Posted on: June 24, 2009 1:54 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2009 1:58 pm
In his first start after the Brewers sent him to the minor leagues, Manny Parra was throwing 84-87 mph and was so unimpressive that one person watching said, "They announced Manny Parra, but it sure didn't look like him."
But Parra rebounded well Tuesday night, going seven innings and allowing just one run for Nashville against an Albuquerque team that featured that other Manny (who, by the way, struck out and grounded out against Parra). The Brewers were encouraged enough that they now think Parra could rejoin their rotation within the next few weeks.
Brewers people hope Parra could follow the same path as Ricky Nolasco, the Marlins opening day starter who seemed to be helped by his two Triple-A starts. Nolasco, who had a 9.07 ERA when he was sent down, has a 2.50 ERA in three starts since returning, including a win at Fenway Park.
The Brewers have made it this far into the season using only five starting pitchers. That will change when Parra's spot comes up on Saturday (the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Seth McClung is the leading candidate for that spot). The Brewers will also need to fill Dave Bush's spot, with Bush now on the disabled list.
While many people in baseball believe that the Nationals should give Mike Rizzo the full-time job as general manager, the team has continued to look at other options, and some people are saying that the Nats owners want "a big name." The Nationals contacted Gerry Hunsicker, the former Astros GM who now works for Tampa Bay, but it appears that he doesn't want the job.
One name that has circulated: Jed Hoyer, who now works as Theo Epstein's assistant in Boston.
Meanwhile, other teams are wondering how much freedom Rizzo has to make trades. The Nationals have spoken to many teams about Nick Johnson, and to a few about Adam Dunn.
While the Rockies' slow start cost manager Clint Hurdle his job, their strong rebound is good news for general manager Dan O'Dowd, whose job now seems much more secure.
The Rockies' rebound has a few other effects, notably allowing other teams to believe that they could make the same sort of move back into the race. The Rockies themselves are no longer seen as a July seller, although sources said they're still trying to move Garrett Atkins.
The problem is that Atkins has a .206 batting average and has also regressed defensively.
"He can't play first base," one scout said. "And he can't play third base, either."
Without Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, the Mets lineup is awful, and they know it. Asked Tuesday night if we should expect more games like Tuesday's (a two-hit Joel Pineiro shutout) or like Monday's (a scrappy 6-4 win), manager Jerry Manuel answered honestly: "That's a good question."
The Mets expect to get all of their injured players back at some point this season, but they can't say exactly when on any of them. While they say there's a chance Beltran (bruised knee) could miss just two weeks, GM Omar Minaya said the All-Star break could be a safer bet.
"If you told me right now we'd have him to start the second half, I'd sign up for that," Minaya said.
Good line from 2,501-win man Tony La Russa, when asked what qualities make a good manager.
"Outstanding players," said La Russa, a fine manager who has also been blessed with many outstanding players.
Among all the impressive Albert Pujols stats, how about this one: In six plate appearances this year with the bases loaded, Pujols is 5 for 5 with three home runs and a sacrifice fly. In those six plate appearances, he has 16 RBIs (out of a possible 24).
For his career, Pujols is a .411 hitter with the bases loaded.
Posted on: May 27, 2009 5:51 pm
MILWAUKEE -- It's not exactly the Barry Bonds treatment, but with two more intentional walks today, in the Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Brewers, Albert Pujols now has eight in the last eight games.
Eight intentional walks is as many as any major-league player besides Pujols has all year. Manny Ramirez has eight, six behind Pujols' major-league leading total of 14.
The walks don't come as a surprise. Some scouts and executives wonder why Pujols isn't intentionally walked even more often.
But with Ryan Ludwick expected to return from the disabled list on Friday, will opposing managers be more reluctant to put Pujols on first base?
"They're always going to pitch Albert carefully," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "But during the first month of the season, it was obvious that Ludwick had managers' respect. Lud has got their attention."
Ludwick hit 37 home runs last year, and had eight in 30 games before going on the DL May 13 with a right hamstring strain. Nick Stavinoha batted behind Pujols today, a day after hitting his first big-league home run.
"[Pujols] is such a good hitter," Ludwick said. "If the situation's right, they're still going to walk him. They did it when I was hitting there, too, but fortunately, a few times I got them."
In five at-bats that followed Pujols intentional walks, Ludwick was 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Today, Stavinoha followed one intentional walk with a sacrifice fly, but another with a bases-loaded strikeout.
La Russa said giving Pujols the best chance depends in part on who hits behind him, but also on having baserunners on in front of him. He said that's a big reason he continues to bat the pitcher eighth, giving him three regular position players hitting in front of Pujols.
The Cardinals went 8-6 in the 14 games that Ludwick missed, but they scored just 44 runs, an average of 3.1 a game. Pujols hit .293, with one home run and six RBIs.
Posted on: October 11, 2008 4:51 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2008 5:20 pm
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In their 2-0 loss to the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Rays made two outs while swinging at 3-0 pitches. One of them was among the biggest outs of the game, a Carlos Pena fly ball with two on and nobody out in the eighth.
So did manager Joe Maddon err by green-lighting Pena and, before that, Evan Longoria (who flied out to end the sixth)?
Fans tend to say yes. Fans tend to complain when hitters swing at 3-0 pitches, just as they tend to complain when hitters swing at the first pitch.
But the stats say most middle-of-the-order hitters become unbelievable hitters when they put the first pitch in play. Pena is 3-for-6 in his regular-season career on 3-0, with two home runs and a double (including a grand slam off Dan Haren this year). David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau, among others, all hit .500 or better when they put a 3-0 pitch in play (all stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com).
OK, but wouldn't they have just as good a chance at 3-1 or 3-2?
Not necessarily. When Pena doesn't put the 3-0 pitch in play, he becomes a .190 hitter.
"It's something we've done all year," Maddon said today. "With Pena, taking everything into consideration, I felt pretty good about it actually. If he doesn't top-spin that ball, it might have hit the back wall."
Pena said Friday night that Maddon spoke to him after the eighth-inning at-bat, telling him he had taken exactly the right approach.
By the way, the stats also show that some hitters won't swing 3-0 even when given a green light. Neither J.D. Drew nor Kevin Youkilis has ever put a 3-0 pitch in play, and Wade Boggs did it just seven times in his entire career -- going 2-for-7.
While Maddon didn't second-guess his decision to let Pena swing 3-0, he also didn't dispute Ortiz's contention that the Rays had a different look in their faces Friday from what he saw in the regular season.
"I agree, and I did see it," Maddon said. "That's why I thought it primarily manifested itself in the pitches we swung at. However, (the Red Sox) had kind of the same look themselves."
Posted on: September 30, 2008 1:36 pm
The great thing about awards is that you can argue about who deserves them. And the great thing about the 2008 awards for me is that for the first time in almost 20 years, I don't have an actual vote on any of them.
That means I'm completely free to tell you what I think, and you're completely free to totally ignore it.
And as much as I respect Scott Miller, I'm also completely prepared to tell him where he's wrong.
You can read Scott's picks for the postseason awards here, if you haven't already.
To save time and avoid repetition, I'll just say I agree completely with Scott on the AL Cy Young award (Cliff Lee), and on both managers of the year (Joe Maddon, Lou Piniella). I agree with him on both rookies of the year (Evan Longoria, Geovany Soto), although the AL decision is a tough one, with Longoria getting just a small edge over Alexei Ramirez.
No argument on executives of the year, either (Andrew Friedman and Doug Melvin).
Of course, those were the easy picks.
The MVPs were the tough ones. Too many candidates in the National League, not nearly enough in the AL.
But think about who had the most effect on this season. What will you remember about 2008?
In the NL, you'll remember how Manny Ramirez changed the Dodgers into winners, and how CC Sabathia did the same for the Brewers. You'll remember all those Ryan Howard home runs that put the Phillies over the top in the East. I'd put all three of them of them ahead of Albert Pujols, who had a very nice season but only turned the Cardinals into fringe wild-card contenders. The MVP: Manny.
In the AL, Dustin Pedroia is a nice pick. But it's the wrong pick, because Francisco Rodriguez's 62 saves made the difference this year. Sure the Angels won by about 50 games, but if you don't think a closer can be valuable, ask all those teams that are sitting home in October primarily because they didn't have one. The MVP: K-Rod.
That leaves the NL Cy Young. I admire what Tim Lincecum did. I love Sabathia. But Johan Santana didn't lose after June, and he nearly pulled a flawed Mets team into the playoffs. Yes, I know that Sabathia DID pull his team into the playoffs, but I'll give the edge to the guy who was there all year. The Cy Young: Johan.
Tags: Albert Pujols, Alexei Ramirez, Andrew Friedman, Angels, Brewers, Cardinals, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Dodgers, Doug Melvin, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Francisco Rodriguez, Geovany Soto, Joe Maddon, Johan Santana, Lou Piniella, Manny Ramirez, Mets, Phillies, Ryan Howard, Scott Miller, Tim Lincecum
Posted on: June 27, 2008 6:51 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2008 7:25 pm
The Detroit Lions have one playoff win in the last 51 years. There's no reason to think they're headed for the Super Bowl.
No reason but this one: Clint Hurdle says the Lions of 2007 were a lot like his Rockies of 2006. And the 2007 Rockies, as you may remember, made it to the World Series.
Hurdle was born in Michigan, and he remains a big fan of the state's teams. With the Rockies in Detroit this weekend, Hurdle had a chance to speak with long-time Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell -- and also with Lions coach Rod Marinelli.
"I felt the same way about the Rockies as I feel about the Lions, that they'd have their day, and then they'd be off and running," Hurdle said. "Rod and I talked about the common fabric of their '07 season and our '06 season. Because in '06, we were on top of the division after the All-Star break, and within a three-week period we had fallen to the bottom of the division."
The Lions started last season 6-2, then lost six straight games before finishing 7-9.
"I told him we'd get together and share some of the lessons I think I learned from that ('06) season," Hurdle said. "You never know how close you really are."
The Cardinals lost two of three this week in Detroit, but they left an impression.
"The Cardinals are a much better team than I thought," Tiger manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they're really good. I was really impressed. They run the bases better than anyone we've played. They compete as good as anyone we've played."
Leyland was especially impressed that Albert Pujols was able to go 4-for-4 in his first game off the disabled list.
"That's the worst thing that could have happened to general managers," he said. "Now nobody will want to go on a rehab assignment."
One thing to think about as baseball discusses the future of maple bats: Some players could have trouble making an adjustment.
One hitting coach said that maple distorts hitting almost the way that aluminum bats do, because maple is a harder wood than ash. Some hitters have been using 31-ounce maple bats, and because the wood is so hard they can still make solid contact when they get jammed.
"With ash at 31 ounces, you've got nothing," the coach said.
Trot Nixon is just 5-for-32 in his first nine games for the Mets, so it's hard to say he's made much of an impact. But there are those in Cleveland who think the Indians miss his presence, if not his .251 batting average.
"We've struggled to get an identity this year," third baseman Casey Blake said. "I think last year Trot Nixon really helped us."
Last August, the Tigers' Carlos Guillen hit a 3:30 a.m. walkoff home run to win a rain-delayed game against the Yankees. Wednesday night against the Cardinals, Guillen went 4-for-5 in a game that included a 2 1/2-hour rain delay.
Is there a connection?
"Someone told me a long time ago that a lot of guys waste time during rain delays," Guillen said. "A lot of guys just play cards. I try to stay loose. I ride the (stationary) bike. I stay focused. In this game, you've got to take advantage of anything you can."
Posted on: June 26, 2008 2:56 pm
"Not a Braves-type player."
I heard exactly that a couple of weeks back, when I asked a Braves person about Sidney Ponson. I knew the answer, but I asked, anyway. After all, the Braves were looking everywhere for starting pitching help.
"Not a Braves-type player."
When Ponson had his trouble with the Rangers, causing disturbances and causing Texas to designate him for assignment, officials from several organizations predicted that he wouldn't get another job. Of course, he did, and now he's scheduled to start for the Yankees Friday night against the Mets.
I wouldn't have done it. They did. And when a team like the Yankees is willing to sign a player with as bad a track record as Ponson, you start to figure that almost anyone can get another chance these days.
Anyone but Barry Bonds.
"I feel like our story's just as good as theirs," Cards outfielder Ryan Ludwick said. "There were people picking us to finish fifth. We saw one magazine that said we'd only win 56 games. That'll get your blood boiling."
The Cards survived their two weeks without Albert Pujols, who returned today (a week earlier than expected).
That's three guys who each have 2,000-plus career hits (and two who have 2,500-plus). That's 897 combined home runs, 3,591 combined RBIs.
Sheffield hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1989, according to research through baseball-reference.com. Before this year, Renteria hadn't hit lower than seventh since 1996. And before this year, Rodriguez hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1995, and hadn't hit ninth since 1992.
In case you're wondering, it's not unheard of for a future Hall of Famer to bat near the bottom of the order, even in the middle of his career. Johnny Bench actually hit eighth for Cincinnati two times in the 1979 season.