Comparing the mega-teams from LA

December 17, 2012

> Following the 2011 season, Los Angeles was not in a good state as far as the sport of baseball goes. The Angels and Dodgers hadn’t reached the postseason in 2010 or 2011, posting some of their worst seasons in decades (by their standards). The Angels were struggling to find any offensive consistency to back their decent starting pitching. The Dodgers were having similar issues, but their problems extended off the field as well, as Frank McCourt left them bankrupt.

I don’t think the Dodgers were expecting to contend in 2012 (at least early on) because of where they were financially, but their one huge move was giving Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million deal following his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011. The Angels, however, made themselves early favorites for the World Series by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal, and C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

Fast-forward to the 2012 offseason- following yet another season in which neither of these teams made the postseason- and a lot has changed. The Dodgers are nowhere near bankrupt; in fact, they’re the polar opposite, thanks to Magic Johnson and Co. The Angels are in the same position they were last year, but if they don’t make the postseason this time around, there’s something very wrong.

Anyway, let’s take a look at each of these teams from every angle- the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen, and so on. Both of them are considered near locks for the playoffs, but one has to be better than the other, right?

THE LINEUPS

Angels: 

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Josh Hamilton, RF
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Howie Kendrick, 2B
8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
9. Chris Iannetta, C

Dodgers: 

1. Mark Ellis, 2B
2. Luis Cruz, 3B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Hanley Ramirez, SS
6. Andre Ethier, RF
7. Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
8. A.J. Ellis, C
9. Pitcher

OK, first off, Hairston isn’t going to start the entire season. Once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list, he’ll take Hairston’s spot, and that’ll change the whole culture of the lineup (many project Crawford to hit second). But, until Crawford comes back- which will probably sometime in late May- that’s what I’m guessing the Dodgers’ lineup will look like.

Anyway, those are both powerhouse lineups. The each feature possibly the best 3-4-5-6 combos in their respective league in Pujols-Hamilton-Trumbo-Morales and Kemp-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Ethier. It’s hard to say which is really better than the other; both are going to be very exciting to watch. While I think the Angels’ lineup might be the more exciting with three perennial MVP candidates in Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton, I think the Dodgers have the overall better lineup. The reason I say this is because there are more experienced hitters in the Dodgers lineup, and by experienced, I mean hitters that you know what you’re going to get from them. Kemp, A-Gon, Ramirez, and Ethier aren’t necessarily “veterans” yet, but they’ve certainly been around the block a few times and have shown they can produce consistently at the big league level from year to year. The Angels definitely have that experience in Pujols and Hamilton, but they have a lot of younger, inexperienced hitters who I think we need to see more from. There’s no denying that Trout had the best offensive rookie season in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be susceptible to a sophomore slump. Trumbo hit over .300 for the most of the season last year, but then flamed out for the last two months and fell to a .268 average.

I think if everyone in the Angels’ lineup performs to their ability (and that includes Kendrick, who everyone thought was going to be a batting champion one day), then they’ll have the better lineup. But until that happens, I’d put my money on the Dodgers’ lineup, especially once Crawford gets back.

Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp

THE ROTATIONS

Angels: 

1. Jered Weaver
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Tommy Hanson
4. Joe Blanton
5. Garrett Richards

Dodgers

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Josh Beckett

Coming into this offseason, both teams wanted to improve their starting rotations, and I think each did. However, I think the Angels losing Greinke really hurt them. I also wasn’t in complete agreement with them just giving up on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana; I really wonder if they’re going to get what they could have gotten from those two from Hanson and Blanton. And Richards is going to be good somewhere down the road, but I’m not so sure he’s ready for a full-time rotation spot. There are even some question marks surrounding Wilson, who had a terrible second half for the Angels in 2012. Weaver is no doubt the ace, but health is a bit of a concern with him; same goes for Hanson.

To me, the Dodgers obviously have the better rotation, even though there are a few enigmas in theirs as well. Kershaw/Greinke is one- if not the best- 1-2 punches in baseball, and they get to throw half of their games at the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. After Kershaw and Greinke, however, there are a few questions. Billingsley can be an All-Star caliber pitcher when he’s on, but that isn’t always the case. Perhaps not having the pressure of being a #2 starter will help him. Anyway, the 4-5 spots in the Dodgers’ rotation should go to Ryu and Beckett, in my opinion. The Dodgers also have veterans Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang, all of whom are capable of starting, but I think Ryu and Beckett will give them better results than any of the other two.

Clayton Kershaw

It’s evident that both of these teams will have to back up their rotations with those huge lineups, but I think the Dodgers are better off starter-wise.

THE ‘PENS 

(NOTE: I only put the six guys who I thought were guaranteed spots. There are probably going to be a few other long relievers in each bullpen>)

Angels: 

Ryan Madson
Ernesto Frieri
Scott Downs
Sean Burnett
Kevin Jepsen
Jerome Williams

Dodgers: 

Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Scott Elbert
Matt Guerrier
Javy Guerra

This is actually the one category in which I think the Angels are better off. There’s only one guy that I think the Dodgers can count on to be consistent, and that’s Jansen. The rest of the guys- including League, who they named their closer and threw $22 million at- have had up-and-down careers.

The Angels, on the other hand, have a nice mix of young flamethrowers and veteran guys who know how to pitch. I loved the Madson pick-up; I expect him to have a good year even though he missed all of 2012. Frieri can also close if need be. Then they have a great tandem of lefties in Downs and Burnett. This has the makings of a great bullpen for the Angels.

Frieri

These are both going to be very exciting teams to watch, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an LA vs. LA World Series (though it never seems to work out that way). I think the Dodgers have the slight edge, but that’s not to put a damper on the team the Angels are going to field.

> The Phillies signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal (plus a vesting option for a third year), so that puts to bed any rumors that spoke of his possible return to Milwaukee. But Doug Melvin probably wouldn’t have been willing to give him $6 million a year anyway.

> The Mets are being the Mets once again, as they have a deal in place to send the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner- R.A. Dickey- to the Blue Jays in a seven-player deal. The deal also includes Josh Thole and another prospect going to the Jays along with Dickey, while the Mets are getting back Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a prospect.

I’m starting to wonder why the Mets gave an extension to David Wright if this is what they intended to do all along, but that’s their screwed-up organization for you. But I like the deal for the Blue Jays. They may have hurt themselves in the long run, but they’re making themselves favorites for the AL East next year. They’ve assembled a pretty nice rotation in Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero, all of whom have been considered aces at some point in their careers.

> Minor moves: 

Phillies: Signed John Lannan to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Jonathan Albaladejo and Ed Lucas to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Javier Herrera to a minor league deal.
Twins: Signed Mike Pelfrey to a one-year deal.


Braun comes in second

November 16, 2012

> I knew all along that the NL MVP voters were going to get it wrong, but at least they didn’t push it too far.

Buster Posey won the NL MVP today, something we’ve felt would happen ever since the regular season ended. I predicted him to win it, but, once again, that doesn’t mean I think it’s the right choice.

Ryan Braun came in second place. That is actually much better than I thought the voters were going to give him. When the five finalists- Braun, Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, and Chase Headley- were announced, I was sure Braun would get fifth as a result of being unfairly penalized for something that he was actually exonerated from. (Looking back, the exoneration literally meant nothing, except that Braun got to play while being showered by boos for the first 50 games as well.)

The voting wasn’t at all close. Posey received 27 of the 32 possible votes, while Braun got just two. However, Braun got the most second place votes by a large margin, with his 15 votes being at least nine more than every other candidate. Posey finished with 422 points to Braun’s 285 (the next closest to Braun was McCutchen with 245).

But, as mentioned earlier, the voters got it wrong. Here’s a complete list of the stats Posey topped Braun in:

1. Batting average
2. OBP
3. OPS+

And Posey didn’t have Braun beat by too much in each of those stats, while Braun murdered him in most of the other stats. Plus, batting average hasn’t been, for some reason, considered as much of a factor because of the rise of sabermetrics (but until Carlos Pena wins an MVP with a sub-.200 batting average, I’m not buying it).

Oh well. Not much else I can do to defend Braun, considering I attempted to defend him when Matt Kemp was in this position last year.

But, had it not been for the false PED accusation, Braun would have won the MVP- easily.

> Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP over Mike Trout. Something told me I wanted him to win it, but I had a much tougher time defending his case than I thought. Perhaps it was because I actually opened my ears a bit more; most Cabrera-backers heard “TRIPLE CROWN!!!!” and nothing else.

> Following a very injury-plagued year for the Brewers as a whole (at least early on), they’re going to “focus as much or more on preventing injuries as on treating them.”

> Minor moves: 

Braves: Signed Gerald Laird to a two-year deal.
Cubs: Signed Dioner Navarro to a one-year deal.
Blue Jays: Signed Neil Wagner to a minor league deal.
Angels: Signed Billy Buckner, Luke Carlin, Brendan Harris, Trent Oeltjen, Jo-Jo Reyes, and J.B. Shuck to minor league deals.
Nationals: Signed Will Rhymes to a minor league deal.
Royals: Signed Brandon Wood to a minor league deal.


Braun didn’t win the Hank Aaron Award

October 28, 2012

> Notice how I didn’t title this article, “Buster Posey wins the Hank Aaron Award.”

The Hank Aaron Award is defined as “the most outstanding offensive performer in each league.” In the American League, the award went to Miguel Cabrera, and rightfully so. In the National League, it should have definitely gone to Ryan Braun, right?

Nope. As he probably will with the NL MVP, Posey somehow won this award. But it’s a different case for this award than the MVP.

If Posey wins the MVP award, I won’t be as mad because Posey’s Giants contended all year (and won the NL West), while Braun’s Brewers could only muster up a hot streak during the final weeks of the season, and only came as close to the playoffs as two games behind the second Wild Card spot. That’s just the way the MVP voting works, and we’ve all become used to it.

But the Hank Aaron Award should be- and, as shown by the winners in recent years, is- different than the MVP award. It doesn’t matter whether or not the winner’s team contended- after all, Matt Kemp won it last year.

Overall, Posey definitely did not have a better offensive year than Braun, and there really isn’t a legitimate argument for it. The only major offensive category that Posey had Braun beaten in was batting average- Posey won the batting title (.336) and Braun came in third in the race (.319). Other than that, though, Braun had him beat by plenty in many other stats. Braun had nearly 20 more home runs than Posey (41 to 24), had more RBIs (112 to 103), more hits (191 to 178), and a higher slugging percentage (.595 to .549).

I don’t know about you, but looking at those stats, there’s a clear-cut winner of this award- and it isn’t Posey.

Perhaps it’s the “roid factor,” something we may have to live with for the rest of Braun’s career. I didn’t think it would come into play for an award like this, but I suppose it’s going to affect Braun’s chances at every award for as long as he plays.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> The Giants now have a stranglehold over the Tigers in the World Series, taking a 3-0 lead with their 2-0 win tonight. Ryan Vogelsong continued his postseason dominance with 5 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, and the only two runs he needed were on RBI hits from Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford in the second inning.

That two-run second inning was the only flaw in a stellar outing from Anibal Sanchez, who went seven innings while striking out eight.

THE NEWS

> Following the play in which Doug Fister got hit in the side of the head with a line drive the other night, MLB is now seriously considering a helmet-type guard for pitchers. This was probably already being talked about after the Brandon McCarthy scare in September, but this fiasco likely accelerated the talks.

Anyway, the helmets wouldn’t reach the big leagues right away. If they do come into play, they would first be tested in the minors.

> Minor moves:

Blue Jays: Outrighted Tyson Brummett to Triple-A.

THE EXTRAS

> Oh, FOX…

> Cabrera was literally given a crown for winning the first Triple Crown since 1967.


Yo does the job again

August 29, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs with ease tonight, winning 4-1. Yovani Gallardo had another stellar start, going seven innings while giving up a run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine.

The Brewers jumped on Travis Wood early, as Jeff Bianchi hit his first career home run- a three-run blast- in the second inning. The only Cubs run came on a home run from Wood, the pitcher. Other than that, the Cubs’ offense was rather lifeless.

The 2011 bullpen was successfully revisited tonight, as Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford got the hold and save, respectively. If only we could have had that a few months ago.

LOOKING INTO THE NL MVP RACE

> Recently I’ve been mulling over who I think should win the major baseball awards come the end of the season, and I’ve found there are a lot of interesting award races around the game. One I’m having a particularly tough time with is the National League MVP race.

Our own Ryan Braun took it home last year after posting a career high in batting average and leading the Brewers to the playoffs. But, while Braun is nearly duplicating the numbers he put up last year- and on pace for a career high in home runs- I can’t see him taking it home this year. The Brewers aren’t remotely close to contention, which we all know always affects the MVP race. And his eventful offseason is certain to take more than a few votes away.

Other than Braun, I see three candidates for the MVP (all on contending teams): Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and Matt Holliday. Obviously there are other sleeper guys around the league, such as Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Beltran, and so on, but the three I listed prior seem to be the choices whom all the buzz is surrounding.

Everyone was pretty much handing McCutchen the award in July, which is clearly too early. He was hitting around .370 at the time, but has fallen into the .340′s. That still isn’t bad, but, as McCutchen has fallen, so have the Pirates. If that continues, my vote would not go to Cutch.

Posey and Holliday are my top two right now; both are valuable assets to their contending teams. Assuming the Giants and Cardinals stay where they are in the standings into the playoffs, my vote would go to Posey. The Giants have an otherwise weak offense without him, while the Cardinals still have a lineup of perennial All-Stars without Holliday.

That’s my opinion on the race right now. I would be thrilled if Braun somehow came out with the award again, but I have a feeling one of the guys I listed will to do Braun what Braun did to Matt Kemp last year.

MY TAKE

> Bianchi must have been listening when I called him Brooks Conrad 2.0 the other night, because he’s gone on a tear since I criticized him in Pittsburgh. After starting his career with an 0-for, Bianchi had five consecutive hits, ending with his first career homer in the second inning.

Needless to say I’m liking the Jean Segura-Bianchi shortstop tandem than I did the Cody Ransom-Cesar Izturis tandem.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum was placed on waivers today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get nabbed by a contender.

> Randy Wolf didn’t go unemployed for very long, as it was reported that the Orioles signed him earlier today. They’ll likely use him as a relief since they’re primary lefty out of the ‘pen, Troy Patton, is taking a long time to recover from an injury. But Buck Showalter didn’t rule out using him as a spot starter in the ever-changing O’s rotation.

UPDATE: The Athletics also had “serious interest” in Wolf before he signed with the Orioles.

> Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he doesn’t want Brewers pitchers trying too hard to get strikeouts in what could be a record-breaking season.

“I don’t want to see guys try to get strikeouts. They are a product of strike one and strike two. But when the situation dictates it, we’ve got guys who know how to strike guys out.”

“I’m just as happy with a shutout with no strikeouts and no walks. I don’t want to get caught up in all that [strikeout talk]. That’s why you have a defense out there.”

The Brewers are on pace to break the team strikeout record set by the 2003 Cubs, who featured elite arms such as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

> The Pirates released Erik Bedard. His final start with them was a loss at the hands of the Brewers just a few days ago, when he gave up seven earnies in 4 2/3 innings.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo made strides in quite a few stats tonight. He reached 14 wins for the third consecutive year. He won his sixth consecutive decision. He struck out nine for the third consecutive start. He threw his Major League-leading 22nd quality start. Yep, he’s the ace of the staff right now.

> Brewers pitchers struck out 10 for the eighth straight game.

> Holy crap, Justin Verlander gave up eight earned runs today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 ERA)


Five-tool catchers- do they actually exist?

November 25, 2011

> Earlier today, I was reading an article on MLB Trade Rumors. It talked about what general managers look for in drafts, such as five-tool players, front-of-the-line ace pitchers, and so on. But, there was one specific type of player in that article that caught my eye- a type of player I didn’t even know existed, and it may very well not even exist.

A five-tool catcher. The baseball terms “five-tool” and “catcher” typically contradict each other, hence the reason a five-tool catcher is so rare and unheard of. If you don’t already know, the five tools in baseball are hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, a good arm, and good defense. The most common type of player to wield the five tools is an outfielder. And, not coincidentally, the two top finishers for the NL MVP were outfielders- Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp- and you could make the argument that both are five-tool players, despite their young ages.

The best that catchers can usually be are four-tool players, as the top catchers in baseball are typically good hitters and good defenders (blocking pitches and throwing out runners). But, that one tool they almost always lack is speed. That’s kind of a given, though, considering they have to sit crouched in one position behind the plate for over 1,000 innings per year.

There are plenty of good catchers out there. Brian McCann (Braves) has made the All-Star Team every year since 2006, and has also hit 20 or more home runs every since as well (except 2007). But, his defense is below average for a catcher, and then there’s the speed as well. Yadier Molina (Cardinals) has always been arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball, throwing out nearly 50% of runners that have tried stealing against him in his career. Molina also broke out at the plate this year, hitting .293. But, he’s painfully slow, even for a catcher. Buster Posey (Giants), after winning the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award in the NL, promptly got injured in 2011, so we have yet to see what he’s truly capable of. Anyway, there’s more catchers to list, but I’m not going to rattle on forever about every catcher in the Majors.

While all of the guys I just listed are good, All-Star caliber catchers, they can’t be considered true five-tool players, simply because of that lack of speed. Hence, I don’t think a five-tool catcher can exist.

> When that topic on MLBTR caught my eye, I also started thinking about the Brewers’ young catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. He certainly isn’t a five-tool catcher either, because, like all catchers, he doesn’t have speed. And his offense could use a little work.

But, offensively, I think he’s headed in the right direction. After coming up from Double-A in May of 2010 to replace the injured Gregg Zaun, Lucroy was immediately thrown into the fire of being a starting catcher at the Major League level. He finished 2010 hitting .253 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Then, in 2011, his first full season in the Majors (although he missed a few weeks in April with a broken finger), he hit .265 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs, and demonstrated some power. This makes me think that, in time, Lucroy can be a power threat. I also think he’ll be able to be a near-.300 hitter at some point, but he needs to become less streaky. But doesn’t the entire Brewers’ offense need to become less streaky (save Braun)?

Lucroy also finally developed into a great defensive catcher in the second half of 2011. He still has his occasional embarrassing moment where he doesn’t know where the ball bounced, but he’s become accustomed to blocking balls in the dirt, probably thanks to Zack Greinke‘s slider. And it felt like Lucroy was throwing out more runners than ever in the second half as well.

Anyway, my point here is that I hope the Brewers hang onto Lucroy for awhile. He isn’t arbitration-eligible for the first time until 2014, and not a free agent until 2017, so I guess they’ll kind of be forced to, but hopefully the keep him beyond that. And, I’d like to see Martin Maldonado get a chance next year as a backup catcher. George Kottaras doesn’t even appear to be a catcher, he’s so bad defensively…

> And that’s all I’ve got for now. I might post Hot Stove news later. That is, if anything happens… Anyhow, thanks for reading.


Recap of all major awards

November 23, 2011

> Yesterday, the NL MVP was handed out. This marked the last major award of the offseason. And I’m proud to say that, for the first time ever, I got all of my predictions right. Not that I agreed with all of them, but they were probably the most logical choice fore each award.

> Anyway, here are the top finishers for each award (courtesy of Baseball Reference):

AL MVP

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

4. Curtis Granderson, Yankees

5. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

6. Robinson Cano, Yankees

7. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

8. Michael Young, Rangers

9. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

10. Evan Longoria, Rays
NL MVP

1. Ryan Braun, Brewers

2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers

3. Prince Fielder, Brewers

4. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals

6. Joey Votto, Reds

7. Lance Berkman, Cardinals

8. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

9. Roy Halladay, Phillies

10. Ryan Howard Phillies

AL Cy Young Award

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2. Jered Weaver, Angels

3. James Shields, Rays

4. CC Sabathia, Yankees

5. Jose Valverde, Tigers

6. C.J. Wilson, Rangers

7. Dan Haren, Angels

8. Mariano Rivera, Yankees

9. Josh Beckett, Red Sox

10. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays

NL Cy Young Award

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2. Roy Halladay, Phillies

3. Cliff Lee, Phillies

4. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

5. Cole Hamels, Phillies

6. Tim Lincecum, Giants

7. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

8. Matt Cain, Giants

9. John Axford, Brewers

9. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

2. Mark Trumbo, Angels

3. Eric Hosmer, Royals

4. Ivan Nova, Yankees

5. Michael Pineda, Mariners

6. Dustin Ackley, Mariners

7. Desmond Jennings, Rays

7. Jordan Walden, Angels

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

2. Freddie Freeman, Braves

3. Vance Worley, Phillies

4. Wilson Ramos, Nationals

5. Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks

6. Danny Espinosa, Nationals

7. Darwin Barney, Cubs

7. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

AL Manager of the Year

1. Joe Maddon, Rays

2. Jim Leyland, Tigers

3. Ron Washington, Rangers

4. Manny Acta, Indians

5. Joe Girardi, Yankees

6. Mike Scioscia, Angels

NL Manager of the Year

1. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks

2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers

3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals

4. Charlie Manuel, Phillies

5. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves

6. Bruce Bochy, Giants

6. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

8. Terry Collins, Mets

8. Don Mattingly, Dodgers

> Most of them seemed deserving enough. Although I was surprised to see Longoria even on the AL MVP ballot.

> Anyway, onto some Brewers news. They’ve offered arbitration to free agents Prince Fielder and Francisco Rodriguez. Assuming both decline it (which they probably both will), the Brewers will get four premium picks in next year’s First-Year Player Draft.

> Which brings me to my next point. I didn’t pay much attention to the small print of the labor agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union because I was celebrating Braun’s MVP award, but apparently this new agreement is creating a salary cap on how much teams can pay players to sign with them after being drafted. This will probably effect how some teams draft for the next five years, especially teams that rely on the draft in order to contend, such as the Rays.

But hey, it’s what we’ve grown to expect from Bud Selig.

> The biggest news of today was the Indians bringing back the injury-prone Grady Sizemore on a one-year deal worth around $5 million. I guess they aren’t giving up on the center fielder yet, despite the fact he’s had five different surgeries over the past three years, and has averaged below 100 games played per season during that span.

> Bruce Chen has decided to go back to the Royals for the third straight year, but this time signed a two-year deal. Chen really came out of nowhere as a solid pitcher for the Royals in 2010, and had an even better 2011. But I’m surprised Chen’s “chencision” was to return to the Royals instead of play for a contending team. (In case you haven’t noticed, I occasionally use @TrippingOlney jokes on here.)

> Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts. I’ll update again if any other big news comes out tonight.


Braun beats out Kemp for NL MVP

November 23, 2011

> And Ryan Braun wins the NL MVP. Let the debating begin.

> Braun beat the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp for the award, which has already caused a lot of debate. Most of it is that people think the only reason Braun won is because he played for a contending team. Which was part of it, and I’m not saying I disagree with it, as I said in my post last night. “Best player” and “most valuable player” don’t always mean the same thing.

> Anyway, I’m not going to talk much about the whole debate thing right now, but more about Braun’s numbers and why he was so deserving of this award.

> Braun is the first Brewer to win the MVP since Robin Yount won it in 1989. Yount is arguably the greatest player in Brewers history, so Braun has come along away and is joining some elite company.

Braun received 20 of 32 first-place votes, which totals 388 points. Kemp came in second with 10 first-place votes (332), Prince Fielder in third with one first-place vote (229) and Justin Upton in fourth also with one first-place vote (214). Albert Pujols came in fifth with 166 points, but the highest vote he received was one third-place vote.

In 2011, Braun hit .332 with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs- definitely a MVP-caliber season. Kemp hit .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs. By looking at those numbers, you’d probably wonder why Kemp didn’t win instead.

But what I think separated Braun from Kemp was simply how often Braun came through in the clutch- yes, this is something that effects the voting. Braun coming through in the clutch is what drove the Brewers to the postseason. Kemp didn’t exactly come through in the clutch very often (but he played for the Dodgers, which explains why).

But what I’m saying is that the voting goes beyond the numbers.

> MLB and the players’ union came to an agreement on a five-year labor deal (imagine how jealous the NBA must be right now). Of course, this garnered about as much buzz- if not more- as Braun winning the MVP.

Anyway, it’s good to know that we won’t be seeing another baseball strike anytime soon.

> Jim Crane and his group officially took over the Astros today. They’ve agreed to move the Astros to the AL as early as 2013, as we heard a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Drayton McLane wonders how he sold the worst team in the MLB for $610 million.

> Anyway, I’m kind of short on time right now, so that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts, if you have any.


News from MLB over the past few days…

November 20, 2011

> There really hasn’t been much news in baseball over the past few days, which is why you didn’t see a post last night. So, here’s a bit of a recap of what’s happened, but it isn’t much…

> The biggest piece of news was Matt Kemp signing an eight-year deal with the Dodgers. There were rumors that the Dodgers were close to signing Kemp earlier this week, but it was just finalized yesterday.

Kemp had an unbelievable season in 2011, hitting .324 with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs. He also had 41 stolen bases, making him a 30/30 player, and nearly a 40/40 player. He and Ryan Braun are the two top contenders for the NL MVP this year, which is going to be announced on Monday.

> Carlos Zambrano was hit in the face by a line drive today during a winter ball start in Venezuela today. Apparently, he was having his best start since he started pitching this fall, but needed to exit the game after being hit.

So you can add yet another chapter to the odd career of the usually-psychotic Cubs pitcher. It seems like every possible negative thing in baseball that can happen to a player happens to Zambrano. Most of the time, it’s his fault, but this time it isn’t.

Zambrano is in winter ball because he missed the last month and a half of the 2011 season after being placed on the restricted list by the Cubs. This all started because he threw inside multiple times to Chipper Jones in a start against the Braves, in which he was getting crushed and was letting his frustration out. He was ejected, and while the benches cleared and his team was fighting for him, Zambrano simply walked off the field laughing. He then walked into the clubhouse, cleaned out his locker, and told the reporters that he was going to retire.

That may have been the break the Cubs were looking for, but, of course, Zambrano didn’t follow through with it.

In reaction to this performance, the Cubs placed Zambrano on the restricted list, as I mentioned earlier, which makes a player ineligible to be around the team or be paid for 3o days. Even after Zambrano’s time on the restricted list was finished (wow, sounded like he was in jail when I put it like that), he didn’t return to the team.

Anyway, that’s the story. Zambrano was having a crappy season as it was, definitely the worst of his career. It was the first time he had an ERA over 4.00, but still posted a winning record. Theo Epstein has announced that Zambrano is going to have to “work his way back” to get a spot on the Cubs’ roster next year, but I think we all know that he’s probably going to be there anyway.

> The Blue Jays have announced that they’re going to have a new logo for next year, and they’re basing it off their traditional logo. Which is awesome, because that Blue Jays logo is my second favorite logo in MLB history (only to the Brewers retro glove logo). Hopefully, it gives them some luck to win the AL East (or at least the Wild Card).

> The Twins signed catcher Ryan Doumit to a two-year deal, which pretty much means they’re expecting Joe Mauer to get injured at this point. Can you blame them?

Anyway, the Brewers had seen Doumit, the former Pirates’ catcher, a lot over the past few years. He tended to be a Brewers-killer, so it’s good that he’ll be out of the league.

> Dale Sveum has been officially named the Cubs’ new manager. You can read my post the other day about my take on that, because it would be a waste of time for me to do it again right here.

> Onto some minor Brewers moves from yesterday and today.

> The Brewers have added four prospects to their 40-man roster yesterday. They are outfielder Caleb Gindl, first baseman Brock Kjeldgaard, right-handed pitcher Santo Manzanillo, and third baseman Zelous Wheeler. With these additions, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 35. And, because these players were added to the roster, they can’t be taken by other teams in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

> I noticed the other day that Yovani Gallardo came in seventh place in the NL Cy Young Award voting. That has to be the best any Brewers’ pitcher has done in the voting in years. Gallardo wasn’t quite good enough to win, but his win total and strikeouts probably put him in the race (17-10, 3.52 ERA, 207 strikeouts in 207 innings were his overall numbers).

> And that’s about all I’ve got right now. But, before I go, I just want to explain something new that I might be doing on this blog soon.

With the lack of news around MLB some days, I’m finding myself with nothing to post about. That’s happened to me twice over the past week, and definitely isn’t helping this blog get any more popular. So, I’m thinking about writing about things in Brewers’ history on days that there isn’t much news. By “things,” I mean historical seasons, players, events, top 10 players at a certain position, and so on. I think that would be something good to mix it up once in awhile, because up to now I’ve really just been blogging about news. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I love doing it, but I just want to try something different.

> Anyhow, feel free to leave you thoughts, if you have any.


Kimbrel, Hellickson take home ROY awards

November 15, 2011

> Needless to say I called this a few days ago.

> Craig Kimbrel and Jeremy Hellickson took home the NL and AL Rookie of the Year Awards today (respectively). So for those of you who say that pitchers shouldn’t win this award (or the MVP), then this wasn’t your year.

Kimbrel was thrown into the Braves’ closer role since future Hall of Fame closer Billy Wagner retired before this year started. And he handled it just as Wagner would have; possibly better. Kimbrel set the record for the most saves by a rookie closer with 46, which also tied Brewers closer John Axford for the most in the NL. He put up a 2.10 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings. Despite the fact Kimbrel technically ended the Braves’ season by blowing a save against the Phillies on the final day, he was still the most deserving of any NL candidate.

I was one of the few (or so it seemed) who actually thought Hellickson would win. And you can’t argue with the numbers. His 13-10 record could have been better, and actually should have been better- he was victim of low run support from a weak Rays offense various times. But, his 2.95 ERA in the AL East was unbelievable, especially for a rookie. Hellickson also ate up 189 innings, the most among rookie starters in the Majors. I don’t know what it is about the Rays and managing to put together all of these homegrown starters who will eventually become aces (David Price being the other standout homegrown ace for them).

> Anyway, onto the Hot Stove news of the day. Unlike the other Hot Stove days thus far this offseason, this one was actually somewhat busy.

> The Dodgers are reportedly nearing an eight-year deal with center fielder Matt Kemp. The deal would be worth $160 million, which is odd, since I heard the Dodgers wouldn’t be able to make any of these gigantic signings until the Dodgers are sold. But it probably has something to do with the fact that Kemp is already on the team.

Kemp is coming off a stellar 2011 campaign, in which he hit .324 with 39 home runs, 126 RBIs, and 41 steals. He was just one home run away from the coveted 40/40 season. Kemp also won the Gold Glove for NL center fielders and one of the outfield Silver Slugger Awards as well. He and Ryan Braun are the two top contenders for the NL MVP this year.

> The Angels are apparently “serious” c0ntenders for free agent starter C.J. Wilson. I find this strange, considering the Angels’ biggest need is obviously offense (as is any team in the AL West not named the Rangers). The Angels already have a trio of aces in Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana (if you consider him an ace; I do).

Wilson is coming off a season in which he went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA as the ace of the Rangers’ staff. The year before, he was 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA, but was a reliever every year before that. So it should be interesting to see how he responds to what’s probably going to be a big multi-year deal.

> Theo Epstein, the new Cubs’ president, talked to Carlos Zambrano for the first time today. Epstein announced that Zambrano will have to “work his way back” to earn a spot on the Cubs’ roster for next year.

But honestly, why are the Cubs still even giving this psychopath a chance? He’s put together enough scenes to embarrass the Cubs forever, and was already placed on the disqualified list. I thought the disqualified list would be the last straw, but apparently not.

At the same time, however, I can’t really blame them. Zambrano still has a large portion of his contract left in 2012, and the Cubs won’t want to eat up another huge contract after releasing a player (similar what they did to Carlos Silva before the 2011 season).

> Before I finish, here’s some Hot Stove news related to the Brewers:

> Doug Melvin announced that the Brewers won’t offer Prince Fielder a contract during this week’s GM meetings in Milwaukee. Not like Scott Boras would have accepted an offer, anyway.

> Melvin also said that he hasn’t decided whether or not to meet face-to-face with Jose Reyes and/or his agent. Reports are saying that Reyes is extremely close to signing with the Marlins, but nothing is official yet.

> The Brewers are apparently interested in bringing back Yuniesky Betancourt on a contract worth less than what his option for 2012 would have been worth. I hope this a last resort option if the Brewers become that desperate for a shortstop…

> Lastly, the Brewers are also interested in bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr., who put up a stellar postseason for the Brewers in 2011.

> Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading, and free to leave your thoughts.


A few predictions for the MLB awards…

November 6, 2011

> It’s been an extremely slow day for me in nearly every aspect. Close to no new baseball news, BreakingWI not getting any views (but I’m pretty used to that by now), and just not much to do. This is why I hate when baseball season ends.

> Anyhow, before I get into my main topic, here’s the Hot Stove news from this slow day:

> It appears Dan Duquette is close to becoming the Orioles’ GM. I talked last night about how it seemed like nobody wanted to fill the O’s GM vacancy, but, sure enough, someone takes it after I say that.

Anyway, Duquette has prior experience as a general manager with the Expos (1991-1994) and the Red Sox (1994-2002). Apparently he’s known for attracting fans to both of those teams during his time with them, but I don’t know how that will translate in Baltimore, who haven’t experienced as much as a winning season since 1997.

But I would like to see someone get that team turned around sometime in the near future. I, along with every other true baseball fan, am sick of the Sox and Yankees dominating the AL East due to high payrolls. But that’s what the Rays are there for, I guess…

> The Cubs managerial search is starting with Pete Mackanin, who has already met with the Red Sox as well. Mackanin serving as the Phillies hitting coach right now, but sounds open to leave for a managerial job. Anyway, the Cubs are also going to talk to Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux- the Brewers’ old pitching coach.

So that’s really all the Hot Stove news for the day. As I said earlier, it’s been a slow and rather boring day…

> Because I really have nothing else to write about, I’ve decided to show you guys my predictions for who’s going to win each award, and the reason why I want them to win. So, I’ll start with the MVPs from each league.

NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Brewers

That’s a given. If you’re a Brewers fan, odds are you want Braun or Prince Fielder to win. And either of them would be deserving- Braun hit .332 with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs, while Fielder hit .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. But, if I had to choose between these two, I’d go with Braun, just because he’s the overall better player. Braun is a true five-tool player- he can hit for average and power, he’s fast, he can play defense (most of the time), and has a great arm. Oh, and he had a 30/30 season. Fielder, on the other hand, is what I would call a one-tool player- he hits for power, and that’s about it. He looked like an idiot defensively this year, can’t run, and, despite the fact he hit .299, he doesn’t normally hit for that high of an average. So, say what you like, but I think Braun is better, and I’m glad we have him signed through 2020 instead of Fielder (if I had to choose between which one I wanted signed that long).

I know there are people out there who want Matt Kemp of the Dodgers to win. And that’s a legitimate argument- he hit .324 with 39 homers and 41 steals, one homer away from the near-impossible 40/40 season. But, he plays for the Dodgers, which is going to not help him in the voting.

Anyway, that’s why Braun is my choice. Aside from Fielder and Kemp, his other competition is going to be Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks, but there’s nearly no chance of him winning.

AL MVP: Justin Verlander, Tigers

Yes- I’m choosing a pitcher as the MVP. But, so are many others, and it’s tough to argue with. Verlander had a career year, going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. He also had 250 strikeouts, which won him the AL Triple Crown (an award given for leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts).

Another reason Verlander is a legitimate choice for MVP is that the Tigers would have been nowhere without him, and I mean nowhere. Try imagining their rotation without Verlander- Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, and Phil Coke. I didn’t even put Doug Fister in there because, with that rotation, they wouldn’t have even been in contention at the Trade Deadline, and wouldn’t have acquired him.

A few other contenders for the MVP in the AL are Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Curtis Granderson (Yankees), and Jose Bautista (Blue Jays). All of those guys had great seasons, but did any of them help their team as much as Verlander helped the Tigers?

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Like Verlander in the AL, Kershaw won the NL Triple Crown, as he went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, along with 248 strikeouts. If you think that’s remarkable, add this to those stats- he’s only 23 years old.

And, he played for the Dodgers, who, other than Kemp, give close to no run support, so getting 21 wins with a team like that isn’t easy. But he was just one of those guys who, also like Verlander, appeared to be an automatic win every time he took the mound.

Some other competition for the NL CYA are Ian Kennedy (Diamondbacks), Roy Halladay (Phillies), and Cliff Lee (Phillies).

AL Cy Young Award: Verlander

I already explained what I could about Verlander in the AL MVP section, and winning the MVP as a pitcher pretty much locks up winning the CYA as well.

Jered Weaver (Angels), CC Sabathia (Yankees), C.J. Wilson (Rangers), and Ricky Romero (Blue Jays) are, in my opinion, Verlander’s best competition for the CYA.

NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, Braves

Kimbrel had a remarkable season in his first full year in the Majors, and had big shoes to fill, future Hall of Famer closer (at least in my opinion) Billy Wagner had just retired. But, Kimbrel put those expectation aside and broke the rookie saves record with 46. Yes, Neftali Feliz held it for all of one year.

Anyway, despite the fact he technically ended up costing the Braves their playoff chances, he still had a great season.

A few other good rookies in the NL were Freddie Freeman (Braves) and Josh Collmenter (Diamondbacks).

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

While Hellickson didn’t get much run support, as his 13-10 record shows, he still put up a 2.95 ERA and 189 innings pitched, both of which led rookie starting pitchers in the MLB. Not to mention he pitches in the AL East, arguably the toughest division to pitch in, and to put up those numbers as a rookie in that division is incredible.

Michael Pineda (Mariners), Eric Hosmer (Royals), and Mark Trumbo (Angels) are probably the best competition for the AL ROY.

NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks

In his first full season as D-backs manager, Gibson completely turned this team around from an awful 2010 season in which his team won only 67 games. After a slow start, the stayed hot the rest of the season and beat out the 2010 World Champion Giants for the NL West division title. Of course, they would lose to the Brewers in the NLDS, but the fact that the even made the postseason this year was remarkable.

Ron Roenicke (Brewers) and Tony La Russa (Cardinals) both probably have a better chance at winning than Gibson, but I still think Gibson is deserving.

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Rays

With a week left in the season, it didn’t look like the Rays would be going to the postseason. But, Maddon, who is arguably the most motivational manager out there, kept driving his team on, and the eventually passed the Red Sox for a playoff berth on the last day of the season.

Other candidates in the AL include Ron Washington (Rangers) and Jim Leyland (Tigers).

> Anyway, those are all of my predictions. Feel free to leave a comment saying if you agree or disagree with them (or you can post your own). These are purely from my opinion, and I don’t expect a couple of them to win. But I think they’re all deserving.


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