Tag Archive | "Cy Young Award"

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The Reinvention of Barry Zito

Posted on 11 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

When Barry Zito signed with the Giants in 2007, it was a coup. Why shouldn’t it be? He was a Cy Young award winner with a curve ball that looked like it was falling off the dinning room table. Zito was in the prime of his career. Big named markets, including New York, courted him. Barry Zito couldn’t be beat. San Francisco had a bright future on its hands.

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That future became a nightmare quite quickly. In six years with the San Francisco Giants, his ERA ballooned an entire run. From 2007 to 2011, he posted a loosing record for the first time in his career. He was riddled with injuries, loss of speed and rumors that batters had begun to pick up his once unhittable curve ball. 9 years out of a Cy Young award winning season, Barry Zito was getting booed out of town.

He came to a crossroad. Reinvent him self or find room next to Mark Mulder on “Baseball Tonight”. Once a part of the “Tres Aces” of Oakland, the once promising trio (Zito, Mulder and Tim Hudson) were split up and looking at the distinct possibility that only one of them (Tim Hudson) would last a decade in the game.

Barry Zito, power curve ball pitcher, became a finesse pitcher with location. “Pitchers that stay in shape, especially left-handers, seem to have ways to reinvent themselves,” Brian Sabean (Giants General Manager) said to MLB.com. With Zito’s reversal in 2012, he finished 15-8. More miraculously, he did something he never could do in his Oakland A’s “hey-day.” He was a relevant contributor to their post season run. He added two more victories in the postseason, basically saving San Francisco and allowing them to go on the run they did. Two years earlier, he wasn’t even on the team’s postseason roster.

I am a self-proclaimed “Zito-phile” with an Oakland jersey I no longer have to wear ironically. I must admit that even I was shocked, when in October, Barry Zito actually created the possibility that the Giants might want him to stick around longer. With Zito’s contract coming to an end this year, Barry Zito and the Giants could be involved in an activity that would have been unimaginable in 2011 – retaining him. The door is now wide open, and why shouldn’t it be, for the left-hander to be kept on for an additional season, or to even negotiate an extension.

Zito and the Giants have reached the seventh and final year of his $126 million contract, which culminates this season with a $20 million salary. Zito’s performance this season will determine whether the Giants pick up an $18 million option on his services for 2014. They also can buy him out for $7 million. Even Sabean now acknowledges that keeping Zito beyond this year is within the realm of possibility.

Said Zito to MLB.com, “This is where I want to be. I would love to play baseball in San Francisco until I’m happy riding off into the sunset.” If Zito can prove that last year was not an anomaly, than he can prove a priceless member of the pitching staff. Although no longer an ace on a staff of aces, Zito can be that veteran leadership and presence to younger talent, such as Tim Lincecum. Strong veteran presence is at a premium today, ask the Blue Jays and RA Dickey. It’s worthy investment, especially when that veteran still has some pop on the ball and hasn’t turned 35 yet.

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The Rotation Crush; It’ll Be A Thing

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The Rotation Crush; It’ll Be A Thing

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Will Emerson

There are crushes, there are man-crushes, there are bro-mances, heck, I even have my advanced stat man-crush, Ben Zobrist! But I am going to add a new kind of crush to the list. A rotation crush! See, I was pouring over pitching stats, preparing for upcoming fantasy drafts, as I am want to do and came across the Chicago Cubs starting rotation and well, woah, mama! After just a quick glance I realized that, yes, I now had starting rotation  crush!

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Yep, the Cub rotation has me all starry-eyed. I may even plaster my bedroom walls with their pictures, posters and other assorted memorabilia,. Okay, I probably won’t  go to that much of an extreme. Probably. But, that is neither here nor there. The Cub rotation is my kind of rotation. Seems, like it has been a tad bit under the radar, but the Cubbies, in general, are actually well on their way to building themselves back up and into the real of respectability and it starts with their starting pitching. Garza, Jackson, Baker, Samardzija, Villanueva, Wood. Okay it does not sound overly intimidating or like a legitimate law firm, sure. Also, it’s not the Brave rotations of the 90s or the A’s of the early 2000′s. It’s not even the Phillies ace rotation of a couple seasons ago, for that matter. They are probably not going to adorn the cover of Sports Illustrated with a clever and catchy cpation next to them, any time soon, okay. But they are, unbeknownst to many, quite solid. I am not saying any of these picthers are gonna be winning the Cy Young Award in 2013, but in their starting picthing, the Cubs have a solid building block. Peruse these numbers from 2012 (2011 for Scott Baker since he missed all of 2012)

Matt Garza:              3.59 xFIP, 3.60 SIERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.33 K/9

Jeff Samardzija:      3.38 xFIP, 3.40 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.27 K/9

Edwin Jackson:       3.79 xFIP, 3.75 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.97 K/9

Scott Baker:              3.61 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.22 K/9

Carlos Villanueva: 4.09 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.76 K/9

Travis Wood:           4.62 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.87 K/9

Well, I think you can quickly see why my inaugural rotation crush is for the 2013 Cubs. The advanced stas are very consistently above average for the most part. Sure, Wood is a bit of an outlier, but Travis Wood is just a pitcher I like. One of those pitchers I just like for no statistical or gut reason whatsoever. I have a similar unexplained affinity for Chris Volstad, but I am veering a bit off course, here. Back to the rotation crush. My guess is that Wood ends up coming out of the bullpen for the Cubbies, anyway, but who knows what could happen in Spring Training? Alright, focus. Roatation crush. Looking at these advanced stats, you have to feel the Cubs are going to be in a lot of their games and will not need to tax their bullpen all that much. Each one of these pitchers (okay, with the exception of Villanueva) have been high on my list for quite some time and are now all in one glorious rotation in Chicago! Again, though, let’s not start throwing these guys Cy Young votes just yet. While I can barely contain my excitement about this rotation, there are certainly some question marks hovering above it.

First off, you have Scott Baker. Now, I have liked Scotty Baker for awhile and I do like the move to the National League. The change of scenery should certainly do him well, even if he is moving to a more hitter friendly park. The concern though is that he did miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Missing a season of baseball, for any reason, especially an injury and super especially (yes I said super especially, deal with it) for an arm or shoulder injury, will make things somewhat difficult. At some point Baker should be at, or at least close to, his former self, but there is no telling when that may be. Word is he will be ready for the start of the regular season and early projections make it seem like most baseball prognosticators think he will be up on the bump looking like he has not skipped a beat. There is no guarantee on what Baker will provide, but it is definitely worth whatever small risk there is, for the Cubbies. But Baker, of course, is not the only question mark in this rotation.

“The Shark” , Jeff Samardzija had a very, very good season in 2012. There were a few bumps along the way, *cough* June *cough*, but he still finished the season with some very respectable numbers. Plus, you have to love a 44.6 ground ball rate coupled with a K/9 over nine! Trust me, you have to! That’s not a ton of fly balls, which is great if, like “the Shark”, you pitch a lot of games at Wrigley Field. The one main concern/question around Samardzija, is whether or not he can duplicate his 2012 numbers in 2013. Looking at the numbers, themselves, nothing really points to a regression in 2013. In fact, if anything, they point to a bit of an improvement. So what’s the problem? Well, if you buy into this sort of thing, it could be his inning total from 2012. His innings thrown in 2012 were the most he has thrown in any season of professional baseball. In fact, it almost double his 2011 innnings thrown, back when he was coming out of the bullpen. But hey, the numbers point to some improvement, so maybe the innnings thing will counter act the expected improvement and he will duplicate those 2012 numbers, in 2013. Did that make sense? No? Yeah, it seemed to make more sense in my head. Personally, I think Shark will be fine in 2013, but I could see that increased innings thing being a mild concern to some. Of course numbers and projections are great, but they are not the end all, be all. They cannot always tell the whole story, per se.

Any baseball fan who follows stats, especially advanced stats, knows that while these stats can be helpful and show patterns, point to regressions, etcetera, etcetera, and should help us predict future performance, this is not always the case. When you look at this Cub rotation and see those xFIP and SIERA numbers, it looks all fine and dandy, peachy keen. For whatever reason though, we know it is highly unlikely that each of these pitchers will have an ERA matching, or even close to, their xFIPs or SIERAs. At the very least you have to like your odds if you are Theo Epstein and company over there in the Cubs front office. I know I sure do! When you have a fifth starter with the potential to strike out close to nine batters per nine innings, well everything else should be cream cheese. So congratulations to the 2013 Chicago Cubs starting picthers for becoming my very first rotation crush! You should feel greatly honored. Well, enough out of me, I have to go track down a life-sized Jeff Samardzija cardboard cutout.

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Players Who Benefited Most With A Change In Scenery

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Players Who Benefited Most With A Change In Scenery

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Guest Writer

Fantasy baseball value can fluctuate depending on the situation that a player is in. Pitchers have a better chance to pick up wins on a good team, while hitters have a better chance of racking up runs and/or RBI when they have talent surrounding them. With so many changes already this offseason, which three players will benefit the most?

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Ryan Madson
After spending his entire career in Philadelphia, Ryan Madson headed to Cincinnati last offseason. He went down with an arm injury before Spring Training ended though, causing him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Now healthy, Madson has signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels who just happen to need a closer.

Before his injury, Madson was emerging as one of the best ninth-inning guys in fantasy baseball. If he can hold onto the job for the Angels, he will get a ton of opportunities to close games as they figure to be pretty good this year.

Shin-Soo Choo
He might just be going down I-71 in Ohio, but Shin-Soo Choo will be going from one of the worst offenses in 2012 to one of the best in 2013. The Reds play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, and he will be flanked with a number of solid hitters to make life easy for him. If Choo stays healthy, he will get a chance to play every day and improve his already impressive all-around numbers.

R.A. Dickey
Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award last season, but is there a chance that he could be even better in 2013? It might seem unrealistic, but several factors could play into things.

For starters, Dickey will be on a team that should win quite a few more games than the Mets. The Toronto Blue Jays are built for 2013, and he will have an offensive squad behind him that could possibly help him pick up a few more wins.

Another thing working in Dickey’s favor is the element of surprise. In the National League, most hitters have seen the knuckleballer quite a bit. In the American League, many will be seeing it for the first time. This should give Dickey a strong advantage against even the most powerful lineups.

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The Hall Will Be A Bit Emptier This Year

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The Hall Will Be A Bit Emptier This Year

Posted on 10 January 2013 by Trish Vignola

After days of speculating, today we found out that no player was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2013. This has easily been the most controversial vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BWAA) since they were a part of the election process. Today shows us that trauma of the steroid era has clearly not healed.

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The first page in baseball’s history of the “steroid era” has been written. The owner of baseball’s most cherished records, Barry Bonds, was clearly rejected. Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens, might have skirted prison time in 2012, but today he did no better. Only Craig Biggio came close to election. He got 68.2% of the vote, falling 39 votes short.

With 569 members of the BWAA returning ballots, the Los Angeles Times reports that 427 votes would have been needed to meet the 75% standard for election. This is only the eighth time since 1936 that there has been no election class. The last was 1996. Former Detroit Tigers ace Jack Morris, in his second to last year on the ballot, was second with 67.7%. Jeff Bagwell got 59.6%, followed by Mike Piazza at 57.8% and Tim Raines at 52.2%.

This is the first time the Baseball Hall of Fame will host a ceremony with no living inductees since 1960. The July 28 ceremony will honor the three inductees of baseball’s pre-integration era. Each of these inductees had been dead for at least 74 years.

Barry Bonds holds the career and single-season home-run records. He is the only seven-time most valuable player and was only named on 36.2% of the ballots. Clemens is the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner and was named on 37.6%.

Players remain on the ballot for 15 years, provided they receive at least 5% of the vote. However, this has easily been the most baffling ballot in the Hall’s history. Links to alleged steroid use has turned a player the Times described as “a first-ballot lock into an also-ran.” Voters were divided between those who wanted to deny induction to any player with ties to performance-enhancing drugs, those who are taking a “wait and see” approach to what additional information might emerge about those players, and those who just want to vote for the most dominant players of their their era.

Mark McGwire got a paltry 16.9% of the votes. In his six previous appearances, he never received more than 23.7%. McGwire and Sammy Sosa were credited with reviving baseball in 1998, when the two players battled for the single-season home-run record. McGwire ended with 70. Sosa finished with 66. In 2001, Bonds hit 73 home runs.

Bonds leads the all-time home-run list at 762, with Sosa eighth at 609 and McGwire 10th at 583. The trio is the only men to hit more than 62 home runs in a season – Bonds did it once, McGwire twice and Sosa three times. Yet, these former historic impact players are now dim long shots for Baseball’s Valhalla.

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R.A. Dickey, National League Cy Young award winner, is the Toast of the Town

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R.A. Dickey, National League Cy Young award winner, is the Toast of the Town

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Trish Vignola

R.A. Dickey will deservedly be accepting the Cy Young Award at the BBWAA’s annual awards dinner this January. The 38-year-old knuckleballer for the Mets, found a fitting epilogue to his storybook season tonight, when he was named winner of the 2012 National League Cy Young Award.

Dickey earned 27 of 32 first-place votes, finishing ahead of Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals. The awards are voted on every year by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

Dickey amazed baseball fans and beyond this season, harnessing the previously unruly knuckleball to devastating ends – something even the greatest knuckballers have claimed to not be able to do. He was 20-6, becoming the Mets’ first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, and led the league in innings pitched (233 2/3), strikeouts (230), complete games (5) and shutouts (3). He finished with the lowest earned run average of his 10-year career (2.73) and was named to the All-Star team for the first time.

Regardless, the New York baseball writers were still planning to honor the Mets knuckleballer whether he won the award or not.

This week, Dickey was named the winner of the Toast of the Town Award, presented by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It is an award given to the player who captivated the city over the season, and boy, did he. Let’s face it. At some point this season, R.A. Dickey was the only reason to keep watching the New York Mets.

The awards dinner will be held Saturday, Jan. 19 at the New York Hilton. It will feature the BBWAA presentation of the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie and Manager of the Year awards. It will also feature the Toast of the Town as well as eight other local honors. R.A. Dickey will not be the only local to be honored though. CC Sabathia will also be honored, as he is awarded the Joan Payson Award for community service. Current/Former/Future Yankee (who knows what the off-season will bring) Nick Swisher was named this year’s Ben Epstein/Dan Castellano Good Guy Award winner for his professionalism with the media. Jim Abbott will receive the You Can Look It Up Award to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his no-hitter. The chapter will honor the 1973 Mets on their 40th anniversary with the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award award.

The chapter will also name two winners of its Arthur and Milton Richman “You Gotta Have Heart Award,” honoring both MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, former Mets GM Jim Duquette and his daughter, Lindsey. Weiner was treated for a brain tumor, while Duquette donated a kidney to his own 10-year-old daughter.

Miguel Cabrera, the front-runner for AL MVP honors, was named the chapter’s Sid Mercer/Dick Young Player of the Year. Pablo Sandoval, who led the Giants to the World Series title with his three-homer Game 1 against the Tigers, won the Babe Ruth Award for postseason excellence. Chipper Jones, the long-time Mets nemesis, was voted the winner of the William Slocum-Jack Lang Long and Meritorious Service Award upon his retirement.

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