Tag Archives: Travis Wood

Season Preview – NL Central


Time to look at the 6 team NL Central division. You can also take a look at my previews of the AL East, AL Central, AL West, and NL East.

Last Year’s Records
Cincinnati – 91-71
St. Louis – 86-76
Milwaukee – 77-85
Houston – 76-86
Chicago – 75-87
Pittsburgh – 57-105

Notable Additions

Chicago – Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Kerry Wood

Cincinnati – Edgar Renteria

Houston – Clint Barmes

Milwaukee – Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yuniesky Betancourt, Takashi Saito, Mark Kotsay

Pittsburgh – Lyle Overbay, Garrett Atkins, Kevin Correia, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel

St. Louis – Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman

Notable Losses

Chicago – Sam Fuld, Tom Gorzelanny

Cincinnati – Arthur Rhodes, Orlando Cabrera, Aaron Harang

Houston – Matt Lindstrom, Felipe Paulino

Milwaukee – Brett Lawrie, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Gregg Zaun

Pittsburgh –  Zack Duke, Andy LaRoche, Lastings Milledge

St. Louis – Brendan Ryan, Pedro Feliz, Brad Penny, Jeff Suppan

My Thoughts

Chicago – The Cubs had a very disappointing season last year, and went out and tried to plug some of those holes this offseason. Bringing in Carlos Pena on a 1 year contract, despite its cost, looks like a very nice signing for a power bat. The acquisition of Matt Garza brings a young, cost-controlled high-end starting pitcher to their rotation, but at the cost of top prospects Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, and others.  I am not sold that this team will compete this year, as they will need bounceback performances from Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano to really end up in the thick of the race.

Cincinnati – The defending NL Central champions, the team has lost Aaron Harang and will hope that the combination of Mike Leake, Travis Wood, and others will be able to pitch complete seasons this year. The team returns nearly every player from last season’s title, but I don’t think that it is a slam-dunk that they will just run away with the division again this year.

Houston – Talk about a rebuilding effort. Here’s a team which has very few high-end prospects in the system right now, who also does not have a lot of higher-quality players at the Major League level either. There are some quality players in Hunter Pence and Brett Myers, but there’s not a lot of hope for the 2011 season. They will look to get a solid rookie season out of last year’s acquisition, Brett Wallace, but you have essentially gathered a group of mid-level players who can fill out a roster, but are unlikely to compete as a group for a division title, let alone a league championship

Milwaukee – And within the same division, you have a team who has gone all-in for 2011. The Brewers have traded nearly all of their top prospects in order to improve their pitching staff, and did so with the acquisitions of Marcum and Greinke. It’s not a great sign that Greinke is hurt already, but he should return in mid April and only miss a few starts. The bigger story throughout the season will be whether or not they fall out of contention and attempt to trade Prince Fielder before the deadline. They definitely remain a team to be reckoned with in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh – For a team that lost 105 games last year, they actually have a lot to look forward to. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is poised to become one of the best young players in the Majors, and 2nd year players Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez both will look to build on their solid rookie years. They aren’t likely to compete this season, but there’s hope for Pirates fans that is starting to show itself at the Major League level.

St. Louis – The biggest story out of St. Louis up until the start of Spring Training was whether or not Albert Pujols would sign a contract extension prior to the start of the season, and unfortunately it’s no longer the current top story out of their camp. With Cy Young runner up Adam Wainwright out for the season with Tommy John surgery, they will now look to replace at least some part of his production in the starting rotation. I’m not sold that this team, as constructed, can compete for the division title. They will need everything else to fall just right for them to win this division.

Overall Thoughts

The NL Central really has the look of a wide open division. If things fall just right, 4 of the teams could conceivably win the division this season. That said, I’m not sold that things will fall right for all of them, but it should be intersting to watch regardless.  Here’s my predicted order of finish:

1. Milwaukee
2. Cincinnati
3. St. Louis
4. Chicago
5. Pittsburgh
6. Houston

The NL 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, and I wrote yesterday about my choice for the AL award.  I’ll be continuing on today with my choice for the National League’s top rookie, the Willie Mays award recipient.

I wrote about the overall rookie of the class over the weekend, and it is simply amazing just how good the National League’s rookie class is this season . These are in order from east to west (approximately), and I will have my final vote at the bottom.

Stephen Strasburg (WAS)

Strasburg was easily the most hyped prospect to come up all season, and probably would have won this award had he not gotten injured during the season. He finished the season with a 5-3 record with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. Unfortunately, he missed the last 6 weeks of the season due to an elbow injury, and ended up having Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2011 season.

Jason Heyward (ATL)

Jason Heyward was widely viewed as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award at the beginning of the season, and was indeed who I had selected during the preseason. All he did was perform to the level that was anticipated out of him and more, posting a .277/.393/.456 line with 18 home runs, 72 runs batted in, 83 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases. He was even voted in as an All-Star starter, but didn’t play due to injury.

Mike Stanton (FLA)

Mike Stanton was a surprise call up in June, and although he had never played above AA, still provided solid production in the 3 months he was up. He hit .259/.326/.507 with 22 home runs, 59 runs batted in, and 5 stolen bases.

Mike Leake (CIN)

Leake was a real surprise candidate, not just to be in this race but also to be on the roster since he had not actually pitched in the minor leagues. Leake started the season well, but ended up the season with an 8-4 record and a 4.23 ERA in 22 starts.

John Axford (MIL)

Axford established himself as the closer for the Brewers after Trevor Hoffman struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, and never really gave the job back. He finished the year with 24 saves and an 8-2 record to go with 76 strikeouts in just 58 innings pitched.

Starlin Castro (CHC)

Castro was another surprise call up, jumping from AA to the Majors in early May to help give the Cubs’ lineup a boost. He provided a .300 batting average with 10 stolen bases despite being just 20 years old. His fielding will need to improve, but that will definitely come with time.

Jaime Garcia (STL)

Garcia was a bit of an afterthought in the Cardinals’ rotation, and evolved into their 3rd most consistent starter behind aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Garcia went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA in his 28 starts this season.

Buster Posey (SF)

Posey was most definitely the firestarter for the Giants upon his call to the Show in May. All he did from there was hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs and 67 runs batted in. He is now the cleanup hitter for a team that was in desperate need of a big bat throughout the season.

My Vote

  1. Buster Posey (SF)
  2. Jason Heyward (ATL)
  3. Jaime Garcia (STL)

It’s actually pretty scary to me just how many rookies should have been up for consideration that were left off of this list. Players like Neil Walker and Jose Tabata of the Pirates, Travis Wood of the Reds and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants all had significant rookie seasons, and would probably have won the award in many other seasons. But this class is definitely something special, and Buster Posey to me is the clear cut winner of this award. Despite playing in 50+ games less than Heyward, he put up comparable or better numbers in nearly every offensive category, and did so at a premium defensive position. There’s no doubt in my mind that the best rookie in the National League this season was Buster Posey.

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.