of Fame, because he's not retiring any time soon. If we do this again next year, he might very well have already moved to the surefire list. He's that close. The eight-time All-Star has two Cy Youngs, seven top-five Cy Young finishes and two runner-up finishes in the voting. He's already amassed over 2,500 career innings pitched with 66 complete games and 20 shutouts. His 188-92 record, 3.23 ERA and 1.17 WHIP all look nice. He'll surpass 2,000 strikeouts this season and he's already 40th all-time in career Wins Above Replacement among pitchers. He'll likely climb into the top 30 this season while going past 200 victories. Oh, and he threw a no-no in the playoffs. At 34, he probably has three years left in his prime. So, yeah, this case is nearly complete, barring him turning into Mike Morgan for the next five years. There are guys already in the Hall with worse numbers.

CC Sabathia - Carsten Charles isn't nearly as close as Halladay, he's just on the right track. CC is a five-time All-Star with one Cy Young and five top five finishes in Cy voting. He has a World Series ring and a 176-96 career record, to go with a 3.51 ERA (125 ERA-plus) and 1.23 WHIP. The problem for Sabathia is, though he's played 11 seasons, he didn't become dominant until 2007 -- yes, he was 17-5 as a rookie, but with a 4.39 ERA and zero complete games. From 2007-11, CC has been a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, but that's only five years. He does already have over 2,000 strikeouts, though. Another three seasons like the past three he's had for the Yankees and he's a pretty good bet to make it, I'd guess. Five more and he's a lock. Since he's still only 31, I like his chances.

Work to be done ...

Carlos Beltran - A Rookie of Year, six All-Star games, three Gold Gloves, 302 homers, 293 steals. Good? Definitely. Elite? Not yet. And he's a slightly-broken-down 34. It doesn't look promising.

Adrian Beltre -
Those five seasons of having Safeco Field stifle his offensive numbers could prove very costly. He's still only 32, though.

Lance Berkman
- Does the 35-year-old have about three more seasons coming like the one he just had in St. Louis? If so, he may just have a shot. If not, he's just had a really great career.

Mark Buehrle - He's only 32 and sports a 161-119 record along with two no-hitters (one perfecto). Four All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves, too. If Buehrle pitches six more years or so with the same durability he may sneak into discussion.

Chris Carpenter - Injuries probably did him in. If you look at 2004-06 and then 2009-11 for Carpenter, and say he could have done that over a 12-year period in a 16-year career, he's a Hall of Famer. Instead, he really has only those six seasons to bank on, as his six-year stint in Toronto was mediocre. He's 36 now and probably doesn't have enough has left in his tank to put up four more big seasons, especially considering he wasn't awesome in 2011 and worked over 270 innings (playoffs included).

Johnny Damon - Do you believe 3,000 hits is an automatic ticket to the Hall? Everyone with at least 3,000 hits is in the Hall except: Pete Rose (banned from baseball), Derek Jeter (still active), Craig Biggio (not Hall-eligible until next year) and Rafael Palmeiro (tested positive for a banned substance). With 2,723 hits, Damon is two seasons away. But he's 38. But pretty much just as productive as he's been for a long time, according to OPS-plus. We'll see ...

Matt Holliday - In eight seasons, Holliday is a five-time All-Star and has received MVP votes in five different seasons. His rate stats -- .315/.388/.541 with a 137 OPS-plus -- look awesome, but Holliday didn't come up until he was 24. So he's a 31-year-old power hitter with just 202 homers and 770 RBI. Can he keep hitting like this for another eight years? Until then, he's not getting in.

Tim Hudson - His numbers are a bit similar to Sabathia, minus the strikeouts and World Series ring, but he's 36. Hudson will be on a Hall of Fame ballot, but just one, before falling off. Really good career, though.

Paul Konerko - It feels like he doesn't have enough time left. He's a 35-year-old power hitter with 396 homers and 1,261 RBI. Basically, you could say the same thing I said above about Berkman (subbing in "Chicago" for "St. Louis," of course).

Phillies' offensive trio - Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley formed the offensive nucleus for a team that won the NL East five straight years (and counting), the NL two straight years and the 2008 World Series. But considering various circumstances (age, injury history, etc.), it appears the Phillies offense had zero Hall of Famers through this stretch.

Roy Oswalt - Young Roy appeared on the way, finishing in the top five of Cy Young voting five of his first six seasons. The numbers for the 34-year-old show he's got a chance with three more really great seasons, but his balky back poses a huge problem.

Mark Teixeira - He'll turn 32 in April, so it would appear he has an uphill battle with 314 homers and 1,017 RBI thus far in his career. The .904 OPS (132 OPS-plus) looks really good, but Teixiera's only hit .252 the past two seasons combined.

Michael Young - He's a seven-time All-Star with a .304 career batting average and many writers seem to love him (he got a first-place AL MVP vote this year, for example). Young also has 2,061 hits and is 35. Does he have 939 hits left in him? He has 957 in the past five seasons. He could probably play five more seasons as a DH.



So what do you think, readers? Any of these guys have a shot? Who has the best shot?

Coming Saturday: Under-30 players who have laid a foundation
Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:42 am
 

Rodney signs one-year deal with Rays

By Matt Snyder

The latest bullpen reclamation project in Tampa Bay? Walk-plagued Fernando Rodney. The 34-year-old right-hander will sign a one-year contract worth $2 million with the Rays either Wednesday or Thursday, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has learned.

Rodney has been a late-innings reliever throughout his career with flashes of promise. He's always had a good strikeout rate and sometimes it's been outstanding (10.9 K/9 in 2008). Rodney's also saved 87 games in his career. However, he just can't stay out of his own way, allowing far too many baserunners (career 1.46 WHIP). Last season, it got worse, as he walked 28 hitters while striking out just 26 in 32 innings. He also hit three batters and threw two wild pitches. Poor control has led to a 4.29 career ERA and a 4.50 mark last season. Advanced stats (FIP, xFIP, WAR) show Rodney was even worse last season than those numbers indicate, too.

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Then again, we've seen the Rays turn things around for struggling relievers before. Last season's biggest example was Kyle Farnsworth. Rodney certainly won't be the closer or initially leaned upon as strictly an eighth-inning guy. He'll just be in the mix late with the likes of Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and J.P. Howell.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:22 pm
 

Beyond the closer -- baseball's best facial hair



By C. Trent Rosecrans


When it comes to baseball facial hair, all the glory seems to go to the closers -- from Rollie Fingers to Rod Beck to the modern-day duo of Brian Wilson and John Axford. Wilson's beard has made him baseball's version of Peyton Manning -- appearing in more commercials than games. And then there's Axford, the Brewers' closer won the title of Mustached American of the Year from the American Mustache Institute, despite the fact he's Canadian.

Well, why should closers have all the fun? We need to get back to the glory days of the 70s and 80s when mustaches weren't just for the closers, they were for everyone in baseball. So, with that in mind, here is some of baseball's best mustaches, beards and other facial hair variations that are sported by players other than closers.

The outfielder -- Toronto's Eric Thames

 

Thames gets bonus points for versatility, changing his facial hair throughout the season, from simple stubble to some fantastic sideburn-mustache combos. Kudos to Thames for several of his combinations and his sheer willingness to experiment. A true All-Star in terms of facial hair.

The infielder -- Seattle's Brendan Ryan

 

Ryan finished the season clean-shaven, but hopefully he's using the offseason to get this glorious 'stache back in shape for spring training. Ryan also knows how to sport some awesome stirrups, so the man knows his style.

The starter -- Minnesota's Carl Pavano

 

Pavano's 'stache has its own Facebook page, as well it should.

The middle reliever -- Cincinnati's Sam LeCure

 

LeCure used his mustache to raise money for prostate cancer as part of the Movember movement. While a native of Missouri, LeCure went to college at Texas, so he's taken note of the great gunslingers of the old west for inspiration for his 'stache.

The manager -- Seattle's Eric Wedge

 

Like Ryan, Wedge shaved late in the 2011 season. Let's hope Wedge brings back the mustache -- which just commands respect. 

The bench coach -- Tampa Bay's Dave Martinez

 

Martinez didn't shave his beard, but he did give it a good trim late in the season. But you've got to give the guy credit for keeping that glorious monster alive during a Florida spring and summer. Sure, Tropicana Field is air conditioned, but you've got to leave the ballpark sometimes and that humidity is deadly.

The umpire -- Jim Joyce



Joyce became a household name for the way he handled his blown call costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010, but his mustache screams authority and confidence, meaning we believe him now when he says out or safe -- no matter what's happened in the past.

The mascot -- Mr. Redlegs

 

Mr. Met is probably the best mascot in the game, but the Reds took the Mr. Met template and one-upped him with a handlebar mustache -- which is like the bacon of facial hair, it makes everything better.

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