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Mike Minor Will Turn It Around Tonight

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Mike Minor Will Turn It Around Tonight

Posted on 26 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets were left in suspended animation last night, but does anyone care? The Atlanta Braves, currently in first, have won six consecutive games. On the flip side, the New York Mets, currently in fourth (thanks to the Marlins being slightly worse), have lost six straight at home.

MikeMinor

Nonetheless, the teams had to wait until today before seeing if both streaks would continue. They are set to complete a suspended game before meeting in the regularly scheduled one about an hour later this Saturday night. Friday’s game is tied 5-5 heading to the top of the ninth, with the Mets actually rallying to tie in the eighth in the midst of a downpour. They drew within one on a Daniel Murphy single and scoring again on a wild pitch.

“It was tough to see. As tough as it was to see, I’m sure it was tough to get a grip on the ball and footing on the mound,” Murphy said to the Associated Press. “So, equal playing field and we were really glad to tie the score up there, and we’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can win an inning.”

The ninth inning presents an interesting decision for both managers. Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez is considering putting Anthony Varvaro, who blew the save Friday, back on the mound. “I could even run Varvaro back out there,” Gonzalez told. “It’s like going back-to-back days.” Mets manager Terry Collins will also turn to his bullpen, as opposed to giving the ball to scheduled Saturday starter Dillon Gee to pitch in the suspended game.

Might as well give the game to Atlanta now.

“I’m going to start the game with a relief pitcher,” Collins said to the Associated Press.

Uggh.

“Otherwise, if the thing’s over in 10 minutes, the guy’s already warmed up, now he has to sit for an hour. That’s not what I want to happen.”

Once the first game is over, Mike Minor (5-2, 2.78 ERA) will try to put an end to his road struggles against the Mets. I hope, being that I’m starting him for my fantasy baseball team tonight. His outings have been good as of late, so I was more confident in starting him than Barry Zito. Atlanta has won his last three starts, during which the left-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 19 2-3 innings.

Minor set a season high with nine strikeouts and surrendered two runs and three hits in six innings of a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday. Minor didn’t get the decision in that game. Ironically, Minor has a 5.63 ERA in seven career starts versus New York.

That’s his worst against any team he’s pitched at least 15 innings against. He’s turned in a pair of solid effort in his last two matchups, allowing three runs in 13 1-3 innings, but those games came at Atlanta. Minor, who went seven innings and gave up three runs in a 7-5 win over the Mets on May 3, has gone 1-1 with an 8.04 ERA in three career starts at Citi Field.

If the Mets though insist on running Ike Davis out there, fantasy owners like myself should be in pretty good shape for a Mike Minor turnaround.

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Taking a rest from my abysmal Fantasy Baseball team…

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Taking a rest from my abysmal Fantasy Baseball team…

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

Taking a rest from my abysmal Fantasy Baseball team, I noticed that are a lot of great sports documentaries on ESPN Classic. Technically, there are exactly enough to kill a rainy Saturday and avoid the Mets’ box score. This Saturday I happened to catch 2009’s “The Lost Son of Havana.”

ESPNClassic

ESPN picked up the broadcast rights for this film after “The Lost Son…” premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. “The Lost Son of Havana”, currently in rotation on ESPN Classic, follows three-time All Star pitcher Luis Tiant as he fulfills a lifelong dream of visiting his homeland – Cuba. The movie was produced by the Farrelly brothers and narrated by Academy Award winner, Chris Cooper. The film was directed by Jonathan Hock.

Tiant left Cuba in 1961. Over the next 19 years, he became a legend. He pitched for both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. He won over 220 games and is the winningest Cuban in Major League history.

The emotional return of “El Tiante” to his native Cuba included visits to long-lost relatives. Through out the film, Tiant seemed particularly struck by the country’s poverty and guilty about the anger of friends and family who were left behind.

This is not a Kevin Costner ending.

“[Luis] kept saying, ‘It used to be so beautiful, it used to be so beautiful,’” says Hock of Tiant’s reaction in a New York Daily News interview from 2009. Hock continued, “and the other thing he kept saying was, ‘I don’t know how to feel, whether I should laugh or cry.’”

This is not your typical sports documentary.

“I grew up playing Wiffle ball, trying to pitch like Luis Tiant,” Hock said of the 67-year-old former ballplayer. “Traveling with him to Cuba, I discovered he was also playing for the love of his father, a Cuban and Negro League legend he had to leave behind.” Tiant was lucky. Fidel Castro, a known baseball fan, allowed Tiant’s parents to visit the States for the Red Sox iconic run in 1975. Both stayed in the States for 15 months before they died.

After his parents passed away and due to the fact that he was their only child, Tiant was not, under the rules of the 47-year-old economic embargo, allowed to visit Cuba again. His trip home for this film came about through an amateur baseball team that travels to Cuba every year as a goodwill gesture. Tiant went home legitimately as a coach for the team.

“The Lost Son of Havana” is exceptionally good. It goes beyond a mere talking head documentary. The mix of archival footage, interviews and actual footage from the trip to Cuba, you get a really nice three-dimensional view of the story. Hock also does a wonderful job of placing Tiant’s story within the socio-political climate of the time.

The film does drag a bit at times, but that probably has to do with the incessant commercial breaks and ESPN’s insistence on showing the same “This is Sports Center” commercial over and over again. I’m sure it views better on a big screen.

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A Whole New Ball Game

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A Whole New Ball Game

Posted on 19 May 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

Minor League Baseball in the Chicagoland area is nearing the start of the 2013 season. That can only mean that summer is approaching in the Windy City. However, wait a few minutes and that weather can change. In Illinois there are ten Minor League ball clubs representing different levels and leagues.

KaneCounty

A change for one minor league club, the Kane County Cougars, was a note worthy move here in Chicago. This past offseason the Cougars seemingly long overdue became an affiliation of the Chicago Cubs. The Kane County program has been around since 1991 and has been affiliated with four Major League clubs before finally becoming apart of the Cubs organization in early 2013.

Kane County is a Class A minor league team that is apart of the Midwest League. They are located in Geneva, Illinois about 35 miles west of Chicago. The Cougars are perennially among the league leaders in attendance throughout the Midwest League. They also have made 13 post season appearances in their 22 year history.

Minor League clubs are directly affiliated with a major league team through a standardized Player Development Contract (PDC). The major league team may enter into a two or four year term with the minor league club. At the end of the term the two sides may renew a new term or the minor league team will be available to except a new PDC from a different organization. This year, the Cubs signed a two year PDC with the Cougars.

Major League organizations may decide their minor league affiliations for a number of reasons. They could be for geographic reasons, scouting, or organizational strategies. Attending Cougar games, it was always a common question asked as to why they were never apart of either Chicago professional team

In the past, Kane County has had major league talent step between the lines out in Geneva. Alumni members include: Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Andre Either, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Willingham, and Misty May’s husband Matt Treanor. Pitchers include: Andrew Bailey, Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett, Houston Street, Ryan Dempster, and Trevor Cahill.

When Theo Epstein was brought on as President of the Chicago Cubs in 2011, one goal was to have an affiliated program in the backyard. The close proximity will be beneficial for many reasons. It will help with scouting and player development, call ups will be closer, and fans will now have access to the future prospects just a short drive away.

Fan interested will be more involved now being able to follow the future talent of the professional ball club. Currently, three of the top 10 Cubs prospects wear Cougar uniforms: Opening night starter Pierce Johnson, and infielders Dan Vogelbach and Jeimer Candelario. For once, the Cubs have note worthy minor league talent and some of it will be showcased just a short drive away from the lights of Waveland and Sheffield.

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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I am now in second to last place.  Cue the choir of angels!

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I am now in second to last place. Cue the choir of angels!

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

I am now in second to last place. Cue the choir of angels! “Beat with a Dan Uggla Stick” has a reason to play the fantasy music in their fantasy locker room a little bit louder this week.

sstrasburg

Maybe I’m not the Houston Astros of the Fantasy Baseball world. I’m probably more of the New York Mets.

Pitching has been my weakness. Strasburg has lost the plate. Vogelsong has been a flop and did I mention that Fernando Rodney is in my bullpen? Nonetheless, Mike Minor has been one of my few saving graces.

Thank goodness for Free Agent pickups.

Today, Minor was no different as he got himself back into the win column. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings this afternoon, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 7 to 2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The only run scored off the southpaw came in the third inning. It was a Zack Cozart‘s home run. Minor yet again helped to improv the Atlanta Braves’ record, currently the best in the National League East.

Minor is 4 and 2 as of today. He also tied a season-high strikeout count with seven. This was also his first win in three starts. It was the first time in four starts that Minor allowed less than three runs, as he lowered his ERA from 3.26 to 2.96.

I will take what I can get!

Even when Mike Minor needs to “right the ship”, he is still ten times better than anything I currently have.

He’s the Matt Harvey of “Beat with a Dan Uggla Stick”.

In his start on May 3rd, Minor surrendered two home runs in the first two innings. The second came with none out in the second inning, a rocky start for sure. Nevertheless, after the home run in the second inning, Minor retired the next 18 batters he faced.

Calling Roger Clemens!

Minor was ultimately saddled with a no-decision for this performance against the New York Mets. Still, Minor allowed just three hits. He walked none and struck out four against the Mets before being pulled after seven innings.

If Minor is available in your league, grab him at all costs. He’s got a Harvey vibe without the buzz. You can probably get him for nothing. If he can stay away from the long ball, you are going to be in great shape.

CBSSports.com rates him as the 42nd best pitcher in the league. That’s up from number 60 just last week!

According to the metrics of CBSSports.com, Mike Minor has only failed to come through once with less than 20 points once in the first five weeks of the season. Based on how this week has started, that pattern should continue. Minor is expected to make his next start Monday at Arizona. Minor won his only start against Arizona last season. He allowed one earned run in eight innings and struck out nine.

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