Tag Archive | "Knuckleballer"

Triple Play: Who’s Hot/Not, Playing the Name Game, Random Thoughts

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Triple Play: Who’s Hot/Not, Playing the Name Game, Random Thoughts

Posted on 09 April 2013 by Chris Caylor

Welcome to the first edition of Triple Play, a new weekly column in 2013 that combines three features from last season (Who’s Hot/Who’s Not, Playing the Name Game and Random Thoughts). Look for this column on Mondays or Tuesdays throughout the season. Off we go:

Colorado Rockies' Dexter Fowler, right, smiles as he is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after scoring on an RBI-single by Omar Quintanilla in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during a spring training baseball game in Tucson, Ariz., Thursday,  April 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Who’s Hot: Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies

While Chris Davis and Justin Upton have gotten tons of headlines – deservedly so – for their scorching first weeks of 2013, let’s not forget about Fowler, who put together a .370/.413/.852 batting line in the season’s opening week. The Rockies’ center fielder is at that magic age of 27, when so many pro athletes hit their peak, and he is tantalizing fantasy owners with the promise of a breakout season after just one week.

Who’s Not: R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays

On the flip side is R.A. Dickey, who has not been the ace the Blue Jays expected when they acquired him from the Mets over the winter. The knuckleballer has been battered to the tune of an 8.43 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in his two starts. During his time in New York, Dickey’s ability to avoid walks was perhaps the most impressive aspect of his pitching – especially considering the knuckleball’s unpredictability. So far in 2013, he has walked six hitters in 10 2/3 innings. That has to change, or the boo-birds Dickey heard Sunday will only get louder.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .391/.423/.696, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 5 runs

Here’s a 2nd baseman who is off to a good start this season, particularly when you consider that he is 34 and had multiple injury issues the past two seasons. In fact, people were wondering if his career was rapidly meeting its end. Perhaps the most encouraging sign of his improved health is the stolen base and the triple he legged out on Opening Day? Got his name yet? Sure you do: it’s Chase Utley of the Phillies.

Player B: .500/.567/1.000, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 7 runs

These stats belong to a shortstop who has always been a good hitter, but has had trouble staying healthy. Troy Tulowitzki? Good guess, but no. This player is on his third team in as many seasons, and all of them now play in the American League. It’s the Athletics’ Jed Lowrie (who started last year for the Astros).

Random Thoughts

 If it weren’t for bad luck, Brian Roberts (and his fantasy owners) would have no luck at all. At age 35, after missing nearly three seasons with his horrible concussion issues and other injuries, Roberts was looking like an above-average option at a tissue paper-thin position in fantasy. So what happens? He strains his right hamstring in the third game of the season and is slated to miss about a month. The Orioles are a fun team to watch. They would be even more fun to watch if Roberts could stay healthy.

 From two grizzled veterans to an overhyped youngster: Jackie Bradley Jr. will be back in the minors by the end of April. He might be a major league talent, but Daniel Nava is the player to own.

 A’s pitcher Dan Straily pitched a beauty Friday night against the Astros, striking out 11 and permitting just three baserunners in 6 2/3 innings. His reward? A ticket back to Triple-A Sacramento so Bartolo Colon can take his place in Oakland’s rotation.

Jeff Samardzija leads the majors with 22 strikeouts after two starts, but the guy is 2nd place is surprising: the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates haven’t scored a run in either of his starts. Yikes (for the Pirates’ offense, not Burnett).

 The Mets took a lot of heat for not making any big-name additions to the team, particularly after trading Dickey to Toronto, but the cupboard is not bare. Matt Harvey, 24, flashed ace-like potential in his debut (10 Ks, three baserunners in seven innings). Outfielder Collin Cowgill can flat-out hit. He will turn 27 this season and won’t even have a better opportunity to seize an everyday job than right now.

 Re: “42” – I haven’t been this pumped to see a sports movie since “Miracle.” After reading how pleased Rachel Robinson is with it, I am more excited than ever to see it. If she thinks the filmmakers did well, then I don’t much care what the critics have to say.

Follow me on Twitter @ccaylor10

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The Next Knuckler Reports To Camp

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The Next Knuckler Reports To Camp

Posted on 24 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

Josh Booty may have won the MLB Network’s “The Next Knuckler,” but his work has just begun.

JoshBooty

Booty showed up to camp on Thursday and worked a bit in the bullpen with former Major League knuckler and current Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Tom Candiotti. “He’s got the best fastball of any knuckleballer I’ve ever seen,” Candiotti told MLB. “He can flat out throw it.” He threw 88-89 mph during the bullpen session with his fastball.

Are you asking yourself, what’s “The Next Kunckler”? With the Knuckleball quickly becoming an extinct pitch, the MLB Network aired a reality show about the search for the pitch’s heir apparent. Think “American Idol”…but with Kevin Millar.

“With the knuckleball, he can throw it,” Candiotti said. “He’s got the ability to be able to take the spin off the ball. It’s a constant battle for him right now with his mechanics right now, being able to repeat his delivery, because he drifts a little bit.” “In my mind, I’m taking it serious,” Booty said to MLB. “I don’t want to come in here and goof off.”

The Diamondbacks agreed to have Booty in camp and will allow him to at least throw one inning during a Major League game. Past that, he will need to earn anything else he gets. It is possible if he impresses enough that he could wind up getting a spot in the Minor Leagues.

Convinced I am the only one that watched this show, is anyone shocked that the team in question is the Arizona Diamondbacks? Has Kirk Gibson gone Hollywood?

To be fair, Josh Booty has a history on the diamond. He was actually drafted fourth overall out of high school as a shortstop by the Marlins in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft. The Marlins inked him to a then-record $1.6 million signing bonus with the stipulation that he not play football.

“I cried the night that I signed the contract,” Booty said to MLB about having to give up football.

Booty spent 1994-98 in the Marlins system, where he hit .198. He got 30 plate appearances in the big leagues from 1996-98 and hit .269. In 1999, he left baseball and went to Louisiana State University, where he played quarterback for two seasons.

In 2001 he was taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks and bounced around a few organizations, mainly on the practice squads. Nevertheless, at age 37, he’s hoping for one more shot.

“It’s kind of writing the last chapter,” Booty said to MLB. “I’ve been close a few times. This is like I’m a rookie for the third time. If I was able to get on the field, I mean it’s crazy. I’m just going to have fun with it to be honest with you and get myself in shape so that I have a chance and keep it simple.” Not many players attempt comebacks at his age, but his athletic prowess and ability to throw a knuckleball mean he can’t totally be counted out. After beating out former NCAA Division I quarterbacks John David Booty (his brother), Doug Flutie, Ryan Perrilloux and David Greene, Josh Booty now finds himself back at Spring Training, this time as a non-roster invitee.

“Yeah, I’m 37 years old, but I don’t have any wear and tear on my arm and my shoulder and I never got hurt because in the NFL I was a backup the whole time,” Booty said. “I feel comfortable and my arm is healthy and I think I can get it back to where I was when I was in my 20s.”

When MLB Network pitched the idea of the reality show at a Major League Baseball owners meeting, Diamondbacks team president/CEO Derrick Hall immediately volunteered to be the team that gave the winner a non-roster invitation. It was a chance for national brand awareness for their new look, tougher franchise. (Ask Justin Upton.)

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson (who I did not pin for one who would participate in the trappings of our new realty show culture) threw Booty into a pitching group right away on Friday. He said the organization wants to make sure that he’s able to handle himself on the mound before sticking him in a game.

While the show finished taping three weeks ago, the final episode aired Thursday night. Ever since he knew he won the competition, Booty has been throwing long toss and trying to get his body in better shape. Two weeks ago, he spent a week with former knuckler Charlie Hough in California and last week he was in Florida working with Tim Wakefield, another longtime Major League knuckleball pitcher.

“I know my pitching is a lot better now than it was on that show three or four weeks ago,” Booty said. “I’ve come crazy far in three weeks and if I can get another 10-15 opportunities to throw sides, bullpens, work with [pitching coach Charles Nagy], do some things here with Candiotti … I think the sky would be the limit.”

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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?

dickey3

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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Josh Hamilton and The Changing Face of the American League

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Josh Hamilton and The Changing Face of the American League

Posted on 17 December 2012 by Trish Vignola

Until recently, the Angels were planning on sporting no more than a $145 million payroll in 2013. Enter Josh Hamilton.

JoshHamiltonAngels

Start giggling now.

It seemed like they were done when the acquisition of two starting pitchers (Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton) and two back-end relievers (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett). That pushed them to about $140 million.

Angels’ owner Arte Moreno, one offseason removed from spending more than $315 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, decided he couldn’t let another winter go by not being the center of attention. The opportunity presented it self and prompted Moreno to push the payroll to a franchise record of about $165 million:

The acquisition of Hamilton makes cost-controlled Angels outfielders like Peter Bourjos and/or Mark Trumbo expendable. This gives them an opportunity to trade for a starting pitcher (like knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets who is currently in a stalemate in his contract negotiations with the Amazins’). It also counters the big-ticket moves made by the crosstown-rival Dodgers, who are fresh off signing Zack Greinke to a five-year, $147 million contract that the Angels were at one point unwilling to offer. It cripples the division-rival Rangers, who lost out on trading for James Shields, won’t be able to add Justin Upton and can’t bring back Hamilton. Adding Hamilton comes one offseason after the Angels signed Wilson, the Rangers’ former ace, to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

“Really excited to dust off the Xbox controllers for the next few years on the road,” Wilson wrote on his Twitter account, @str8edgeracer. “It’s a great day to be an Angel/Angel fan!” Speaking to Rangers reporters at a media luncheon on Thursday, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Hamilton never gave his former club a chance to match the Angels’ offer.

“Our full expectation was that the phone call was going to be before he signed, certainly not after and giving us an idea,” Daniels told local reporters. “Josh had indicated recently, last week, he told us he felt it might be time to move on, but that we were still talking. I’m not going to get in to the reason, technically, why. I thought we had additional conversations this week that had moved it along in a positive direction. Apparently not.”

The 31-year-old Hamilton won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2010 and has long been considered one of baseball’s best all-around players, hitting .313 while averaging 33 homers and 107 RBIs the last three seasons. With the Angels, Hamilton’s left-handed bat seemingly fits perfectly behind Pujols in the cleanup spot. The likely scenario MLB.com trots out is to have Hamilton starting in left field, Mike Trout staying in center and Trumbo in right. This makes the chances of Bourjos being dealt more likely than ever.

Although he wants to stay in Anaheim, but Bourjos wants an opportunity. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen now,” he said when reached by phone Thursday. “But at the end of the day, from my perspective, I just want to play. I really don’t want to go through what I went through last year where I wasn’t playing. The last two months, I got like three at-bats. So hopefully, if I’m the odd man out, hopefully they’re willing to trade me and I’m able to go somewhere and play every day.”

With the Angels bottomless pockets and the Yankees trying to get under the cap, the landscape of the American League is starting to change. No longer will big spenders be solely relegated to the Northeast. Will this guarantee that all roads to October will lead through the left coast? I’m sure that teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers will have a lot say about that. Nonetheless, the hot stove just got very interesting.

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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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