Tag:Giants
Posted on: April 22, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Center field now belongs to the young

Have you noticed how young center fielders are these days?

Gary Cohen did.

Cohen, the outstanding television voice of the Mets, asked me the other day who's the oldest regular center fielder in the game, now that Carlos Beltran and Torii Hunter have become right fielders.

So I looked it up.

And the answer is? It depends on who you consider a regular, but in any case, there's no one older than 33.

The oldest is either Marlon Byrd of the Cubs, who is 33 (and will turn 34 on Aug. 30), or Aaron Rowand of the Giants, who will turn 34 one day earlier.

Rowand has played the most games in center field for the Giants so far, but Andres Torres is the regular when he's healthy. That's OK, because Torres is also 33 (but a few months younger than Byrd or Rowand).

No other regular center fielder in the game is 33. Or even 32.

In fact, 21 of the 30 teams feature a center fielder who hasn't turned 30, and 10 have a center fielder who is 25 or younger. And one or two of the teams with a 30-plus center fielder are already looking for someone better.

You might say that it figures, because center fielders need speed. But over the last 10 years, 35 center fielders who were past their 34th birthday played at least 100 games in center field in the big leagues.

Steve Finley played every game in 2004, at age 39, and played 139 games two years later, at age 41.

It can be done, but not this year.

Now center field belongs to the young.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 7:09 pm
 

It's been a cold (and low-scoring) April

Stats can lie. STATS Inc. doesn't.

So what should we make of the latest offering from the Chicago-based statistics service, which reported Friday that scoring in baseball is at a 19-year low for the first month of the season?

According to STATS, major-league games are averaging just 4.31 runs, down from 4.55 in April last year and the lowest since a 4.12 average in April 1992.

STATS suggests colder weather as a factor, and that's reasonable. It has been colder than normal in much of the country. I know for a fact it was cold and windy on Thursday night at Citi Field . . . when the Mets (9) and Astros (1) combined for 10 runs.

CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller points out that the Padres have contributed (or not contributed) to the lack of scoring. The Padres have just 60 runs in 19 games, and have already been shut out five times (and they face Roy Halladay on Sunday).

Has it been cold in San Diego?

Scott tells me it has been.

Others will no doubt point to steroid testing, and there's little doubt that's a longer-term factor. STATS listed the six lowest-scoring Aprils in the last 20 years, and four of them have been in the last five years (2009 was the exception). None of the six were in the probable peak steroid years, between 1994 and 2006.

It's also possible that there are just more good hitters than good pitchers right now. Scouts talk about how hard it is to find good position players, and several teams with strong pitching (A's, Giants, Padres, Mariners) are offensively-challenged.



Category: MLB
Posted on: April 17, 2011 9:43 pm
 

3 to watch: The first-place battle edition

The Giants are in Colorado this week, for the first time since Tim Lincecum complained about the "juiced balls" at Coors Field . . . in a game where he allowed just two hits in eight innings.

That'd be a good place to start 3 to watch.

The Angels are in Texas this week, for the first time since the Rangers ended their run of three straight American League West titles.

That'd be a good place to start 3 to watch.

Forget it. So far as I can tell, only one player was so excited about this week's schedule that he tweeted Sunday that he was "on to KC for a 1st place battle."

It was Indians closer Chris Perez. Or @ChrisPerez54 , as he's known on Twitter.

And he's right. The first-place Indians are in Kansas City this week, to meet the second-place Royals.

Now that's the place to start 3 to watch. So far as I can tell, there's never been a true first-place battle between the Indians and Royals.

The only time they finished first and second in the same division, in 1995, the Indians won the AL Central by 30 games and the second-place Royals were actually under .500.

It's been 11 years since both the Indians and Royals both had winning records on the morning of April 18. Charlie Manuel was the Indians manager the last time it happened.

And, of course, it wasn't supposed to happen this year.

The Royals were pointing towards 2012 or 2013, when their best-in-baseball prospects arrive. The Indians were pointing towards sometime in the future, too.

To be honest, the Royals and Indians should have been pointing towards the future. They still should be, but you can't blame either team for celebrating some early success.

If nothing else, they've proven that they won't be pushovers for the White Sox, Tigers and Twins, the teams expected to battle for the AL Central title. The Royals have already impressed opponents with their gritty play and with their bullpen (especially Tim Collins and Jeremy Jeffress). The Indians have impressed opponents with their strong starting rotation.

There will be plenty of time to talk about the Rockies and Giants, and the Rangers and Angels, and even the Yankees and Blue Jays, the fourth pair of first- and second-place teams that will meet this week.

This week of first-place battles belongs to the Indians and Royals.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Rockies, in their entire 18-year history, have never won a division title. They've been to the playoffs three times, but all as wild cards (including in 2007, when they went to the World Series). If they're going to be as good as they think they can be ("You want to become that Philadelphia Phillies-type team," Troy Tulowitzki said last week), then they'd better start winning titles. That means beating San Francisco, and this week, including Giants at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field would be a good place to start. The Giants have their top three starting pitchers going in the series. The Rockies get their ace, Ubaldo Jimenez, back on Tuesday, after he missed two weeks because of a cut on his thumb.

2. The Angels are missing Kendrys Morales. The Rangers are missing Josh Hamilton. But as of Sunday, Matt Harrison was third in the American League in ERA, and Jered Weaver was fourth. And it'll be Harrison facing Weaver, in Angels at Rangers, Wednesday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark .

3. OK, so Harrison and Weaver are third and fourth in the AL in ERA. You know who's fourth? One hint: He plays for Cleveland. It's Justin Masterson, who was acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade and until this year was best known for not being able to pitch to left-handed hitters. His left-right splits aren't great this year, either (righties hit .103, lefties .273), but Masterson has already beaten the White Sox, Mariners and Orioles. His next start comes in Indians at Royals, Wednesday night (8:10 ET) at Kauffman Stadium.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Britton, Kershaw, Belt and the Texas connection

NEW YORK -- Zach Britton was in high school when he met Jake Arrieta.

And when he met Clayton Kershaw. And when he played against Brandon Belt.

So when Belt made the Giants' opening day roster, Britton texted Kershaw to reminisce. When Britton got to the big leagues with the Orioles, Arrieta was already there.

Is this the big leagues, or just a Texas neighborhood reunion?

It would be a big neighborhood. Belt grew up in Lufkin, 230 miles away from where Britton went to high school in Weatherford, just west of Fort Worth. Arrieta is from Plano, just north of Dallas, where Kershaw grew up.

But the connections are real.

Britton's older brother Clay played with Arrieta at Weatherford Junior College.

"I've known him since I was a sophomore in high school," Britton said.

Britton played summer-league baseball with Kershaw at the Dallas Baseball Academy, and the two planned to pitch together at Texas A&M before both were high draft picks and decided to sign out of high school.

"He's a good guy," Britton said. "We talk a lot."

They're not as close to Belt, but they do remember facing him.

Kershaw faced Belt again the other night, in the big leagues. He and Belt may eventually see Britton and Arrieta in an interleague game, or even in a World Series game.

"That would be something," Britton said. "We'd definitely talk about it, and about how far we would have come."

Posted on: April 6, 2011 9:42 am
Edited on: April 6, 2011 2:31 pm
 

White Sox's Dunn has appendectomy

The White Sox are hopeful that Adam Dunn won't miss much time after an emergency appendectomy early Wednesday.

The initial indication is that Dunn may miss less than a week. The White Sox announced on their Twitter account that Dunn will miss "up to five games."

Matt Holliday of the Cardinals had his appendix out last week, and the Cardinals are similarly hopeful of a quick return. Last September, Andres Torres of the Giants missed 12 days after an appendectomy.

Dunn is off to a decent start after signing with the White Sox as a free agent last winter. In four games, he has a 1.045 OPS, with one home run and 5 RBI.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 12:09 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 12:46 pm
 

Should Yanks worry about Jeter?

The biggest concern of the Yankees' opening weekend was Phil Hughes, whose startling spring training decline in velocity continued into an ugly first start of the regular season.

But what about Derek Jeter?

It's only three games, and it was cold, and everything could change a month from now, or even a week from now. But in the Yankees' first three games of the season -- and they won two of them, don't forget -- one of the most stunning sights was Jeter's lack of mobility at shortstop.

"I'm shocked," said one Northeast-based scout who has followed Jeter's career. "I know there's been a lot of talk about his range the last few years, and I didn't really buy it until last year. But [this weekend], it was really down. He didn't react to balls off the bat.

"He almost looks overmatched by the ball."

Again, it's possible this is just an early-season blip. A scout who watched the Yankees this spring in Tampa said that while Jeter's range was a little down, it wasn't shockingly bad.

Jeter didn't look good at the plate against the Tigers, either (2-for-10), but that's less of a concern now than his defense -- even if the defense is a long-term concern.

Hughes' lack of velocity is already significant.

Scouts noticed it all spring in Florida, when he was throwing his fastball 87-89 mph (as he did in Sunday's loss to the Tigers). The Yankees played it down publicly at that point, but as Joel Sherman revealed in Monday's New York Post , even during the spring Hughes and new pitching coach Larry Rothschild worked on his mechanics in an attempt to get the velocity back (Hughes regularly hit 94 mph last year).

As Hughes told reporters Sunday, "It is tough for me to pitch at this velocity."

*****

A few other opening weekend thoughts:

-- The Giants' defense is a serious issue, enough so that it could end up being the reason they don't repeat. One scout who watched their opening weekend series in Los Angeles came away convinced that the Giants are below average defensively at almost every position in the field. "Barry Zito pitched a very good game [Sunday], and he should have won the game," the scout said. "[Zito] competes with the stuff he has. If the defense makes the plays behind him, he'll compete enough to be a fourth or fifth starter."

-- The Angels bullpen was bad against the scrappy Royals, but one scout who watched them came away talking more about how bad Scott Kazmir looked. "Terrible. No velocity. No command. No nothing," the scout said.

-- When I wrote last week about teams that benefit from fast starts, I really should have mentioned the Orioles as a team that would be interesting to watch this year. It's going to be hard to do in the AL East, but the O's have the good young pitching that can help carry the momentum when a team starts strong (e.g. Padres 2010). One thing to remember about the O's: If they somehow stay in the race through midseason, you can count on them to be aggressive in the July trade market. "We'll be all-in," one O's person said.

-- One more thing about the O's. Scouts who watched them this spring were not surprised to see Zach Britton pitch so well Sunday against the Rays. One scout said Britton was the Orioles' best pitcher this spring, and two more said that they liked Britton ahead of Yankees superprospect Manuel Banuelos, who got more attention. Britton only started Sunday because Brian Matusz was hurt, but there's already speculation that he'll stay in the rotation even when Matusz returns.

Posted on: March 30, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 4:05 pm
 

The All-DL opening day All-Stars

It's a team that might contend for a title, if it could only get on the field.

Then again, that's exactly the problem.

Think of the players that will (or likely will) begin the season on the disabled list. It's quite a group, lacking a little (for now) on the left side of the infield and behind the plate, but overflowing with top-level starting pitching and back-of-the-bullpen depth.

Not all the opening day rosters are official yet. Some teams are waiting until closer to Thursday's 11 a.m. deadline for final decisions, which only means that the All-DL-Stars could have an even better lineup by the time the first pitch is thrown.

Jason Bay, for example, should be your All-DL-Star left fielder by then. The Mets are expected to put him on the disabled list, but they haven't said so publicly yet. So I left him off, in part because this team is strong enough without him.

For now, we'll only go with guys we're pretty sure of.

So here goes:

1B -- Kendrys Morales, Angels

2B -- Chase Utley, Phillies

SS -- Clint Barmes, Astros

3B -- Nick Punto, Cardinals

LF -- Cody Ross, Giants (Bay could take his spot)

CF -- Grady Sizemore, Indians (with Franklin Gutierrez also available)

RF -- Corey Hart, Brewers

C -- Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers

Rotation -- Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Zack Greinke, Brewers; Johan Santana, Mets; Mat Latos, Padres; Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays (with Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and others in reserve)

Closer -- Brian Wilson, Giants (with the Phillies' Brad Lidge and the A's Andrew Bailey setting him up)

You'd take that team, wouldn't you?

You'd be guaranteed to lose on opening day, because not one of them could play, but you'd take that team.


Posted on: March 30, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 4:05 pm
 

The All-DL opening day All-Stars

It's a team that might contend for a title, if it could only get on the field.

Then again, that's exactly the problem.

Think of the players that will (or likely will) begin the season on the disabled list. It's quite a group, lacking a little (for now) on the left side of the infield and behind the plate, but overflowing with top-level starting pitching and back-of-the-bullpen depth.

Not all the opening day rosters are official yet. Some teams are waiting until closer to Thursday's 11 a.m. deadline for final decisions, which only means that the All-DL-Stars could have an even better lineup by the time the first pitch is thrown.

Jason Bay, for example, should be your All-DL-Star left fielder by then. The Mets are expected to put him on the disabled list, but they haven't said so publicly yet. So I left him off, in part because this team is strong enough without him.

For now, we'll only go with guys we're pretty sure of.

So here goes:

1B -- Kendrys Morales, Angels

2B -- Chase Utley, Phillies

SS -- Clint Barmes, Astros

3B -- Nick Punto, Cardinals

LF -- Cody Ross, Giants (Bay could take his spot)

CF -- Grady Sizemore, Indians (with Franklin Gutierrez also available)

RF -- Corey Hart, Brewers

C -- Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers

Rotation -- Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Zack Greinke, Brewers; Johan Santana, Mets; Mat Latos, Padres; Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays (with Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and others in reserve)

Closer -- Brian Wilson, Giants (with the Phillies' Brad Lidge and the A's Andrew Bailey setting him up)

You'd take that team, wouldn't you?

You'd be guaranteed to lose on opening day, because not one of them could play, but you'd take that team.


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