Tag:James Shields
Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:44 am
 

3 up, 3 down for 4/14: Here's Johnny

By Matt Snyder

3UP

Johnny Damon, Rays. He set a record Thursday night, in case you didn't hear. A quite obscure one, but a record nevertheless. When Damon hit a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, it was the fifth team for which he'd hit a walk-off homer -- the others being the Royals, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first player in major-league history to do so. That speaks to both longevity and bouncing around. For the present, however, the concentration should be on the Rays' third straight victory.

Randy Wolf, Brewers. After starting the season 0-4, the Brewers are now 7-5. Thursday night, they owed a big portion of their victory to the man on the hill. Wolf allowed just three hits and two walks with zero earned runs and didn't allow a Pirates player past second base. He also struck out 10 men. Big outing for Wolf and the Brewers are really rolling now.

Hanley Ramirez, Marlins. He entered the game hitting .194 with a dreadful .553 OPS. The star shortstop has been badly outplayed by Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki to this point. Thursday, Ramirez showed signs of life. He got on base five times in five plate appearances, going 3-3 with two walks, a run and an RBI. This could be exactly the thing he needs to get going. With the Marlins being 7-5 now, basically without his bat, watch out.

3DOWN

The Twins. Joe Mauer is going to the DL. Rays starter James Shields allowed 11 baserunners, but the Twins only scored twice. Twins starter Carl Pavano threw an absolute gem (eight innings, four hits, zero runs, seven strikeouts) and it was wasted by the bullpen. And it wasn't just two random members of the 'pen. It was Joe Nathan, who coughed up the lead in the ninth on a two-RBI Matt Joyce double, and Matt Capps -- who lost the game on Damon's aforementioned shot in the 10th.

Mariners offense. They were already starting with a strike against them. Adam Kennedy was hitting cleanup. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. Then the Mariners go out and get handcuffed by Bruce Chen. In fairness to Chen, he had a 4.07 ERA and 1.38 WHIP last year, so he's not the worst pitcher in baseball or anything. It's just that he's still Bruce Chen and held Seattle to six hits, a walk and zero runs over eight innings. That shouldn't be happening to a major-league offense. Then again, Adam Kennedy should never be batting cleanup even in a minor-league offense.

Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers. He got off to a stellar start to the season, but it came crashing down Thursday night as the Cardinals let loose against the right-hander. He was only able to get through five innings, allowing 10 hits and five earned runs as the Dodgers lost 9-5.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Five teams to improve, five to decline in 2011

By Matt Snyder

Finally, spring training is concluding. Now we have a day or two before your favorite team begins play. In the meantime, I'm here to bring you the top five teams to decline and the top five to improve upon their 2010 performances. In return, you accuse me of bias and call me names. It's fun for everyone, really. One thing to keep in mind is that improving or declining by more than 10 games is pretty drastic. On some of these, I'm looking at something like a seven-game swing.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO IMPROVE

1. Boston Red Sox. Well, let's see ... Last season Kevin Youkilis only played 102 games, Dustin Pedroia saw action in 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury just 18. Josh Beckett was either injured or ineffective all season. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a team that won 89 games, despite all those injury woes -- and some underachieving from people like John Lackey. Easiest call on the board here, and even Yankees fans would have to concede this team is loaded.

2. Oakland A's. The pitching staff is stellar, even including the bullpen. The starting rotation is already really good and only getting better. The A's won 81 with one of the worst offenses in baseball last season. A full season of Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki bouncing back and the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham don't exactly sound like adding Gonzalez and Crawford, but small improvements will do wonders for the pitching staff. Slugger Chris Carter is waiting in the wings, too, and don't be surprised if Billy Beane adds a bat at the deadline.

3. Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki needs to stay healthy and Dexter Fowler needs to get closer to his ceiling. I'm going out on a limb that both happen, along with steps forward from Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. Watch Jhoulys Chacin's development in the starting rotation, too. He's got big potential.

4. Milwaukee Brewers. This is contingent upon the big names staying healthy and Zack Greinke getting healthy as soon as possible, because this team is paper-thin. But the top line is very impressive. Plus, the division is not very good at all. The Brewers are going to score runs, get good starting pitching (again, assuming the health thing) and have a good back-end of the bullpen. If they can overcome defense and depth deficiencies, they'll win the Central.

5. Florida Marlins. Call it a bit of a gut call, but I really like the Marlins. The rotation really has great potential with Javier Vazquez returning to a pitcher's park in the NL East (he's apparently too intimidated by being a Yankee) and Ricky Nolasco having the ability to be a true No. 2 if he can ever stay consistent. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad have -- again, this word -- potential to be solid at the end, with stud Josh Johnson leading the five-some. I love the outfield potential of Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton, so long as all three can stay healthy. Hanley Ramirez is primed to have a big season, too.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO DECLINE

1. San Diego Padres. Removing Gonzalez from the middle of the batting order changes the complexion of everything. And Mat Latos is already hurt, which does nothing to alleviate the concern of the huge workload increase he's experienced over the past two seasons. Most of all, the Padres just seem outmanned by the Giants and Rockies. Winning close to 90 games seems outlandish. Of course, many people said that last year, too.

2. Houston Astros. They overachieved in a big way last season according to run differential (the 'Stros allowed 118 more runs than they scored) and aren't any better. Other than Hunter Pence, the position players are either getting old (Carlos Lee), still unproven (Brett Wallace) or just not that good (Jason Michaels, Bill Hall, Michael Bourn). I'm not a huge fan of the rotation, but it's going to have to carry the team. Good luck with that.

3. Tampa Bay Rays. This is difficult. It's hard to not love the Rays for being so good at sticking with the Yankees and Red Sox in the mighty AL East on that paltry payroll. The loss of Crawford hurts. Carlos Pena wasn't overly productive -- though he was much better than his batting average said -- last season, but his presence helps everyone else see better pitches. That goes away with Dan Johnson at first. The loss of Matt Garza isn't a big deal, so long as Jeremy Hellickson does his thing and James Shields returns to form. The bullpen is worse, though. Look, I'd pick the Rays to win the NL Central if they were in it, but the Yankees aren't any worse and the Red Sox are way better. The Orioles should be better as well. I think the Rays win in the ballpark of 86 games, but that's 10 worse than last year and good for third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays. They're still building and are moving in the right direction, but winning 85 games again in that division is a very tall order. Any offensive bounce-back from the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is negated by Jose Bautista's return to this planet.

5. St. Louis Cardinals. If anyone can pull this off, it's Dave Duncan, but losing Adam Wainwright was a death blow. Chris Carpenter is old and injury-prone. Jaime Garcia is due a massive regression. Kyle Lohse was awful last year and Jake Westbrook doesn't have good stuff. Kyle McClellan could very well prove a solid No. 5 starter, but he hasn't exceeded 75 2/3 innings the past three seasons in the bullpen. Can he really double that and remain effective? The outfield defense won't do the staff any favors, either. The Pujols/Holliday/Rasmus combo -- and even Lance Berkman in a best-case scenario -- is very solid, but there's only going to be so much they can do on some nights. I feel like mid-to-high 70s in wins, but Duncan and Tony La Russa find ways to make people wrong often.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:58 pm
 

Five players to improve, five to decline for 2011

By Matt Snyder

Well, it's almost opening day, which means it's time for all us writers to put ourselves out there and make some predictions. In the end, every season is unpredictable and we're bound to be wrong on several of these. That doesn't make it any less fun. It's supposed to be fun, remember?

In this entry, we'll take a look at five players sure to improve upon what we saw in 2011 and five that are going to regress.

Five players who will improve upon 2010

A.J. Burnett, Yankees. He was pretty brutal last season, but it's a new one. Opening day is time for rebirth and we have to turn the page. His xFIP and strand rates from last season both show us he wasn't nearly as bad as his 5.26 ERA showed. His stuff wasn't sharp at all, either, as his lowest K-rate since 2001 illustrates. There are many instances where spring stats don't mean anything (like CC Sabathia, to name a different Yankees hurler), but for someone needing to turn the page like Burnett, it's important to throw well. He did this spring, putting together a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. More importantly he struck out 11 and walked zero.

Derek Holland, Rangers. The youngster hasn't fared well in the majors thus far, but he's still only 24. He has lock-down dominated the minor leagues since being drafted in 2006. Last season in Triple-A he was 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA. He's 23-9 with a 2.47 ERA in his minor-league career with an outstanding 3.68 strikeouts for every walk. It's time to start showing this potential at the MLB level, and I believe 2011 will be the first step toward doing so.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers. He's refocused after a step backward in 2010. Which is weird to say, considering he had a 107 OPS+ and 28 bombs as a 25 year old -- but it really was a step back from his 2009 season, in which he won both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. He's having a solid spring and seems to be happier under Don Mattingly. Expect to see improvements in nearly every category -- except games played, since he appeared in all 162 last year.

James Shields, Rays. The traditional stat categories looked awful for Shields in 2010 -- 13-15, 5.18 -- but he really wasn't that bad. His strikeout rate was the highest of his career, balls in play were hits far too often (.341, as compared to a .308 career mark) and his xFIP was 3.72. If you don't like all the sabermetrics stuff, that's OK, but all of it says he's going to have a huge regression to the mean this year. In layman's terms, expect more 2008 (14-8, 3.56) than 2010.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks. He appeared headed for superstardom in 2009, but took a step back in 2010. Still, like Kemp, he's awfully young (23) and his OPS+ was still good (111). This season, expect Upton's walk rate to continue to rise, as such he'll run more. Also, his power took a significant dip last season and he wasn't fully healthy. He is now, so look for a big step forward in '11.

Five players who will decline from 2010

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. I once worked with a guy who liked to say, "just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true." Just to clear the air, I don't think Bautista cheated nor do I think last season was anything other than a continuation of his last month in 2009, which resulted from a new swing. I do not, however, think he's ever going to hit more than 40 homers in a season again. He hit 54 last year. Even if he comes through with another big season, he's going to see a huge regression. Think about it, if he hits 35 bombs, that's a whopping 35 percent less than last year.

Mat Latos, Padres. His shoulder issue right now is concerning, as are the giant leaps in workload the past two seasons. Plus, he began to falter down the stretch last year anyway -- going 0-5 with a 8.18 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in his last five starts. And his team is now worse. Basically, I hope you let someone else draft him in Fantasy.

Josh Hamilton, Rangers. Led the majors in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. Won the MVP. Are those things going to happen again? Technically speaking, it's pretty easy to say he's going to regress even if he has a solid season. If you wanna dig deeper, OK, his BABIP was a stupid .390, his isolated power flew off the charts and his ability to stay on the field must be questioned -- he couldn't even do that last season.

Buster Posey, Giants. His numbers were pretty insane last year in a short time. He struck out at a much lower rate than he ever did in the minors and didn't lose any of his power. There's a reason the "sophomore slump" term has hung around for a while, and it's not because guys automatically just play worse in their second year. It's because advance scouts, pitchers and pitching coaches have a large sample of at-bats to study and can start to find small holes in a swing. Some guys are immune. If Posey is, I'll be wrong in this pick -- and I'm fine with that. He's a very likeable guy.

Jayson Werth, Nationals. I do like that Ryan Zimmerman is his protection, but he's still going to a worse team in a worse lineup in a less homer-friendly ballpark. And now instead of playing behind Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels/Blanton he has to face them. Then, instead of facing the Nationals' pitching staff 19 times a season he's playing behind them. And he just got a huge, almost inexplicable, contract. It's hard to see him getting better.

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Posted on: March 23, 2011 10:22 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/23: Seven strong for Shields



By Matt Snyder


3 UP

James Shields, Rays. Roy Oswalt getting clocked in the head overshadowed this outing -- and rightfully so at the time -- but Shields threw a masterpiece against the Phillies Wednesday. It wasn't against scrubs either, as names like Rollins, Howard and Ibanez were in the order. He went seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk. He struck out four while lowering his spring ERA to 1.88.

Carlos Silva, Cubs. With Randy Wells nailing down the No. 4 spot in the Cubs' starting rotation, there's only one opening remaining. Silva had been brutal so far this spring, but he made a case to remain in consideration Wednesday. He threw six innings and coughed up just one earned run. In fact, he only allowed three hits and walked none. I still like Andrew Cashner for that job, but reports had Cubs' skipper Mike Quade very pleased with Silva's outing.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers. The 26 year old continued his torrid spring, crushing a three-run bomb off John Danks to highlight a 2-4 day. He's now hitting .320 with a 1.072 OPS this spring. He has five home runs and 15 RBI in only 50 at-bats.

3 DOWN

Matt Cain, Giants. He entered the game with five scoreless innings under his belt in the spring. He left with a 5.63 spring ERA after giving up seven hits and five earned runs in three innings. Good thing the spring games don't count.

Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks. The promising young arm for the Snakes couldn't get through three innings after allowing eight hits, two walks and seven runs. Only one of the runs was earned, but a Hudson throwing error was what helped open the door for the huge Rangers' third inning.

Ryan Doumit, Pirates. An interesting case, as you could glance at the box score and see Doumit collected two hits in four at-bats. But look deeper, as his ineptitude in everything but handling the stick was illustrated Wednesday. He allowed his third passed ball of the spring and was picked off on the basepaths -- twice! As the Pirates reportedly continue to shop him, efforts like these won't help.

BONUS -- YOU MAKE THE CALL

Francisco Liriano, Twins. He struck out nine hitters in three innings. Yes, every out he recorded was of the punch-out variety. Of course, he needed 76 pitches just to get through those three innings and along the way he walked three guys and gave up four hits. The one earned run isn't awful (it would be a 3.00 ERA), but a walk per inning is, just like the WHIP of more than two. Still, love seeing nine K in three innings. So would the outing be listed in up or down? You make the call.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 10:14 pm
 

Price named Rays' opening day starter

By C. Trent Rosecrans

David PriceMany of the opening day starting assignments are far from surprising, but they're still newsworthy just because, well, they are. Today's starter announcement is one of those. David Price will start for the Rays when they open the season April 1 against the Orioles.

Price has disposed James Shields at the top of the rotation, and understandably so. The former No. 1 pick was 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA last season in his first full season in the big leagues. Shields, though, struggled last season, going 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA and led the big leagues in hits (246) and earned runs (117) allowed.

Price said Shields was the first person to congratulate him on the news.

"He earned it, just like I earned it," Shields told the Tampa Tribune. "I'm happy for him. He had an unbelievable year last year."

Manager Joe Maddon said the rotation will also include Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson, although the order won't be set until later. Maddon wants to see how each pitcher matches up with the team's first few opponents before announcing it.

"We have some ideas, I'm not ready to reveal them yet," Maddon said. "We're still talking about it. It's not brain surgery. It just makes sense some of the stuff."

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:13 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:51 pm
 

NFL coach branching out into baseball

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Raheem MorrisPerhaps looking ahead to the NFL lockout when he may need a part-time job, Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris tried his hand at managing a baseball team on Tuesday.

Morris was in uniform and sat on the bench with Rays manager Joe Maddon on Tuesday and even had carte blanche to call hit-and-runs and bunts. And then in the fourth inning of the game against the Blue Jays, Morris went out to the mound to take James Shields out of the game after the right-hander reached his 60-pitch limit.

"It was funny. I'm definitely used to seeing Joe come out there," Shields told the Tampa Tribune. "He came out, he walked out to the mound and said, 'So what do we do now?' I said you're supposed to get the ball from me, and he's like, 'Oh, OK. Then hand me the ball. What are we doing after the game?' This is what we're supposed to talk about out there. It was pretty funny."

Morris also took the lineup card to the umpires at the start of the game.

Bucs wide receivers coach Eric Yarber took batting practice and ground balls before the game and served as the first base coach during the first inning. 

Morris also did some scouting of his own while he was in camp.

"[Evan Longoria could] probably play a little linebacker for me, a little Sam," Morris told MLB.com. "He's got some toughness. I notice he's got a little bit of swagger."

He'd also take B.J. Upton.

"Maybe coming in as the nickel, he doesn't want to tackle," Morris said. "So I'll get him out there on third down. But Joe got him to run the bases hard now, so I can get him to tackle."

Maddon said he'd like to take a turn running the Bucs' scout team.

"If he can see over our line, he's got a chance," Morris said.

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Posted on: December 19, 2010 5:47 pm
 

Top 5 remaining pitchers available

Now that Zack Greinke is in the Brew City, where does that leave teams seeking an arm?

Options are dwindling fast, which will be to the benefit to free-agent pitchers or teams with pitching to deal.

With that in mind, here are the five best options left on the market. This does not include pitchers that may be available but have not been reported to be such and also does not include Andy Pettitte, who will either return to the Yankees or retire.

Rank Who Why
1
Garza
Matt Garza
Garza is actually not as good as his career ERA (3.97) might indicate thanks to a 4.45 xFIP, but the 27-year-old has age and contract on his side, with three years of arbitration eligibility left. He has topped 200 innings the last two years and could blossom in the NL Central. The Rays need salary relief, but would probably prefer to deal Shields (No. 5 on this list) instead. The Rangers figure to be the top bidder for his services, but he has been most closely linked to the Cubs.
2
Nolasco
Ricky Nolasco
Contract extension talks have broken down between the Fish and Nolasco, so the club has been fielding calls on the right-hander. While Florida has reportedly planned to retain Nolasco through the next two seasons regardless, the club would move Nolasco in the right deal. He would likely cost more than Garza to get a deal done, but his unlucky streak of ball the last three years may chill offers enough that he remains in Florida.
3 Blanton
Joe Blanton
Why Blanton over Carl Pavano, No. 4 on the list? Simple: Pavano is seeking three years and $36 million, while Blanton is due $17 million over the next two years and Philadelphia will likely eat part of his deal to trade him. Meanwhile, Blanton's xFIP over the last two years is similar to Pavano's, and Blanton edges Pavano in age. As a back-of-the-rotation innings eater who keeps teams in games, Blanton's pretty snazzy.
4 Pavano
Carl Pavano
That's not to say that Pavano isn't valuable. The best free-agent starter left on the market (and the only free agent on the list, which speaks volumes), has returned to his innings-chomping ways and hurled 221 frames in 2010. He should be good for an ERA around 4.00 the next couple of years and would do well near the top of a rotation, but he's not an ace. The Twins remain the favorites for his services.
5 Shields
James Shields
Shields actually may be a better pitcher than Garza despite his 5.18 ERA. His xFIP was 3.72, a career-low and has a better track record when it comes to durability. However, that ERA will scare off suitors as well. He has one year of a guaranteed salary remaining, but three club options at escalating prices that could drop him behind Garza in contract status.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: December 14, 2010 6:07 pm
 

Where do Yankees go from here?

Zambrano Now that the Yankees have lost out on Cliff Lee, who could the club go after?

Well, for starters, the club has agreed to a minor-league contract with Mark Prior. Who knows, it could work out. But probably not.

Good thing there's always Andy Pettitte. The Yankees could up their offer to entice him out of retirement, but even with Pettitte, the Yankees are seeking a strong option for the rotation. Right now, it would be comprised of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and... who knows, maybe Sergio Mitre?

Carl Pavano is the only starter left on the market that fits the bill. Any other starter would fill in at the back of the rotation, while Pavano would make a strong case to be the No. 3. One problem: The Yankees and the fans have already had their fill of Pavano. However, New York did give Javier Vazquez a second try, so you never know.

Other options reside in trade. There's obviously Zack Greinke, but there are too many reports that New York doesn't have what it takes to acquire Greinke, plus there's far too many questions on whether Greinke would even want to pitch in New York, nevermind if he could.

Other trade options include the White Sox and Gavin Floyd as the club has been willing to listen on the righty. You can bet the ChiSox would also love to listen to deals involving Edwin Jackson as Jackson was only acquired in a desperate gambit to land Adam Dunn from Washington in what remains a curious decision from the Nats in passing. However, is Jackson better than what's left on the free agent market sans Pavano? Mmm... probably not.

The name of Ricky Nolasco is also making the rounds, but Florida has said it has no plans to move Nolasco even with the two sides struggling to agree to a contract extension.

Perhaps the Cubs could be enticed to part with Carlos Zambrano (pictured). It's no secret the two sides are tired of each other, but Big Z has a hefty contract and blew away the competition near the end of 2010, so would require a strong package in return. Still, the Yankees have the money and perhaps the will to pry Zambrano away.

Past that, the Yankees could come calling for Matt Garza or James Shields, although the Rays may not want to deal within the division. Jesus Montero may be enough to change their minds.

Another option New York has is to slot in with an average pitcher and wait until 2012 to make their move for a top starter.

Problem: Unless Philadelphia declines Roy Oswalt's 2012 option, the best starter on the market is C.J. Wilson. And granted, if Wilson repeats his 2010 season, he'll be an enticing name. But that should tell you all there is to know about 2012's free-agent market.

Except there's one very important person in the Pacific that will be posted and could make major waves.

That's Yu Darvish, who has opted to stay in Japan one more season but has essentially conceded he is headed east for 2012. The Yankees -- as well as any other team -- would love to get Darvish's services, and you can bet New York will be hot to trot after the righty.

But so will any number of teams such as Washington and the Angels, so Darvish to the Yankees isn't quite a sure thing. And no, simply expecting New York to outbid everyone in the posting process is not a sure thing. For one, the Red Sox blew the Yankees away for Daisuke Matsuzaka. And second, the Oakland A's not agreeing to terms with Hisashi Iwakuma in what some believe was a gambit to keep him away from the Rangers underscored a flaw in the posting system. That is, you can bid any amount for the player but do not have to pay the fee if no terms are agreed to.

What's stopping Boston from bidding an outrageous $100 million fee (double Matsuzaka's fee) and then just simply letting him walk away?

This much is clear: the Yankees have a lot on their hands to build their rotation now that the Cliff Lee saga has ended.

-- Evan Brunell

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com