Tag Archives: Carl Crawford

Season Preview: AL West


Time to move to my own team’s division, as I take a look at the AL West. You can also take a look at my previews of the AL East and AL Central.

Last Year’s Records
Texas – 90-72
Oakland – 81-81
Los Angeles – 80-82
Seattle – 61-101

Notable Additions

Los Angeles – Vernon Wells, Hisanori Takahashi

Oakland – Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Josh Willingham, Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy

Seattle – Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust

Texas – Adrian Beltre, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Napoli, Brandon Webb

Notable Losses

Los Angeles – Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, Hideki Matsui, Scot Shields

Oakland – Rajai Davis, Vin Mazzaro

Seattle – Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez

Texas – Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Frank Francisco

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Season Preview: AL East


With Spring Training well under way and the first games starting very soon, I figured it was a good time to take a look at my own predictions for the league, and the changes the respective teams have made.

Last Year’s Records
Tampa Bay – 96-66
New York – 95-67
Boston – 89-73
Toronto – 85-77
Baltimore – 66-96

Notable Additions

Baltimore – Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Justin Duchscherer

Boston – Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler

New York – Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez

Tampa Bay – Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, Felipe Lopez, Sam Fuld, Chris Archer

Toronto – Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Juan Rivera, Scott Podsednik, Brett Lawrie, Rajai Davis

Notable Losses

Baltimore – Kevin Millwood, Julio Lugo, Ty Wigginton, David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio

Boston – Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, Bill Hall

New York – Javier Vazquez, Andy Pettitte, Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood

Tampa Bay – Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit

Toronto – Vernon Wells, Shaun Marcum, John Buck, Miguel Olivo, Scott Downs

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Who are the Faces of their Franchise? AL East Edition


The recent signing of Eric Chavez by the Yankees and trade request by Michael Young got me thinking: which players are truly the face of their franchise right now?

Generally, this is most likely someone who is among the highest paid players on the team, and usually one of the best players on the team as well. It generally seems to be a position player, but some teams may have a pitcher as the face of the team. And of course, there’s always the possibility that a team simply doesn’t have one player who stands out from the rest. With that, here’s my thoughts on each franchise:

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Free Agent Signing – Carl Crawford To The Red Sox


I know I skipped that humongous contract that Jayson Werth signed last weekend, and I plan on getting back to that, but this signing seemed to come so far out of left field that I felt I needed to write about it first. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe is reporting (via MLBTR) that the Red Sox have not completed their offseason spending spree, and have agreed to a contract with the top position player free agent on the market, Carl Crawford, on a 7 year, $142 million contract. Before I get into the impact on the involved parties, let’s note this: Crawford will now be the highest paid outfielder (based on Average Annual Value) in the history of baseball.

From the Red Sox Perspective

Clearly, they felt that they needed to make a gigantic splash after not reaching the playoffs last season. Crawford will bring them an excellent defender, a definitive speedster to pair with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and another middle of the order type hitter. I am not entirely sure how this lineup will be constructed, but this seems like a definite possibility:

  1. Carl Crawford LF
  2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
  3. Kevin Youkilis 3B
  4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
  5. David Ortiz DH
  6. J.D. Drew RF
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
  8. Marco Scutaro SS
  9. Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Of course, this could change by having Gonzalez and Youkilis switch to offset having too many left handed batters in a row, but I’m not sure I see a lineup that makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox that doesn’t put Crawford at the top of it. They don’t really need him to be a #3 hitter type like the Rays did, and will probably not use him that way as a result.

I find it extremely interesting to see what the Red Sox are going to do long-term. They have now committed to Crawford through 2017, and seems like they have spent an amazing amount of long term money in the past few offseasons.

That said, they do have J.D. Drew, David Ortiz, and Mike Cameron all coming off the payroll come 2012. Speaking of Cameron, I’m not sure where he plays coming into 2011 unless they are completely banking on needing another full-time outfielder for when J.D. Drew or Jacoby Ellsbury get hurt. Always a possibility at this point.

From the Rays Perspective

The Rays will receive two compensation draft picks for losing Crawford to the Red Sox. They will receive the 24th pick for sure (the Red Sox’ first round pick), and a pick in the sandwich round as well. The only way that they could possibly lose this pick is if the Red Sox were to also sign Cliff Lee (based on the Elias rankings reported by MLBTR). The team had already established previously that they were extremely unlikely to retain Crawford, as they would simply be outbid for his services. Thankfully for them, they have a player who appears to possess similar tools (which I also wrote up last year) in Desmond Jennings.

What This Means for the Free Agent Market At Large

Crawford was pretty far and away the top prize on the position player side of the free agent market. As a result, his contract may start the dominoes going for a lot of the other secondary free agents on the market. To me, the players who could stand to benefit the most include Adrian Beltre, Cliff Lee, and Carl Pavano. The rising tide raises all ships, and Beltre now is the best offensive option available who is still on the market. Pavano’s value is helped if Lee’s value goes up, and with the Red Sox taking these shots across the bow of the Yankees, I am not sure I see a scenario where the Yankees don’t offer Lee the most money of any team.

Honestly, I’m not sure that there is a future free agent that this particularly affects as of right now. There is the possibility that the Red Sox don’t get Adrian Gonzalez inked to an extension. (As of this writing, I can’t find anything involving the Red Sox that definitively states a contract extension is complete.), which could affect the First Baseman market come next offseason, but it seems likely to me that someone is going to get paid to play 1B by the Red Sox starting in 2011 regardless of whether or not it is Adrian Gonzalez.

My Overall Thoughts

This one really came out of left field (not to be punny), as I didn’t really think that the Red Sox would go out and attempt to sign Crawford. I think he’s a class guy that will fit in well with the organization, and will definitely be able to take on the role of the “face of the franchise”, but will not necessarily need to do so. It seems a bit like an overreaction to not making the playoffs in 2010, but it’s hard to argue with spending your money on a player of the caliber of Crawford. The contract’s length does concern me some, as Crawford is a player who does rely on speed pretty significantly, and the contract will pay him until he is 36 years old. But otherwise, a job well done by the Red Sox, as it clearly makes the other teams that were chasing him weaker.

Fantasy Rankings in Review – Outfielders


Back in February, I took my first shot at attempting to rank players for fantasy purposes. After a full season, I thought it wise to take a look back at how they went, and compare them to how it actually turned out and see if there is anything to be gained from it. Next up is the review of my OF rankings. I ranked 45 outfielders originally, and you can find them here.

Yahoo’s Top 25 Outfielders

  1. Carlos Gonzalez
  2. Carl Crawford
  3. Josh Hamilton
  4. Jose Bautista
  5. Ryan Braun
  6. Matt Holliday
  7. Jayson Werth
  8. Vladimir Guerrero
  9. Alex Rios
  10. Corey Hart
  11. Shin-Soo Choo
  12. Hunter Pence
  13. Chris Young
  14. Aubrey Huff
  15. Delmon Young
  16. Juan Pierre
  17. Nick Swisher
  18. Adam Dunn
  19. Andrew McCutchen
  20. Drew Stubbs
  21. Angel Pagan
  22. Ichiro Suzuki
  23. Vernon Wells
  24. Nelson Cruz
  25. Brett Gardner

Notable Outfielders Outside the Top 25: Matt Kemp (26), Torii Hunter (27), Shane Victorino (28), Bobby Abreu (29), Andre Ethier (34), Jay Bruce (35), Justin Upton (41), Nick Markakis (46), Curtis Granderson (49), Alfonso Soriano

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The AL Stan Musial Award


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Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we have been voting on our award winners for the regular season. Previously I have announced my votes for the Connie Mack awards (Best Manager of the Year), the Willie Mays awards (Top Rookie), the Goose Gossage awards (Top Reliever), and the Walter Johnson awards (Top Pitcher). Only one set of awards left to give out, and it’s the big one: The Stan Musial award, given to each league’s most valuable player.

Every season there seems to be a real debate as to what should be considered for the league’s most valuable player. It’s become pretty clear that there is (or at least should be) a difference between who is the best player and who was the most valuable to his team this season. Well, here’s my criteria (at least how I see it anyway):

Value to their Team

It becomes extremely hard for me to argue that a player who has a great season on a team with a lot of great players is more valuable than a player who has a great season on a team that doesn’t have a lot of good players on it. When I look at it, I start looking at how the team would perform without the player. If the player I am looking at were to miss extended time, would their team be able to easily replace what he does, or would they struggle until he returned to form?

The Complete Player

It becomes extremely important in my opinion, that for a player to be the most valuable player, they have to provide at least some value on both sides of the game. Clearly, there is value to a player who plays excellent defense in addition to a player who hits extremely well. To me, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a player needs to steal a lot of bases and hit a lot of home runs on the offensive side, but they should clearly be pretty close to elite for what they do. And in terms of players who are primarily designated hitters, to me they have to be far and away the most obvious candidate for them to get a lot of votes. While it is a position in the game, I think that it is important to find a way to offset the value they are not providing in the field.

Pitchers

I tend to view pitchers the same way as designated hitters in terms of the most valuable player. They would need to be unbelievably dominant to move ahead of top level position players.

The Big Stats

At this point, it’s pretty much impossible to ignore what the statistics tell us overall. It becomes hard to argue that there isn’t a judgment to be made when looking at value with regard to home runs, stolen bases, runs scored, runs batted in, and batting average, among many others. That said, it is something I look at, but it doesn’t become a spot where I just make a judgment based entirely on the statistics.

With all that (phew!), here’s my top candidates for the AL Stan Musial award. Players are listed from east to west, and my vote will be at the bottom. For this award, it’s a 10 person ballot. Also, when you’re talking about the best of anything, it invariably ends up a bit nit-picky when it comes to differentiating candidates. Everyone on this list had a great season, and it just comes down to trying to determine small ways in which one was better than the rest. There’s not a whole lot to say about each player as a result, and so instead here are the statistics that I looked at for each player, and then I’ll go into my logic for my decision.

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Original Draft Series: #7 – Tampa Bay Rays


For those that missed the guidelines I am using for this series of posts, you can find them here.

Team #7: Tampa Bay Rays

General Managers(since 1998)

Chuck LaMar (1998-2005): 518-775
Andrew Friedman (2006-Current): 308-340

Team Performance

Playoffs Division Finish
WC League Playoff App 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Last
0 1 1 1 0 1 1 9

All information is drawn from Baseball Reference.

Position Name Acquired Years with Org.
Stats with Organization
Left?
C John Jaso 2003 – 12th Rd 7 91 gm, .280/.390/.398, 4 HR, 42 RBI, 4 SB Currently with Org.
1B Jorge Cantu Int’l FA – 1998 9 332 gm, .272/.308/.448, 44 HR, 200 RBI Traded to CIN – 7/28/07
2B Akinori Iwamura
Int’l FA – 2007 3 344 gm, .281/.354/.393, 14 HR, 104 RBI, 29 SB Traded to PIT – 11/3/09
3B Evan Longoria 2006 – 1st Rd (3) 4 3 All-Star Appearances, 2008 Rookie of the Year, 1 Gold Glove, 1 Silver Slugger
406 gm, .282/.359/.523, 79 HR, 284 RBI, 31 SB
Currently with Org.
SS Reid Brignac 2004 – 2nd Rd 6 126 gm, .254/.298/.385, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 5 SB Currently with Org.
LF Josh Hamilton 1999 – 1st Rd (1) 8 No Major League Appearances with Org. Selected by CHC – 12/7/06
CF B.J. Upton 2002 – 1st Rd (2) 8 634 gm, .261/.347/.411, 61 HR, 271 RBI, 160 SB Currently with Org.
RF Carl Crawford
1999 – 2nd Rd 11 4 All Star Appearances
1202 gm, .295/.336/.441, 99 HR, 570 RBI, 403 SB
Currently with Org.
DH Aubrey Huff 1998 – 5th Rd 8 799 gm, .287/.343/.477, 128 HR, 449 RBI, 20 SB Traded to HOU – 7/12/06
SP David Price 2007 – 1st Rd (1) 3 1 All-Star Appearance
25-13, 3.55 ERA, 307 IP, 268 K, 123 BB, 1.283 WHIP
Currently with Org.
SP James Shields
2000 – 16th Rd 10 55-47, 4.14 ERA, 939 IP, 768 K, 207 BB Currently with Org.
SP Jeff Niemann 2004 – 1st Rd (4) 6 25-12, 3.88 ERA, 341.1 IP, 243 K, 114 BB, 1.307 WHIP Currently with Org.
SP Wade Davis
2004 – 3rd Rd 6 12-11, 4.25 ERA, 163 IP, 118 K, 64 BB Currently with Org.
SP Jeremy Hellickson
2005 – 4th Rd 5 3-0, 2.05 ERA, 26.1 IP, 25 K, 4 BB, 0.759 WHIP Currently with Org.
RP Jason Hammel 2002 – 10th Rd 6 7-15, 5.90 ERA, 207.1 IP, 140 K, 96 BB Traded to COL – 4/5/09
RP Brian Stokes Amateur FA – 1998 9 3-7, 6.46 ERA, 86.1 IP, 50 K, 34 BB Purchased by NYM – 11/28/07
RP Andy Sonnanstine 2004 – 13th Rd 6 28-29, 5.23 ERA, 492 IP, 326 K, 120 BB Currently with Org.
RP Chad Gaudin 2001 – 34th Rd 3 3-2, 4.25 ERA, 82.2 IP, 53 K, 32 BB Traded to TOR – 12/12/04
RP Josh Butler 2006 – 2nd Rd 2 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to MIL – 4/22/08
CL Dan Wheeler 1996 – 34th Rd 5+1 13-22, 4.30 ERA, 18 SV, 228 K, 82 BB Currently with Org.
BN Delmon Young
2003 – 1st Rd (1) 4 192 gm, .293/.319/.419, 16 HR, 103 RBI, 12 SB Traded to MIN – 11/28/07
BN Matt Diaz 1999 – 17th Rd 5 14 gm, .167/.265/.367, HR, 3 RBI Selected by BAL – 2/22/05
BN Jonny Gomes 2001 – 18th Rd 6 415 gm, .235/.329/.455, 66 HR, 184 RBI, 30 SB Left via Free Agency – 12/12/08
BN Paul Hoover 1997 – 23rd Rd 5 8 gm, .190/.190/.190, 2 RBI Left via Free Agency – 10/14/02
BN Rhyne Hughes
2004 – 8th Rd 5 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to BAL – 8/15/09

June Amateur Draft

The Rays have done extremely well in the draft, and it is especially good to see that they have done well with their picks since they had so many in the top 10 in the first few years of their organization. This also seems like one of the teams that has retained the most of their prospects as well, as 12 of the 25 players listed above are still with the organization. Clearly, having the top pick 3 times and a top-4 pick 3 more times in the last 11 seasons is going to bring a lot of talent into the system. The team is finally seeing the fruits of their system, with a World Series appearance in 2008 and a team that is in contention here in 2010. The problem for them remains the same, in that they will become constrained by payroll soon enough. But the system remains extremely flush with high end prospects, and should allow the team to remain in contention even as free agents leave for greener pastures.

International Free Agency

The Rays have not done a whole lot in the international markets, as they generally are not big spenders in any market. But they have found a couple of nice players in Jorge Cantu and Aki Iwamura who both provided some decent value to the team while there. Iwamura probably has become more valuable as a trade piece, as he was moved to the Pirates for Jesse Chavez, who was part of the trade to acquire current closer Rafael Soriano. Other than that though, they really haven’t done much, and with the production they’ve received from the draft, there really hasn’t been as much of a need to work this market.

Overall Grade

A-. The Rays have done extremely well to acquire not only high end talent, but also a lot of it. Through the draft, they have done extremely well, and their success on the field has finally come to the Tampa market. It would be nice to see them do more in the international markets, but if they can continue to draft with this level of success, they really won’t need to improve much there. And with prospects like Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore, and Alex Torres down in the system ready to be called upon as well, they are set for the future about as well as can be expected.

Fun with Old Copies of BA’s Almanac (2003 edition) – Part 3


Part 3 of the 2003 BA Almanac Series takes a look at the Top 20 Prospect Lists created by BA for each of the minor leagues.

Players on More than One List

Brandon Phillips – Eastern League (AA) and International League (AAA)
Aaron Heilman – Eastern League (AA) and International League (AAA)
Mark Teixeira – Texas League (AA) and Florida State League (High-A)
Jose Reyes – Eastern League (AA) and Florida State League (High-A)
Hanley Ramirez – NY Penn League (SS-A) and Gulf Coast League (Rookie)

#1 Overall in Each League

International League – Carl Crawford (TAM)
Pacific Coast League – Jesse Foppert (SF)
Eastern League – Jose Reyes (NYM)
Southern League – Jake Peavy (SD)
Texas League – Mark Teixeira (TEX)
California League – Rocco Baldelli (TAM)
Carolina League – Sean Burnett (PIT)
Florida State League – Mark Teixeira (TEX)
Midwest League – Joe Mauer (MIN)
Sally League – Gavin Floyd (CHW)
NY-Penn League – Hanley Ramirez (BOS)
Northwest League – Andy Sisco (CHC)
Appalachian League – Jeff Francoeur (ATL)
Pioneer League – James Loney (LAD)
Arizona Rookie League – Felix Pie (CHC)
Gulf Coast Rookie League – Hanley Ramirez (BOS)

My Thoughts from the Lists

When you look at the two AAA lists, I find it interesting to see how their careers have gone:

  • All-Stars: 12 out of 40
  • Solid Major League Regulars: 14 out of 40
  • Cup of Coffees: 14 out of 40
  • Never Made It: 0 out of 40

I believe that Major League teams view players who make it to AAA as at least a reasonable chance to play in the Majors, so this doesn’t really surprise me that none of BA’s top 40 failed to play in the Majors for at least 1 game.

Of course, there are definitely some players who had less than stellar careers that come from this list, including:

Overall though, this class of 40 prospects is pretty solid, with perennial All Stars Carl Crawford and Chase Utley probably considered to be the best of the group.

Some other notes:

  • The Eastern League had 9 future MLB All-Stars out of their top 10 in 2002. The lone player who has not made an All-Star team: Aaron Heilman
  • The Pioneer League (Adv. Rookie) had a surprising amount of MLB regulars with 11 of their 20 listed playing big roles with teams now, including Prince Fielder, James Loney, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
  • The Northwest League (Short-Season A) only had 2 players with a measurable impact this season: Ricky Nolasco and Fred Lewis.
  • The California League had 13 players who have had a solid impact in the Majors, including Josh Hamilton, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, and Bobby Jenks.

Overall, it’s really interesting to me to see what hindsight can tell us now that it has been nearly 8 years since this was published. Looking at the performance that the players on the list provided, it is pretty clear to me that the prospect lists were very accurate at the time, and clearly reflected a lot of research on the whole by the staff over at BA. But them, just like the rest of us, are pretty much guessing sometimes when it comes to prospects and how they will turn out once they get to the Majors, if they get there at all.

Week in Review – July 12 to July 18


If the Playoffs Started Today

Tampa Bay Rays (55-36) vs. Texas Rangers (53-39)
Chicago White Sox (50-41) vs. New York Yankees (58-33)

Colorado Rockies (50-41) vs. Atlanta Braves (54-38)
St. Louis Cardinals (51-41) vs. San Diego Padres (54-37)

League Leaders

Batting Average – Josh Hamilton (TEX) .347
Runs – Carl Crawford (TAM) 70
Home Runs – Jose Bautista (TOR) 25
Runs Batted In – Miguel Cabrera (DET) 79
Stolen Bases – Juan Pierre (CHW) 33

Wins – Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) 15
Saves – Heath Bell (SD) 26
ERA – Josh Johnson (FLA) 1.62
Strikeouts – Jered Weaver (LAA) 142
WHIP – Cliff Lee (TEX) 0.94

Roster Movement

To the Disabled List: Kerry Wood, Mat Latos, Mike Adams, Eric O’Flaherty, Reed Johnson, Matt Wieters, Justin Morneau, Doug Davis

Return from the Disabled List: Zach Duke, Manny Ramirez, Chad Durbin, Carlos Beltran, Jason Heyward, Placido Polanco

To the Minors: Jason Jaramillo, Dan Meyer, Brandon Hicks

Called Up: Allen Craig, Lorenzo Cain, Josh Bell

Trades:

Top Stories and Weekly Links

  • The All-Star Game festivities were this week, so there were only 4 days with games on them. The National League finally managed to get off the bench and win one, as they defeated the American League 3 to 1 on Tuesday. Brian McCann had the deciding hit, and was named the game’s MVP.  Manager Joe Girardi of the American League received a small ration of grief as well for not pinch running Alex Rodriguez for David Ortiz in the bottom of the 9th inning, but overall the game was pretty well played and well managed.
  • The Home Run Derby on Monday was won by David Ortiz, and since the majority of the players participating had very little home run derby experience, it was nice to see them get so much national exposure.
  • Sadly, the Yankee family lost a titan on Tuesday, with the passing of owner George Steinbrenner from a massive heart attack. I wrote up my thoughts on the Boss here.
  • The All-Star break ended with a surprising trade, as the Braves sent their starting SS Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays for their starting SS, Alex Gonzalez. It appears that Escobar was not well liked in the Braves’ clubhouse, and there seemed to be constant concern with a lack of effort from Escobar. A true challenge trade, it remains to be seen which side will win this trade in the end, but I actually think it could be good for both teams.
  • It had been widely discussed that Padres’ ace Mat Latos would be on an innings limit, and there was talk that he might be placed on the disabled list so that he could be skipped for his next start and help to keep him near that innings limit. The surprise was the “injury” that he sustained to put him there. Apparently he tweaked a muscle trying not to sneeze. At least it’s not a deer meat injury.

From the Twitter Followers and Friends

If you aren’t yet, you can follow me over at Twitter here. These are some of the better reads I found from the previous week.

Upcoming Posts This Week:

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: I will be continuing on with my series of posts about the 2003 BA Almanac, going over both the Minor League All-Stars  the Top 20 Prospects by League, and the 2002 Top 100 Prospect List

Friday:  Trade Retrospective of Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. This one is a huge trade, since 4 teams were involved in it, and also clearly had an impact on the pennant races as well.

Other News

I also wanted to let everyone know that in addition to writing for Fake Teams, I am also now a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. The group of over 200 blogs has writers who cover nearly every aspect of baseball you could think of, and honestly a couple I had not thought of yet.

The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America.  These awards can be found here in October with links back to the voters, ensuring transparancy and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball arguments.

Over the coming weeks, I will be taking a look at a lot of them (there are so many!), and may potentially writeup a few of them. We’ll see what happens, but I’m really excited to be here!

One Other Thing

Lastly, I wanted to bring up a charity that the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has taken up. Here’s the official word, and what you can do:

Pitch In For Baseball is delighted to have been selected to participate in State Farm’s ‘Go To Bat’ campaign.  Now we need your
help!

‘Go To Bat’ was launched nationally during the State Farm Home Run Derby.  ‘Go To Bat’ gives entrants a chance to win tickets to the upcoming World Series and selected charity partners the chance to receive significant financial support.

Here’s how to play and how to help Pitch In For Baseball:

* Go to  www.statefarm.com/gotobat to register for your chance to win World Series tickets.
* As you register, you will get a chance to designate a charity that could win up to $25,000/week.
* To designate Pitch In For Baseball as your charity, select PUBLIC GOOD as the charity category and then choose Pitch In For
Baseball from the drop down list.
* Revisit www.statefarm.com/gotobat each day and play the ‘Go To Bat’ online game to increase your chances for tickets and Pitch In For
Baseball’s chance at financial support

Thanks to all the readers who help out with this. You can find a lot more information about Pitch In For Baseball at their website

Midseason Review


We are halfway through the season and as happens every year, it doesn’t quite go exactly as we all thought it would.

Right before the season started, I wrote up my preseason predictions of how I thought the playoffs and awards would go:

American League

Correct so far: New York Yankees
Incorrect so far: Boston Red Sox (Tampa Bay Rays), Minnesota Twins (Chicago White Sox), Seattle Mariners (Texas Rangers)

National League

Correct so far: None
Incorrect so far: Philadelphia Phillies (Atlanta Braves), Chicago Cubs (Cincinnati Reds), Los Angeles Dodgers (San Diego Padres), St. Louis Cardinals (Colorado Rockies)

League Leaders at the Half

Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera (DET) and Josh Hamilton (TEX) – .346
Runs: Carl Crawford (TAM) – 70
Hits: Martin Prado (ATL) – 121
Home Runs: Jose Bautista (TOR) – 24
Runs Batted In: Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 77
Stolen Bases: Juan Pierre (CHW) – 32

Wins: Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) – 15
ERA: Josh Johnson (FLA) – 1.70
Strikeouts: Jered Weaver (LAA) – 137
Saves: Joakim Soria (KC) – 25

The Top Stories

The Year of the Pitcher Again?

The pitchers look like they may have gained back some of the advantage again versus the hitters, as we’re seeing a lot of amazing performances out of both elite and non-elite pitchers.

Starting Pitchers with an ERA under 3.00: 17
Starting Pitchers with 10+ wins: 12
Starting Pitchers with a FIP under 3.00: 6
Starting Pitchers with a WHIP under 1.10: 14

And of course, there’s the no-hitters:

Let’s not forget Armando Galarraga either, and his near-perfecto on June 2nd.

Ken Griffey Jr Abruptly Retires

Almost randomly,  Ken Griffey Jr. announced his retirement on June 2nd. I wrote up my thoughts on his career shortly after the announcement, but the long and short of it remains that Griffey always seemed to be having more fun than anyone else on the field, and was really a joy to watch play, no matter what he was doing.  I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going into the Hall of Fame at first opportunity.

Sadly, the story was lost among the Armando Galarraga near perfect game, as it happened about an hour after the announcement. Hopefully the Mariners will have him back at some point before the end of the season to really give him a great sendoff.

The Cliff Lee Sweepstakes

The Mariners were widely predicted to win the AL West on the strength of the arms of Felix Hernandez and offseason acquisition Cliff Lee. Unfortunately, the team has floundered quite a bit, to the point where it became only a matter of time for the Mariners to start selling off the pieces, including their newly acquired ace Lee. The trade discussions centered around the unlikely competitors of the Reds, Twins, and Rangers, along with the usual suspects (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays). Nearly every top prospect in their systems was mentioned as the potential trade pieces in return. It was even stranger when the Mariners had come to a deal with the Yankees, only to have that one fall apart and be replaced by a trade with the Rangers. I wrote up what I thought of the trade, and really liked it for both teams involved.

Break Up the Reds and the Padres!

Completely unexpectedly, the Reds and the Padres are both leading their divisions as we approach the All-Star break. The Padres are doing it with the best pitching in the Majors, led by young phenom Mat Latos (10-4, 2.45) and top power hitter Adrian Gonzalez (.301, 18 HR, 56 RBI). The Reds are being led by MVP candidate Joey Votto (.315, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 1.014 OPS), and a resurgent Scott Rolen (.292, 17 HR, 57 RBI). I honestly think that barring some unexpected injuries or other unusual circumstances, both teams have the talent available to hold on to their leads throughout the rest of the season.

3 Teams, A Maxiumum of 2 Spots

The AL East continues to improve every single year, as the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees have been trading 1st through 3rd in the division back and forth all season. Through Friday’s games, all 3 teams have the 3 top records in the American League. Clearly, this presents a problem, as only 2 of them can make the playoffs. Someone is going to have to separate themselves at some point, but I’m not sure when that is going to happen. The Rays got off to a hot start, but have struggled of late. The Yankees got off to a slow start but have come on strong and now lead the division. Even the Red Sox are only 5 games back despite having suffered an unusually high amount of injuries. Someone is going to be sitting at home unhappy despite potentially winning 90+ games in that division.

Managers Available for Hire

We could be looking at potentially having nearly half the teams in the Majors change managers by the start of the 2011 season. 4 teams have already gotten the ball started, with Fredi Gonzalez (Marlins), Trey Hillman (Royals), Dave Trembley (Orioles) and A.J. Hinch of the Diamondbacks. In addition, major skippers like Joe Torre of the Dodgers and Lou Piniella of the Cubs are both in the final year of their contracts, and it appears that more and more that neither man is likely to return. And of course, there is the expected retirement of the Braves’ Bobby Cox and Blue Jays’ Cito Gaston after this season as well. Invariably, there will be some other managers that could lose their jobs before the start of next year, and my own speculation leads me to think that potentially teams like the Brewers, Pirates, Athletics and even the Mariners could all potentially see new managers as well.

The Rookie Class of 2010

It seems like this year’s rookie class is by far one of the best in many years. The season started out with Atlanta Braves’ OF Jason Heyward making the team out of Spring Training, and has not let up ever since. 13 of Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects have already made their debuts, and many of them are seeing a lot of success.

  • Carlos Santana of the Indians is hitting .284 with 5 HR and 16 RBI since being called up on June 11th.
  • Buster Posey of the Giants is hitting .333 with 6 HR and 20 RBI while playing both catcher and first base.
  • Tyler Colvin of the Cubs has hit 12 homeruns in part time playing time so far this season.
  • Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch of the Tigers have been going back and forth for the AL Rookie of the Year award. Jackson got off to a hot start, but Boesch has passed him at this point. Boesch is leading all rookies with 12 homeruns and 48 runs batted in, and also is hitting .345.
  • Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins is quietly hitting .299 with 9 homeruns and 38 runs batted in.
  • Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals has exceeded all expectations, posting an 8-4 record with a 2.17 ERA and 80 strikeouts so far.
  • Mike Leake of the Reds surprised everyone by coming up without playing a single game in the minors and has a 6-1 record with a 3.53 ERA.
  • Neftali Feliz of the Rangers has stabilized the back end of their bullpen, recording 23 saves and earning himself an All-Star appearance.

Other top prospects that have come up as well: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates, Mike Stanton of the Marlins, Alcides Escobar of the Brewers, Ike Davis of the Mets, and Justin Smoak of the Rangers… er Mariners.

Clearly though, the most anticipated debut didn’t come until June 8th…

Strasburg

June 8th was the Major League debut of the phenom, Nationals’ top prospect Stephen Strasburg. His starts in the minors were selling out every time through. He was sent down to the Minors after Spring Training to work on his performance with runners on base. As if he was actually allowing any of those down there. His minor league numbers (AA and AAA): 11 starts, 7-2, 1.30 ERA, 65 strikeouts to 13 walks in 55 1/3 innings pitched. At times, his stuff looked absolutely dominant, but the concern remained: Could he repeat this performance at the Major League level?

For the most part, the answer to that question is a resounding Yes. His debut against the lowly Pirates: 14 strikeouts, 0 walks, and a victory in 7 innings. So far, he has a 3-2 record with a 2.32 ERA and 61 strikeouts in just 42 2/3 innings pitched. He has had some games where his control has been less than stellar, including the 5 walk performance against the Indians. I have to admit, I thought that he would have some struggles when he got up to the Majors, but I didn’t anticipate the excellent performance overall that he has given to this point. The longer that Jason Heyward stays on the disabled list, the more likely it becomes that Strasburg will win the Rookie of the Year award for the National League. He simply looks dominant out there in nearly every start, and the stuff he throws is simply amazing. I hope he can stay healthy long term, as he is really going to be something special if he can.

Overall Reactions

After so many games being played, it has been a really good season to this point. As it seems to happen every season, there are some things that don’t go the way everyone expects, but it definitely makes it more interesting when there are new stories that emerge over the span of the season. It looks like it’s going to be a good race in many of the divisions, and could go down to the wire.

No post on Tuesday this week, and I’ll be back with a new post on Wednesday.