Tag Archives: Neftali Feliz

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

Continue reading

Fantasy Rankings in Review – Relief Pitchers


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. The last position up for review is the relief pitchers, and you can find my preseason rankings here. Note that I have removed any starting pitchers who appeared in these rankings due to previous season qualifications.

Yahoo’s Top 15 Relief Pitchers

1. Billy Wagner
2. Rafael Soriano
3. Heath Bell
4. Brian Wilson
5. Neftali Feliz
6. Carlos Marmol
7. Joakim Soria
8. Mariano Rivera
9. Hong-Chih Kuo
10. Matt Capps
11. John Axford
12. Chris Perez
13. Joaquin Benoit
14. Francisco Rodriguez
15. Andrew Bailey

Of my top 15 preseason ranks, Jonathan Broxton (1), Huston Street (8), Brian Fuentes (12), Francisco Cordero (13), Trevor Hoffman (14), and Ryan Franklin (15) all finished out of the top 15. Continue reading

Season Previews in Review: American League West


Back during Spring Training, I took a look at each team and made predictions about how each team would do and how I thought their season would go. This was the first year doing this, and I figured now was a good time to take a look back and see how it went. I reviewed the AL East and AL Central previously, and now it’s on to the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Predicted Record: 86-76            Actual Record: 80-82

I’m not entirely sure what happened with this team. The only event that I can pinpoint that stands out as a major turning point in the season was the loss of Kendry Morales for the season back in late May. Their pitching seemed suspect at the beginning of the season, and might have been worse had it not been for the midseason acquisition of Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks. The Angels continue to develop solid players though, with Peter Bourjos coming up after the All-Star break and should continue to develop next season. This team needs a bit of help in the offseason, but should do well and spend what is needed to do that.

Continue reading

The AL Goose Gossage Award


Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we have been voting on our award winners for the regular season. Last week I posted my votes for the AL and NL Connie Mack awards, given to our managers of the year, and I wrote earlier in the week about the AL and NL Willie Mays awards, given to our top rookies in each league. Today’s vote is for the American League Goose Gossage Award, given to the top reliever in the past season.

The inherent nature of an award given to the best reliever implies automatically that it should be given to the best closer in the league for the past season. As a general rule, it makes sense on some level that the pitcher who has the most success at the end of the game is going to be the one who had the best season, but I actually considered some pitchers who weren’t necessarily closing games. As usual, these are in order from east to west, and I will have my vote at the bottom.

Daniel Bard (BOS)

Bard brought some much needed stability to the 8th inning for the Red Sox. He recorded only 3 saves while filling in for Jonathan Papelbon, but did lead the American League in holds with 32. He also posted a 1.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP to go with 76 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings pitched.

Mariano Rivera (NYY)

At some point, we’re going to remember that it isn’t as easy as Mariano Rivera makes it look every season. The numbers: 33 saves, 1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP. Not quite as dominant as he has been in the past, but I have to remind myself that he’s been doing this now for 14 seasons as the closer for the Yankees. This was also the third straight season he has posted a sub 2.00 ERA, and the 7th in the last 8 seasons.

Rafael Soriano (TAM)

Soriano was acquired by the Rays during the offseason to come in and take hold of the closer’s job, and he definitely did that. He finished the season with a league leading 45 saves, a 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. It was nice to see what Soriano can finally do when he stays healthy for a full season. The fact that he did it in the game’s toughest division (17 saves vs AL East) speaks to just how great his performance was.

Joaquin Benoit (TAM)

Joaquin was an epiphany for the bullpen of the Rays, as he wasn’t even expected to be a major portion of the pen at the start of the season. He became the trusted 8th inning pitcher for the playoff-bound Rays, posting 25 holds in 60 1/3 innings pitched. His ERA of 1.34 and WHIP of 0.68 were among the league leaders for relievers. He also struck out 75, a rate of over 11 per 9 innings pitched. He also stranded 95% of runners on base.

Matt Thornton (CHW)

Thornton made this list because of his ability to pitch anywhere from the 7th onward, and pitched excellently when called upon. He finished the season with 8 saves while filling in for the struggling Bobby Jenks, but also had 21 holds, and struck out 81 batters in just 60 2/3 innings. His 2.67 ERA was actually higher than his FIP, and also posted a WHIP of 1.01 on the season.

Joakim Soria (KC)

Soria had what would definitely be considered a quiet excellent season. Players tend to get overlooked in Kansas City as the team continues to struggle to perform, but Soria has been that good out there. He finished with 43 saves, 1.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and stranded 89% of runners. 

Neftali Feliz (TEX)

Feliz was my choice for the AL’s Willie Mays award, and deservedly so. He finished the season with 40 saves, 3 holds, a 2.73 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 71 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings pitched. He helped to solidify the end of the bullpen for the Rangers after closer Frank Francisco struggled mightily in the first week of the season.

My Vote

  1. Rafael Soriano (TAM)
  2. Joakim Soria (KC)
  3. Neftali Feliz (TEX)

The thing I kept coming back to was how vital the performance of Soriano was to the success of the Rays. The team had struggled in previous seasons with filling the closer’s role adequately, and Soriano owned that role and was as much of a lockdown closer as is possible. I just keep coming back to the fact that one of the biggest changes from last season for the Rays was Soriano, and the team had so much more success this year than last. Soria would probably win this award in nearly every other season, but he unfortunately gets punished slightly for playing in games that didn’t have the importance of the Rays games. But there has to be some distinction made when the performances are that good, and that’s the one I’ve chosen to use.

The AL Willie Mays Award


Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we will be voting over the coming weeks on our award winners for the regular season. Last week I posted my votes for the AL and NL Connie Mack awards, given to our managers of the year. I’ll be continuing on today with my choice for the American League’s top rookie, the Willie Mays award recipient.

I wrote about the overall rookie of the class over the weekend, and it occurred to me that the group from the American League is pretty clearly a lot weaker than the Senior Circuit’s group, but there are still some solid rookies worthy of consideration. These are in order from east to west (approximately), and I will have my final vote at the bottom.

Wade Davis (TAM)

Davis was slotted into the Rays’ starting rotation out of spring training, and performed solidly as the #4 starter for the team. He threw 168 innings, striking out 113 and walking 65 batters while posting a 12-10 record and a 4.07 ERA. Some of his secondary numbers show a bit of luck (4.79 FIP). His strikeout rate did drop however from his career rates in the minors to this point, so he could see some improvement in the coming seasons.

Brian Matusz (BAL)

Matusz was my original choice back in the preseason as the most likely person to win the award, but he was let down to some extent by his team. Matusz threw 175 2/3 innings, posting a 4.30 ERA and a 10-12 record. His 143 strikeouts and 63 walks weren’t stunningly good, but he also appears to be a bit unlucky (4.05 FIP, .304 BABIP). Clearly, his run support wasn’t amazing (2.68 per start), and as a result of the win total should improve going into next season if all other numbers hold steady.

Austin Jackson (DET)

Jackson was the main acquisition of the Tigers in the Curtis Granderson trade during last offseason, and was slotted into as the starting center fielder for the Tigers. He got off to an extremely hot start, hitting .364/.422/.495 with 20 runs scored and 5 stolen bases in the month of April. He cooled off some as time progressed, and finished the season with a .293/.345/.400 line, 103 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases. He also played excellent defense for the Tigers in center field all season long.

Danny Valencia (MIN)

Valencia was brought up in early June to play 3B for the Twins, and simply never gave the job back. In just 85 games, he hit .311 with 7 home runs, 40 runs batted in, and played solid defense for the Twins down the stretch.

Neftali Feliz (TEX)

Feliz barely fell under the rookie requirements for last season, and remained eligible for the award again in 2010. He started the season by being put into the bullpen as a setup man, and took over as the closer after only 1 week of games. He clearly took the job and ran with it, finishing with 40 saves, striking out 71 batters to just 18 walks. He also posted a 0.880 WHIP and a 2.73 ERA, and helped to lead the team to the playoffs this season.

My Vote

  1. Neftali Feliz (TEX)
  2. Austin Jackson (DET)
  3. Wade Davis (TAM)

When I looked at all the players that were eligible, Feliz stood out as the clear winner to me. While I generally would be more inclined to give the vote to a position player as they have a larger impact on a day to day basis on the team, Feliz helped to solidify the team’s bullpen and the team really started to take off once they had moved him to the back of the bullpen. While the rest of the players had solid seasons, Feliz clearly had the largest impact as a rookie on his team, and set a record for the most saves ever by a rookie. He’s my vote for the AL Willie Mays award.

The Season’s Top Stories: The Rookie Class of 2010


Throughout the month of October, I’ll be reviewing some of the top stories that were in the newly completed regular season. One of the biggest stories of the 2010 regular season has to be the rookie class that emerged throughout the season. This group of rookies could very well be a once in a generation group of players.

Starting Pitchers

The most hyped player to come into the Majors in a long time clearly was Stephen Strasburg, the top pick from the 2009 draft. The hype continued to build as the season progressed and it became clear that he would make his debut during the season. June 8th was the night, against the Pirates: 14 strikeouts, 0 earned runs. Strasburg nearly lived up to the hype, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in just 68 innings pitched. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely due to an elbow injury, and ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Strasburg will miss the 2011 season as well.

Other Top Performers:

  • Jaime Garcia will most likely finish near the top of the Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 13-8 record with a 2.70 ERA in 28 starts for the Cardinals.
  • Mike Leake of the Reds came up and made an instant impact despite never pitching in the minor leagues. He started off hot, but trailed off a bit at the end and finished with an 8-4 record with a 4.23 ERA in 24 appearances (22 starts).
  • His teammate Travis Wood came up on July 1st, and pitched well down the stretch for the Reds. He finished with a 5-4 record with a 3.51 ERA in just over 100 innings on the season.
  • Madison Bumgarner was called upon about halfway through the season to take the #5 spot in the Giants’ rotation, and ran with it from there. He went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts for the NL West champs.
  • Wade Davis of the Rays threw 168 innings of effective ball, posting a 12-10 record with a 4.07 ERA and 113 strikeouts.
  • Brian Matusz of the Orioles had been my preseason choice for the AL Rookie of the Year award, but unfortunately didn’t really pitch well enough to earn that award. Part of that was his team, as he went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in 175 plus innings. His numbers should improve next season as the team matures under its new manager.

Relief Pitchers

Neftali Feliz didn’t make the starting rotation out of spring training for the Rangers, and it really looks like that could have been the best thing for both him and the team. Feliz was given the closer’s job on April 12th after Frank Francisco struggled in the first week, and never gave the job back. He finished the season with a 2.73 ERA and 40 saves along with a strikeout per inning of work.

Other Top Performers:

  • Jonny Venters helped to bring some stability to the back end of the Braves’ bullpen, appearing in 79 games and striking out 93 in just 83 innings. He looks like he could be a future closer in waiting for the Braves.
  • John Axford was called upon to fill in for a struggling future Hall of Famer in Trevor Hoffman, and never really gave the job back. He went 8-2 with 24 saves and a 2.48 ERA and 76 strikeouts in just 58 innings pitched for the Brewers.

Catchers

There was concern whether or not it might cost the Giants a chance at the playoffs by their decision to not call up Buster Posey until late May.  The top prospect played well enough to really make that decision look questionable, hitting .305/.357/.505 with 18 homeruns and 67 runs batted in. The team made the playoffs, and even traded their Opening Day catcher to make sure he played every day.

Other Top Performers:

  • Carlos Santana came up on June 11th, and proceeded to show why he was considered a top prospect overall. In just 46 games this season, he hit .260/.401/.467 with 6 homeruns and 22 runs batted in. His season ended on August 2nd when he broke his leg blocking the plate, but should return next season and become one of the top catchers in the league.
  • John Jaso remains one of the more unusual catchers in the league, as the Rays consistently hit him leadoff. His .372 OBP probably helped that a lot, and he split time with Kelly Shoppach during the season.

Corner Infielders

It was originally thought at the beginning of the season that 1B Justin Smoak of the Rangers would establish himself as the next great hitter to start in Arlington. He struggled mightily during the season, earning himself a demotion back to AAA and eventually his inclusion in the trade to the Mariners for Cliff Lee. Smoak ended up finishing the season with just a .218 batting average but 13 home runs. He should do better next season as well, and will likely be the given the starting 1B job by the Mariners.

Other Top Performers:

  • Ike Davis was surprisingly called up in mid April, and continued to hold the 1B job throughout the season for the Mets. He finished the year with a .264/.351/.440 line with 19 homeruns and 71 runs batted in.
  • Chris Johnson of the Astros was given the starting 3B job after Pedro Feliz struggled, and finished the year with a .308 batting average and 11 homeruns. He should go into 2011 as the prohibitive starter at the position.
  • Danny Valencia was called up at the start of June to play 3B, and never gave the job back. He hit .311 with 7 homeruns, and has provided solid defense for the Twins as well.
  • Pedro Alvarez was called up in mid June to replace the struggling Andy LaRoche, and gave glimpses into what his future holds. He hit .256, but did hit 16 home runs and drove in 64 in just 95 games.

Middle Infielders

Starlin Castro may well have been one of the biggest surprises of the season. He started the season with the Cubs’ AA affiliate, hitting very well and was called up by the Major League team on May 7th to try and inject some more energy and offense into the lineup. Despite being just 20 years old, he hit .300 with 10 stolen bases on the season, and should continue to improve next season.

Other Top Performers:

  • Neil Walker was widely viewed as a bit of a lost prospect, stuck behind current starter Andy LaRoche and future starter Pedro Alvarez at 3B. The team instead asked him to try playing 2B, and his bat took off. He hit .296/.349/.462 with 12 homeruns and 66 runs batted in for the Pirates in just 110 games.
  • Ian Desmond was given the starting shortstop job for the Nationals out of Spring Training, and while he had his struggles with the glove (34 errors), his bat was solid with a .269 batting average, 10 homeruns, and 17 stolen bases.

Outfielders

The top prospect in the game coming into the season was widely viewed as Braves’ OF Jason Heyward, and he did not disappoint. He made the team out of Spring Training, which was unexpected, and proceeded to hit well across the season. He finished the year with a .277/.393/.456 line with 18 home runs, 72 runs batted in, and 11 stolen bases. The Braves are going to be extremely happy with Heyward’s production for years to come.

Other Top Performers:

  • Austin Jackson is likely going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award after hitting .293 with 27 stolen bases and playing good defense in centerfield for the Tigers all season long. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next year, as his full season numbers were propped up a bit by a huge start of the season this year.
  • Jose Tabata was a prospect that the Pirates received as a part of the Xavier Nady trade, and showed why he was so highly thought of. He played in 102 games, hitting .299 with 19 stolen bases and 61 runs scored.

In many seasons, nearly all of these rookies would have been Rookie of the Year awards recipients, but with so many top players this year some may not even get votes in the awards proceedings. I’ll be posting my votes for the AL and NL Willie Mays awards (Rookie’s of the Year) in the next few days as well.

Original Draft Series: #1 – Atlanta Braves


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

Team #1: Atlanta Braves

General Managers(since 1994)

John Schuerholz (1994-2007): 1298-902
Frank Wren (2008-Current): 158-166

Team Performance

Playoffs Division Finish
WC League Playoff App 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Last
1 3 11 11 1 3 1 0

All information is drawn from Baseball Reference.

Position Name Acquired Years with Org.
Stats with Organization
Left?
C Brian McCann 2002 – 2nd Rd 8 5 All Star Appearances, 3 Silver Sluggers
741 gm, .290/.360/.491, 111 HR, 463 RBI
Currently with Org.
1B Adam LaRoche 2000 – 29th Rd 6+1 457 gm, .281/.346/.512, 77 HR, 253 RBI Traded to PIT – 1/19/07
2B Martin Prado
Int’l FA – 2001 9 1 All Star Appearance
389 gm, .309/.357/.459, 29 HR, 159 RBI, 9 SB
Currently with Org.
3B Chipper Jones 1990 – 1st Rd (1) 20 1999 NL MVP, 2 Silver Sluggers, 6 All Star Appearances
2261 gm, .306/.405/.536, 436 HR, 1491 RBI, 147 SB
Currently with Org.
SS Rafael Furcal
Int’l FA – 1996 9 2000 NL ROY, 1 All Star Appearance
817 gm, .284/.348/.409, 57 HR, 292 RBI, 189 SB
Left via Free Agency – 10/31/05
LF Jeff Francoeur 2002 – 1st Rd (23) 7 1 Gold Glove
631 gm, .266/.308/.424, 78 HR, 359 RBI, 14 SB
Traded to NYM – 7/10/09
CF Andruw Jones Int’l FA – 1993 14 5 All Star Appearances, 1 Silver Slugger, 10 Gold Gloves
1761 gm, .263/.342/.497, 368 HR, 1117 RBI, 138 SB
Left via Free Agency – 10/31/07
RF Jason Heyward
2007 – 1st Rd (14) 3 1 All Star Appearance
128 gm, .288/.403/.483, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 9 SB
Currently with Org.
DH Mark DeRosa 1996 – 7th Rd 8 393 gm, .266/.318/.371, 17 HR, 99 RBI, 6 SB Non-Tendered – 12/21/04
SP Adam Wainwright 2000 – 1st Rd (29) 3 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to STL – 12/13/03
SP Kevin Millwood
1993 – 11th Rd 9 1 All Star Appearance
75-46, 3.73 ERA, 1004.1 IP, 840 K, 303 BB
Traded to PHI – 12/20/02
SP Tommy Hanson 2005 – 22nd Rd 5 21-15, 3.32 ERA, 311.2 IP, 276 K, 97 BB Currently with Org.
SP Kyle Davies
2001 – 4th Rd 6 14-21, 6.15 ERA, 237 IP, 172 K, 126 BB Traded to KC – 7/31/07
SP Kris Medlen
2006 – 10th Rd 4 9-7, 3.90 ERA, 175.1 IP, 155 K, 51 BB Currently with Org.
RP Matt Harrison
2003 – 3rd Rd 4 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to TEX – 7/31/07
RP Charlie Morton
2002 – 3rd Rd 6 4-8, 6.15 ERA, 74.2 IP, 48 K, 41 BB Traded to PIT – 6/3/09
RP Blaine Boyer
2000 – 3rd Rd 9 6-9, 5.46 ERA, 117 IP, 105 K, 47 BB Traded to STL – 4/20/09
RP Jonny Venters
2003 7 4-2, 1.81 ERA, 74.2 IP, 83 K, 34 BB Currently with Org.
RP Kenshin Kawakami
Int’l FA – 2009 2 8-22, 4.32 ERA, 243.2 IP, 164 K, 89 BB Currently with Org.
CL Neftali Feliz
Int’l FA – 2005 2 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to TEX – 7/31/07
BN Yunel Escobar
2005 – 2nd Rd 5 446 gm, .291/.368/.403, 29 HR, 183 RBI, 17 SB Traded to TOR – 7/14/10
BN Elvis Andrus
Int’l FA – 2005 2 No Major League Appearances with Org. Traded to TEX – 7/31/07
BN Kelly Johnson
2000 – 1st Rd (38) 9 490 gm, .264/.346/.430, 45 HR, 206 RBI, 29 SB Non-Tendered – 12/12/09
BN Garrett Jones
1999 – 14th Rd 3 No Major League Appearances with Org. Released – 5/21/02
BN Jarrod Saltalamacchia
2003 – 1st Rd (36) 4 47 gm, .284/.333/.411, 4 HR, 12 RBI Traded to TEX – 7/31/07

June Amateur Draft

The Braves have done extremely well in identifying talent in the amateur draft, with Chipper Jones represent the glory days of the past and Jason Heyward the unfulfilled future that is to come. And in between they have had a lot of solid Major Leaguers in Brian McCann, Adam Wainwright, Kevin Millwood, Yunel Escbar, and Adam LaRoche. The key to them being my top team however is the fact that with few exceptions, they have gotten this value for the Braves themselves, and only Adam Wainwright has had extreme success with another organization.

International Free Agency

The Braves have had their fair share of international free agent signees, with Andruw Jones clearly providing the most value to the Braves themselves. Unfortunately, the trade to acquire Mark Teixeira didn’t quite work out as planned, as they gave up a starting shortstop (Andrus) and an All-Star closer (Feliz) in the trade, along with 3 other valuable players. They don’t always make the big splash it appears, but they do end up with quite a few solid players as a result of their efforts.

Overall Grade

A+. To me, the Braves are in a class by themselves for this project. There was no difficulty in filling out the roster for this organization, and many of the bench players would have been considered starters for a lot of the other teams. The on-the-field success has shown that they have known what they are doing for quite a while, and their ability to make trades (although they didn’t always work out), and retain their talent has been crucial to their success.

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.

All Star Roster Review


These were my predictions for the All-Star rosters that I posted back on Saturday, representing my final thoughts on who I thought would make the team. Looking at how my predictions went, I am actually reasonably pleased with how they turned out.

Correct selections:

AL: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Derek Jeter, Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Cabrera, Ty Wigginton, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Vernon Wells, Cliff Lee, David Price, Jon Lester, Trevor Cahill, Clay Buchholz, Mariano Rivera, Jose Valverde, Neftali Feliz

NL: Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Jason Heyward, Ryan Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, Martin Prado, David Wright, Scott Rolen, Jose Reyes, Corey Hart, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Adam Wainwright, Matt Capps, Brandon Phillips

Incorrect:

AL Backup Catcher: I chose Mike Napoli as who I thought would be there, not really looking at Victor Martinez since he was injured at the time I made the pick. I’m not sold I agree with John Buck as the replacement for Martinez over Napoli, but it’s not a brutal choice. I think overall Napoli is going to have a better season, but they are pretty similar so far.

AL Backup Infielders: Paul Konerko and Kevin Youkilis are in the final vote, and in their place on the roster are Ian Kinsler (the replacement for Dustin Pedroia) and Alex Rodriguez. Part of the issue I had here was that I was not aware that the teams were required to take a utility player, which is where Wigginton fits on the roster. As a result, I didn’t take a 2B. I also didn’t include Pedroia because of his injury status, but he’s definitely deserving. A-Rod is also having a pretty good year, and I think this was my own personal bias. Knowing that the Yankees’ manager is managing the All-Star team, I probably should have seen that one.

AL Backup Outfielders: I think Choo would have made the team had he not gotten hurt just prior to the announcement, but when I made the selection it wasn’t for sure yet what his status was. Torii Hunter was selected as the only initial Angels’ player, and I think he’s definitely deserving as well. I do have a hard time looking at Jose Bautista on that roster with Alexis Rios who did not make the team, and is hitting better. The fact that the Blue Jays had Vernon Wells as well seems really odd to me. I don’t know how the player vote went (as he may have been a selection that was made by them), but it seems like a bit of an omission. Brett Gardner is having a great year, and he’s probably the player I would have left off in lieu of another infielder had I known I needed one.

AL Backup Designated Hitter: David Ortiz is probably more deserving than Jose Guillen was, but I knew I needed a Royal and liked a lot of the other relievers available more than Joakim Soria.

AL Pitching Staff

  • Jered Weaver was added to the roster in place of C.C. Sabathia (who will start on the Sunday prior to the All-Star game), which was the most glaring omission to me.
  • Andy Pettitte was added to the roster to replace the injured Clay Buchholz, but they did not have him on the initial roster.
  • The exclusion of Shin-Soo Choo due to injury required the Indians to have an All-Star on the pitching staff, and they went with Fausto Carmona instead. Look, someone had to be selected from the Indians, but it just shows how badly the rest of that team played.
  • Rafael Soriano was added to the roster to replace Mariano Rivera, who will rest instead of playing in the game.
  • I initially had Trevor Cahill as the replacement on the roster for the injured Shaun Marcum, who did not make the team. As a result, I also had Andrew Bailey on the initial roster as the A’s lone representative. They went with Matt Thornton of the White Sox, who is having an excellent season and is well deserving of the honor.
  • Phil Hughes is in the roster spot that I had for Colby Lewis. I think both are having excellent seasons and this is more of Girardi picking his guy when there are two similar players. I can understand that.

NL Backup Catcher: They selected Brian McCann over Miguel Olivo, and I don’t think that was a bad choice. Olivo is having a very nice offensive season, but McCann is the catcher for an excellent pitching staff on the first place Braves. The Capitol Avenue Club had a great post last week about how many times McCann has been snubbed when he was having amazing offensive seasons, so it is good to see a little bit of balance here.

NL Backup Infielders:

  • Clearly, the most glaring omission is the selection of Ryan Howard over Joey Votto. Howard is having a fine year, and I can even understand wanting to reward your player when you’re the manager. But clearly someone should have been left off the roster in place of Joey Votto who is having an MVP caliber season for the Reds. He is in the final vote (along with 4 of my All-Star selections), and I hope he gets in somehow. The Reds are a first place team, and Votto has clearly been their best player to this point.
  • I am not really worried about the missed selection of Placido Polanco, as I had already replaced him on the roster with Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is on the final ballot, but I don’t think he’ll end up making the team.
  • Omar Infante as the utility player makes sense based on his 2009 season, but I really wonder if there wasn’t some other player that could have been selected that could play more positions. I will say this much: His selection makes a whole heck of a lot more sense once Charlie Manuel came out and said they needed the utility player. I mean, even the player himself thought he was being notified he had been traded, not made the All-Star team.
  • I didn’t have Troy Tulowitzki due to his injuries, and the replacement ended up being Jose Reyes. I’m still not sold that Reyes is necessarily the right selection, but I don’t think he’s a poor one either.
  • Leaving Troy Glaus off the roster seems to me like it’s just a crunch at 1B. I understand it, but he’s been a boon for the first place Braves.

NL Backup Outfielders:

This is where I differed most from the actual team, as I missed 5 of them. 3 of them were the lone representatives for their team, so there’s three matching incorrect pitchers as well.

  • I picked Andrew McCutchen as the lone Pirates representative, and the team selected Evan Meek to represent them instead. Looking at the game as a winnable game, Meek is probably the more important player to have, and he is having an excellent season as well.
  • I picked Roy Oswalt as the lone deserving rep from the Astros, and they chose Michael Bourn instead. Bourn is having a reasonably good season, but I completely disagree on this one. I think his spot on the pitching staff was held by Yovani Gallardo, who could end up being replaced due to his injury anyway.
  • Chris Young instead of Justin Upton. As I looked at the numbers again, they got that one right. Young is having the better season pretty easily at the moment.
  • Matt Holliday was chosen over Colby Rasmus, and whoever made that selection got it wrong. I think that Holliday was selected a lot on his 2009 second half, as he’s only been hot of late in 2010. Rasmus will get his shot someday though.
  • Jayson Werth I think is the player who got crunched as a result of the lone Cubs’ representative, Marlon Byrd. Byrd is having an excellent season, and I think he’s a good pick.
  • Carlos Gonzalez is also in the final vote, and I think he’s the player who ended up getting crunched by the utility player needing to be on the roster. I don’t think they have made a selection to replace the injured Jason Heyward yet, and think Gonzalez would be the first choice. Hopefully anyway, as he’s having an amazing year.

NL Pitching Staff:

  • Chris Carpenter and Yovani Gallardo both made the roster, leaving my choices of Roy Oswalt and Mike Pelfrey off the roster. Neither pitcher is having a bad year, and the choices are solid ones. Gallardo is likely to be replaced on the roster due to injury, so one of them may still end up making the team.
  • The bullpen is a complete mess to me. How the Padres only got one representative overall, and no pitchers is beyond me. Heath Bell is in the final vote, but should probably be there regardless. I chose Luke Gregerson as my middle reliever, and Charlie Manuel chose Arthur Rhodes of the Reds. His choice is a good one here I think, as Rhodes may be having the best season of his career.
  • Billy Wagner is on the final vote ballot, and Carlos Marmol was left off the roster since Marlon Byrd is representing the Cubs. In their places, Jonathan Broxton and Brian Wilson were selected. Neither of these two are necessarily bad choices, just not necessarily the ones I would have made based on the current season. It does appear, however, that Manuel is managing to win the game, and I probably would trust both Broxton and Wilson more than Marmol.

Overall, I got 43 out of 68 correct. It has been a really interesting experiment to see how close I can get to predicting the teams, and next season I think the thing to remember to look at will be who is managing the teams. Had I done that, I probably would have gotten another 3-4 players correct. I think next year’s goal will be to get over 80% of the roster correct, especially now that I know about the utility player rule as well.

In terms of the roster makeup itself, Joey Votto and Kevin Youkilis stand out to me as the players who are the most deserving to be on the team but are not on there as of yet. I will be shocked if Votto doesn’t get onto that roster somehow, and a bit disappointed too.

My Final All-Star Predictions


Happy 4th of July to everyone! With the voting and teams to be announced today, I wanted to update what I thought would happen with the Major League All-Star teams prior to that:

These teams were created with the same rules that the managers in the game are required, that being 34 man rosters with 21 position players and 13 pitchers. Each team must also have a representative. The starters are based on the last voting results that were publicized.

Italicized selections are on the disabled list currently, and have been replaced with another player on the roster.

American League:

Starting Lineup
C – Joe Mauer (MIN)
1B – Justin Morneau (MIN)
2B – Robinson Cano (NYY)
3B – Evan Longoria (TAM)
SS – Derek Jeter (NYY)
OF – Carl Crawford (TAM), Ichiro Suzuki (SEA), Josh Hamilton (TEX)
DH – Vladimir Guerrero (TEX)

Bench:

C – Mike Napoli (LAA)
1B – Miguel Cabrera (DET), Paul Konerko (CHW), Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
2B – Ty Wigginton (BAL)
3B – Adrian Beltre (BOS)
SS – Elvis Andrus (TEX)
OF – Alexis Rios (CHW), Vernon Wells (TOR), Shin-Soo Choo (CLE), Brett Gardner (NYY)
DH – Jose Guillen (KC)

Pitching Staff:

Starters – Cliff Lee (SEA), David Price (TAM), Jered Weaver (LAA), Jon Lester (BOS), Colby Lewis (TEX), Andy Pettitte (NYY), Shaun Marcum (TOR), Trevor Cahill (OAK), Clay Buchholz (BOS)
Relievers – Mariano Rivera (NYY), Neftali Feliz (TEX), Rafael Soriano (TAM), Jose Valverde (DET), Andrew Bailey (OAK)

National League

Starting Lineup
C – Yadier Molina (STL)
1B – Albert Pujols (STL)
2B – Chase Utley (PHI)
3B – Placido Polanco (PHI)
SS – Hanley Ramirez (FLA)
OF – Andre Ethier (LAD), Jason Heyward (ATL), Ryan Braun (MIL)
DH – Joey Votto (CIN)

Bench:

C – Miguel Olivo (COL)
1B – Adrian Gonzalez (SD), Troy Glaus (ATL)
2B – Martin Prado (ATL), Brandon Phillips (CIN)
3B – David Wright (NYM), Scott Rolen (CIN), Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)
SS – Jose Reyes (NYM)
OF – Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Jayson Werth (PHI), Justin Upton (ARI), Corey Hart (MIL), Colby Rasmus (STL), Carlos Gonzalez (COL)

Pitching Staff:

Starters – Roy Oswalt (HOU), Ubaldo Jimenez (COL), Roy Halladay (PHI), Josh Johnson (FLA), Tim Lincecum (SF), Tim Hudson (ATL), Adam Wainwright (STL), Mike Pelfrey (NYM)
Relievers – Luke Gregerson (SD), Heath Bell (SD), Matt Capps (WAS), Billy Wagner (ATL), Carlos Marmol (CHC)

Overall, I am actually a bit surprised just how difficult this process can be. There are a lot of players that are deserving of an All-Star appearance who are going to be crunched because of the requirement to have a representative from every team.  If I were to guess, I would be surprised if I got more than 60% right. I will post my review of the All-Star rosters, along with how I did with this final prediction (and the others as well) on Thursday.