Tag Archive | "Philadelphia Phillies"

Do You Trust Your Closer?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Do You Trust Your Closer?

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

Every position in baseball is important. Every pitch. Every catch. Every play. Once the starting pitcher has exhausted, he counts on his relievers to carry some weight for the rest of the game, and then the final touch must be executed with extreme precision by the closer.

pitchers-mound

The closers role is glamourous yes, but the amount of pressure that lays upon them is intense. They are there for that final inning. They are responsible for finishing a game that the rest of the team has worked long and hard for. They face the final three batters. Well, hopefully just three. The opposing team’s batters have an extra exuberance for one last chance at taking the lead in a game. They have more adrenaline for the last shot at being the hero. Even though every out in every inning matters, the closers seem to have a heavier job to do.

Not every reliever can handle the pressure and stress of this responsibility. A lot of closers get demoted to the set-up guy if they struggle too often. Some even get sent down to the minors to work on their pitches, or even get released.

Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde, was mercifully given another opportunity with the team this year. After initially releasing him to free agency, no other team wanted the veteran on the back-end of their bullpen. He then agreed to sign a minor league contract with the Tigers organization, and was eventually called back up and given another chance to prove he deserves his former closing role.

Last season, Tiger’s fans would cringe when Valverde was given the ball in the 9th. They never knew what would happen. But one thing for sure was that he would make it interesting. At times he would pitch a flawless inning. Three up. Three down. But more often, the 9th inning would seem just as long as the first 8 innings combined. As Tiger’s fans would shake their heads in disgust, Valverde would still be trusted by his skipper and continue to pitch the painful, what should have been, final inning.

But he was not always unreliable. In 2011, he amazed baseball fans everywhere for completing 49 saves out of 49 tries, being one of the best closers in the majors. So, how can someone with such a solid record do so much damage in 2012, and lose the faith of most of the fans?

Closing a game is not easy.

The Tigers see something in Valverde that the fans right now, are not. And they decided to give him another chance at becoming the phenomenal pitcher that he has been before. Tiger’s fans, and maybe some of the players themselves, are now on the edge of their seats, waiting to see which type of pitcher Valverde will be this season. He has 4 saves, and has blown one so far in 2013.

There is a weakened bond between the fans and Valverde, but then there are other closers such as Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon, who has the trust of most of the entire crowd to be able to finish games. His career numbers prove his worth with a career ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 1.01. He has 8 saves so far this season and none blown, but last season he had 4 blown saves which was only one less than Valverde in 2012. But for the fans to have faith in their closer, they want that 1-2-3 final inning. Valverde is not that type of closer. But the difference between a much loved Papelbon and a oh-no-here-he-comes Valverde, is consistency.

Another loved closer is Rangers, Joe Nathan. He has 13 saves already this season and not one blown save yet. He has pitched 17 innings and has 16 strikeouts. Nathan has been highly reliable, finishing last season with 37 saves, an ERA of 2.80 and 78 strikeouts. Much like Papelbon, Nathan is dependable. When he is handed the ball in the 9th, the fans are a little more relaxed. And if he fails, they are more likely to be forgiving. But if a closer gets that reputation for being unpredictable like Valverde, he is likely going to have everyone clenching their jaws until the final out.

Valverde has a chance at gaining back the confidence of the fans. His charismatic off-the-wall personality will help soften hearts, but ultimately it is what he does on the mound that will determine the patience and belief of the crowd.

The fans want their closer to succeed. Not only because they want their team to win, but they want that connection between pitcher and fan. That feeling where they know the team is in good hands, so they can sit back and enjoy the rest of the game. But fans do expect pitchers to mess up sometimes. Every now and again, closers are going to give up hits, runs, or blow a save. That is understandable.

Fans are forgiving as long as they do not have to forgive every single game.

Comments (0)

It’s All About The Bens

Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s All About The Bens

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

I have had Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist, on my fantasy baseball team for the past 3 years. In general, I have not been disappointed.

Ben-Zobrist

I am not sure how I end up with him each year, but it has turned out that way lately. As with every player, there has been times where he is not performing well. But he has helped my team so I cannot complain too much.

I like Zobrist for his versatility. He can be used in the outfield and both of the middle infield positions, which certainly helps when injuries take out other players and guys need to be moved around to accommodate those deemed day-to-day. This season, in 48 plate appearances the switch hitter has a .292 average and 10 RBIs. And judging by the past couple years, he should be swiping some bags pretty soon. He has one stolen base so far this season, and a career total of 82.

He has been known to start off a little shaky in the spring. Last April and May, his average hovered around .200, but he was still driving in runs. He did, however, end the season strong. From August to September of that same year, the number of runs he raked in significantly improved. He had 11 RBIs in August and increased that to 20 for the month of September. He has been consistent with the amount of home runs per month for the entire season, and ended his year with a total of 20. So, the power is there and with crossing the plate 88 times himself in 2012, Zobrist is a worthy overall player to keep on your fantasy team.

Sometimes I wish fantasy baseball gave points for defensive plays too. In case you missed it, Phillies Ben Revere had a spectacular catch in the outfield on Monday. With incredible speed, he went horizontal for a diving over-the-shoulder gem to catch a deep drive off the bat of Reds, Todd Frazier. And if that athleticism he demonstrated was not amazing enough, he jumped to his feet and gunned it to Freddy Galvis, who then tossed it to Ryan Howard to complete the double play. That was some beautiful baseball. He did it all as if it was nothing, simply just another day at the diamond. But those in the Phillies dugout recognized Revere’s super-human performance and applauded. And starting pitcher, Cliff Lee, was left with a stunned expression.

Revere was traded to the Phillies over the off-season, and has settled there nicely in center field. But he has never been much of a power hitter. Last season with the Twins, he had 32 RBIs and never once hit out of the park, but his average was note-worthy at .294. Right now he is only batting .194 with 2 RBIs, but sit back and enjoy his skills in the outfield and brilliant base running hustle. Just be careful with him on your fantasy team if you are looking for power. But if you need stolen bases, he is your guy. He snagged a total of 40 bases last season, and already has 5 this year so far. The speedy 24 year-old is exciting to watch, and will quickly become a fan favorite in Philadelphia. He is also known to be a genuine down-to-earth guy, which of course does not do anything for fantasy stats, but it is always nice to hear.

Comments (0)

Triple Play: Chris Davis, Carl Crawford, Todd Frazier

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Triple Play: Chris Davis, Carl Crawford, Todd Frazier

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Chris Caylor

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. Today, we’re covering a blossoming slugger, a resurgent outfielder, an inspiring home run, and more. Off we go:

pujols_angels

Who’s Hot?

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Davis is just continuing to build on his breakout year of 2012, when he finally emerged as the power threat he was expected to be with the Texas Rangers (33 HR, 85 RBI, 75 runs, 121 OPS+). He leads the American League with 7 homers, 21 RBI, 49 total bases and a whopping .845 slugging percentage. Obviously, Davis will not continue this 70 HR-210 RBI pace, but he has developed into the middle-of-the-order force people envisioned when he was with the Rangers. Incidentally, what is the Rangers’ biggest need at the moment? A slugger? Interesting. Perhaps trading a power hitter for a late-inning reliever is a bad idea, particularly when said reliever is no longer even on the team. Oh, and did I mention this is Davis’ Age 27 season? I think a 35 HR-100 RBI-85 run season is not out of the question.

Who’s Not?

American League shortstops

First, it was the Blue Jays’ Jose Reyes with a badly sprained ankle. Then it was the Angels’ Erick Aybar and a bruised heel. Then came word that New York’s Derek Jeter has a new crack in his left ankle and will not return until after the All-Star break. Last, but not least, Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera has missed time with a bruised wrist . The shortstop position was thin the American League to begin with, and has only gotten worse over the past week. It’s not that Jeter, Aybar and Cabrera are dominating fantasy players; it’s the mind-bogglingly massive gap between those players and their replacements on the waiver wire. It’s times like this where guys like Ben Zobrist, Maicer Izturis, and Mike Aviles really start demonstrating their fantasy value. Being able to slide of them over to the shortstop position so you can find a replacement player at a deeper position is highly preferable to picking up someone like Brendan Ryan, Jayson Nix or (gulp!) Ronny Cedeno.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 2-1, 2.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 23 K
Player B: 2-1, 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 17 K

Player A is the Phillies’ Cliff Lee. Player B is the Rockies’ lefty Jorge De La Rosa. Don’t worry, I’m not going to imply that De La Rosa is as good as Uncle Cliffy. However, I am using them for comparison to illustrate why Rockies fans and fantasy owners are so optimistic about De La Rosa’s start to the season. After losing nearly two seasons following Tommy John surgery, JDLR appears to be fully healthy. The result? How about 17 consecutive scoreless innings spread across his past three starts? That includes a stellar outing this past Saturday night at Coors Field, when he limited Arizona to two hits. His walks are still a concern (after all, not everyone can have Lee’s bullseye control), but De La Rosa has started throwing his nasty slider again. If he can continue to control it, he should continue to have success.

Player A: .274/.333/.500, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 6 SB, 14 runs
Player B: .349/.414/.507, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 SB, 14 runs

Player A is Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, a current five-category fantasy stud. Player B is the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford. Remember Carl? Back in 2010, he notched this stat line: 19 HR, 90 RBI, 47 SB, 110 runs, .307 avg. A Top-5 player if ever there was one. Then he signed that megabucks deal with Boston and fell off the face of the earth. Last season, the Red Sox shipped him to Los Angeles, glad to be rid of the contract and the ghost of the player they thought they were getting. Part of the problem was injuries, which have now healed. As a result, Crawford is off to a blazing start with the Dodgers, showing flashes of his old five-category-stud self. At 31, he should still be in his prime. As Crawford gets further away from Tommy John surgery, he should get even better.

Random Thoughts

• Following up on the Who’s Not note above, who has been the most productive AL shortstop thus far in 2013? Elvis Andrus? No. J.J. Hardy? Sorry. Jhonny Peralta? Nope, but getting warmer. It is Oakland’s Jed Lowrie, with 3 HR, 14 RBI, 14 runs, and a gaudy early-season .393 average. If he can stay healthy, 15-20 HRs is within reason. That would be fantasy gold in AL-only leagues.

• Going into Sunday’s games, the major-league leader in RBI was Braves outfielder Justin UptonMets catcher John Buck. Yes, that same John Buck who hit 12 homers and drove in 41 in 106 games with the Marlins. He already has seven homers and 22 RBI in 2013.

• Was I right, or was I right? Jackie Bradley Jr. is already back in the minor leagues. Meanwhile, Daniel Nava is sprinting away with the left fielder job in Boston.

• If Angels slugger Albert Pujols is actually admitting that that his left foot is hurting, then I have to believe the pain must be excruciating. The man’s pain tolerance is phenomenal.

• I’m not a big fan of the designated hitter, but one bright side of it is that we get to watch Lance Berkman mashing the ball again. Where would the Rangers be without him?

• They would be in the same boat as the Tampa Bay Rays, who just can’t score.

• The Rockies might be 13-5 after Sunday’s loss to Arizona, but it’s a mirage. Yes, the starters are performing better than expected. Yes, the lineup is battering opposing pitchers into submission. Look out for the warning signs, though. The pitching staff is dead last in the NL in strikeouts. Bullpen newcomer Wilton Lopez has been a disaster (2.14 WHIP, allowing 19 hits per 9 IP). Closer Rafael Betancourt is sporting career-worst ratios in BB/9 and SO/BB. Jhoulys Chacin is already injured. Jeff Francis has been ghastly (8.25 ERA, 2.33 WHIP). The hot start won’t last, folks. Enjoy the Rockies’ stay in first place while it lasts.

• Johnny Gomes has ordered bats with the Boston Marathon victims’ names imprinted on them, along with the words “Boston Strong.” If it’s cheesy and cliché to hope that he hits a home run with the bat, so be it. I hope he does.

• It is impossible not to get a little lump in your throat watching Todd Frazier’s home run against the Marlins last week. Actually, the best part the reaction of Reds bat boy Teddy Kremer. Kremer, you see, is 29 and has Down syndrome. Watching Kremer jubilantly hug Frazier after the home run is one of the most joyous things I’ve seen in quite some time. If you haven’t seen it, you need to look it up and watch it – now. It will brighten your day.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Comments (0)

Triple Play: Matt Harvey, Matt Adams, “42″

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Triple Play: Matt Harvey, Matt Adams, “42″

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Chris Caylor

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we will be discussing the Mets’ new ace, a young slugger called Big City, and “42.” With the season being a mere two weeks old, all the standard small-sample-size disclaimers apply. With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

matt-harvey-mets

Who’s Hot: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

I mentioned Harvey in last week’s Triple Play. He’s only gotten better. Two weeks into the season, Harvey is thrilling fantasy owners with a 3-0 record, 0.81 ERA, 0.54 WHIP and 25 strikeouts (compared with just six walks in 22 innings). While he obviously won’t continue this pace, Harvey is showing enough dominance to help Mets fans forget R.A. Dickey. Harvey’s composure on the mound has to be exciting for Mets fans, especially when you realize that he just turned 24 in March. As an added bonus for fantasy owners, Harvey will not be pitching this week at Coors Field. That’s almost as good as another victory in itself.

Who’s Not: Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins

Hicks earned the starting CF job for the Twins with a sizzling spring, during which he hit .370 with 18 RBI and 18 runs scored. This led to hope that the 23-year-old would be an effective table-setter in front of Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. The regular season has been a disaster for Hicks. Through his first 10 games, Hicks has whiffed 20 times and batted a ghastly .047. Worse, Hicks got himself in manager Ron Gardenhire’s doghouse due to a lack of hustle on a routine pop-up (that was dropped by Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain). It’s nothing new for a young player to start off cold, but a lack of hustle is the surest way for Hicks to find himself back in the minors. He is fortunate that the Twins lack decent alternatives. As a fantasy owner, though, you should not hesitate to drop him if there are better options sitting on your waiver wire.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .233/.277/.372, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 runs, 0 SB, 43 AB
Player B: .643/.667/1.214, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 runs, 0 SB, 17 AB

Player A is the Phillies’ Ryan Howard. Player B is St. Louis’ Matt “Big City” Adams. In addition to having a great nickname, Adams is having a great impact on the Cardinals. In just 14 at-bats (entering Sunday), Adams has punished opposing pitchers, while Howard continues to struggle at the plate. He was one of the players on my “do not touch with a 10-foot-pole” list when my auctions before the season. Adams, meanwhile, is adjusting to major-league pitching just fine, thank you. Actually, Adams’ situation right now reminds me of Howard’s situation with the Phillies in the mid-2000s. Each player had bashed his way through the minors and had an established first baseman blocking his path. In Philadelphia, it was Jim Thome. In St. Louis, Allen Craig is entrenched at first. Fortunately, the Cards have the luxury of using Craig to spell Carlos Beltran in right field, thus allowing Adams to start two or three times a week. If he keeps hitting this way, though, Adams is going to force his way into the lineup more regularly. What a wonderful “problem” for the Cardinals (and fantasy owners) to have.

Player A: 0-1, 7 K, 11.04 ERA, 2.73 WHIP
Player B: 3-0, 20 K, 0.40 ERA, 0.81 WHIP

Player A is the Blue Jays’ Josh Johnson. Player B is Justin Masterson of the Indians. Johnson is off to such a horrendous start that he could have been this week’s choice for Who’s Not. Several respectable baseball analysts have noted a decline in Johnson’s velocity compared to last season. Obviously, it’s early, but this is definitely not how most Blue Jays’ fans and fantasy owners envisioned the season starting in Toronto. On the other hand, Masterson is blossoming into a top-of-the-rotation starter in his age-28 season. In my AL-only auction league, Masterson went for the bargain price of $5, while Johnson fetched $24 from an optimistic owner. Right now, that is looking like money down the drain.

Random Thoughts on “42”

I tried to avoid reading reviews before seeing it on opening night because I didn’t want someone else’s complaints about the film in my head as I watched it. Didn’t want baseball historians nitpicking things, didn’t want film critics bashing the acting performances, cinematography, musical score or who knows what else. So, with that in mind, here are five things I took away from “42”:

1)     The acting was good. Not great, but good enough.

a. I had been apprehensive about Harrison Ford taking on the role of Branch Rickey. Would I be thinking to myself “Look, that’s Harrison Ford!” or would he immerse himself sufficiently enough that I could forget it was Ford beneath all that makeup?  I think he succeeded. He dominated his scenes without hamming it up or turning Rickey into a caricature. Bravo to Mr. Ford.

b. Chadwick Boseman’s role was difficult. The movie did not really allow for many nuances in Jackie Robinson’s character, since the film focused on a three-year span in Robinson’s life. During those three years, Robinson had to turn the other cheek; in other parts of his life, he was much more combative. Boseman wasn’t always 100% believable to me off the field, but on the field, he did well.

2)     The little things were brilliantly done. The CGI images of the stadiums in the film (particularly Ebbets Field) were gorgeous. The uniforms were as well. I’m not an historian, but if those things had not been done right, they would have bothered me. I also enjoyed the Red Barber-isms in the latter half of the film (Incidentally, Barber discovered Vin Scully. More on him below).

3)     The action on the field was pretty good. The sliding, the fielding, the baserunning all looked believable to me. And using an actual pitcher like CJ Nitkowski was a very savvy decision. As we all learned watching Bull Durham, it’s darn near impossible to teach an actor how to pitch without looking like a buffoon. Much better to leave something like that to a professional.

4)     The movie to which I compare “42” the most is “Miracle,” the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Why? Because I already knew the story going in. The hockey team, made of up of college kids, stunned the world by beating the mighty Soviets, who routinely humiliated the NHL’s best. “Miracle” did justice to the story and then some. Would “42” do the same?

5)     In my mind, the answer is a resounding yes. Many baseball analysts have complained that the movie did not cover enough of Robinson’s life. That’s an apples-and-oranges argument to me. The movie sought to tell the story Robinson breaking the unwritten color barrier in major league baseball. It does that in grand fashion. It was not an attempt to chronic Robinson’s entire life, or even his entire career. Most importantly, writer-director Brian Helgeland did not take liberties with the action on the field just to enhance the story. The uncomfortable scenes with the Phillies manager Ben Chapman happened. Racist Dodger teammates really did circulate a petition against Robinson. Robinson really did hit a late-season, game-winning home run off the Pirates pitcher who drilled him early in the season. The movie is a terrific 30,000-foot view of Robinson’s 1947 season that will thrill viewers who don’t know Robinson’s story and should not disappoint those who do. That’s enough for me.

Bonus random thought

Vin Scully is a national treasure, reason #99,999: Listening to his description of the Dodgers-Padres brawl last Thursday was just priceless. No hysterical yelling, no denouncing of the Padres or ridiculous defense of Dodger players, none of it. Just cogent observation of the action on the field. As Matt Kemp spewed one particular profanity repeatedly at the Padres, Scully said this: “That’s fertilizer, Matt Kemp says. That’s fertilizer.” I found myself smiling at how Scully turned an R-rated moment into one appropriate for all audiences, while still conveying all relevant information to his viewers or listeners. If this is his last season broadcasting, then I’m going to savor it for all it’s worth.

Follow me on Twitter @ccaylor10

Comments (1)

A Tour Around the Grapefruit League

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Tour Around the Grapefruit League

Posted on 14 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

With Spring Training officially in high gear, Dan Wohl of MLB.com schools us on the winter homes of our beloved “Boys of Summer”. Today, he gave us 13 factoids on the cities of the Grapefruit League.

GrapefruitLeague

Until the start of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates make their home in Bradenton, Florida. Did you know that Tropicana (of orange juice fame) was founded in Bradenton back in 1947? While its headquarters are now in Chicago (probably why they are so good in the frozen concentrate department), its juice production center still remains in Bradenton.

Until Opening Day, you’ll find the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida – Clearwater is home to the Church of Scientology’s world headquarters. I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole. I see what they did to Katie Holmes. Seriously, according to Wohl, around 12,000 Scientologists live in Clearwater. They own more than 200 businesses in the city’s downtown.

RA Dickey and the Blue Jays flew south to Dunedin, Florida — Founded by two Scots, Dunedin was named after Dun Eideann, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh. Sadly, that was all Wohl could find. A little boring, which is not unlike the team itself.

The Red Sox and Minnesota Twins can be found in Fort Myers, Florida. – In 1887, Thomas Edison built a winter home called “Seminole Lodge” in Fort Myers. Henry Ford built one called “The Mangoes” next door in 1916. Frankly, it all sounds like some place Blanche from the “Golden Girls” would hang out.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins fight it out in Jupiter, Florida — Originally the home of the Hobe Indian tribe, the Hobe was written by the Spanish as “Jobe.” A mapmaker misread it as “Jove,” which in turn was interpreted as Latin by a later mapmaker. He Anglicized the name to Jupiter. How did that get Anglicized but my big ol’ Italian name survived Ellis Island?

Kissimmee, Florida is home to the new look Houston Astros — Kissimmee is the annual host of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. That is the United States’ largest rodeo event east of the Mississippi River and the world’s largest collection of “Woody” from Toy Story look-a-likes.

Lake Buena Vista, Florida is home of the Brave(s) — Along with Bay Lake Lake Buena Vista is home to Walt Disney World and completely controlled by the Walt Disney Company. The two cities welcome 50 million tourists a year, employ 66,000 “cast members” and have a combined residential population of 57. I wonder if Chipper Jones is looking for a job.

Lakeland, Florida in a Tiger’s natural habitat. — Queen Elizabeth sent two swans to Lakeland in 1954 after a local resident wrote to her complaining about the eradication of the local swan population. All of Lakeland’s now-flourishing swan community descended from this royal pair. They’re all cousins? I though this was more of a West Virginia thing.

Melbourne, Florida has gone National — Melbourne was named in honor of its first postmaster, who was Australian. Nonetheless, it was actually founded two years after the Civil War by former slaves. Teddy Roosevelt, of Nationals’ President race fame, has been trying to move into the neighborhood. None of the front doors can accommodate their giant head.

In Port Charlotte, Florida, they are catching some Rays — Wayne Rooney of Manchester United owns a home in Port Charlotte. Americans still don’t get it.

Port St. Lucie, Florida is home of the Amazins — Port St. Lucie is also the current hometown of Robert Van Winkle, who you might know as Vanilla Ice. Somewhere there is a lawyer looking for a Bernie Madoff connection.

You can find the Orioles in Sarasota, Florida — Former home of circus magnate John Ringling, Sarasota is home to the Circus Museum and the former site of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. That was my safe school.

Tampa, Florida is home to the Yankees– Tampa is also apparently home to a yearly pirate-themed festival called “Gasparilla.” It is considered the American mecca of death metal as well. At the rate the Yankees’ spring training has started, well….that might be apropos.

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here
BBA